Surplus Equipment Sale: 1956 Dodge Power Wagon

If there’s a world I wish I had more visibility into, it’s the surplus auction business that state agencies across the country seem to offer. The range of vehicles that still see regular use as part of a local highway department, fire department, college campus, or Reserve base are oftentimes surprising, like seeing a vintage Unimog that was still being used as a salt spreader. This 1956 Dodge Power Wagon is listed here on eBay as surplus equipment by the GST BOCES campus in Elmira, New York.

Growing up in New York, I heard the name BOCES quite a bit. It was essentially a department created that allowed rural districts to combine resources when necessary to provide educational services that they might otherwise struggle to offer independently. Highly populated areas can’t become members of BOCES, and member districts are expected to pay their share of the basic overhead costs of the program. Because of this, it’s not at all surprising to see a vintage Power Wagon still in regular use, especially given the rural communities it likely served it its prime.

The thing I love about surplus equipment from state agencies is that it was likely still being used on a regular basis not that long ago. Having worked for the highway department for a few summers, there were always trucks that the foremen were attached to, and those rigs were maintained at a respectable level. Seeing this Power Wagon, I’m guessing more than a few supervisors truly loved driving the old girl and made a point of keeping her from being “reclaimed” by the state at the end of so-called useful life. I wouldn’t be surprised if some employees are watching this no reserve auction.

The Power Wagon isn’t pretty, but they rarely are. The engine bay looks surprisingly clean, and the interior simply looks like a truck that got used. To me, buying one like this almost guarantees the basic maintenance needed to keep it running has been done, and somewhere along the line it even received new tires. While I would never claim that state-owned vehicles are maintained to enthusiast standards, it could still be a safer bet than buying a total basketcase from a private owner with no obligation to keep it running well. Bidding is super cheap at the moment, pegged at a mere $1,825.

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Comments

  1. geomechs geomechs Member

    There must have been a pile of these built because they seem to be coming out of the woodwork everywhere you turn. A good, rugged truck that would be easy to adapt for the acreage. No smooth cruiser by any means. It will take you anywhere you want to go and bring you back although you might be minus a few teeth and have some bumps on your head if you didn’t take rough terrain dead slow. I’m sure you could have lots of fun with this…

    17
  2. geomechs geomechs Member

    Then, on the other hand, why not just get a Power Wagon. With that you’ve got the luxury of a more air-tight cab and a heater. Might even have 50 mph instead of 40…

    18
    • SMDA

      Agreed. Of course, a multi speed axle where you could actually use it on the freeway as well as pulling stumps would be optimal. Oh wait, we have those now, they are called new trucks.

      5
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      School us, geomechs and Howard A., on the difference in Power Wagons, I.e., the ‘52 Power Wagon appears to come in 2 flavors, one with a military truck style and the other in a “pilot house” civilian model cab..is that correct?
      Either one would be cool to own!

      3
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        I’m sure there would be better authorities on these than myself. I’m sure that Howard can add to my info. Anyway, it seems to me that the Power Wagon was based on the M37. It had the Pilothouse cab, sans corner windows. I’m sure that the chassis was the same right down to the small six. I think about ‘54 they went from the 217 to the 230 but I don’t think they changed it beyond that (to the 251) until the last run, if they changed it at all. Of course the genuine M37 had weather proof wiring and other features specified by the DOD. It wouldn’t surprise me if they had an extra leaf in the springs and lower gearing. As I mentioned earlier the PW had a heater in the cab and a different box. It was built for a little more comfort.

        4
      • Howard A Member

        They’re like rowboats, they all look the same to me. I’m sure there’s folks that know much more than I. Pretty sure this particular truck was a surplus military unit. That box was added later, and looks like a crude cab was made. Who knows what it’s original intention was, if anything. Could have been a frame and front. Maybe a troop carrier of some sort. Anyone that went through Korea would probably know. I’ve seen pictures of these in fields as far as the eye could see. Not all saw action. Could have been made for the war, but finally titled and sold as a ’56. I believe the civilian Power Wagon was built right with the other Dodge pickups, I read as the 1st production 4×4 pickup in 1946 and was produced until 1980. Quite a run.

        4
      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        Now I understand the difference: That’s what I’m talking about-a true plethora of knowledge here in this forum.
        Thank you, gentlemen!

        5
      • SMDA

        @Howard A, 1980? Really? Pretty cool, never knew that. Where were they made and sold in 1980? Engine for those years?

      • Howard A Member

        Yeah, I think the Power Wagon name made it to 1980, these, I reread, were made until 1964, when they became the Sweptline series. Sorry.

        1
  3. Jim

    M37s and 715s are starting to show up all over last few years…

    2
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      715?

      1
      • Jim

        Kaiser Willys M715. Took the place of the M37. They were also called the 5/4 ton…

        1
      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        Thanks, Jim! I looked it up after you sent this reply as saw it appeared essentially as a Gladiator PU in OD Green!! I remember a friend coming home from Vietnam after Tet. As we’re headed home on the highway he saw a Jeep Gladiator and began swearing at it like a D.I. did on a dumb recruit then followed up with swearing he’d be finding the jack@$$ that designed the winch PTO shaft setup: apparently it would separate and jam up the front suspension! He went on to say that the engine was a POS and no one knew how to fix them, and the frames all fell apart..
        I learned later most wound up be cannibalized to keep the rest running!

