Power Wagon Week: This 1978 Dodge W100 Power Wagon Is Survivor Perfection

Power Wagon Week: This 1978 Dodge W100 Power Wagon Is Survivor Perfection

(Photos by Dave Nutting) – As sure as I am sitting here typing this, I can say that Jim Dayotas’s 1978 Dodge W100 Power Wagon truck is one of the coolest vehicles we have ever featured on BangShift. This truck is a 90,000 mile survivor that has 95% of its original paint, the original engine, transmission, transfer case, axles, wheels, and interior. Outside of some small bits and touchups, this truck is just as it was when it rolled out the back door of a factory in 1978. Jim is technically the second owner of the truck and it is one of a fleet of orange Chrysler products that he owns. Being that this is winter, we didn’t think that his 8-second 1968 Dart, blown street going 1970 Dart, 2WD 1970 Sweptline truck, or in progress 1934 Plymouth hot rod was right to cruise around and shoot photos of. More on those this spring, but today’s star of the show is this completely awesome truck.

Dodge Powerwagon 1978 Omaha Orange028For starters, I am of the belief that in the face of everything else, Detroit has never really screwed up on trucks. Yes, this thing has a 440 that makes 180hp, doesn’t get much for mileage, but the reality is that the Omaha Orange Dodge runs like a top, clawed its way though the snow and ice when we shot the photos of it, and looks 1000% cooler than anything being barfed out of a factory today. Even in the darkest hours of America’s car companies, their trucks have been the best. In 1978, Chrysler was in decline and it would become a terminal situation in the early 1980s when Lee Iacocca came in an riled the joint up, cranked out K-cars, and got the balance sheet right. That’s a history lesson for another day. Today, all eyes on that bitchin’ orange machine over there on the left.

From the chrome bumpers, to the tape stripe, to the graphics on the tail gate, this was an image machine if there ever was one. The Power Wagon name did, and still does carry a lot of weight with it. Dodge is still producing a gnarly pickup with that nomenclature attached to it. This truck may seem quaint in comparison but for its time, it was a pretty bad ass piece. It was the last year that a 440ci engine could be optioned and this truck has it. The front axle is a Dana 44 and the rear is a 9.25 unit. The transmission is a 727 Torqueflite and the transfer case is a “full time” New Process 203. Those axles have 3.55 gears in them, which is taller than most of these trucks were optioned with, so it is a little better on fuel than it would be with a 4.10 but perhaps a bit more pokey in all out acceleration.

Dodge Powerwagon 1978 Omaha Orange036The suspension under truck is as timeless and basic as it is effective. Leaf springs all around. We shot this feature in a gravel/sand pit that we ummmm….got access to. In the course of shooting it we bounced around various parts of the place, climbed hills, and gave the truck a good work out. Jim even cut some donuts for us to get some action photos. The machine never once whimpered or let us down.

I think the reason I am so in love with the thing stems from my own time as a kid. I learned to read on Peterson’s 4-Wheel and Off Road magazine and back in the early 1980s rigs like this filled the pages. Bright colors, white steel spoked wheels (which in this truck’s case were factory installed), big block engines, and flying dirt were all the things that spun my crank as a little guy. The first time I saw Jim’s truck I knew that we had to have it here on the electronic pages of BangShift. You have to admits that the truck is as right as rain. Proportionally it is 100% dead-nuts, spot on perfect. The larger than stock tires fill the wheel wells completely, the fact that it is a short bed is the icing on the cake.

This truck has a great story and we’re going to tell it below through Dave Nutting’s stunning photos and the captions we have attached to them. I just cannot stop staring at this damned thing!



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This is not a photo of a die-cast model 1978 Dodge W-100 Adventurer Power Wagon. This is Jim Dayotas’s truck and it rules the school. Dave Nutting was perched (literally) on top of a cliff at a gravel yard shooting down at the truck. The Omaha Orange factory hue is literally jumping off the screen at you.

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Incredibly, this is a factory survivor, 90,000 mile truck. The paint is original aside from two places that we’ll show you in a minute. These are the factory wheels on the truck. Behind them are some comically small disc brakes. These are largely considered the best light trucks of their era except for one thing. The front wheel bearing design sucks ass. Other than that? Unbeatable.

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One of a couple deviations from bone stock is the tire size. Just one size up from the bone stockers we dig how these tires fill the wheel wells all the way up. Big tires and no lift is a winning look in my book.

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Note the inside of the wheel well in this photo. It shows wear but no rust or anything. How? Jim clear coated them when he got the truck from a seller in New York back in 2008. He typically doesn’t drive it in the salt and junk but made an exception for us.

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The late 1970s were a tough time for cars because virtually everything sucked. The 1978 Dodge car lineup wasn’t exactly inspirational. This was the coolest thing the company was making if you liked 4×4 trucks!

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The original grill shows some battle scars and use. Note the crinkles on the upper right corner. Also note that someone hand repainted the black accents on the grill at some point. Jim wants to fix it but we don’t want him to touch anything. He said that due to the fact “Little Red Express” sport trucks use this grill, they sell for thousands on the open market.

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Jim has a Plymouth Trail Duster grill but it lacks the prominent DODGE across the top. He’s not swapping it. We love this guy.

