Runs and Drives: 1953 Dodge Power Wagon

Classic projects come in all shapes and sizes. They can be as tiny as a Messerschmitt or as big as this 1953 Dodge Power Wagon. This gentle giant runs and drives and has all the makings of a rewarding restoration project. It will never be the fastest classic on the planet, but it will have no shortage of presence if the buyer can return it to its former glory. The owner has decided to part with the vehicle, so he has listed it for sale here on eBay. The Power Wagon is located in Wayzata, Minnesota, and while some frantic bidding has pushed the price along to $20,200, it still hasn’t reached the reserve.

There’s no denying that the Power Wagon leans towards the larger size when it comes to the classics we see here at Barn Finds. Restoring it will represent a significant undertaking, but it is a possibility that deserves closer examination. The first factor to consider is that this is a solid old truck. The owner supplies some great shots of its underside, and the frame wears little more than a dusting of surface corrosion. There is no penetrating rust and no structural issues to consider. The timber in the bed has rotted, and someone has roughly welded in steel to replace it, but rectifying that issue would not be difficult. The paint that the Power Wagon wears isn’t original because there’s plenty of evidence to indicate that it rolled off the production line finished in Dark Green. There are plenty of minor dings and dents for the buyer to tackle, but none of these appear to be bad enough to warrant panel replacement. The frame isn’t the only aspect of this classic that is short on rust problems because the panels and floor also look pretty promising. Overall, restoring this vehicle’s panels and paint would seem to be a straightforward proposition.

For me, one of the most rewarding parts of restoring these classic trucks is how stunning an interior can be with some pretty basic refurbishment, The seat looks like it wears a newer cover, although the base and backrest don’t match. The wheel has some cracks, but I think that some patient work in a home workshop with epoxy could see these addressed. If the buyer gets this part of it right, applying a two-pack finish over the entire wheel should return it to a pristine state. All of the gauges are present, and their condition looks pretty good. I think that if the buyer were to dismantle this interior, prepare and repaint the metal surfaces, and reassemble it with a new seat cover, a rubber floor mat, and their freshly restored wheel, it could look pretty stunning without costing a fortune.

When it comes to drivetrain combinations, this Power Wagon is about as bulletproof as they come. Motive power is provided by a 230ci flathead six that should be producing 94hp. Backing this six is a manual transmission. This is where there is some confusion on the part of the seller. He initially says that it is a 3-speed but then suggests that it could be a 4-speed with one ratio “locked off” somehow. The latter scenario is possible because the flexible nature of the flathead engine means that someone may have set the vehicle so that it takes off in second gear. It appears that the truck’s electrical system has been upgraded to 12-volts, and the Power Wagon now features a later alternator. Someone has also installed a new radiator, and the owner has recently had the starter rebuilt, and a new exhaust fitted. He says that it runs and drives well for its age, and thanks to that new exhaust, it’s as quiet as a mouse. It isn’t clear whether this truck is roadworthy, but it sounds like getting it to that state would not be difficult if it isn’t. That opens the possibility of doing that and then hitting the road in it as an eye-catching survivor.

It would be easy to dismiss a project vehicle like this 1953 Power Wagon, but doing so could be a mistake. Yes, it is a giant of a vehicle, but the reality is that restoring it would be no more complicated than with any other 4-wheel-drive. All that you need to do is scale up your thinking a bit. With tidy examples easily able to command prices beyond $40,000 in today’s market, it’s no surprise that this beast has already received 50 bids at the time of writing. Are you prepared to take a leap of faith and submit the 51st?

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Comments

  1. Russell

    While I was dong some work in Pakistan (late 80’s) … I was taken out to a field, on the outskirts of Lahore, and shown rows and rows of old Dodge Power Wagons that the U.S. “gave” to Pakistan when they started putting together their Army (about 5-7 years after partition) … It truly was a heart sinking moment to see them in various states of “readiness” … but … amazed to see that many were still in one piece. Sigh, wish I could have loaded a few on a boat … but … our “relationship” with the Pakistan Government/Army was not the best at that time.

    Like 6
  2. Karl

    If the truck is up and running that means a lot as far as restoration costs go and I do mean thousands of dollars! Depending on the body rust situation this could be as easy project for someone. The trucks are simple reliable and straight forward to work on. The 12 volt conversion is a bit involved when the gauges come into play but the lights just replace the bulbs and good to go. The oil pressure in not electric nor is coolant temp they run through capillary tubes to the gauges. This truck could be a good buy for some one!

    Like 6
  3. jimjim

    I definitely need to give you some credit. I love the variety of stuff that gets posted here. I remember the small volunteer fire department behind the house I grew up in had one of these that just sat in its garage. It came out once a year for the local parade, if that. I always loved these. Even though I’m not the one to buy it, I am glad I saw it. I’d be perfectly happy with getting it running right, replacing the bed and whatever is absolutely necessary and driving it with the bad repaint and rust it has on it. It’s more interesting to me that way. Happy 4th!

    Like 6
  4. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    There’s quite a large following for these vehicles, so I expect the price to reflect the availability of one in this condition. I would have absolutely no use for this truck, but that’s what makes this hobby or profession so interesting, there’s something for everyone.
    God bless America

    Like 3
  5. Valentine

    This is the ultimate recovery vehicle. PTO winch, 5-series gears, indestructible drivetrain and stone-ax reliability. In first gear, low range, I don’t think the flathead makes enough RPM to move the speedometer off zero… the definitive stump puller. 50MPH? Maybe downhill in a hurricane. A former neighbor had a ’54 with a “year correct” stock 331 hemi swapped into it. It was unstoppable.
    If you buy this truck, don’t give your wheeling buddies your phone number unless you want to spend a lot of free time yanking lesser rigs out of mud holes, off rocks, etc.

    Like 4
  6. Gary

    Used one of these back on my Uncles farm when I was young. Great around the farm, not so great when you had to go to town to fetch something. This is the kind of thing I like to stop at and take a good look for old times sake when at a show, but to own one? Never.

    Like 4
  7. E.J. of the North

    Gary…..toughest trucks on the planet. Tougher that ANY Ford ever built!! You’d be a fool not to own one. Especially here in Minnesota!!

  8. Jolly Joe

    I own a 1949. It is a useless, bumpy, slow, with a cab that is hot on hot days and cold on cold days not to mention exhausting to drive vehicle around modern transportation and roads.

    It is big time keeper. I have not regretting buying or fixing up mine. Mine is as reliable as a new car as it starts in any weather and even after it has not been driven recently.

    It is fantastic to own with great support. According to my boys, it is cooler than I am. It is the only vehicle I have ever owned that won a car show. Twice! Including the veterans at the local VA show who voted it a favorite.

    These are a wonderful way to get into the classic car hobby but don’t expect to drive it far as it will wear you out!

    Like 1

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