Home » Slow, Fast, And – Well, See For Yourself: 1973 Dodge Power Wagon vs 1965 Chevy Van

Slow, Fast, And – Well, See For Yourself: 1973 Dodge Power Wagon vs 1965 Chevy Van

Sbsd 12 14 2023

Good morning! Today we’ve got a pair of old trucks with three-on-the-trees. Or is that threes-on-the-tree, like Attorneys General or Yukons Denali? I don’t know. Anyway, three forward gears shifted by a lever on the column. One is leisurely, the other… isn’t.

First, however, we should finish up with yesterday’s wagons. I knew the nostalgic pull would be there for both of them, but I also figured the Honda, by virtue of being less primitive, would take the win. And I was right, though it was closer than I expected.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

As for me, and this may be the only time I would say this, I’ll take the Subaru. Honda Wagovans are neat, no doubt, but the early Subaru weirdness has too strong of an appeal for me. I’d rather have a Brat, or one of those little two-door hatchbacks they made, but this would be fine as well. I wonder if you can get reproduction US Ski Team graphics for it?

Screenshot From 2023 12 13 17 45 55

Today we’re stepping back further in time, to the days of inline sixes and three-speed manuals on the column. One of these trucks still has its trusty six, but the other has been treated to something a little spicier. Both run and drive, and both, for once, have white-letter tires. (Not enough cars have white-letter tires these days, in my opinion.) Let’s check them out.


1973 Dodge W100 Power Wagon – $4,250

00j0j Bjvcybhay2s 0ci0lm 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 225 cubic inch overhead valve inline six, three-speed manual, part-time 4WD

Location: Gaston, OR

Odometer reading: unknown

Operational status: Daily-drivable, but may have a noisy transmission bearing


The “Power Wagon” name has a long history, starting out as a civilian version of Dodge’s big military trucks. Starting in 1957, Dodge used the name on light-duty 4WD trucks as well, all the way up until 1980. The most well-known light-duty Power Wagon was, of course, the late-1970s “Macho Edition,” famously driven by Gerald MacRaney in the TV series Simon & Simon. But the Power Wagon always was, first and foremost, a workhorse, not a toy.

00j0j Ahyamuapyc 0ci0lm 1200x900

You don’t need a big V8 and flashy graphics to get work done; a plain-Jane six-cylinder truck will do the job just fine. The “power” in this Power Wagon comes from Chrysler’s legendary Slant Six, driving all four wheels when needed through a simple three-speed manual. It’s a standard-cab short-bed, with what looks like maybe a bit of a lift. It’s a tall truck anyway, but those are big tires, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it had a couple inches of lift to it. The Slant Six runs “exceptionally well” according to the seller, and has a bunch of new parts, including the alternator, starter, fuel pump, water pump, and clutch.

00q0q Kvjffkehvqe 0ci0lm 1200x900

The seller does note a possibly noisy bearing in the transmission or transfer case, but truck gears are noisy anyway, so it might not be a big deal. My own truck’s four-speed transmission groans and whines like crazy, and I once had a Nissan Pathfinder that moaned like an evil spirit in every gear except fourth (which wasn’t a gear at all, but rather direct-drive). If it doesn’t grind or jump out of gear, it’s probably all right for a while. Besides, the seller is including a four-speed NP435 gearbox you can install, which may alleviate the noise.


00o0o 5ja6leepxcl 0ci0lm 1200x900

Cosmetically, it’s a picture-perfect old scruffy truck, with dull paint and a few spots of primer. There is some rust in the cab, but it sounds like a rust-free cab is also included. That’s a bit more ambitious project than the transmission swap, but if you have a big garage, you could make it a winter project and emerge in the spring with a solid, four-speed Power Wagon.

1965 Chevrolet G10 Panel Van – $4,500

00w0w 3mpz11c9xud 0ci0t2 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 454 cubic inch overhead valve V8, three-speed manual, RWD

Location: Sacramento, CA


Odometer reading: unknown

Operational status: Runs and drives… if you dare

How many poor innocent straight sixes have been ripped out and cast aside in favor of a V8 over the decades? A staggering number, I would imagine. This little Chevy van originally left the factory with six cylinders under its doghouse, but the six is gone now, and a big-block 454 lives in its place. And the doghouse? Nowhere to be seen. I believe the word you’re looking for is “Zoinks.”

00f0f Djuj7mlxtlv 0ci0t2 1200x900

This monster of an engine is connected to what I fear is the original three-speed manual and light-duty rear axle. Launch it hard, and you’re liable to either pop a wheelie, or break something. Good thing the single racing seat has that four-point harness, right? I mean, safety first, and all that.


00d0d Kmyzdapxyjn 0ci0t2 1200x900

I rather like the patina on this one too, and the Cragar mags look like they were made for it. The body looks pretty solid, but there is some serious rust in the floor that will need tending to. And of course, some more of an interior, or at least a new doghouse over the engine, wouldn’t be a bad idea. The seller does say that it runs and drives as-is, however – if you’re brave enough.

00404 H0txsztjpfc 0ci0t2 1200x900

The seller is also including an aftermarket “gasser” style straight axle and leaf springs, with Wilwood disc brakes on it. I presume that means the van still has its stock drum brakes, which makes the power upgrade even more frightening. From the looks of it, the seller intended to turn this into a drag racer, but only got this far. Because, of course, when you’re building something like that, you start with the engine, wheels, and tires, because they’re the coolest parts.

I realize these are both pretty serious projects. On the one hand, you’ll end up with a sturdy, if slow, work truck that could also be an off-road toy, and on the other, a scary but cool ’60s style drag van. And even better, either one could be driven home, for that “what the hell is that?” moment when you pull into the driveway. Which one are you taking?


(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

Share on facebook
Share on whatsapp
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 months ago

This is the first time I’ve ever wanted a link to the ad. Yeah, I like the Power Wagon that much.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
4 months ago

I would tackle a cab and tranny swap on the Dodge. The Death Van would be a glorious way to exit this mortal plane but no thanks.

4 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

It seems like the Death Van is more a concept than a specific vehicle. My teenage years included a 1987 GMC 2500 van that one of my Dad’s employees christened “Death Van”. It had a 305 smallblock breathing through a 2-barrel carb, running through a 3-speed slushbox. Sheet-metal interior, broken speedometer spring (it spun in crazy little circles) and massive differential gear whine meant you needed perfect pitch to not get a speeding ticket. A rear bench seat from a Dodge, mounted with 2×4 adapters, and almost a quarter turn of steering slop completed the picture. Fun times!

4 months ago

Power Wagon for me — I’ll take a tough, basic work truck any day.

Also, the world needs more three-on-the-trees.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x