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     My 1966 summer job at age seventeen was loading and driving the campground garbage truck at Mono Village, Upper Twin Lakes, California. Our hauler was a postwar 2-1/2 ton Chevrolet Advance Design truck with a lift bed. Other chores were performed with various WWII surplus vehicles. One, a WWII weapons carrier pickup, was a Dodge WC 4x4. The truck had extremely low gearing and a staid, inline L-head six cylinder engine that cranked over slowly with its 6-volt electrical system but never failed to start. At the peak of the 'sixties muscle car era, this workhorse was relegated to campground duty.

     Dodge came away from its wartime chores with the military line-up plus a rugged civilian 4x4 Power Wagon launched in 1945. Surplus military and postwar civilian Power Wagon trucks worked at ski resorts, house moving, mining sites and any other place where maximum traction and hauling power were a requirement. In this forum, owners and restorers can share tips, questions, experiences and enthusiasm for their vintage Dodge truck projects, including the WC, M37 and civilian W100, W200, W300, W500 and W600 Power Wagon all-wheel drive models through 1980.  In my library of mechanical restoration manuals, I have professional level rebuilding and troubleshooting details, data and specifications that cover Dodge/Fargo Power Wagon 4x4s and even the larger W500 and W600 trucks from this era.  I can share my experience, tips and mechanical details for 1941 to 1980 Dodge 4x4 military and civilian models.

     Rebuilding a 230 or 251 (1961-up) cubic-inch flathead inline-six cylinder engine, a 225 slant six (1963-up), poly head 315 or 318 V-8s, or a vintage 331/354/392 Hemi V-8, an  LA 318 V-8 with forged crankshaft or a big block 383 B-Series Wedge V-8? Restoring vintage axles, a two-speed transfer case, 4-speed manual transmission (spur gear and synchromesh) with power take off (PTO) or a vintage steering gear? Need reliable shop level facts, data and parts details, or want to share your Dodge/Fargo 4x4 experiences? Join us here!Moses Ludel

It was 1960, and our family's '58 Plymouth was overworking itself with its 230 cubic inch L-head six and column shift 3-speed manual transmission.  The Plymouth was a 'Silver Special' model that my folks bought as their first-ever new car.  It was stripped to the bone, with a dealer installed heater and no radio—by today's standards, a shell!...When gas station attendants opened the hood, they gawked at the same engine bay that housed a 392 hemi V-8 in a Chrysler or Imperial.  Narrow and straight up, you could stand alongside the L-head inline six, a 1930s design on its last rounds.  By 1960, the "slant six" 225 replaced this venerable old engine.  All Mopar cars were "full-size" in 1958—essentially the same engine bay regardless of engine type!

Anyway, we were driving over Sonora Pass before dawn, heading from Twin Lakes near Bridgeport to the Bay Area.  California Highway 108 was even more twisting and narrow then, if that's possible, and the switchbacks at the summit of the pass sapped the lacking horsepower right out of that flathead six!  Rough factoring of 3-5 percent loss of horsepower per 1000 feet elevation, the carbureted engine was down to 55% or so of its somewhat miniscule 132 horsepower: 72.6 horsepower remaining!

Description of Sonora Pass: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonora_Pass

The engine stalled on one in the steep (up to 26% grade near Leavitt Meadows!) switchbacks.  It was pitch darkness, starlight only, when my father backed the car down slightly to clear the narrow road.  The one-wheel (double hitch, swivel wheel) camp supply trailer went off the road and onto a milder slope of granite rock.  The Plymouth followed, becoming high-centered, not in a damaging way, fortunately, yet with the frame perched on rock and the rear tires unable to gain traction.

Try to the point of smoking the clutch, there was no way to move the car ahead, and when the sun eventually rose and lit the Sierra Range, the predicament became clear:  It was July, yet traffic was nearly non-existent.  One car passed and wished us well, then a flat-fender Jeep crept up the switchbacks, its four-banger whining through the pine trees.  Two hearty guys had the top down, and they looked half frozen.

They stopped the Jeep and talked with my father for a minute.  Out came a tow chain, and they vainly attempted to pull the Plymouth forward.  With all four tires chirping away and the chain acting like a tether, the vintage Jeep CJ and its L-head four proved no match for the Plymouth and trailer—even in low range.  Simply not enough weight to get traction.

It was bone-chilling dawn at over 9,000 feet elevation!  Highway 108 is the second highest pass over the Sierra Range at 9,624 feet.  There were still snow banks adjacent to the recently opened, seasonal highway.  Sonora Pass is best known for the Marine Corps' Mountain Warfare Training Center on the Bridgeport or West Walker River side of the route.

Our cause seemed lost.  Finally, at first light, the silence broke with the sound of a husky V-8 engine.  Minutes later, the 1957 Dodge W100 Power Wagon pickup came into view.  Huddled in the Plymouth to keep warm, we could not imagine a more welcome site!

The truck stopped on the deserted road, and we could see a couple talking.  The driver got out of the truck and took a close look at the Plymouth.  His wife was commenting on how far we were from Sonora, California.

     "Could disconnect the trailer, although it's not that heavy," the man talked as if thinking aloud.  "I've got enough weight that if I pull your car downhill onto this curve in the road, it will slide off that rock and be free."

My father got his instructions:  He was to keep the Plymouth running and apply power lightly when the Power Wagon took the slack out of the logging chain that connected the vehicle frames.  My mother, sister and I stood by the high side of the road and watched.

The Power Wagon was amazing.  I'd never heard a low range growl through truck axle gearing.  Creeping forward and down the steep, narrow roadway, the massive truck turned the Plymouth sideways.  The V-8 never rose beyond a fast idle...

In less than a minute, the Plymouth and trailer aligned with the road and popped onto the pavement.  Chain disconnected, my father took off to the bottom of that switchback and safely turned the car and trailer around.  We watched him sail by in first gear, foot well into the throttle, as he aimed for the crest of the hill.

At eleven years of age, I watched a V-8 Power Wagon W100 in action and was sold!  Dodge was years ahead of Ford and General Motors, and the V-8 offering even eclipsed the inline six-cylinder I-H 4x4 pickups of the mid-'50s.

Years of military and civilian truck building came together in the '57 W100 and W200 Power Wagon pickups, and the 315 and 318 poly-spherical cylinder head V-8 options helped transition Dodge into the modern truck era...Early in the game, I learned what a Dodge W100 Power Wagon could do!

 

 

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