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The 1947 Dodge WDX Power Wagon That Does Everything

Posted in Features on September 6, 2016
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The story of the post-World War II Dodge Power Wagon closely parallels that of its brother in arms, the Willys-Overland Jeep. Both companies built a wartime vehicle that earned legendary status in the war, and both followed up with a civilian counterpart that built on that reputation and became legendary out of uniform as well.

The WWII Dodge VC and WC series trucks were ever present, and Dodge dominated the wartime production of 1/2 and 3/4-ton trucks from 1940 to 1945. Heck, they dominated light tactical truck production well into the ’60s. Their trucks were the just-right combination of adaptability, beef, capability, and cost that makes for a legendary military truck. Those characteristics have kept them competitive in the light-truck market since then as well.

Well, the paint isn’t perfect, but this nearly 70-year-old truck is still virile, vigorous, and potent and isn’t afraid to go toe to toe with any other truck. The Dark Green paint is still original and somewhat distressed, but Clint had to repaint the black on the fenders to preserve the metal. A base 7,600-pound GVW truck cost $1,764 new and didn’t come with a heater or rear shocks. The MU-2 Winch from Braden was rated at a modest 7,500 pounds but carries 150 feet of 3/8 inch cable. It was essentially the same winch offered for the military rigs of WWII.

As with Willys-Overland, Dodge began making plans for a postwar version of the WC series trucks before the war actually ended. As it was nearing introduction, the automotive rumor mill had it called the WDX General Purpose Truck, and there were even some preliminary materials handed out using this name. By the time sales began in March 1946, the Power Wagon name had been applied. This also happened to be the name of one of the earliest automotive trade magazines and the name of a truck company started by Max Grabowski. The Grabowski Power Wagon Company of Detroit was in business from 1908 to 1913, but its truck had no relation to the Dodge. Time soon obscured Max and the trade magazine, but the Dodge Power Wagon has lived on. The Dodge model T-137 WDX Power Wagon was loosely based on the T-214 Dodge military trucks commonly known as the WC Series. The 3/4-ton WC models were introduced in 1942 and replaced a line of 1/2-ton 4x4s. They came in a variety of wheelbase lengths, including 98, 114, and 121 inches. For the WDX, a 126-inch wheelbase was chosen so a good-sized cargo box could be added. A prewar 1940-style cab was used along with a hood and front end inspired by the “Burma Road” 3-ton Dodges built for the Chinese government in 1945. The fenders were roughly the same as the military Dodges, and a new four-stake pocket, 8-foot pickup bed was developed, though other types of rear bodies were optional. The truck definitely had a civilian appearance but with a strong reminder of the military roots. Five colors were available: Dark Green, Red, Dark Blue, Yellow, and Seawolf Submarine green. Mechanically, the T-214’s 230ci L-head six translated from the military truck, as did the New Process four-speed transmission. Where the T-214 Weapons Carrier had a single-speed transfer case, the WDX used a two-speed divorced unit very similar to the New Process unit designed for the WWII Dodge 1 1/2-ton 6x6. This transfer case was, in fact, the direct ancestor of the NP205. The axles were largely the same as those used for the 6x6 or the Weapons Carrier and they were very stout dropout units with 9.63-inxh ring gears, four pinion differential, and 1.375-inch chrome alloy ’shafts. The front axle steering knuckle used the almost-forgotten Tracta-Joint. An interesting tidbit is that the ancestor of the Detroit Locker was designed to fit this application in WWII. The military was looking for enhanced mobility on the Dodge 6x6 trucks and had some fit with the Thornton No-Spin differential, which had been introduced in 1941. The No-Spin was originally designed as an interaxle clutch on the Thornton Tandem Drive of the ’30s. The WDX came in two weight classes, the standard 7,600-pound GVW and the 8,700-pound version. The difference was mostly tires and gearing. The 8,700-pound truck had higher-rated 9.00-16s with 5.83:1 axle ratios, while the lighter truck had 7.50-16s with 4.89:1 ratios. The 7,600-pound unit had 8-leaf front spring and 12-leaf rear spring, while the higher-rated truck got 11-leaf and 14-leaf spring packs. Both trucks were nominally “1-tons.”

Not many newer pickups can hitch up to a plow or a post-hole digger, or run a belt-driven farm implement. Dixon installed a Monroe hydraulic lift on the truck, which is also a period piece. In this era, Power Wagons were built at Dodge’s Warren, Michigan, truck plant or at a Los Angeles facility. By 1950, West Coast production moved north to the Bay area in San Leandro, California, and were built there through most of 1954. Annual production of Power Wagons out west was typically very low.
Have auger, will travel at a top speed of 55 mph. This ’50s-vintage Roper auger can drill 8, 10, 14, 18 or 24-inch-wide holes at 3 feet deep. The unit mounts to the Monroe three-point hitch and is driven off the rear PTO, which can be used with a splined ’shaft or a belt drive drum. Any number of PTO driven tools and implements were available from Dodge or aftermarket.

