One of the rarest of the World War II military vehicles is the limited-production WC-64 "Knockdown" ambulance, commonly referred to as the "KD ambulance." This vehicle was designed and built by the Dodge Division of Chrysler Corporation in Mound Park Michigan, apparently in response to two problems: heavy losses of cargo ships and the military vehicles that were on board to German submarines early in the war and the lack of an air-transportable ambulance.

Dodge WC-64KD
Dodge WC-54 Ambulance 1942-1944
The WC-64 Ambulance (KD) was developed in 1944 because its predecessor the WC-54 occupied to many space during shipping due to the one piece box-like body. In early 1943 the Ordnance Department and the Medical Department Equipment Laboratory started work on what was to become the WC-64 "knock-down" (KD) ambulance. On this vehicle, the rear body really was a box which could be easily dismantled into a series of flat panels to reduce the required shipping place. Once assembled, it was not intended to get disassembled again.


The KD was designed to be shipped in a "knocked-down" condition that would allow two ambulances to be shipped in the same space that would hold only one conventional vehicle (see photo 1). The reduced size would also allow air transportation.

The engine, transmission and transfer case were basically the same as the WC-54 and the other trucks in the three-quarter series but the special reinforced chassis was longer and the WC-64 had much comfortable riding performance because of it's better springs and oil filled shock absorbers.

PHOTO 1 Two WC-64sready for shipment
PHOTO 2 WC-64s assembled and ready to be used
According to Dodge Military Vehicles, 1940-1945, Collection No. 1, the WC-64 ambulance was standardized on March 24, 1944 with the production scheduled to begin in early 1945 and production of the Dodge WC-54 ambulance was phased out in April l of 1944. Deliveries of the WC-64 KD design began soon after and the design was declared as "standard" on 29 March 1944 with the WC-54 being downgraded to "limited standard". This indicates that the total production of 3/4-ton Dodge ambulances in 1945, 3,500 units, was all WC-64s. Nearly all of the KD’s were shipped to Europe, although a few of them remained in the U.S. Apparently most (and maybe all) KD’s are registered as 1942, 1943 and 1944 models. The reason for this is unclear, however, since the WC-64 didn't go into production until early 1945.


Developing the WC64 began actually in 1943. At first not as a Ambulance but as a Command vehicle. The reason for that was that the Command Cars (WC 56-56), because of there shape, were to easy to spot for the enemy. So a CP that looked more like a WC51/52 would be the solution. So the first prototype was based on a WC52 and it had many of the familiar feathers later used on the KD, see photo’s 3 and 4.

PHOTO 3 WC-52 used as CP

The red circles in the photo's 3 and 4 indicate later WC-64 feathers

A second prototype had already a longer wheelbase and was also first used as a CP and transportation vehicle. Later one these prototypes where mend to be Ambulances that could be easily disassembled by using a canvas tilt. This canvas was replaced by isolated panels to create a more comfortable shelter space for the wounded. This eventually resulted in the first Knock Down.
PHOTO 4 Early Knock Down Ambulance with canvas tilt
In 1944 the early prototypes of the KD were apparently built on a WC-53 carryall chassis with the 114-inch wheelbase (or even the WC-52 weapons carrier 98-inch wheelbase) rather than the later WC-54 ambulance 121-inch wheelbase. As can be seen in Photos 5 thru 7, this resulted in a very short driver's compartment.
PHOT0 5 Ambulance, 3/4 Ton 4x4, 3/4 Left Front View. This photo¬graph was almost certainly taken at a proving ground
Photo 5, titled "Ambulance, 3/4 Ton, 4x4 - 3/4 Left Front View" was almost certainly taken at a proving ground. This KD prototype shows a number of differences from the production version:
It is apparently built on a shorter chassis than the WC-54 ambulance 121-inch wheelbase, which was used for the KD. There is barely room for the spare tire between the front fender and rear body, which would make it very difficult for the driver to enter and exit. Entry from the driver's side would be almost impossible if the doors were installed.
Less obvious evidence of the short chassis is the single vertical seam ahead of the rear wheel-well where the production version has two seams. The running board in Photo 5 is short, and does not extend to the rear of the cab. No spotlight is fitted. The canvas top appears to be essentially the final version, but without the sheet metal "box" framework that later models used.
Photo 5 also shows two roof vents, rather than the three that were in the production model. There is a vent above the canvas top that may have been for the heater that was later installed below the front emergency door. The lower location would be far better in keeping dirt and rain out of the rear compartment. There is a side vent at the rear of the side panel that did not appear in the production version.
The insignia in Photo 5 are all different from the production model, with the front vent being placed where the later version had the word "AMBULANCE." The front red crosses are much larger, although located in about the same place, than in later versions. The side red cross occupies about 1/4 the area of the later version. The caduceus is an earlier version that was not used on the KD.

