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The Story of My 1964 Power Wagon Town Wagon
The Search Begins!

In the fall of 1997 I was running a small woodworking business out of my garage, and I found myself needing a vehicle to haul my work in. I could have gone the easy route and gotten a pickup, but I was using a friends Grand Caravan to move stuff at that time, and I liked keeping my hard work out of the rain! Since I have always liked older vehicles, and I was getting the itch to own one I decided to look for an older enclosed truck.

I found right away that there were two main vehicle types that fit my needs, forward control vans, and Suburban type trucks. After looking into it a bit more I decided that forward control vans were too dangerous, since you were being used as a air bag for the engine. That left Suburban type trucks. I went to the local library and found a book called "The Standard Catalog of 4X4's." In it I found two trucks that caught my eye, the 1960-61 Chevy Suburban, and the 1958-66 Power Wagon Town Wagon. I figured that if I was going to have a straight front axle it might as well be driven! After looking into the spec.'s a bit more I decided to concentrate on 1960-61 4wd Chevy Suburbans, and 1961-66 Dodge Power Wagon Town Wagons.

At that point I went looking on the Internet for information on both the Suburban and the Town Wagon, because there was so little information available from books. I found that there was no good information on old Suburbans, but there was quite a bit of information on Town Wagons. In fact, I found a fairly enthusiastic E-mail list (Join the list) devoted to nothing but Town Wagons. Since I have always been a Mopar guy at heart, and I had been smitten by the picture that starts this story(from the 1962 Dodge 4wd brochure, reprinted in "the standard Catalog of 4x4's" on page 120 where I first saw it) I decided to get a Power Wagon Town Wagon.

Once I decided to get the Dodge Town Wagon, I joined the E-mail list and participated in conversations, became involved with finding parts for people, and making a group T-shirt.

After a few months of belonging to the list I went to The Vintage Power Wagon Rally which is devoted to Dodge Power Wagons (that is what Dodge called their 4X4's) with some of the Town Wagon list members. At the rally I met people from my area who were also into Power Wagons and Town Wagons. I also got to see a Power Wagon Town Wagon for the first time in person.

I had been looking for a few months for '61- '66 Dodge Power Wagon Town Wagons and I had not found many for sale.

My First Find.
Then, in the middle of the summer of 1998 I found the perfect truck. It was located in Rockford, Illinois, and it had been sitting in a barn for eight years. The truck was quite rusty, but it was four wheel drive, and had an original PTO (Power Take Off) winch. The interior smelled horribly of mouse, the engine needed a new carburetor, and there was a hole in the windshield. Despite these problems the truck had a lot of potential.

The price was right at $1,000 and it was close to me, so I arranged with a friend and the owner to go pick the truck up on a Sunday. On the Friday before we were supposed to get the truck the owner called and left a message that said that he felt I was trying to "Lowball" him, and that he had decided to sell the truck for $2,000. Then he called back later saying he had been to see the truck and he wanted to keep it. So I was out of luck and in search of another truck.

Another Find!

I kept looking, and one day Cris from the E-mail list asked, "How hard would it be to swap my 2wd Town Wagon body on to a 4X4 chassis?" He had found a Power Wagon Town Wagon near his home in Colorado. It had a badly dented body, but a complete 4X4 drive train, and an original PTO winch. I told him what would be required to swap bodies. Cris wrote back, and said that he had too many other irons in the fire, and he was not going to buy the 4x4 Town Wagon. I contacted Cris and asked if he could get me pictures of the truck.


He took a couple of rolls of film of the Town Wagon for me. Cris talked with the owner, Ray, and discovered that he wanted $600 for the truck, and that Ray had taken the truck as payment for back rent from an old tenant.. Cris also found that the Town Wagon had an engine in it, but no transmission, and it had been parked for 15 years.

I decided that I would buy the Town Wagon if I could find a cheap way of getting it towed to me.

