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Power to the People: Power Wagon Owners Gather for the 2018 Vintage Power Wagons Rally

Posted in Events on July 25, 2018
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You may not know it, but Fairfield, Iowa, is the center of the Dodge Power Wagon universe. For the past 31 years, Fairfield, population 9,464, has been home to the Vintage Power Wagons Rally, hosted by a company that has become the primary worldwide support for owners of Dodge Power Wagons, World War II Dodge military trucks, and classic Dodge trucks in general. Strangely enough, that company calls itself Vintage Power Wagons, and they’ve been in business since 1975.

The five-day Rally is low key and very much a self-directed event. Vintage Power Wagons (VPW) has a daily list of available activities and participants make the choice. VPW remains open for business and tours, but the Rally welcome center and show area are at the Jefferson Country Fairgrounds. Most of the participants’ trucks could be viewed and ogled there, at least when they weren’t out on the trail or at one of the many scheduled events.

The trail runs took people over terrain of varied difficulty, from relatively hard for the built rigs to easy for the restored trucks. Kerr Farm provided the most difficult venue, and the Phillips Farm provided less strenuous Power Wagon exercises. For those that wanted to see Iowa farm country in a more laid-back way, there were several road tours as well over those five days. In one road tour, the destination was to Steffensmeier Welding and Manufacturing to see how various products are made, followed by a luncheon. Another road trip took Power Wagoneers to a local winery for a little tasting party. Tech sessions covered topics such as base and clearcoat painting techniques. Meals, award banquets, and raffles completed the social side of the event.

The competition side of things started with a Tough Truck competition obstacle course at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds arena on Wednesday night. That was followed up by the Power Wagon truck pull at the same venue on Friday, with an honest-to-goodness pulling sled! Despite being powered by 100-horse sixes, even the stockers did well.

The final event is the parade and show in the town square of Fairfield. Virtually all the 126 trucks registered were there, along with 341 registered people. The VPW Rally has become a bit of a local party; so many locals are also in attendance. Regrettably, a gully washer came through the area just as the parade arrived, sending everyone scurrying for cover. It cleared later but probably lessened the normal crowd. Any trucks still dirty got a free wash, with a spot-free rinse.

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A ghostly silhouette against a gray sky, Gary Weakland’s restified ’42 WC-53 Carryall was one of many that hit the Phillips Farm trail. Carryalls are among the most rare and sought-after versions of the WWII-era Dodges. A few Carryall bodies were adapted to civilian Power Wagon chassis right after the war and used as expedition vehicles.
The Vintage Power Wagons shop stayed open for small repairs and tweaking, or a place for conferences over the best conference tables there are—fenders! In the foreground, Steve Pellock’s superb ’54 C-1-PW Power Wagon gets some TLC and Greg Morton’s ’53 M-37 works as a conference table.
“Yeah, she still works!” says Glade Hill of his ’57 Power Wagon fire truck. This truck served in the Milford, New York, Fire Department from 1957 to 2001.
Kyle McKinny’s ’80 Power Wagon is showing a little trail wear as it prepares to stomp down some fallen timber on the Kerr Farm trail, but it was the “newest” Power Wagon at the event. For 1981, Dodge retired the Power Wagon name, calling the ’81-and-later 4x4 trucks “Power Rams.” Power Wagon came back for 2005 attached to a limited production, no-holds-barred factory trail truck.
The “Fun-Ton” is what the Ryans call their ’70 big-block Mopar-powered W300. On loan for the day to Roy and Derek, they thrashed the truck on the Kerr Farm trail in full view of owner Doug Ryan and son Dylan “The Kid” Ryan in another truck. The Fun-Ton has been a fixture at the VPW Rally for many years, and if you like the sound of a rollicking big-block Mopar, you’d like this truck.
The Power Wagons made a good account of themselves at the Friday night truck pull. Andy Carlson was the top stock puller, with a 412-foot 8-inch pull from his ’66 Town Wagon. Regrettably, it was too dark for us to photograph his winning performance. Here, Richard Sandage prepares for a pull that earned him Second Place. The M-37s did well that night taking the Second and Third spots in stock, with Braden Klemp taking Third Place with a 405-foot 8-inch pull in a ’52 M-37. Flathead power!
“M-37 Mark” Yocum’s ’51 M-37 in a sedate moment on the trail. This truck is built, with an injected 360ci Mopar V-8 under the hood and many other tweaks besides. This truck pulled off an amazing feat on one of the trail rides, pulling two disabled trucks off the trail. Simultaneously! Take our word for it that this truck pulled both those trucks uphill, downhill, and through gullies in a dusty, wild, rev limiter–hitting, temperature gauge–pegging ride that left us gobsmacked, hanging on for dear life, and unable to get a single image during the exciting parts. Mark is definitely a master in the use of momentum.
John Scalish went full custom on his ’48 Power Wagon, and not much remains of the original truck but some body parts. It looks like a show truck, but John wasn’t afraid to flex those muscles. This was the winner of the modified class truck pull, with a 434-foot 4-inch pull. It also won the award for the Most Unusual Power Wagon at the event as well as Best of Show.
The rolling hills of Southeastern Iowa make a great backdrop for the Power Wagon rally. This part of Iowa has mostly dirt roads when you get off the main highways, and if you like looking at farms, farm equipment, and livestock, you can get enjoyably lost in the scenery.

