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BRING IT ON

New Dodge “Power Wagon” is a Ram of a very different breed

by Bruce W. Smith

The stance. The look. The capabilities. It’s all about attitude. Regardless of how you view it, the newest Dodge Ram 4x4 to grace the highways and backroads to adventure definitely has plenty of attitude—just like the Power Wagons of old. 

But the 2005 Dodge Ram Power Wagon has a lot more—of everything.

With 345 ponies from the Hemi under the hood to a suspension and traction that far surpasses any four-wheel-drive pickup on the market, the new Power Wagon, does its namesake proud.

 Based on the popular Ram 2500, the rebirth of the Power Wagon, which ceased production some 25 years ago, is indeed the ultimate pickup for those who work hard and take their off-road adventures seriously.

We discovered that first-hand during a couple days driving the new 4x4 in Moab, Utah, when the nasty weather made off-road adventures just that.

Torrential rains did a masterful job sliming up the slickrock trails and sent creeks raging across Eastern Utah’s backroads. But the Power Wagon took it all in stride. No other pickup on the market could have kept up with it.    

“The Dodge Ram Power Wagon obliterates the competition,” says Darryl Jackson, Vice President, Dodge Marketing.  “It is the only pickup for severe off-road work conditions.  With best-in-class off-road performance and HEMI power, the Dodge Ram Power Wagon goes way beyond anything ever created by the competition.”

“The Dodge Ram Power Wagon is built for extreme off-road conditions, but will attract a wide variety of buyers,” Jackson continues.  “In addition to extreme off-roaders, Dodge Ram Power Wagon will be used in agricultural and forestry applications, and by enthusiasts in extreme recreational situations or on their daily drive route.”

Dodge offers the Rams in both Regular and Quad Cab body styles, so there’s a cab layout for everyone as long as it’s four-wheel-drive. The interior, save for a couple special buttons and switches, is the same as you’d find in any new Dodge Ram. It’s roomy, comfortable and functional.

REMAKING POWER WAGON

But it’s what’s under the body that makes the Ram Power Wagon an off-road tour-de-force.

The suspension design and drivetrain components are state-of-the-art. For example, Dodge drivetrain engineers, off-road adventurers themselves, raised the running height of the big Ram from the stock 12 inches to 14.5 inches, thanks in part to 33-inch BFGoodrich All Terrain T/As at the corners.

The other aspect that gives the Power Wagon a taller stance and far better off-road performance than the typical Ram 2500 is the suspension. The Power Wagon features solid axles at both ends, along with single-stage leaf springs in the rear and coils in front. They add another inch to the stance.

 “This truck was built by off-roaders for off-roaders,” says Mike Donoughe, Vice President, Body-on-Frame Product Team.  “One test drive of the all-new Dodge Ram Power Wagon’s state-of-the-art off-road axle and suspension package and you know it means business.”

One significant part making the Power Wagon suspension so off-road capable is the incorporation of an electronic-disconnecting front stabilizer bar—a first in production pickups. Dodge calls it the “Smart Bar.”

The Smart Bar allows the driver to push a button on the dash that disconnects the  bar in either High- or Low-range as long as the vehicle is traveling less than 18mph. When the bar is disengaged, the Power Wagon’s front suspension travel, which is controlled by custom Bilstein gas shocks, makes one think of a spider climbing over stones; the  amount of wheel travel is nothing short of amazing. 

At speeds above 18mph the bar automatically re-engages, reducing body roll and suspension articulation needed for more vehicle stability at highway speeds.

OFF-ROAD FORCE

Having all four wheels on the ground is important to off-road travel. But even more important is to have each wheel providing power.

When Donoughe said “this truck is built by off-roaders for off-roaders,” he wasn’t being glib; the new Power Wagon utilizes American Axle TracRite axles with electric locking differentials front and rear along with 4.56 gears.

The driver has full control of the whether or not the lockers are engaged, and whether the front, rear, or both are being utilized. This gives a driver maximum vehicle control be it climbing the boulders in Moab, negotiating a muddy four-wheel-drive trail in the Pacific Northwest, or moving around a construction work site.

