The Modern Off-Road Truck with a History
April 20, 2021 | By Mario Cywinski
Having been an ‘automotive journalist’ for nearly 15 years, and working for an OEM dealership before that, I have had the opportunity to drive a lot of different vehicles, from the smallest, a smart fortwo, to the largest, a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter long wheelbase with a high roof. None have been as unique as the vehicle that recently filled up my driveway.
First introduced in 1945, the Dodge (now Ram) Power Wagon was the first mass-produced civilian 4×4 truck. The original was the model WDX in 1946, and while its model names changed over time, it was always a one-ton until the original was put out to pasture in 1968.
According to Stellantis: “The Power Wagon was similar in design to the ¾-ton weapons carrier, with a 126-inch wheelbase, closed cab similar to the Dodge VC series trucks, and the front shell and grille similar to the T234 3/4 ton built by Dodge for the Chinese Army, also known as the Burma Road truck.”
After 1968, the Power Wagon did not appear again until 2004, when it was introduced as a 2005 model. It was redesigned for the 2010 MY, dropping the Dodge name, and has been a staple in the line-up since its re-introduction.
Much has changed since the original Power Wagon and the current model (the model tested was a 2020), with 2021 being the 75th anniversary of the original. The current model has a 6.4 litre V-8 HEMI engine, compared to a 230 cubic-inch flathead-six in the original. An eight-speed automatic transmission is mated to the V-8, while a four-speed transmission was used with the original’s four. One more comparison, the original Power Wagon had a maximum payload of 3,000 lbs, the current model has a payload of around 4,000 lbs.
The V-8 used in the Power Wagon offers 410 horsepower and 429 foot-pounds of torque. The diesel option that is available on other 2500 level models, is not available with the Power Wagon. However, as this is an off-road first truck, the HEMI is more than enough.
“The 2021 Ram Power Wagon is the most capable production off-road truck in the industry,” said Mike Koval Jr., Head of Ram Brand. “There are few vehicles with as long and as rich a history as the Power Wagon and, combined with our new Ram 1500 TRX, the launch of the 75th Anniversary Edition reinforces Ram Truck’s position as the off-road truck leader.”
The 75th anniversary model will feature a unique grille, exterior and interior badging, rock-rails with side-step capability, 17-inch bead-lock-capable wheels with 33” tires, leather interior, and other unique accents.
Power Wagon is lifted (over a standard HD), has a unique suspension with Bilstein monotube shocks, locking front and rear differentials, electronic disconnecting front stabilizer bar, WARN front electric 12,000-lbs, tow hooks, and fuel tank and transfer case skid plate shields. Its 360-degree camera includes forward-view with guidelines to help when off-roading.
Ram has been known as having some of the best interiors in the business for its trucks, and the Power Wagon is no exception. It uses a Uconnect 4 system with 8.4” display along with a 7” instrument cluster with a unique theme (with an optional 12” display), has dual-zone climate control, power sliding rear window, as well as having off-road pages that show ride height, transfer case position, pitch, roll, and accessory gauges.
This is the type of truck that makes others move out of your way. There is nothing small or subtle about it. From the huge front grille, to the semi looking yellow rights on the roof, to the winch, to the power wagon decal on the side and tailgate, it screams look at me.
One thing that Stellantis, namely Ram, Dodge, and Jeep do well is highlighting its heritage, much like the Jeep Wrangler (and all its many previous names), the Power Wagon is not a truck that has just come along lately. Sure, it looks ultra-modern, but under the skin is 75 years of off-road truck heritage.