Legacy Classic Power Wagon First Drive
Legacy Classic And The Greatest Generation Bring You The Greatest Truck
EngineSC 6.2L V8
Power585 HP / 580 LB-FT
0-60 Time6.2 Seconds
Top Speed100+ MPH
Curb Weight6,400 LBS
As Tested Price$235,000
The story is that soldiers returning from active duty badgered Dodge for a civilian version of that indefatigable warhorse, so Dodge responded with the Power Wagon in 1946. Even for those no-nonsense times the truck was so austere that the first three names Dodge gave it were "Farm Utility Truck," "WDX General Purpose Truck," and "General Purpose, One Ton Truck." "Power Wagon" was the fourth choice, not finalized until just before it went on sale.
Nothing like today's Power Wagon, the original could be seen as either a glorified tractor or a slightly less uncouth military vehicle – hell-for-leather meant going 50 miles per hour. But it would go nearly anywhere. The civilian version was still built like it had to survive, well, a world war; power take-offs (PTOs) ran all manner of ancillaries; multiplicative gear ratios helped it produce enough torque to make an earthquake envious. Said to be the first civilian 4x4 truck made in America, any organization that needed a simple, sturdy mechanized draught animal knew it needed a Power Wagon.
If that history, the aura of war, and the ruthless functionality attract you but the mean comforts and 70-year-old manners don't, then you need to get in touch with Legacy Classic Trucks. The Jackson Hole, WY, restorer retains every ounce of the Power Wagon's orchard-work aptitude, decorated with present-day amenities and the best components.
If history, the aura of war, and ruthless functionality attract you but mean comforts and 70-year-old manners don't, then you need to get in touch with Legacy Classic Trucks.
Each job starts with having to find a usable donor. The city of Breckenridge, CO, bought the red truck in our gallery in 1947 and used it as a snowplow for the next 30 years. In 1977 a log-home builder bought it from the city and used it for another decade as a company hauler. That's the kind of grueling longevity that lets Ram put a five-figure premium on the 2500 Power Wagon pickup it sells today.
Legacy Classics founder Winslow S. Bent says, "I find them abandoned, with trees growing through them. But I'll buy it if the frames are good, if I can get half a truck in really good shape." After he's removed the flora and dragged it from its resting place, he overhauls his finds with the exactitude we've gotten to know from other restorers like Icon's Jonathan Ward and even Singer Vehicle Design.
The frame-off restoration begins by sandblasting and boxing the ladder beams, which were C-section forward of the bed. After that Winslow says they save whatever they can, but any necessary bodywork is re-fabricated, and all of that works is done in the US. Legacy makes new steel bodies, fenders, and running boards, while the beds are made in Detroit.
'Purists' can opt for a 7.0-liter, stroked Chrysler 426 Hemi V8 with 430 hp and 500 lb-ft mated to a five-speed manual.
The cockpit comes in regular, extended, and double-cab configurations. The regular cab presents the classic look but gets a nine-foot bed, a foot longer than on the original. The extended cab gets a 14-inch extension, which means splicing in the ribbed roof panel from a Chevrolet Avalanche overhead and the curved windows from a fifties-era Chevy truck for blind-spot visibility. Behind it is a seven-foot bed. The double-cab is two original cabs welded together – which takes 600 hours to complete – with space for a five-foot bed in back.
Ahead of the cab, there are three engine choices. The buyer looking for high power goes for the naturally-aspirated or supercharged 6.2-liter Chevrolet V8, the former belting out 430 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, the latter 585 hp and 580 lb-ft, both mated to a four-speed automatic. The buyer that needs pulling power opts for the 3.9-liter Cummins four-cylinder turbodiesel with 170 hp and 500 lb-ft. It is always paired with a five-speed manual, the first cog a granny gear, fifth a 27 percent overdrive gear. And 'purists' can opt for a 7.0-liter, stroked Chrysler 426 Hemi V8 with 430 hp and 500 lb-ft, also mated to that five-speed manual.
