Wild Diesel: 1942 Dodge Power Wagon WC53 Panel Truck
Second Life for This Power Wagon
Three years ago, Ken Jones found a 1942 Dodge Power Wagon WC53 panel truck in terrible condition in an old barn in Illinois. Its six-cylinder gas engine still ran, which was amazing, but after 30 years of neglect, most of the Dodge's skin was rusted out (as were the floorboards), the local squirrel population had neatly stuffed door panels with acorns, and rats had nested in the seat cushions. But Ken saw this as a potential Power Wagon sled puller and brought the truck to his shop in Utah.
Ken and his staff at Wild Diesel in West Haven, Utah, started with some major body repair. They boxed in a regular-cab 1996 Dodge pickup frame, reinforced with extra crossmembers to prevent twisting and shortened by two feet, yet Wild Diesel adhered to the Power Wagon's overall original specifications. Rear fenders were pieced together from a horse trailer. The front fenders were fiberglassed and lengthened seven inches to make room for the engine, and the front axle was moved forward 11 inches to accommodate the bumper. A full chromoly rollcage was designed.
Despite the never-say-die attitude of the engine, 95 horses and 172 pound-feet wouldn't be nearly enough power to suit Ken's needs. An engine swap was in order. Wild Diesel's team started with a 1998 12-valve 5.9-liter Cummins turbodiesel, and installed Arias fly-cut pistons. Haisley Machine in Fairmount, Indiana, designed a custom cam. Inconel 60-pound springs with titanium retainers and keepers keep valves where they belong. Haisley 14mm studs hold the head down.
A custom P7100 injection pump is supplied by three electric fuel pumps, which maintain a constant 100 psi out of the 10-gallon aluminum fuel cell in back. Two turbos poke menacingly out of the hood, which create 110 to 145 pounds of boost. A 900psi Scheid seven-nozzle water-injection system cools things off.
Wild Diesel installed a CO2 tank, which powers a Turbonetics New Gen wastegate that controls drive pressures on the engine. Both internal and external guillotine shutoff valves were required for sled pulling and drag racing.
The best way to appreciate the transformation, though, is to get behind the wheel. The driver settles down into a MasterCraft Baja seat and connects the five-point MasterCraft harnesses. He pushes the start button and presses on the accelerator. The engine's 1350 horses run through an ATS full-billet 2006 48RE transmission and an ATS full-billet input shaft sticking into the transfer case, all monitored by an ATS Select Shift manual transmission controller and an ATS high-stall 3200 rpm torque converter. The Cummins revs to 6000 rpm, developing maximum horsepower at 5400 rpm. This awesome power ratchets through Spicer 1480 Series U-joints to a modified Dana 80 Haisley rear axle, and a Dana 60 front end modified with a Haisley straight axle kit.
All this is married to the frame with a four-link rear suspension and a three-link in front, controlled by four huge truck air-suspension bags and Fox shocks with remote reservoirs. Super Swamper TrXus STS tires on Mickey Thompson Classic IIs get the muscle to the ground. In 300 feet, this Dodge gobbles up 1.5 gallons of diesel and about the same amount of water.
Believe it or not, this truck is street legal. The shop uses it to make hamburger runs. Ken said the DMV balked at providing registration in the beginning, because regulations don't allow scoops to stick more than four inches above the hood, but when Ken pointed out that those "scoops" were actually turbos and part of the engine, the agency let it slide. We took a little spin on the freeway, and when Ken punched it, our necks snapped back--as did those of fellow motorists who saw this beast in action.
This 1942 Weapons Carrier has an honored place in the Wild Diesel showroom, as the baddest boy on the street. It may soon have competition for that standing, as Ken is already planning to build another Power Wagon. We can't wait to see it!