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The patina on this truck is absolutely freaking perfect. Note the hand wear on the hood. This spot was obviously used to close the hood about a million times over the years. It was also lightly blasted by road sand and other materials over the course of 90,000 miles. Perfect.

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The vibrancy of the Omaha Orange paint and perfection of the tape stripe is shocking, really. In a world of lame ass, dull colored cars and trucks this thing is akin to driving a sunburst around, especially sitting on snow with grey skies.

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Exposed locking gas cap meant that no one ripped you off while you slept during gas crunches.

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Sweet, sweet clear coated wheel wells oh how I love thee.

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Interior patina? Yeah, we’ve got that. The sweet spot where only a couple owners have slid into it thousands of times.

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The NP203 transfer case in this truck is a “full time” four wheel drive unit. When the unit it out of lo-lock or hi-lock the thing acts as a rudimentary AWD system. It tends to send power to the slipping wheels though. For example, if you busted a front driveshaft and tried to drive home without the unit in “lock” position, it would simply spin the front output and you’d go nowhere. Pull it down and you’d be fine.

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Luxury! In the world that I live in, every truck cab would still look like this. Basic, tough, functional, and lacking all frills. This thing doesn’t even have a headliner and it was the “high” trim model!

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The tailgate is one of only two places that the truck has had fresh paint applied. Even Nutting, who was completely confused by my enamored state in the presence of this truck admitted that the Power Wagon graphic on the tailgate is bad ass. The only other area that has had paint work is the bed sides above the chrome strip. That’s it and the work was blended perfectly.

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This was as tough as it got in 1978. 440ci of Chrysler RB big block front and center. Yes, it only made 180 factory horsepower, but it would do that for a long, long time. The entire engine is stock aside from a replacement Edelbrock intake manifold and a Holley carb that replaced the Thermoquad that even Mopar diehard and devotee Jim said was horrendous. The truck sat for nearly 10 years in a private collection before Jim got it.

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Because the truck sat so long, there was sludge and gunk all inside the engine. Jim flushed it multiple times and kept flushing it until it was clean and happy. It has never given him a lick of trouble.

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So good. Soooooo good.

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Again, the motor (as far as Jim or anyone else knows) has never been unbolted from its mounts. Jim has resisted the urge to hot rod this truck and plans to leave it as is.

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Gauges, not idiot lights. A floor shifter for the 4WD, a non digital gear selector indicator. Stuff that real trucks have.

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Look at the PERFECT wear on the door in the spot that the driver’s elbow would rest. Jim is as into this type of measured wear as we are.

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More wear on the crease in the body where someone’s elbow has ridden for 90,000 miles. Like it has been rubbed with a soft cloth for years.

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Dana 44 front axle handles the weight and turning job under the nose. Note the fresh gasket sealer. Jim drained the axles and replaced the “chocolate milk” with actual gear oil.

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The Chrysler 9.25 axle  out back was also drained and serviced. Jim pained the whole chassis and the axles with POR 15 to preserve its spectacular condition. I’d live under here if I could.

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The one part of the truck that was a hot mess when Jim got it was the exhaust. He replaced it with a basic setup. Using the factory Y-pipe and a 3″ inlet/outlet Flowmaster 40 he plumbed the muffler and made a quick side exit. It sounds great.

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After ripping some donuts Jim said, “That’s the first time I have beat on this truck!” We make people do bad things.

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After getting Jim to “break the ice” with some donuts we didn’t feel as bad asking him to scale a snowy hill with the truck for some classic, old school 4×4 feature photos. He kicked ‘er into 4-low and gave the 440 the old what for.

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The ‘Wagon clawed its way up the icy, snow covered hill and since Jim asked us to stop him before he bottomed out, we did….about an inch before he did. Looks bitchin’ though, right?!

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The truck looked even better at a steep angle as it did sitting level on the ground.

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Today’s trucks with their eight speed transmissions, quiet interiors, high output engines, bed steps, tie downs, and huge sticker prices have gone so far off the reservation of what pickup trucks once were it is kind of sad. Yes, those changes were driven by customer demand but we sure long for the days of something this bitchin’ as a factory stock truck.

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The 1970s were a dark time for lots of stuff in the auto industry but not so much for trucks. They were touted in ads for their toughness, not for their number of cup holders or their heated steering wheels. The idea was still about our muscling the other guy and throwing in some cool stuff to close the deal.

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This shot, taken by Dave Nutting high atop a litter cliff (that I was literally concerned he was going to fall off of) is probably my favorite of the group. If this doesn’t make you smile and then head directly to eBay to find one of these trucks (good luck I have been looking) you need to get your gearhead glands checked.









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7 thoughts on “Power Wagon Week: This 1978 Dodge W100 Power Wagon Is Survivor Perfection

  1. Cayden

    Your librarian should be commended! Not every small town library has such a variety of LBGT books. The ability to escape into a book saved many us from our choidhlods.

  2. DM Varga

    Great survivor truck! We purchased a 1978 W150 \’Warlock\’ as third owners, this is an original paint color pinstriped 88,000 as close to factory roll-out except for the wheels. Thx (would post photo if there was a place)

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