Then through a friend of mine, I found Joe who said he would be willing to go get the truck for gas money ($300 to $400). I thought that sounded like a reasonable price, so decided to buy the truck. Joe was delayed by his business for a couple of weeks, but on December 9th (a Friday), Joe left for Longmount, Colorado. When Joe picked up the Town Wagon from Ray, he checked the VIN numbers out, and checked over the truck for me.

Cris, being very helpful, also showed up to make sure that the loading went smoothly. While everyone was together, Ray told Joe that the axles had been rebuilt a thousand miles before the truck was parked, and implied that the brakes had been fixed as well. He also said that the transmission in the cab was the one from the truck, and that it was fine, it had just been taken out to use in another truck. When I started to work on the truck later, I found that none of those things were true.

I thought that Ray would tell the truth since he had already been paid, but I guess he was misinformed.

Joe was back home in Veroqua by 1:00am on the morning of December 12th(Monday). I was waiting for him for most of Sunday afternoon, since he was planning to be back then. It turns out that my truck sat so tall on his trailer that he couldn't go his normal 90 MPH he could only drive about 70 MPH.

On Monday night Joe called me up, and he said that he would deliver the truck on Tuesday night. So on Tuesday I met Joe in front of Monarch Motors on Highway 14, just outside of Madison. After looking over the truck to see what kind of wreck I had brought halfway accross the county, I led Joe to my apartment. When Joe and I were ready to unload the truck I hopped in to ease it off the trailer. After trying to balance myself squatting on the floor of the truck (there were no seats in it) I found that the parking brake didn't work (it was missing the band), and the main brake pedal just went to the floor.

So we had to use a come along to slowly lower the truck off of the trailer. Once we had it off the trailer, it didn't want to roll on it's own. So we had to push it back by hand, and then haul it forward with Joe's truck to maneuver it into place.

Once Joe had left, I hauled out my halogen lights on a tripod (two 300 Watt bulbs) and went to work washing my new truck. I had no choice but to wash it then. I was going to California in a day and 10 hours, and I figured that it would be too cold when I got back to wash it. Plus it was a balmy 34 degrees out, so the water would not freeze.

The outside of the truck was covered in grime, and mold. I used a stiff scrub brush to wash with, and even that was not enough to get all the dirt off. This truck is so tall that I had to wash the front of the roof by climbing on the cowl, and the back of the roof by standing where the rear doors are. Since I didn't have a ladder I couldn't reach the middle of the roof.

When I moved my attentions inside, I found that someone had used indoor/outdoor carpeting for a headliner. The carpet was placed under the brackets in the middle of the roof, and glued in front and back. The backing of the carpet had pulled away from the glue, causing it to hang down. I cut off the hanging parts, which left ugly black swirls from the glue, and the carpet in the middle under the brackets.

This is the part of the roof I could not reach and I am 6'4"!

Inside the truck were piles of stuff, so I took all the big parts, and put them into bags and buckets. I then took the parts that were to big for bags out too. I got the small part of the front seat, a complete set of rust free sliding windows, the transmission and heater from the truck, two Kawasaki exhausts, and a long drive shaft (not from the truck). Then I tore out a wooden structure that was in the cargo area that made two levels out of the back. That left me with a mostly empty but very dirty interior.

This truck was used in the construction trade, so the back was full of nails, and other house related stuff. I took a board and pushed all of that stuff, along with lots of dirt, into a bag for future inventorying, I did not want to throw out anything until I was sure there was nothing but junk left. The bag must have had 20-30 pounds of dirt and nails in it. Once I was sure that there were no nails left inside the truck (they were everywhere!) I hosed it out.

Now I had a clean bare shell, so I looked the truck over. The reason this truck was taken off the road was that it slid sideways into some trees on the passenger side. To extract it they had to cut off part of the front fender, and part of the front bumper. The impact almost flattened the raised area around the rear wheel, and popped the roof seam on that side. The truck had led a hard life, so there were many other dents all over the truck.

