It’s unusual to see a late model, heavily modified, fullsize Dodge truck on the trail. And it’s even rarer when that truck is a Power Wagon.
This ’05 Dodge Power Wagon belongs to Jason Smith of Foresthill, California, which is an area conveniently located approximately an hour’s drive from the legendary, mega-tough Fordyce Trail in northern California. Ironically, we found Smith and his rig in another legendary wheeling area, Johnson Valley, California.
How he ended up with a built Power Wagon began with his desire to build something unusual. “My goal was to build something different than a Jeep from the start,” he says. A few runs over Fordyce Trail was the catalyst to significantly rework the Power Wagon. “After wheeling there a few times I quickly realized I needed something really bombproof as to not break. I spent my first few trips on the trail broken and stranded while the vehicle was stock and lifted,” Smith says.
Smith turned to the team at Predator Offroad in Auburn, California. He had an idea of what he wanted the truck to look like and he asked Predator to make it happen. Oh, and he wanted it to not break. The result of those requests is the truck you see here. It’s built to be mega-functional and bulletproof and it’s clearly something different.
One of the first things you probably notice about the Power Wagon is its stubby length. Since length can be hindrance on the trail, 20 inches was taken out of the frame in front of and behind the rear axle. The rig is tall, but to help protect the rig’s rockers a pair of rock sliders were added and they’re made from 2.5-inch-diameter, 0.188-inch-wall DOM tubing. The front bumper is made from 3⁄16-inch steel plate and it helps to protect the front of the rig. The bumper has cutouts for the factory tow hooks as well as a hawse fairlead for the Master Pull ½-inch-diameter synthetic winch rope that spools from the Power Wagon-spec Warn 12,000-pound winch. The cool half-doors are made from 2-inch-diameter, 0.120-inch-wall DOM tubing. They mount to the factory door hinge points and are equipped with latches. The custom bed structure was designed to be fat-free and it was made mostly from a combination of 2.375-inch-diameter, 0.188-inch-wall and 2-inch-diameter, 0.120-inch-wall DOM tubing. The bed surfaces are made from 1⁄8-inch-thick 6061 aluminum. At night Smith can light up the trail thanks to the OE headlights, a pair of 4-inch-diameter KC HiLites mounted behind the grille, a pair of rear-facing Rigid Industries rollbar-mounted LED lights, and six NAPA LED lights mounted underneath the truck in various directions. The rig rolls on a set of rockcrawl-ready 39x13.50R17 BFGoodrich Krawler T/A KX tires mounted on 8.5-inch-wide TrailReady beadlock wheels.
The stock AAM front axle is gone, replaced by a Predator Offroad-assembled axle that uses a stout Spidertrax Pro Series housing and Pro Series 60 knuckles with an ARB Air Locker and Sierra Gear & Axle-sourced 5.38 gears. Carrying the power to the wheels is a set of Spidertrax 300M chromoly axleshafts fitted with CTM U-joints and a pair of Dynatrac DynaLoc manual hubs. The brakes are Power Wagon-spec and the calipers are affixed using custom brackets. A PSC hydraulic-assist kit was installed to help point the big 39-inch tires. The rest of the steering system consists of a steering box from a Dodge 5500 truck, the stock Power Wagon pitman arm, and a custom drag link and tie rod made from 1.75-inch-diameter, 0.188-inch-wall tubing with chromoly spherical rod ends. The flexy four-link suspension system uses King coilovers, spherical rod-ended upper links made from 1.75-inch-diameter, 0.188-inch-wall tubing and spherical rod-ended lower links made from 2.375-inch-diameter, 0.191-inch-wall tubing. A 1.5-inch-diameter, 0.188-inch-wall track bar with spherical rod ends locates the axle laterally. A pair of Kartek Off Road limiting straps keeps the suspension from overextending.
At A Glance
Vehicle: 2005 Dodge Power Wagon
Owner: Jason Smith
Stomping grounds: Foresthill, California
Build time: 1 year
Engine: Chrysler 5.7L Hemi V-8, K&N cold air intake, 3.5-in-diameter exhaust w/Flowmaster muffler
Transmission: 5-45RFE 5-spd automatic
Transfer case(s): Advance Adapters Atlas 2
Low range ratio(s): 4.3:1
Crawl ratio(s): 69.4:1
Front axle/differential: Spidertrax Pro Series housing, Spidertrax axleshafts, Spidertrax Pro Series 60 knuckles, CTM U-joints, Dynatrac DynaLoc manual hubs/Sierra Gear & Axle 5.38 gears, ARB Air Locker
Rear axle/differential: GM 14-bolt, Sierra Gear & Axle chromoly axleshafts/Sierra Gear & Axle 5.38 gears, ARB Air Locker
Front: Four-link, King 2.5-in 16-in-travel internal-bypass remote-reservoir coilovers, track bar, Kartek Off Road limiting straps
Rear: Four-link, King 2.5-in 16-in-travel internal-bypass remote-reservoir coilovers, track bar, Kartek Off Road limiting straps
Steering: Dodge 5500 steering box, Power Wagon pitman arm, PSC hydraulic-assist ram, custom drag link and tie rod
Tires: 39x13.50R17 BFGoodrich Krawler T/A KX
Wheels: 17x8.5 TrailReady beadlock
Armor: Custom front bumper, custom rock sliders, T-case skidplate
Cool stuff: Shortened overall length, custom bed, lots of exterior lighting, front-mounted Warn 12,000-pound winch, rear-mounted Warn 8,000-pound winch, custom tube doors