The new 2017 Ram Power Wagon debuts this week at the 2017 Chicago Auto Show. It is the latest, toughest and most capable of a long line of Power Wagons that trace their heritage all the way back to the battlefields of World War II. Today, there will be few among us who will remember those original Power Wagons, but for those who do remember, the latest iteration of Power Wagon is sure to make the heritage proud.
Developed by Dodge in support of the war effort, the Power Wagon had its beginnings serving as a weapons carrier in multiple theaters around the world. In effect it was a people and tool carrier that was weapons equipped and could go anywhere – with almost any load – under the direst of conditions round the clock and survive.
After World War II, G.I.s returning home wrote to Dodge and asked, “Where can we get a truck like the ones we used in the war?” Dodge responded by building the Power Wagon starting in 1945 – not the one you see today, but still full of rugged off-road capability and durability that quickly won the hearts and minds of civilians just as it did soldiers during the war.
“Dating back to 1945, the Ram Power Wagon’s heritage holds a distinctive position in the Ram Truck lineup as an example of engineering innovation and off-road capability,” said Rob Wichman, Director — Ram Truck Engineering. “For 2017, the Power Wagon’s best-in-class, can-do toughness is matched by can’t-stop-me looks.”
WDX Power Wagon 1945 – 1956
Virtually unchanged from its introduction in 1945, Power Wagons first appeared on the civilian market in 1946 as the model WDX. The truck was similar in design to the original 3/4 ton military weapons carrier, with a 126-inch wheelbase and closed cab.
The original WDX Power Wagon featured a 230 cubic-inch flathead six engine, a two-speed transfer case, a four-speed transmission with a power take-off opening, which would send power to the front and back of the truck for operating auxiliary equipment and big 9.00/16-8 ply tires on 16×6-inch five-stud wheels.
The model designations changed over the years, but the WDX Power Wagon was offered only as a 1-ton truck through 1968. The 1-ton rated Power Wagon’s maximum Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) was 8,700 pounds. And its maximum payload was 3,000 pounds. It was equipped with a cargo (pickup) that measured 8 x 4.5 feet.
The Dodge factory built this four-wheel drive truck for over a year-and-a-half before the Willys 4T appeared and over 10 years before other manufacturers began producing 4×4 trucks, making the WDX Power Wagon the first mass-produced civilian 4×4 truck.
The 1947 WDX Power Wagon featured such amenities as electric wipers, a single driver’s sun visor and armrest, dome light and a heater. It also featured a 10,000-lb.winch – interestingly just under the 12,000 pound capacity electric winch on the latest 2017 Power Wagon just introduced at the Chicago Auto Show.
Dodge Power Wagon 1957 – 1980
In 1957, Dodge introduced another line of four-wheel-drive trucks, also known as Power Wagons, with the model designations W100, W200, W300 and W500. More conventional in styling, these Power Wagons were available with different engines, including V-8s.
The body transitioned in 1972 through 1980 with a number of identifiable grilles and paint schemes. Utility and function was not challenged by the few competitors in the segment, as the towing, payload, and snow plowing capacity of the Power Wagon equipped with “Dana 60” eight-lug axles was the “King of Durability.”
After the 1980 model year, the Power Wagon went out of production with the introduction of the Dodge Ram. Four-wheel-drive models of the Dodge Ram were sold under the “Power Ram” nameplate through 1993.
Ram Power Wagon 2005 – 2017 (and beyond)
The Power Wagon nameplate was reintroduced in 2005, where it quickly became the heavy duty 4×4 off-road pickup of choice for serious truck enthusiasts.
The Power Wagon spawned a sibling in 2015 – the Ram 1500 Rebel – to meet a call for a power wagon type pickup in the Ram full size truck line.
In response to a call for a couple of feature (cost) options in the Ram 2500 heavy duty lineup, Ram answered the call in 2016 with a Power Wagon Tradesman sporting fewer trim-level amenities, but no less of the 4×4 rugged capability of a Power Wagon. For those wanting a higher trim level, Ram offered a Power Wagon Laramie with some added luxury amenities,
For 2017, Ram introduced this week at the Chicago Auto Show, a new generation Ram 2500 Power Wagon that will continue to hold the top spot in heavy duty pickup truck off-road capability. There will be a Power Wagon Tradesman for 2017, but no longer a Power Wagon Laramie.
For every other trim level, Ram will be offering the new 2017 4×4 Off-road Component Package for their heavy duty pickup lineup that will enable owners of all other trim levels to equip their Ram 2500 to perform like a Power Wagon too.