Jim J W100 Power Wagon

Cross country in my Frankenstein Dodge W100

One of my best childhood memories was driving around in my Grandpa's old '65 Dodge pickup. It was faded red with custom duct tape repair to the bench seat. It had a 318 poly and 4 spd transmission and ran like a scalded ape. I drove it all the way through high school and learned much about auto repair replacing bearings, brakes, clutches (Yeah, my fault!), and making engine mods. I kept the old girl several years after Grandpa passed away but finally had to let her go when we moved out of state. I always regretted letting it go and not restoring it like I did several muscle cars, of course the Dodge was always my parts getter/tow vehicle.

So back around '99 I was perusing ebay and ran across this '62 Power Wagon in Iowa. I had a fresh paint job and interior plus a fresh rebuild on the 318 poly. It reminded me so much of my Grandpa's pickup and the fact that this one was four wheel drive made it seem perfect as we were living in Southwest Missouri and had snow and ice to content with at times. The owner agreed to meet us near the Iowa-Missouri boarder so my wife and I headed North. When we arrived there she sat on a car trailer and looked pretty good. Before any money changed hands I looked over the title and found a big problem! The truck was listed as a '71 model and of course the VIN didn't match. The owner was at a loss and I hopped back in the car for the long, long drive home.

About two weeks later the owner of the Dodge calls me and asks if I'm still interested, I wasn't. He investigated the matter and found that the chassis was indeed a '71 W100 and the VIN stamp matched the title. Apparently the previous owner swapped the '62 cab onto this chassis and everything is good and legal. After a little back and forth on the phone the owner dropped the price over half and even agreed to bring the truck to my door! I should have known at this point that no good would come of this, but I agreed to the deal.

Fast forward six years, a couple of long distance moves and enough cash to have bought a new economy car we found ourselves once again making the journey from Southern California to Southwest Missouri, this time to be near our brand new grandson! So we left the Dodge with the in laws until we could figure out how we'd get her to Missouri. Now by this time the Dodge had morphed into 440 big block, 727 automatic, six inch lifted gas chugging monster with the only creature comfort added being a custom prototype power steering setup I'd gotten from a developer in Canada. There was no way I was going to get her on a car carrier and auto transporters wanted big bucks because of the size. After weighing our options I talked the wife into a special little road trip!

We flew back to California in October '05 and after a quick visit with the in laws prepped the monster for the big trip. Now since these trucks have a somewhat small fuel tank and this beast averaged somewhere South of ten mpg we had to keep a close eye on gas station locations, especially going through the deserts. The old girl ran great, not a hitch through the deserts of California and Arizona. We got thumbs up and honks from the truckers all the time as well as lots of gas pump conversations during our many, many stops. A big moment for me was when we actually hit ten mpg driving though Texas, must have been a decent grade and a hellacious tail wind!

We took our time and really enjoyed the drive, stopping to see the sites and tourist traps on the way. I was definitely not the most comfortable trip ever, actually I couldn't get my wife to get into that truck for a full year afterwards! I'll tell you what though, I wouldn't trade the memories for anything!

1 Reader Comment

  • 1
    Erik J. Capistrano Beach Ca. May 7, 2014 at 20:51
    I love the story behind that dodge truck because it reminds me of the 4 x4 trucks that I had along with my friends back in the day. Big simple fix em yourself trucks running on regular gas and carbs instead of injectors.I had Ford and Chevy trucks and some friends had Dodge Power wagons.We made a lot of trips down the Baja Mexico peninsula in these things , bringing dirt-bikes and surfboards. We also were able to Do a lot of off roading in the hills just out side of the local towns until all of the new developments took over. We still have 4 x 4 trucks but they are new, and don't go out nearly as much. But I do have classic 1ton GMC five window farm truck in almost mint condition which I drive occasionally it's 4 on the floor! rides high and has very stiff springs, lots of them. Thanks your truck brings back fond memories. Erik J.

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