That's the body and the muscle, but it's the tendons and ligaments that elevate the functional bits of a Legacy Classic Power Wagon – everything is overbuilt. Under the hood is a three-core Ron Davis aluminum radiator, separate coolers for the transmission and power steering, and a billet aluminum overflow tank. On supercharged models a tool box in the bed houses a remote charge air cooler and a remote oil cooler. On the diesel models that box becomes a 50-gallon tank – at 20 miles per gallon, that's good for days of hauling. The wood strips in the bed are polished African mahogany.
Underneath, you'll find a Dana 60 front axle and a Dynatrac Pro 80 rear fitted with ARB locking diffs and Warn locking hubs.
Underneath, you'll find a Dana 60 front axle and a Dynatrac Pro 80 rear fitted with ARB locking diffs and Warn locking hubs. An Atlas two-stick transfer case sends power to two wheels or four through Tom Woods custom driveshafts, and a Flaming River steering column with Borgenson U-joints get the front wheels turning in the direction you want. Vented, 13.25-inch rotors hang at all four ends, cupped by two-piston calipers fed by stainless steel brake lines. Bent said he "wanted leaf springs for soul," but they get Bilstein 5100 long-travel shocks and crossover stabilizer bars to work with. The exposed parts most likely to break such as fender-mounted turn signals come from NAPA, because even rich guys don't want to spend three figures on a custom bauble every six months.
Inside are LED-backlit Classic Instruments, a tilting Nardi steering wheel, Mercedes-Benz carpet, Porsche microfiber headliner, and Cadillac Escalade seats wrapped in Italian leather, fitted with three-point belts. There's even heat, air-conditioning, and a defroster. And self-canceling turn signals.
If there comes a time when you need to figure out which model to buy, the regular cab exudes that historical sheen but the extended cab provides modern comfort. That extra 14 inches not only makes room for the Escalade seats, it puts room between you and the pedals so you don't have to tilt your foot back as far as your Achilles will allow. Trust us, you'll want that comfort so you can enjoy what this truck can do.
When you floor it in two-wheel drive, power runs crisply through all those cast-iron internals to light up the rear wheels.
On-road confidence isn't usually on the vocabulary list when you're jacked up in the air on 40 inches of Toyo tire, commanding 6,400 pounds of truck with 585 hp wrapped in a 70-year-old design, but that's how you feel behind the wheel here. And we're not just talking about the ability to simply steamroll anything in front of you. The top-shelf and custom fabricated parts, plus the detail in their assembly, has removed bugbears like play, slop, and crudeness. You don't need to rock the Nardi wheel to keep the truck straight. It doesn't bob like an ocean liner over bumps and undulations. Having been insulated for heat and sound, the cabin is kind to conversation.
When you floor it in two-wheel drive, power runs crisply through all those cast-iron internals to light up the rear wheels. The Power Wagon will then leave two beautiful black lines – not squiggles – on the tarmac. It behaves, in fact, like a modern, high-horsepower pickup despite its History Channel looks. The clout of that supercharged 6.2-liter V8 turns this glorified tractor into a giant toy that makes snicker every time you unleash it. Doing so will put a big dent in that 280-mile range, though, but a 6.2-second run from standstill to 60 mph makes it worth it.
Bent says the Power Wagon will happily cruise at 80 mph on the highway, but will top out above 100. When off-road speeds and four-wheel drive demand you go slower, we found the Power Wagon will happily crush the landscape at 8 mph.
A Legacy Classic Power Wagon doesn't come cheap, starting at $185,000 for the regular cab model and running up to $250,000.
If the time came when we had to make an amphibious assault on France again, this is the truck we'd take, except we'd hit the beach at Monaco, not Normandy. Part of that is because piloting this will separate you from the hordes of Veyrons and Aventadors – most of which you'll drive over without noticing, actually.
Part of it is because a Legacy Classic Power Wagon doesn't come cheap.The regular cab models starts at $185,000, the extended cab we drove jumps to $225,000, and prices run up to $250,000 for the double cab even before your personal spin on it. For that you will get a terrifically built piece of US postwar history in a truck that will work as hard as you can, but probably outlive you and look cooler than you in the process. Besides, you can always top any supercar conversation with this: does their options list offer a portable saw mill?
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