The WDX designation deserves a few words. The “W,” which came from the same naming convention as the WC series military trucks, indicated a ’41-’47 model year truck. The DX indicated the new civilian 1-ton 4x4 truck. This naming convention would change for ’48 vehicles, but both the ’46 and ’47 Power Wagons would remain WDX. The T-137 designation was Dodges model designation for the Power Wagon, but it was used internally for the most part.

The WDX had few people-pleasing options, though many for functionality. Among the people-pleasers was a heater, which was commonly optional in trucks back then. The Deluxe Cab came with vent-wing windows, driver armrest, dual visors, dual wipers, a dome light, and a headliner. Functionally, a bunch of stuff was on the options list, which would grow to gigantic proportions eventually. For ’46 vehicles, the 7,500-pound Braeden MU-2 PTO winch would head the list. Front tow hooks and a rear draw bar would be the ’40s definition of connectivity. A PTO driven off the transmission supplied power to the front winch or a rear pulley drive, or both. A governor made PTO operation consistent.

In 1950, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln would test the T-137 Power Wagon as a tractor. The University of Nebraska had been performing tractor certification since the early part of the 20th century, first just to verify manufacturer’s claims for Nebraska farmers but later for the entire country and even the world. Since Dodge was marketing the Power Wagon as a “do all” vehicle and a three-point rear hitch was available, a ’50 model was sent for tests usually reserved for farm tractors. It was given an official PTO belt power rating of 43.26 hp at 1,700 rpm and a drawbar horsepower rating of 40.52 hp. At the maximum PTO rating, the truck used 4.9 gallons of fuel per hour. Maximum drawbar pull was rated at 6,480 pounds with 12.82 percent wheel slip. This test had the truck weighed down with 1,188 pounds of cast-iron weight added to the front wheels and 2,114 pounds added to the rear, for a total of a 9,110 pounds truck weight. At the truck’s standard 5,809-pound working weight (with the three-point hitch and other items), the truck generated 3,300 pounds of drawbar pull at a bit more than 7 percent wheel slip. At its rated drawbar load, the truck used 4.3 gallons of fuel per hour in 10 hours of use.

The WDX engine was nearly identical to the wartime 230ci flathead and was rated for the same power and torque. Net power was about 80 hp, but Dodge advertised the gross 94 hp rating. The King-Seeley governor is visible on this side (belt removed to save wear and tear) and on the other side mounts the belt-driven Hy-Lo hydraulic pump that runs the Monroe lift. For stationary work, a partial fan shroud and overflow tank ensured the engine stayed cool.

The ’47 WDX Power Wagon you see belongs to Clint Dixon, a very notable expert on the Power Wagon, and it’s a time capsule. It’s an 8,700-pound GVW model he acquired in 1980 from the original owner. It had been used to erect windmills in South Dakota up to that time. It’s been spruced up and mechanically overhauled but is essentially original cosmetically. Dixon added a number of period accessories for his own fun, and he still occasionally uses the truck in his carpentry business.

Back in the days where men were men and women were glad of it, truck interiors were nothing fancy. And this is the Deluxe cab! They did have a little sound deadening on the firewall.

The Details: ’47 Dodge WDX Power Wagon

Owner: Clint Dixon
Estimated value: $30,000
Engine: 230 ci, Dodge L-Head
Power (hp): 94 @ 3,200 (gross)
Torque (lb-ft): 185 @ 1,200
Bore & stroke (in): 3.25 x 4.63
Comp. ratio: 6.7:1
Transmission: 4-spd, New Process (non-synchro, Spur-Gear)
Transfer case: 2-spd, New Process
Front axle: 9.63in. Dodge
Rear axle: 9.63in. Dodge
Axle ratio: 5.83:1
Tires: 9.00-16
Wheelbase (in): 126
GVW (lbs): 8,700
Curb weight (lbs): 5,247 lbs (incl. winch)
Fuel capacity (gal): 18
Min. grd. clearance (in): 10.38
Approach angle (deg): 40 (w/winch)
Departure angle (deg): 28

The original four-pocket bed was used through the ’50 models, and being large and deep, it could carry 60 cubic feet of material. The 10-ply 9.00-16s offered a lot of overkill on the load ratings and was the same tires used on the military rigs. These tires were about 35 inches tall and so stiff that, with an empty truck, air is almost optional.

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