The Dodge Power Wagon has been synonymous with military and off-road duty since its inception in 1940. Originally designed as a military transport, the truck evolved into a civilian version in 1946 and was based on a ¾-ton military chassis with heavy-duty 4×4 running gear.
The Power Wagon was produced as a pickup in both half- and ¾-ton versions through 1968, and after a brief break in production—and partly due to popular demand—the Power Wagon came back again in the ’70s. The final model, a W150, was rolled off the assembly line in 1980.
True off-road enthusiasts knew the Power Wagon was the king of the off-road world in the 1960s and ’70s. With a V8 powerplant and heavy-duty solid axles front and rear, the truck had the reputation of being rugged and unstoppable off-road.
Unfortunately, the civilian version was never offered with any type of diesel powerplant. Even today’s new ¾-ton Power Wagon is still offered only with a gasoline engine. The diesel would have been an ideal addition to the Power Wagon lineup: Combining a four-speed manual and low-range transmission with the torque of the diesel, it could go virtually anywhere and tow just about anything.
When faced with a void created by the factory, entrepreneurial Americans will build what they need. Case in point is Rocky Sharrock’s beautiful, vintage 1968 Power Wagon.
Rocky bought it as a rusty barn find for $500 and then turned the vintage iron into a diesel-powered 4×4 that not only serves his purposes on the farm but also turns heads wherever it goes.
“I wanted a diesel truck without a computer and needed a heavy-duty truck for use on the farm,” Rocky admitted.
Armed with just the rusty hulk of a ’68 Power Wagon, Rocky picked up a donor ’92 Dodge ¾-ton with the 12-valve Cummins and an automatic and set forth on the project of a lifetime. He had some help from his son, D.J., and Danny Cope. As a hands-on hot rod and Harley enthusiast, Rocky was no stranger to getting his hands dirty.
The first order of business was stripping the 1992 chassis and shortening it to accommodate the wheelbase of the ’68 body. He also had to add new cab and bed mounts.
Up front, ’98 GMC leaf springs and hangers were fitted, while out back, the spring hanger from the front of the ’68 was used with a shackle flip. Rocky says the GMC springs offer a suppler ride than the original Dodge iron. St. Louis Spring fabbed up the rear set of leafs. Skyjacker shocks dampen suspension movement.
With the body mounted to the chassis, now came the hard part—making it all work. To make the truck a “roller,” a set of retro eight-lug 16.5×9.75 Western Cyclone wheels was wrapped with 36.5-inch Parnelli Jones Dirt Grip tires. Next up was the “marriage” of the `68 and `92 Dodge radiator core support.
Making the swap a tad easier was the fact the original 12-valve Cummins was nestled between the ’92’s frame rails. Rocky left it bone stock for the time being, other than pounding out the dents on the oil pan.
Behind the 12-valve is the original A518 automatic, which was freshened with a new torque converter from PTC in Muscle Shoal, Alabama, and other minor mods by David Halter, of Scott City, Missouri. The A519 is mated to the New Process 205 transfer case and utilizes a custom rear driveshaft.
As is the case with most transplant projects, tying it all together is the hard part. The firewall, trans tunnel and dash were molded in to fit the ’68 and the steering column was cut 2 inches, as well. Rocky admits that many of the body mods were made with a BFH (big @#$%^&* hammer).
Dusty Brackett, of Scott City, Missouri, is credited with applying several coats of ’75 Chevy Crimson Red after the frame and body were sandblasted, prepped and primed. The truck retains the original aluminum grille while the bumper was dropped 10 inches to accommodate the new chassis.
On the inside, it’s a blend of old and new. Auggie Uhram, also of Scott City, reupholstered the 1968 bench seat, while the 1992 dash was narrowed and blended to fit the cab—one of the hardest parts of the swap, Rocky admits. The truck has all the creature comforts of the ’92, such as air conditioning, power steering, tilt steering wheel and even seat belts. A Clarion sound system and Sony speakers rounded out the project.
“I wanted a diesel that was different from everyone else’s,” Rocky said. “I wanted one that didn’t need a programmer to run. The first-gen donor truck was rough to start with, and the ’68 was too rusty on the bottom from sitting on a dirt floor in a shed for 25 years. I built this to be a daily driver.”
And from our perspective, he’s got one unique diesel driver with the flare of a retro Dodge Power Wagon.
This is in the February 2012 issue of Diesel World.