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1989 Dodge D250 - Old Truck Blues

Life with a 24-year-old diesel

Jason Sands
Dec 4, 2013
Photographers: Jason Sands
We all like horsepower in the magazine industry, but there’s also more to trucks than just going fast. Case in point: Project Rust Bucket, our ’89 Dodge Ram D250, has had its fair share of problems over the past couple of years, stemming simply from being an old truck. The Dodge also alternated between being daily driven and sitting for long periods of time, which is about the worst environment for an older vehicle.
Since there are still tons of old diesels out there, we’ve compiled a list of our own mechanical woes that involved our D250, in the hopes that people looking to invest in an older truck might know what they’ll be up against. In true real-world fashion, some items have been fixed, while other nonessential problems have been put off. We’re also still chasing a vibration we thought we’d solved twice (new transmission mount, then bypassing the A/C compressor), but alas, it still plagues us.
Photo 2/15   |   One nitrous solenoid was wasted by accidentally leaving the switch on. Since it was hard-wired in (we’ve had a few relays fail), a smoked $220 solenoid was the result.
So we’ll take you along for the ride of the problems we’ve had for the last few years. Interestingly enough, very few have been horsepower related. More often than not, it’s simply the price of not having a truck payment or emissions to deal with.
Quick Specs:
Since the Dodge hasn’t been in the magazine in any major way now for more than a year, we figured we’d give you the ins and outs of the current state of Project Rust Bucket. For a comprehensive story on the four-year build, check out “Zero to Hero” in the March 2012 issue.
Year/Make/Model: 1989 Dodge Ram D250
Owner: Jason Sands
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Odometer: 233,046 miles
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg (city), 24 mpg (hwy)
Engine: 5.9L Cummins I-6
Transmission: 47RH build by J&H Performance with a billet input shaft and custom flexplate, Sun Coast Converters manual valvebody, and Diesel Performance Converters torque converter
Mods: Scheid Diesel 14mm VE pump and 5x.025-inch injectors, O-ringed and ported head, ARP studs, AirDog 165-gph lift pump, Majestic Turbo 62mm S300, Turbosmart wastegate on a custom exhaust manifold, Diamond Eye 4-inch exhaust, Nitrous Express two-stage nitrous system, K&N air filter, Snow Performance water-methanol injection
Horsepower: 487 rwhp (no nitrous), 972 rwhp (both stages)
Torque: 913 lb-ft (no nitrous), 1,855 lb-ft (both stages)
Performance: 2.30-second 60-foot, 8.86 seconds at 89 mph (eighth-mile), 13.1 seconds at 118 mph (quarter-mile) (one stage of nitrous)
Cost to Duplicate: $15,000
Photo 15/15   |   Now that we have a locker installed and have fixed (or at least know about) all of our problems, we’re going to try to improve on the tractionless 13.1 at 118 mph quarter-mile pass we made last year. Look for another track update soon, as we try to crack into the 11-second bracket.