Strength, reliability and simplicity—that’s the way pickups used to be made. Trucks were made for work, not comfort. They were made predominantly of steel, including the dash and door panels. There was minimal plastic, and amenities like cruise control and even air conditioning were few and far between.
That’s why vintage pickups are enjoying a resurgence in popularity these days. They represent a more simple approach from a more simple time in American history. And both truck and diesel enthusiasts are latching on to them to add some modern touches of their own to improve power and drivability.
“Vintage pickups are enjoying a resurgence in popularity these days. They represent a more simple approach from a more simple time in American history.”
One such enthusiast is Brian Wellman of Crandall, Indiana. A life-long Mopar fanatic, having owned such Plymouth classics as an AAR ’Cuda and ’70s GTX, Brian spotted a 1970 W200 Dodge Crew Cab in California for sale online and jumped at the chance to get his hands on it. The truck was in decent shape, with the exception of a few dents, and even had evidence of a civil service history with the Sheriff’s Department.
“What really makes Brian’s Power Wagon stand out in a crowd, other than the R-4 Red paint job, is the attention to detail in restoring the truck. New door handles were a must and Brian added an ’80s Dodge W-Series pickup chrome bumper to the rear as well.”
Once the truck was delivered back to Indiana, the project became a nine-year labor of love for Brian. Restoring the ride to near-new condition was the goal, along with adding Cummins power under the hood, which took some notching of the firewall to make it fit and still keep the radiator crossmember in the stock location.
A Hydroboost brake system was added to activate the original drums at all four corners while the steering setup from a 4×2 F-250 was also incorporated. Taller-than-stock leaf springs with double Rancho shocks at each Dana 4:10-geared axle make for plenty of room to fit 37-inch Dick Cepek radials mounted on 17×9-inch Race Line wheels.
With the firewall modified, Brian was able to slip the ’93 12-valve Cummins into the Power Wagon’s huge engine bay thanks to custom motor mounts. A custom air intake with a conical filter feeds the stock turbo while a 4-inch, custom-fabricated exhaust routes out exhaust. Other than a cool Cummins billet dress-up plate, and the intake and exhaust upgrades, the 12-valve is stock. Behind it is a ’92 A518 overdrive automatic mated up to the original “divorced” 205 transfer case. In true retro Mopar style, Brian shifts the auto with an authentic ’70 Challenger pistol grip shifter.
What really makes Brian’s Power Wagon stand out in a crowd, other than the R-4 Red paint job, is the attention to detail in restoring the truck. New door handles were a must and Brian added an ’80s Dodge W-Series pickup chrome bumper to the rear as well. On the inside, Jay White of Dogwood, Indiana, is credited with upholstering the ’99 Dodge seats. A custom Ron Francis wiring system replaces the well-worked stock stuff while a Vintage Air system keeps the cab cool. And before the cab was assembled, Eastwood sound deadening was added.
We caught up with Brian’s Power Wagon at this year’s Scheid Diesel Extravaganza, where it turned a lot of heads in the Show and Shine area. Best of all, his labor of love makes for a cool vintage daily driver with all the conveniences of a more modern pickup, and the power and reliability of a diesel to boot. DW