Power Wagon Classics From All Eras

The paint was barely dry on Joel and Melissa Folman’s ’41 WC-10 Carryall! This was the earliest 4x4 at the event and is from the ’41-’42 1/2-ton series Dodge military trucks. It’s painted in Navy Seabee Livery, celebrating Camp Endicott, Rhode Island, which was a Seabee training base during World War II and is now a Seabee Museum. Powered by a 218ci flathead-six backed up by a four-speed New Process “crash box” and single-speed transfer case, the WC 1/2-tons were the first American light 4x4s to appear in large numbers during the buildup to WWII.
Surrounded by flathead engine cores, VPW’s unrestored ’49 B-1-PW Power Wagon serves as a role model of originality. Though its blue paint has mostly worn off, it’s in remarkably good condition and shows only 61,000 original miles.
Dodge added four-wheel drive to the “civilian”-style trucks for 1957 and the first of the “Power Giant” line of trucks that debuted that year. Tucked back into a storage area of the sprawling VPW facility is this ’57 W100 that just happens to be the first one built—serial number 82701001. The first of the breed! Originally powered by a 230ci flathead-six, it was too early to have gotten the Power Wagon emblems on the hood. Most likely this was a test mule of some sort. It now has a period-correct 315ci V-8 and speculation is that it might have been a period swap.
Tim Holloway’s ’57 Power Wagon W100 is a head turner! Powered by its original 315ci V-8 backed up by the original three-speed, it’s ready for another life in the Green Mountain State after a restoration. This body style was one year only, 1957, and Power Wagons in this era are very rare. The “Budd-Style” wheels were standard on all 4x4s this year, even on 1/2-tons.
Dearth to the rescue! If this truck could talk, you’d get an earful. Restored to be just like it was when Dearth Motors bought it in 1951, David Thompson celebrates its past by keeping it that way. While it’s been cosmetically restored, it didn’t really take that much to bring it back. Dearth took great care of it, and it’s ready to work if needed. The wrecker was built by the Marquette company and is original to the truck.
Is it real? Well, no. Take a WWII WC-63 6x6 chassis, add a ’46 body and a vintage wrecker, and you have something that might have existed, but didn’t. A ’46 wouldn’t have had a late-model 5.7L Hemi, either. Alan Vanevenhoven is a master of making the impossible possible. As a result, Art managed to take home Second Place in the town square People’s Choice show. More on this truck in a future issue of Four Wheeler.
Dodge introduced a Suburban-fighting Town Wagon in 1956, and it was added to the Power Wagon club for 1957. David Horvath’s ’62 Town Wagon reflects the ’58-’60 Power Giant–style that carried on in the Town Wagon line even after the Dodge truck body style changed. Town Wagons like this were built into 1966.
While they did build a Power Wagon bus, this isn’t one of them. This is another of Alan Vanevenhoven’s fanciful creations. It’s built on an ’01 Ram W3500 with a 24-valve Cummins turbodiesel. We aren’t clear if this was a Gillig body of the type used on Power Wagons, or a similarly sized body with a Power Wagon front wrap. Either way, being dropped off at school in this would make you the coolest kid around.
We didn’t find the owner of this Dodge Warlock 4x4, so his invisibility spell must have been working. We know Warlocks were built from ’77 to ’78 as a limited production option, though a few were built in ’76. A Warlock II was offered in ’79 that was slightly different. On a short-wheelbase chassis and with a Utiline bed (Dodge-speak for Stepside), they came in black with gold pinstriping. Production was in the hundreds per year. They originally came with gold spoked wheels and they were offered on both 4x2 and 4x4 chassis with any powertrain combo.

Window Dressing

VPW has several yards full of parts vehicles and large parts from every era. Here are Two WWII-era trucks that have seen much better days but may help keep some of their brothers on the road.
These are for real! Google ’em.

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