The hood looked as if a tree had fallen on it, and someone had started to put on plastic body filler, but never painted it. The hood also will not sit flat on the driver's side; because it is bent, it hits the fender. None of the doors stay closed, they are dented and torn in places, and all but the driver's side rear door need to be slammed. The front driver's door is badly dented, and is missing both the handle, and the lock cylinder.

Though, on the good side, none of the doors are rusty. The floor around the body mounts is cracked, and the body is sagging on the passenger side because the body mount is poking through the hole in the floor. The base of the rear doorjambs on both sides is cracked, so you can push sideways and the whole side of the body moves. The area below the rear doors is torn and bent, plus the DODGE badge and the license plate lights are missing.

The glass in the driver's door is missing, and the passenger door glass only goes up 2/3's of the way. The windshield is cracked and the sliding windows have only one knob and mold in the tracks. The taillights and the front turn signals are not on the truck. The gas cap was not on, and someone had stuffed a plastic bag into the filler neck to keep water out of it. The core support was damaged in the crash, and needs to be replaced.

Inside the truck there is nothing but seatbelts; the floor is bare. The dash plate was taken off at some point and was among the parts in the back. The glove box is missing its knob, and the spring is gone or broken. The heater was in back, so all of its connections are hanging. The ignition switch is missing, and the steering wheel has typical cracking.

Under the hood someone did some scrounging, and some weird cobbling. The positive battery cable is Romex, and I can not find the negative cable. The coil is missing, as is the alternator and its bracket, the radiator cap, and all the belts. This truck was equipped with windshield washers but the bag and hoses under the hood are missing, though the foot pedal in the cab is still there. The throttle linkage does not stay attached to the carb, something is wrong with the socket on the linkage, and the pedal in the cab is missing. The carb has been cannibalized, and I do not know what is missing yet, plus the air cleaner is missing. The bottom of the bell housing is missing, so I can see that all the clutch stuff is there. The radiator hit the fan at some point, so there is some damage to the fins.

I found the alternator in the back, and took it to be tested; it read 6 volts, 0 amps, and the bearings howl, other then that it's fine! The guy who tested it said that he had seen few worse.

On the good side (You did not think there was one after all that did you!), after I went though the parts I got, I found two sets of housings for the front turn signals, and two sets of front turn signal lenses plus some screws for them. I also found the tail lights, the radiator cap, the gas cap (the plastic bag came out just fine), three air cleaners (I think they are the right ones), the dash plate (after market oil gauge), the heater, a coil with wire and bracket, a spare pressure plate for the clutch, some U-joint parts, the license plate lights (not complete), two front door handles, and 40 cents in change. (I was surprised to find three pennies of my birth year and one from the build year of the truck.)

I found all this out a week or so later, after I got back from California. I took the bag full of dirt and nails, poured it out on my workbench, and went through it slowly piece by piece. It took two hours to go through, because there was so much dirt. In the end I was glad I did it, despite the grubs I found living in the dirt, since I found three of the screws that hold on the front turn signal lenses, and some other small parts I may need.

When I was in California, I met up with Robert and he gave me an ignition switch (no key) and a gas pedal.

Before I got the truck I had decided I was going to change the oil before I left for California, so I went to NAPA, told them what I had, and asked for a filter. They gave me one, but when I went to put it on I found that my truck took a canister type not the screw on type I had been sold. When I got back into Madison (5 degrees outside, I sure was happy I had done the cleanup before I left!) I went back to NAPA and tried to get a new filter but they did not have one, so I had to order one and come back later. Quite a bit of effort just to change the oil!

I should have taken that as a sign, as almost every part I have gotten for this truck has taken me a lot of time, and effort to get. It took me from December 12th 1998, when I got the Town Wagon, to August 21st 1999 to get the truck fixed up enough to drive away from where it had been parked by Joe. I then put the Town Wagon on another trailer, and towed it to where it will be stored while I am at school.


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