Feature: Prices on “Army”-style Power Wagons are rising

Feature: Prices on “Army”-style Power Wagons are rising

Story and photos by John Gunnell

Many years ago, when we lived in New York City, Con Edison supplied all the electricity, and this giant utility company used a fleet of Dodge Power Wagons as its primary service truck. We’d venture to guess that if Con Ed had saved all those trucks until 2018, they could have sold the fleet and lit up the city for a year or two for free. That’s how valuable these trucks have been getting.

Dodge Power Wagons introduced the advantages of four-wheel drive to many truck users. The Power Wagons we’re talking about are the kind that look somewhat like “Army trucks,” rather than pickup trucks. The original civilian versions of the Power Wagon had a military look because they were derived from Dodge’s 3/4-ton WC series of World War II military trucks. However, the civilian versions are somewhat different in that they have flatter fenders. They are known as FFPW Power Wagons. The Marketing of these began late in 1945.

These trucks were built as late as 1971 (and 1978 for the export market) and the first light-duty (pickup type) civilian Power Wagons bowed n 1956-1957 with the introduction of the W100 thru W600 trucks. The Power Wagon nameplate was discontinued in 1981 with the introduction of the Dodge Ram. Four-wheel-drive models were then marketed as “Power Rams” until 1993. The Power Wagon name was re-introduced in 2005. In 2010, the name was used only on one truck—a Dodge Ram Crew Cab model with a short load bed.

This article focuses on the rising collector values of the WC Series military trucks and the FFPW civilian trucks. The latter came in several different series, but all are generally thought of as military-style Power Wagons, even if they were civilian models. Let’s take a look at what prices are being asked for these trucks.

Four of the Power Wagons are seen in the January 2018 issue of Hemmings Motor News and each is priced higher than the previous one. The first is a 1941 WC5 ½-ton model and the advertiser states 60 were made. This one has a good frame and good sheet metal and an engine that turns. However, it needs a total restoration and the asking price for the truck “As Is” was $7,500.

Second up is a 1947 WDX model with a wrecker that runs and drives and has all working gauges except the fuel gauge. The wrecker unit cranks in both directions, but overall the truck looks like what most people call a “barn find.” A seller in Tennessee was asking $12,000 for this Power Wagon wrecker.

A third Power Wagon for sale is a 1949 B-1-PW 128 model that started out as a fire department brush truck in the Western United States. It has only 5,747 miles (which the previous owner “firmly believes” is accurate.) The firefighting equipment has been removed and the cargo bed has been replaced for one reason or another. The seller is asking $30,000 for this truck.

The fourth Power Wagon is a 1953 model that’s in very original condition with a factory-installed wrecker unit mounted on it from new. The truck was used by the original owners until they decided to retire it from towing. They then restored it and used it on their car dealership’s showroom floor. This California truck came with an asking price of $45,000.

These asking prices hardly “take the cake” in the Power Wagon marketplace. Back in July of last year, Hemming’s had a small display ad for a 1947 Dodge Power Wagon that had had a full, frame-off restoration. This truck was actually an upgraded “resto-mod” version of the Power Wagon with a built Mopar V8, a five-speed transmission, a two-speed transfer case, disc brakes with lock outs, 37×12.50 Super Swamper tires, front and rear Vintage air conditioning, bright red House of Kolor paint, Auto Meter gauges, Sanderson headers, stainless steel exhausts, leather seats, front and rear winches, tilt steering and other goodies. The seller wanted $100,000 for his “heart stopper.”

Another seller was asking only $5,000 less than that six-figure tag for a “mint, all-stock-with-custom-upgrades” 1947 Power Wagon. Ignoring the fact that a truck can’t be “all-stock” if it has upgrades, this was a very original-looking trick with a ground-up restoration. It is even pictured in the late Dodge truck historian Don Bunn’s book Dodge Power Wagons 1940-1950.

A bright red Power Wagon in the same issue had a $65,000 asking price. This was a 1-ton version that had been retro-fitted with a 440-cid Dodge V8. It was also equipped with an automatic transmission.

Now, if you’re one of those skeptics who prefers auction prices to asking prices, let’s look at a couple of results from Barrett-Jackson auctions of the past few years:

 

Power Wagons Sold at Barrett-Jackson Sales

Year    Model/Features       Condition     Date   Auction Venue        Sale Price

1950   Custom Wrecker      Good              2017   Scottsdale                 $  51,700

1953   Pickup                        Excellent       2016   Northeast                   $121,000 (*)

(*) Owned by actor Tom Sellick; 18,960 original miles

1951   Tow Truck                  Good              2014   Palm Beach              $ 29,700

1953   US Army                    Good              2012   Orange County        $ 24,750

 

If you prefer using collector vehicle price guides, three of the best give the following value estimates: for a 1950 Dodge Power Wagon

2018 Collector Car Price Guide

Excellent       Fine                Very Good                Good              Restorable   Parts

40,000            28,000            18,000                        8,000              4,800              1,600

 

NADA

High Retail   Average Retail         Low Retail   

85,900            31,700                        16,600

 

Hagerty Valuation Tool

Concours     Excellent       Good             Fair                

56,500            32,000            16,100            7,900

 

There really is no way to scientifically pin down the prices that collectors will pay for an older Power Wagon (or any classic vehicle). As a wise man once said, “the price of a collector vehicle lies somewhere between what a seller wants and a buyer wants to pay. However, if you take the asking prices in ads, the published auction prices realized (which include fees) and the price guide estimates and mix them all together and eliminate your highest and lowest prices, you get a pretty good idea of what the price range is. But be sure to eliminate factors like celebrity ownership, which can bring an artificially high bid.

In this case, using four categories to make life simple, we’d estimate the following.

Excellent                   Very Good                Good                          Fair

$90,000                      $45,000                      $16,000                      $8,000

Categories: Features, Trucks Plus