Junkyard Dog - Under Pressure
My Favorite Truck I’ve Yet To Build
No matter how many vehicles you own, there’s still that one vehicle you want to buy, or build, out there somewhere. I have lots of vehicles in my head that I’d like to build—everything from a 700hp, 4BT-powered, 2,500-pound Datsun 240Z to a manual transmission GMC. Other than putting a Duramax in my Nova drag car (which I go back and forth on all the time), the theory build that occupies a good part of my diesel-constructing brain involves taking a low-buck build to a whole different level.
I’ve tried two “budget” builds in the past, one with a ’97 Dodge Ram, and another with an ’89 Dodge D250. Oddly enough, both vehicles had about $10,000 total in them (minus the cost of the truck), which included rebuilt transmissions, reinforced engines, aftermarket turbos, injectors, and more.
But, I’ve received my fair share of flak over these trucks not really being “budget” builds, and while they’re still inexpensive compared to what else is out there, your average high-schooler mowing lawns still can’t afford to dump 10 large on modifications. I totally get where people are coming from regarding that.
"600 hp for $2,000??...I think it can be done."
So I think it would be awesome to build a 215hp second-generation Ram off of begged, borrowed, and junkyard parts—preferably one with a manual transmission. Why a manual? Well, the rebuild and strengthening costs of an automatic usually costs $4,000 to $6,000, depending on options. With a NV4500 manual, a good clutch is all you need until you start getting into very big horsepower levels.
Also, seeing stock-ish trucks dyno at nearly 800 lb-ft got me thinking. Clutches are rated at torque levels—not horsepower—so extending that rpm band out to 4,000 rpm and 800 lb-ft becomes 600 hp! Having a high-rpm engine also means more time in the powerband, and less time shifting gears.
After having my ’95 Dodge blow a head gasket even with studs (and at “only” 550 rwhp), I’m starting to think cylinder head flatness is a big issue in terms of reliability. Surprisingly, getting a head decked isn’t that pricey—maybe $100 to $150—but that’s about all if nothing else is needed.
So, ready for my grand scheme? Find a beat-up ’96 to ’98 Ram with a manual transmission, and hopefully a decent clutch. Take the head off and get it machined, and install some valvesprings and retainers for 4,000-rpm engine speeds. Torque that sucker down to 150 lb-ft, with the factory head bolts. For the pump, a Mack Rack plug, 5,000-rpm governor springs, and 024 delivery valves should suffice.
Injectors are a tough one, because new injectors aren’t cheap, and cheap injectors either aren’t new, or aren’t the best. So for injectors, I would try and find a buddy who was looking to upgrade, something I knew would already make power. Although I’ve never tried it, there are many who claim that honed factory injectors have no problem making good numbers and can save quite a bit of dough.
The turbo part is easy, with a 67mm Holset HX52 getting the nod, along with a custom flange and intake piping from a buddy who is willing to weld for six-packs. This turbo is actually small enough on the exhaust side to work with a manual transmission, and with the high-rpm engine I’d be theoretically building, it should work quite well. I’d also set the timing at a spooling-be-damned 25-plus degrees, or whatever felt strong.
So with a cash outlay of less than $2,000 (estimated), I’d have a 500- to 600-rwhp 12-valver that just plain rips—and finally my own inner budget demons (and those reader comments) would be appeased. Would my theoretical combination work? I don’t know, but I think so. Unfortunately, I am already knee deep in building Triple Threat and don’t have time for another project. So, I’m looking at you guys! If you have a beat-up bomber that was put together for pennies and makes big power (and can prove it on a dyno), drop me a line.