ORIGIN of the POWER WAGON

"Why were FFPW's created?"

FFPW - Flat Fender Power Wagon is the name given to identify the original style Power Wagons with the military style front fenders that did not have compound curves.  Actually, they were curved in profile, but a straight edge would show them to be "flat" in one dimension. 

This question appeared on Joe Cimoch's Dodge Power Wagon Forum. The standard answer in the various history books by Don Bunn and others is that this truck was built in response to inquiries by returning World War II veterans who knew of the Dodge 3/4 ton weapons carriers that saw service in all theaters with all branches of US and Allied military forces.  Dodge's introductory advertisements used the image of the military trucks to remind potential buyers of the rugged conditions these trucks were built to handle. 

I have spent many hours studying Army Technical Manuals and factory Service Manuals and searching through military and dealer Parts Lists to answer some of the questions you have posted in the various web site Forums or have asked me by telephone and e-mails.  This research, added to my experience working in a truck manufacturing plant, has given me a view of the ORIGIN of the POWER WAGON that goes behind the story told by the advertising departments and, hopefully "tells it like it is." 

"Create" suggests something that is new and original.  The Power Wagon was not created.  Instead, it "evolved" through what I call "Parts Room Engineering."  When you learn how many parts are interchangeable, you will share my belief that Dodge engineers spent as much time in the parts room seeing what would fit or could be adapted, as they did at the drawing board.  Each component evolved separately. 

The engine was not created for the Power Wagon.  It is one of the least evolved components.  If you only go back to July 1928 when Chrysler bought Dodge, you will see that Dodge engines in the Graham trucks included several flathead in-line six cylinder engines and Chrysler had several as well.  The displacements varied, but the design was generally the same.  This basic design was ultimately used in Plymouth, Dodge, Desoto, and Chrysler cars, and in Plymouth, Dodge, Fargo, and Desoto trucks. 

The truck cab was not created for the Power Wagon.  A truck cab is a simple thing - steering wheel, some instruments, a seat, and some protection for the driver and passengers.  The earliest cabs had no tops and no doors.  Then, cabs were enclosed.  Cab doors were hinged at the front, then at the back, and then again at the front.  The cab that was adapted for the FFPW first was used on the 1939 Dodge and Plymouth light trucks in a styling upgrade.  In 1940, 1941, and 1942, this cab was used on military half-ton and ton-and-a-half trucks.  When the war ended and production of civilian trucks resumed, this cab was used on 1946 and 1947 Dodge light trucks.  This cab was also used on COE and some other larger Dodge trucks.  For the POWER WAGON, it was adapted to sit down on the WDX frame with the floor modified to clear the transmission.

The "flat fender" was not created for the Power Wagon.  The basic "flat-piece-curved-to-fit-the-wheel" was the original mudguard design chosen by almost all early car and truck manufacturers in all countries.  When automobile designers moved to the teardrop style fender in the 1930's, truck designers followed suit.  The early "V" series Dodge military trucks had the civilian styled teardrop fenders.  These were obviously no good for mud so the first evolution in the Dodge military trucks was to change to the open, flat, mud-guard style fenders.  These were typical of all military truck fenders in WWII.  When Dodge introduced the Power Wagon, they retained the military style fenders in keeping with the "go anywhere four-wheel-drive" image.  I'm sure the marketing staff also wanted to remind buyers that these trucks had a "we beat the enemy" heritage. 

The rugged front hood was adapted from a 2 ton, 4x2 truck built by Dodge for export to China at the end of the war. 

Those of you familiar with Chinese army trucks may recognize the styling that was copied from this Dodge export. 

Here's a thought.  Would the Power Wagon have been the same if it used the "less flat" fenders from this truck? 

 

The four-wheel-drive drive line was not created for the Power Wagon.  This concept had been around almost as long as any motor driven vehicles.  The first 4x4 military Dodges had a single speed transfer case.  The half-ton 4.89 differential gearing was weak, so they increased it to 5.83.  Why 5.83?  As is the case with any engineering decision, they changed it until it was enough to do the job.  When the 3/4 ton 4x4 was modified into 1 1/2 ton 6x6, the military found it needed additional gearing so Dodge added a two-speed transfer.  The military drive line was carried over to the Power Wagon.  The two-speed transfer from the 6x6 was used with the low range gearing changed from 1.5 to 1.96.  When the Dodge engineers wanted a rear axle with the differential offset for the rear PTO drive shaft, they used the intermediate (front rear tandem) axle from the 6x6.  The drive axle part numbers are the same.  Again, they solved an engineering issue with a trip to the parts room.

The tires were not created for the Power Wagon.  Dodge continued to use military non-directional tires.  What other high traction tires were available back then? 

Yes, the production express bed was created for the Power Wagon.  A 1939 Dodge TD-21 133-inch wheelbase one-ton pickup with a 9-foot box is shown. It was the largest pickup bed made in the time.  The Power Wagon bed was just over 8 feet long, 54 inches wide with 48 1/4 inches between the wheel wells, and was 19 15/16 inches deep.  While a foot shorter, the Power Wagon bed was large and deep for its time.  It also had a center support for the tailgate when it was lowered to help carry any load that was placed there.  The truck was intended to haul a lot.  After the War the one-ton 4x2 was built only on the 120-inch wheelbase chassis with a 7 1/2-foot cargo box.

Beginning in 1939 all Job-Rated pickups featured boxes that had wooden planks with steel skid strips.  This method continued into 1985 when the last Utiline pickup was built.  For those of you restoring a cargo box of this type please note the correct way to finish the wood is to paint it black regardless of body color.  This may have had as much to do with durability as economics. 

The running boards also saw little evolution.  A running board is a running board - nothing special there.

 

The 1946 Dodge Power Wagon was based on the WWII 3/4-ton military truck. It featured a 230 cubic-inch engine, 2-speed transfer case and a 4-speed transmission with power takeoff opening. The front mounted front power winch was an option.

Again, the Dodge Power Wagon was not “created” but “evolved” from many truck technologies that were already in place.  Thanks to the “Parts Room” engineers for giving us a truck that has so many parts available from other Chrysler products of that era.