“Low Dollar Joes” Powell Truck

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Joe Duncan by his Powell Truck in 1958. Photo Courtesy of MyclassicNEWS.com

“Low Dollar Joes” Powell Truck

In the late 1950’s my dad bought a Powell Truck at the L.A. Auto Auction in order to put his company name on it, “Low Dollar Joe” before he established Duncan’s Cadillacs. Not many people have heard of Powell Trucks, the Powell Manufacturing Company and the Powell brothers were early innovators in pickup and SUV design with several models produced in the 1950s using a modified 1941 Plymouth chassis recycled from junkyards. The pickup was sold as the Sport Wagon and the SUV as the Station Wagon.

Joe Duncan by his Powell Truck in 1958. Photo Courtesy of MyclassicNEWS.com

My dad drove his written up Powell truck all over the San Fernando Valley and the L.A. in the late 50’s and early 60’s, whether it was to pick up parts or to have lunch at the Palomino Club. He always claimed that it was one of the best marketing concepts that he had ever concocted, subsequently he carried the same concept to his Duncan’s Cadillacs advertising concept.

Joe Duncan standing next to his new sign. Photo courtesy of: MyclassicNews.com

The Powell Brothers, Hayward and Channing Powell, started manufacturing radios in the mid 1920s. Their first company, Winner Radio, produced expensive radios which did not sell very well and then inexpensive radios which did. During 1925, Hayward Powell developed appendicitis, and in early 1926 had an appendectomy. During Hayward’s recovery, the brothers took a five-month cross-country trip. When they returned to Los Angeles, they began making batteries and table radios.

Powell Manufacturing

In the mid-1930s, they moved into motor scooters. During WWII, the Powell Manufacturing Facility produced items for the war and after the war was over they switched back to producing scooters. 

In 1949, the Powell Company moved into the lightweight motorcycle market. Powell again switched to war production during the Korean War in the early 1950s and never returned to scooter production.

Later in the 1950’s Powell began making pickups. It is said that the Ford Ranchero and the Chevrolet El Camino copied the Powell sport wagon concept. Motorlife and Motor Trend Magazine both praised the Powell Brother’s design and many swore that the Powell was one of the best workhorse trucks ever manufactured.

Powell Trucks

In the 1960s, the company reorganized as Powell Brothers, Inc., and manufactured the “Powell Challenger” trail-bike. Hayward Powell died in March 1978, and with Channing Powell retired, the company officially dissolved and closed its doors in April 1979. Channing Powell died in 1988.

My dad sold his Powell truck in the feature picture herein shortly after I was born, but he used to tell me that he was very proud of his truck converted into a sign.

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