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1941 Dodge WC-53 Power Wagon - Wild One

Built For Battle

Stephen Clark
Oct 20, 2007
Photographers: Stephen Clark
Photo 2/14   |   1941 Dodge Wc 53 Power Wagon front View
The words on the side of this Dodge pretty much sum up Ken Jones' approach to building trucks. He loves old trucks and built this Dodge to combine old-school styling with the best modern components. Built primarily as a sled puller, this '41 Dodge WC-53 Power Wagon has undergone a lengthy makeover transforming it from a rusted pile of metal into the striking machine that graces these pages. Originally, the 3/4-ton 4x4 WC-53 was built by Dodge for troop transport and light-cargo duty during World War II, but typical of most military vehicles, many WC-53s didn't return to the U.S. at the end of the war, making this a very rare machine. Some purists say modifying a vehicle like a WC-53 is crazy, but Ken says, "I couldn't just leave it stock, it had to be totally custom. That's just my style."
Built From the Ground Up
Ken was lucky to find a WC-53 in Indiana, but the truck was in a terrible state and couldn't be driven at all. After hauling it back to Utah, Ken consulted his good friend and body expert, Doug Holfeldt. Doug and Ken put their heads together and came up with a plan to completely rebuild the truck using a 3/4-ton '95 Dodge Ram 2500 frame. Ken left all the body modifications to Doug, who spent countless hours over several months modifying the original body to make it fit on the newer Dodge frame.
Picking The Engine
As Doug was working on the body, Ken went searching for an engine, and a 12-valve Cummins was picked for its high-horsepower capability. "When I see newer engines winning sled pulls and dyno competitions, I might think about other engines, but for now, the 12-valve Cummins still rules," Ken says. He worked closely with Haisley Machine to build the engine from scratch, and a new block was found and built using an undisclosed combination of engine parts. Two huge turbos feed air to the 12-valve through a custom intake manifold built from aluminum by Dunes Edge. The twin turbos spool incredibly fast with enormous amounts of boost.
Water Injection vs. Intercooler
Short bursts of power are all that's necessary for sled pulling, so Ken decided against an intercooler. He says the air restriction caused by the intercooler wasn't worth the cooling effect gained. Instead of an intercooler, Ken uses six injectors to pump water into the intake at 800 psi to cool the air going into the engine.
Transfer Case And Axles
The WC-53 was built to be a competition sled puller, so the drivetrain had to be built extremely tough. A 48RE automatic transmission was built by ATS with billet input, intermediate, and output shafts. From there, the power flows through an upgraded '95 Dodge 2500 drivetrain. The NV241HD transfer case splits power to the Dana 60 front and Dana 80 rear axle. For ultimate traction, the front axle uses an ARB Air Locker and the rear was fitted with a Detroit Locker.
Chassis Modifications
Ken built the truck primarily for sled pulling and put a lot of effort into designing and building the custom suspension to handle the forces from the sled. Air springs on all four corners with remote-reservoir Fox shocks provide the damping for the radius arm front and four-link rear suspension. The truck's rear hitch is designed to transfer the weight from the sled all the way to the center of the vehicle to help the truck maintain traction at the front and rear wheels while pulling.
Full Race Interior
The excellent craftsmanship continues to the sparse but clean interior. Beveled aluminum panels inside the vehicle and a full rollcage keep the truck competition legal. Temperatures and pressure are monitored with six Auto Meter liquid-filled Pro Comp gauges that are housed in an aluminum panel above the original split-front windshield. Mastercraft adjustable race seats with four-point harnesses in the front and a bench in the rear provide seating for anyone brave enough to go for a ride.
Just Getting Started
Immediately after finishing this project, Ken began work on a similar project restoring another old ex-military Dodge for sled pulling. Ken's Wild Diesel will be running in many regional and national sled pulls throughout the year, including the DHRA nationals. With an estimated 1,100 hp at the rear wheels, this truck will definitely be a force to be reckoned with on the pulling circuit.
"As soon as you hit the throttle, the boost gauge goes straight to 85 psi- and that's only at half throttle."



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