War Machine: 1952 Dodge Power Wagon

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It’s hard to break away from the cars you know. What I mean by this is, when you follow a certain type of hobby vehicle, it becomes easy to keep buying the same thing in different forms. Every now and again, it becomes overwhelmingly tempting to just break away and buy an off the wall project that shocks your senses in a new way. That’s why this ex-military 1952 Dodge Power Wagon here on craigslist is such an intriguing buy, especially given it’s rust-free – and the vacuum wipers even still work! 

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This Power Wagon is said to have started out as a military vehicle, then entered into a new stage as a service vehicle working for either the Forest Service or in an emergency response capacity. Either way, it’s safe to say this Dodge is ready for a retirement that involves some TLC. I’m not suggesting you over-restore this thing, but perhaps address some basic mechanical needs (as-is, the seller mentions that it will require a wheel cylinder, battery and fuel-fitting to be road-worthy).

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Powered by a straight-six engine shared with other WC-series Dodge vehicles, the Power Wagon may have been a brute but a speed demon it was not. However, when originally designed, the emphasis was on rugged, reliable  construction with parts that could be sourced easily from other vehicles. Building a military-grade vehicle with unique, chassis-specific components would only serve to complicate repairs on the battlefield, so prepare yourself for a utilitarian experience if taking this project on.

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The body is said to be free of rust, with only surface blemishes visible. With its location in Dallas, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the Power Wagon has lived in a dry climate all of its life, which certainly is an important consideration on a vehicle with so much metal to worry about. The seller’s $5,000 asking price doesn’t seem too unrealistic, but I’d bring a battery with me to see if it’s as easy as he says it will be to get this truck running. Have you ever bought a project completely outside of your comfort zone?

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Comments

  1. Mike

    I would Love to buy something like this and restore it back to Military colors with decals, and everything normal. Man if only I could talk the wife in to it!!!

    • MG'zer

      Be a man! Tell her what your going to do. Of course I’ve been divorced twice.

  2. Walt

    A worthy project for sure. Maybe a family or father son/daughter team. Heavy
    build all around, But still easy to work on if you have the space. In Honolulu,
    when the government would put these out for sale, you could get one for 75
    to 200 bucks seriously. Of course that was back after WW 11 thru the mid
    60’s.

  3. 68 custom

    love those military power wagons.

  4. Dave Wright

    5,000 is totally a retail price, we still buy them dirrectly from the government for 1/2 that or less. These are great trucks, all parts are readily available, easy to work on but become boring pretty quick. 45 MPH is pretty much the end of the world, so utility is pretty limited. I have customers with big dude ranches that get good use from them hauling guests around the ranch. There used to be a fleet of them in Chenlee AZ used as buses to take people out to see the ancient cliff dwellings. Off road they work well but even there the lack of power steering becomes onerous. These M37’s are much more common than the civilian W300 Power Wagons. There are many differences between the two types. They are still being used in many rural fire departments as backup vehicles. Many of those are in incredible condition. There are a bunch of them around the Northwest that have Detroit 3-53 diesels installed, they were used by a utility company as off road service vehicles.

  5. another Bob

    I was under the impression that this would be an M-37 and a “powerwagon” would be the civilian version with the standard enclosed cab. Is that not correct?

    • Dave Wright

      You are correct. There are M37’s with “Arctic” hard tops but they simply bolt down where the soft top goes.

  6. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    One’s been sitting on the street outside a mech shop for a few years….had tires stacked all the way past the windshield for a long time….it’s owned by a yuppie kinda of guy….sorry….the mech say’s it will run and they want some hard cash for it…looks so sad….

  7. AMCFAN

    Dave has this covered. Good job as usual.

    I bought an M37 about 25 years ago for $700. and drove it home. Yes 45-50 mph is all the faster it will go. Pretty cool roadster with the top removed. Mine had the blackout lights and a fording kit. I believe a place in Iowa has many nos parts. I needed a cable connection to the generator.

    The military manual for it is cool and there is a chapter to explain if you have to leave it behind for the enemy. Step by step on pulling the spark plugs and inserting bolts into the cylinders. Punching a hole in the tank etc. Sounds fun.

    Interesting is that this rig above should still have the camo colors painted on it’s underside. Mine did and was owned after it’s military stint by the Forestry service. It was very crudely painted red. Very cool to see and appreciate in person the over engineering along with the heavy gauge steel used. Lots still around even in the rust belt areas.

    Low range would idle through a brick wall. I had as much fun as you could have for $700 and after a very short time a few weeks it sat. The same as it did while at the previous owners house. I too had many ideas and uses but unless you have a large property you need to go from one place to another doesn’t make much sense to own. If off roading is your game can’t beat a used Jeep Wagoneer or Gran Cherokee with Quadratrac for about $1200 or less and could drive it to and from to boot.

    Recently went to an auction that had about 35 pieces of military war equipment. Many vintage Dodge M37’s, Command cars and several Ambulances (like on Mash) although complete but non running realized only about $500-$1000 each. Would think the wake up would have been straight forward and you could have been burning gas. Not for me. Agree the $5000. ask is high retail. They are not rare or hard to find.

  8. Ric Parrish

    We have a Military Vehicle club here in the Phoenix area. A lot of nice vehicles. The M37 is very popular because of it’s modest size and simplicity. I have two M35, 1954 Studebaker/REOs 6X6s and a 1951 GMC Duece (M135) even the dueces are not all that hard to work on.

  9. Barry T

    I would keep it looking just like it is. I’ll bet the next person that tries to cut me off would think twice about doing it.

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