(Editor's note: My Pickup will be an occasional PUTC feature in which we invite readers, industry associates, friends and colleagues to write about their own pickups, either currently owned or from their past. We introduced the column two weeks ago and will be adding them to our editorial mix every few weeks. This is Part 2 of a four-part series detailing Four Wheeler magazine's Operation Tugboat, about a 1992 Dodge W250 Club Cab 4x4.)
By G.R. Whale
I got word from Chrysler's fleet service that our project truck had arrived and said I'd be there the next day. Alas, Chrysler had instructions to put 500 miles on any vehicle going to a press outlet prior to delivery. Well aware of how a Cummins worked when broken in properly and when not — Four Wheeler magazine previously had a long-term test Cummins that started life with full-out testing and never did slow its appetite for oil — I begged to skip that step but rules were rules.
I collected the Dodge a few weeks later, completed all the paperwork, weighed it (5,690 pounds), removed the LE badges and got some baseline exterior photos.
The first day home I had three problems.
First, all that weight on the skinny front tires would sink them a half inch into hot parking lot pavement. Second, a parking brake cable clip on the left side was broken, so the parking brake was marginal at best. Third, when I took a quick look underneath the truck, I found the nut on the front spring front hangar bolt was two threads short of falling off. Good thing the delivery agents had put 500 miles on to ensure everything was just right (heavy sarcasm intended).
Data logging showed the speedometer was optimistic, the odometer was 4 percent off and fuel economy on the first tank was a stellar 16 mpg. Remember, this was only a year after GM had added a fourth gear to its automatic transmissions, and big-block engines certainly couldn't manage — at least not often — double-digit mileage numbers. I also knew it would improve: Four Wheeler's three-quarter-ton, non-intercooled, regular cab 1989 long-term 4x4 pickup with 3.54:1 gears had averaged almost 20 mpg over 30,000 miles. By the fifth tank the curve was softening between 19 and 20 mpg.
I ordered the Dodge with the optional 4.10:1 gears (3.54:1 were standard with 3.07:1 as the other option) because the cast-iron gear-drive NP205 transfer-case low range was just 2.0:1. Shorter gears meant easier towing (with 4.10s, the gross combined weight rating was 17,000 pounds and maximum towing only 11,900 pounds), and there were aftermarket overdrives available. Don't forget, the speed limit was 55 mph back then, and in California where Four Wheeler was based, it remained 55 when towing even when the national limit was raised.
I had ordered a front anti-roll bar, typically contradictory for four-wheeling articulation; however, at $41 the aftermarket couldn't come close to duplicating it, undoing it was painless, and the heavy nose meant the bar didn't really limit articulation. Interestingly, you had to order a spare tire or rear bumper; the tire seemed more useful. I didn't bother with limited-slip differentials because I had a plan for that, which I'll share later.
The W250 diesel specs for 1992 listed the gross vehicle weight rating at 8,510 pounds, and the front gross axle weight rating at 4,500 pounds with the rear axles rated at 7,500 pounds. However, the manufacturer sticker rightly stipulated 6,084 pounds rear because that's what two 3,042-pound-limited tires will carry. Four Wheeler had recently tested a Dodge W350 regular cab 4x4, single rear wheel, with 4.10:1 gears that put out 170 horsepower and 399 pounds-feet of torque on a chassis dyno. It did zero-to-60 mph in 13.1 seconds and the quarter mile in 19.5 seconds at 71.5 mph.
That sounds slow today, but it wasn't as bad as you think. The biggest gas-engine W Dodge you could get then was a 360 CID V-8 (same 5.9-liter as the diesel), which put out 120 hp and 210 pounds-feet of torque through a four-speed automatic transmission (and same rear axle ratio). It took 13.7 seconds to reach 60 mph and did the quarter mile in 20.3 seconds at 70.3 mph. It also got roughly half the mileage of the diesel and had only two advantages: It was $3,019 less than the diesel (the base one-ton four-wheel drive was $20,000), and the gas engine was much quieter at idle.
Having dealt with attention-getting show trucks that couldn't get out of second gear and overheated at anything more than 70 degrees and 70 mph with the air conditioning on, I made only a few concessions to luxury. I opted for a nice stereo and Dynamat noise reduction material throughout the cab. When a Chrysler suspension engineer saw the truck in 1993, he called it the quietest Dodge diesel he'd ever been in.
Can't say that about today's Rams.
Next came the task of getting the parts we needed to achieve our goal of building a full-size pickup that could carry substantial parts and people, tow almost anything and serve as a chase truck for multiday road tests. Most of my "shopping" had been at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show four months prior to picking up the truck, so I hit the phones to talk to aftermarket suppliers, which sometimes felt like begging.
Stay tuned for Part 3.