        1
  4. Michael Leyshon

    Nice feature and appreciate Geomechs sharing some great photos! Seems that the frames on these just hold up and resist rot better than most others from that time, certainly better than trucks of the 2000’s (Tacomas and Rangers rotting in half !) and probably today. The thing is so simple, maintenance and repair is usually feasible. I’m with the water dept in Cols, OH. The shop takes care of all vehicles and heavy equipment very well. The bean counters in charge of fleet make the calls.

    6
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      You’re 100% on the nose, Michael, when you say the bean counters in charge of the motor pool fleet make the calls; I.e., I was at an intersection stopped on the side of the road late one night when the local Sheriffs Office shift commander chased an ‘87 Camaro with 2 recent parolees, 2 underage teenage females and a back seat full of stolen guns right into my brand new 1990 Caprice, left front to left front at 62 MPH which sheered the wheel off the frame of my G-ride Caprice!!! The motor pool bean counters said the county was only allowed so many vehicles per fiscal year so RATHER THAN TOTAL MY COUNTY CAR THEY SPENT MORE MONEY TO FIX IT THAN REPLACE IT WITH A NEW CAR!!!
      The logic is unfathomable…

      8
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Don’t you just love the logic of bean counters. They’ll expect you to fill a wash basin with a fire hose because the hose was cheaper than a set of taps. All the logic of making a pair of rubber boots into hip waders using duct tape…

        5
      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        LMSAO, geomechs-a perfect analogy, and indicative of the same task/job focus those folks had when they killed the British motorcycle industry.

        3
  5. geomechs geomechs Member

    Thanks, Michael, for the acknowledgment. I love to write and take pics. I sometimes get to thinking that one day I might just make a living doing that. But then, I thought I could make a living repairing cars and trucks. 48 years later I retired and am still broke. But it was a great ride; I’ve made a lot of friends and am still enjoying the journey.

    8
    • Michael Leyshon

      I (we !) appreciate your knowledge, experience and manner of respect for others Geo !

      There’s much to be learned by just reading and learning from those who have been around things. Journey on and keep enjoying !!!

      4
  6. bobhess Member

    I recall seeing these rigs with canvas tops. Could account for the home made top raised for taller drivers.

    2
  7. Ken Carney

    Hi guys! Great discussion on one of my
    favorite trucks. If ever there was a vehicle that will outlive us all, it will indeed be the Power Wagon. Perfect truck for life after the appocolypse . With
    all that said, I’d like to have one just to tame a paper route called the Car Killer.
    This route is so hard on vehicles that the
    Lakeland Ledger requires that anyone
    applying for this route must have a 4X4
    or 6X6 to run it. The lucky carrier is paid
    $1,000 a week for their efforts. Looking
    at this truck, I have no doubt it would indeed tame this route and earn me a tidy
    profit in doing so. Question is, can you
    drive it from New York to Florida?

    5
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      I’ll bet you could, Ken Carney, if you had at least a week of vacation and you enjoy two lane roads..It’d be a fun trip in the spring I’ll bet. If you’re a Peter Egan fan, you’ve probably read his stories about driving to New Orleans in his restored (‘58?) Cadillac following the trail of a famous jazz man or his ride on a Honda (550?) four cylinder there for chicory coffee-not a lot different from what you’re planning!

      2
  8. Ben T Spanner

    I drove a 1943 in Viet Nam. Where I was, the South Vietnamese were given new equipment, because they couldn’t and didn’t maintain things. Could you drive it to Florida? 1200 miles and 50 mph. Its 64 years old. Anything could and will break. All parts are available, but not at the local Auto Zone.
    I live in Florida. There are lots of these available right here. Go for it.

    2
  9. Karl

    Ok this is just my uptight side coming out but this is NOT a Power Wagon, this is an M37 3/4 ton Military pickup! Although there were a few similarities between the Military M37 and the civilian Power Wagon. Same engine but as was stated different carburation, all different wiring different running gear, the diffs are different both inside and out the axles are different the frame is built heavier in the civilian truck the civy truck is 6 volt the M37 is 24 volt. Don’t get me wrong it’s all part of the evolution but in actuality surprising not that many parts are interchangeable. I own both and have done extensive work on both. The last thing is you can buy a completely restored to perfect M37 for 15k the same condition Power Wagon will cost you 100k!

    4
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Hi Karl. You have brought up some good points on the difference between the M37 and the Power Wagon. I heard that the diffs had a different ratio but I had understood that the axles themselves were the same. Thanks for clarifying things.

      1
  10. DougB

    Jeff, just FYI there are some government websites now where you can see and bid on the surplus property available at different locations. I’ve been keeping an eye out for the first retirements of the first Sprinter vans, e.g. those used by the Postal Service. Just do a search and you’ll find a few, some by the government and others by intermediaries, but the general theme is that it’s a lot easier for the average citizen to make a bid these days.

    1

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