Photo 6, titled "ORDNANCE OPERATION - STUDEBAKER PROVING GROUND PGO-2003 2-26-45 Vehicle Test Miles 0 S.P.G Proj. & Veh.#2-519 (K-2-27) - Truck, 3/4 Ton, 4x4, Ambulance (KD) - Dodge U.S. Reg #7441763/4 Right front view of vehicle". Shows another view of an early model (Serial #744176), possibly a later prototype, with the same short wheelbase as in Photo 5, but with lat¬er markings on both front and sides. The upper front vent is gone, indicat¬ing that the heater has been relocated. The three roof vents are there, but were painted white, so only the front half of the front vent shows up in the photo. The door storage pocket on the top apparently now has the intern al reinforcing box.
PHOT0 6 This KD prototype was photographed at the Studebaker Proving Ground on February 26th, 1945. It appears to be approaching the final design

PHOTO 7 Airborne version
PHOT0 8 This appears to be another photograph of the prototype shown in photograph 7

Photos 7 and 8 show a prototype of a model of KD that was apparently never produced - the airborne version. Photo 7, titled "ABERDEEN PROV¬ING GROUNDS A30304 23 Jul 45 Project No. 6212/8-1-7-1. 3/4 Ton 4x4 K.D. Airborne Ambulance. Installing side panel." This shows the ambulance with a partially-assembled rear box. It has a vertical flange (on the frame just behind the cab) that would allow it to be broken down into two parts for air transport, and reassembled in the field. The front emergency door can be seen in this view.

Photo 8, titled "ABERDEEN PROVING GROUNDS A30629 1 Aug 1945 Proj. No. 6212/8-1-7-1. Ambulance, 3/4-Ton 4x4, KD, Airborne. Left front view". This is apparently the same vehicle that is seen in Photo 7. This shows an ambulance with the later wheelbase (as indicated by three verti¬cal seams on the side), but with a bolted vertical flange on the body above the rear wheel well, ahead of the tire centre line. Otherwise this vehicle looks like the final version. I know of no evidence that any finished copies of this version were built.

Photo 9 lacks source or date informtion, but is the later version, possibly a prototype, although the military serial number (745872) is present, indicating that it may have been in service.
Photo 10 shows a row of vehicles of a model apparently not documented as a military vehicle. These 20 ambulances appear to be composed of KD cabs and modified WC-54 bodies mounted on Dodge chassis. The front of the WC-54 body appears to have been cut off behind the driver's seat and a new front panel and emergency door added. The running board seems to be WC-54, with no depression for the spare tire, but the KD cab still has a notch at the bottom for the spare tire mounting bracket. These would have had a canvas top like the KD. The work is so well done that it looks like a factory product, although 1 suppose it could be a field modification.

PHOT0 9 Later version, possibly a prototype
PHOTO 10 KD cabs and modified WC-54 bodies
PHOTO 11 is a blow-up of Photo 10 and shows some details better


3,500 units were made from begin 1945 until the end of WW2. Nearly all of the KD’s were shipped to Europe, although a few of them remained in the U.S.A. As far as we know, no KD's went to the Pacific during WWII. It has been reported that a number of KD’s were refurbished after WWII and returned to service during the Korean war(1950-1953) and never came back. There is no documentation of this except an existing photo’s that show KD’s, supposedly in Korea, without a red cross on its side, but with several bullet holes in it. Apparently the Koreans weren't bound by the Geneva Convention and considered ambulances to be combat vehicles.

PHOT0 12 Two WC-64 in Korea
After the war in Europe most WC-64’s were used by army's of different countries. For example in France, Norway, Greece, The Netherlands and Belgian, some were used until the late 60's. The comparatively fragile construction of the WC-64 makes them much harder to find nowadays than the WC-54 of which about 23.000 were produced. As far is we know only about 20 restored WC-64 have survived and you can find most of them in Europe.

How much are the worth?

Unrestorated and not driveable 10.000 Euro*
Not restorated but driveable 13.000 Euro
Restorated collectors item 25.000 Euro
Concours style 30.000 Euro

* just a indication by Hubert Arboux (F) Manual Tech. Dodge 42-45, prices in Europe are much lower (about 40%)

© MVPA written by Glenn D. Harris Mesa, Arizona, 1994
Mike Hitchens, Kent, England
Lou Moore, Shawnee, Kansas
Russell Pratt, Bahama, North Carolina.
Jean-Michel Boniface, DODGE sur les voies de la liberte
Dodge Military Vehicles, 1940-1945, Collection No. 1 by T. Richards, Brooklands Books, England
Ordnance Supply Catalog, ORD 9 SNL G-502, Truck, 3/4 Ton, 4x4 (Dodge) (Model T-214), 1 May 1945.

Do you have any more info?