Family Project 1965 POWER WAGON
by Jake Wiebe
The hill we were climbing seemed a lot steeper than it had the day before. The night was dark with no help from a moon hidden behind multiple cloud layers. The blinding snow obscured the painted lines on the pavement, and the turns were more like switchbacks than curves. The semi behind me was way too close for comfort. Even with the trailer brakes set at the highest possible setting, the heavy old 1965 Dodge Power Wagon on the trailer behind me was still trying to push me around on the mountain pass we were crossing.
I was already thinking a stop over in Golden, British Columbia, might be in order when my wife Tracey suggested just that. Our three children instantly agreed that we should get a room at a hotel that had a pool and hot tub, and even my 2001 Dodge half ton 4x4 I was driving seemed to agree with the general consensus to stop. We were all quite relieved to see the lights of Golden appear in the distance a few miles later.
I guess I could lay the blame for this harrowing episode squarely on the shoulders of the people who publish the “Old Car Trader”. We wouldn't have been in situation if I hadn’t seen the advertisement for a 1965 Power Wagon Utiline listed for $700.00 or best offer.
My two boys have been home schooled since grade one, and my job has always been to teach the shop courses. (My wife does a great job teaching the academic courses).
We thought this would do just fine as our first restoration project. We also thought it would make a great hunting vehicle, this would allow for an imperfect body and paint job.
We drove eight hours from Vernon, British Columbia, to Magrath, Alberta (near Lethbridge), to look the truck over. The object of our search was a 1965 Power /wagon with a utility box and no tailgate.
The truck sported a 318 wide block with a four-speed manual transmission with the two transfer levers beside the shifter on the floor. The odometer showed 67,000 miles.
The truck apparently was purchased originally by Alberta Forestry and then sold to a local farmer. The farmer had used the truck until the clutch went out, and then he parked it behind his barn for the next couple of decades. After that, the sellers in Magrath took over and put it behind their shop for the next two years, until they decided it needed too much work. We took note of the Flintstone-style floor that allowed for emergency foot-work. We also noticed that the distributor sat in the glove box rather than its usual location.
After a half hour of fault finding we settled on $600 for the truck. During our loading efforts, we discovered a seized wheel and took turns cranking the come-along to inch the heavy beast up the tilted trailer deck.
Well we finally got the loaded trailer back to Lethbridge and parked it for the night. Morning came, and I was amazed at how much worse the body looked in the daylight. I had missed a few body modifications that had obviously been executed in an absolute state of rage. However I still felt pretty good about the find. I hadn't seen a lot of these trucks for sale here Canada
Despite the rugged return trip, we got the beast home and parked it in front of the garage, where all the neighbors could get a good eyeful, and we could spur on some jealousy of our good fortune. The next morning, my kids were having a blast playing in the truck, getting covered in dust and grime. They had no trouble seeing the value of an old truck.
Since I did not have shop at home at the time, we pulled the truck to my machine shop in town and cleaned and dismantled it in record time. We welded new metal in the floor, cleaned the engine bay, and put the distributor where it belonged. We replaced all the brakes, redid the clutch, and put on new tires and rims. In about two weeks, we had the Power Wagon running.
Then we started on the body work, I found out that these old trucks were made or real metal. We banged, pulled, pushed and worked on our French phrases until the body started to look like a '65 Power Wagon once again.
We had the whole truck dismantled and primered before I applied the single stage Viper Red onto all the panels, which took about a day to complete. The box wood was completely rotted, so we had no choice but to cut new boards for it. I used ¾’’ lodge pole pine and applied several coats of marine varnish before assembling it.
The truck was a little "bumper challenged" when we got it, so we made our own front bumper and are still working on the rear. We also noticed an obvious over sight in the engineering of this truck. It had no cup holders! To remedy this, we decided to make our own. We machined holes around the circumference of three steel rings so we could bolt them down with stainless steel bolts. A rubber O-ring inserted in a groove holds the cups over any rough terrain we might encounter. They looked so nice, we made matching flanges to secure the shifter boots in place.
Overall, the truck looks good, and we think it will do just fine for our original idea to use it as our hunting and fishing truck. We have since found a tailgate for it that we will install as soon as we get it painted.