Should you find momentum stopped, the new Power Wagon has one more ace-in-the-hole to get you going again: a 12,000-pound-capacity Warn winch mounted behind the front bumper. It’s standard.

A winch was also a standard feature on the  ’46 Power Wagon, too, but it wasn’t electric, it didn’t have 90-feet of galvanized aircraft cable on the drum, and it didn’t have remote control.

FULL FEATURED

The 2005 Power Wagon has it all, from black fender flares and  17-inch forged aluminum wheels to the custom Warn winch, skid plates and  lockers.

Dodge says the typical off-road adventurer would have to pay nearly $10,000 in aftermarket parts and upgrades to get the same looks and performance from a standard Dodge Ram 4x4. Dodge delivers that for $6,335, which is difference between a comparable Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 and the $36,600 Regular Cab Power Wagon. The Quad Cab model is $39,125. 

Options are few: 5-speed automatic; three-inch black tubular nerf bars; leather interior; heated front seats;  SIRIUS Satellite Radio; sun roof; and a skid-resistant bed liner.

Everything else you need is already part of the standard Power Wagon package.

The Power Wagon is an SLT model, so it comes with DVD system, power everything, fog lights, roof-mounted running lights (just as were found on the original Power Wagons),  trailer tow package, and the special Power Wagon badges.

Optioned or not, Regular Cab Long bed or Quad Cab Short Box, five-speed automatic or six-speed manual, the  Hemi-powered 2005 Dodge  Ram Power Wagon is a remarkable performer on- and off-pavement.—Bruce W. Smith

[Sidebar:]

The Original Dodge Power Wagon—from Dodge Truck PR

After World War II, GIs returning home wrote to Dodge and asked, "Where can we get a truck like the ones we used in the war?”  Dodge responded by building the Power Wagon.  Virtually unchanged from its introduction in 1945 to when its domestic sales ended in 1968, the Dodge Power Wagon is the classic four-wheel drive truck.

Dodge Power Wagons first appeared on the civilian market in 1946 as the model WDX.  The model designations changed over the years, but the Power Wagon was offered only as a 1-ton truck through its final year of production in 1968.

The Dodge Power Wagon was similar in design to the 3/4 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. 

The original Dodge Power Wagon featured a 230 cubic-inch flathead six engine, a two-speed transfer case, a four-speed transmission with a power take-off opening, which would send power to the front and back of the truck for operating auxiliary equipment and big 9.00/16-8 ply tires on 16x6-inch five-stud wheels.  The 1-ton rated Power Wagon's maximum GVW rating was 8,700 lbs.  Its maximum payload was 3,000 lbs.

A pickup box was designed that measured 8 x 4.5 feet.  Dodge factory-built this four-wheel drive truck over a year-and-a-half before the Willys 4T and 10 years before other manufacturers began producing 4x4 trucks, making it the first mass-produced civilian 4x4 truck.

Over the years, changes were made to the original Dodge Power Wagon including a 251 cubic-inch engine to replace the original 230 cubic-inch powerplant, as well as synchromesh transmission, alternator and 12-volt electrical system, to name a few.  Many custom-bodied Power Wagons were put into service as fire trucks and school buses.  One of the finest examples is the custom Cantrell-bodied four-door woody station wagon — the original Dodge sport utility vehicle.

The 1947 WDX featured amenities including electric wipers, a single driver's sun visor and armrest, dome light, a heater and the Braden 10,000 lb. winch.

In 1957, Dodge introduced another line of four-wheel drive trucks, also known as Power Wagons, with the model designations W100, W200, W300 and W500.  More conventional in styling, these Dodge Power Wagons were available with different engines, including V-8s.

A total of 95,145 WDX-WM300 Power Wagons were sold from 1945-1968.  Exports continued through 1971 and limited sales continued through 1978, with versions that included slant 6 engines and hanging pedal assemblies. After the 1968 model year, the Dodge Power Wagon went out of production because the nearly 30-year-old cab did not comply with new federal light-duty truck regulations.

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