Behold, God's gift to 'Murica. Long before Chrysler debuted the groundbreaking 1994 Dodge Ram, they were producing this industrial device, the D/W series pickup. Purchased by a 16 year old me, this marvel of modern engineering has traveled 40,000 of its low, low, lowwwww 183,000 miles with myself at the helm. This same basic platform remained in production from 1972 to 1993, with only one mild mid-cycle redesign, and several mild refreshes. This particular example is a 1989 D250 model, indicating a two-wheel drive, three-quarter ton truck.
- The current tire choice is ROAR INDUCING
- When below freezing, the transmission requires a little assistance to be in the correct gear for the first mile or so
- Hitting imperfections in the road surface results in a complimentary butt massage, and drink mixing
- Left turn signal must be manually cancelled because NASCAR
This is a truck. I'll say it again, this is a truck. It's really trucky. It's been a truck for so long that everything non-trucky about it has been trucked off into oblivion.
The first thing you will notice after setting eyes upon this awesome specimen is the fantastic Rustoleum Gloss Sail Blue and Bedliner paintjob. Obviously, only the finest materials were used by the most skilled craftsmen when reconditioning this truck. Originally, this truck was Diamond Blue Metallic, as seen in the interior. Sandwiched between the two blues is a layer of Generic Purple, which can at times be seen trying to escape to the surface.
Adorning the hubs and axle of this pristine D250 are wheels from a 1990-something F250. Wrapped around those beautiful Alcoa Aluminum rims (hey look ma, no sarcasm this time) are Firestone Destination and Treadwright Guard Dog tires, in 265/75R16. Despite being a luggy, offroad tire, the wide profile keeps the big heifer surprisingly planted.
Finally, at the front of the vehicle is the design team's tour de force . . . the horny goat hood ornament.
We call this lived in, because at some point it probably was . . . by a rural hobo who had an affinity for stuffing McDonald's wrappers and cow crap under the seat. Speaking of the seat, it is surprisingly comfortable. Maybe this hypothetical hobo had the same size buttocks as me, since the seat seems to know me, cheek to cheek.
Factory instrumentation is sparse. Central is a speedometer/odometer, surrounded by a fuel gauge, oil pressure gauge, temperature gauge, and a non-functional voltmeter. A tachometer has been added, because hoonage. Also, a trailer brake controller has been added, for additional trailer stopping stoppability. The column shifted Loadflite 727 automatic transmission is complicated by a disconnected overdrive switch, which now serves no purpose whatsoever, as the pansy, electronic overdrive, communist, lock-up torque converter equipped transmission has been supplanted by an earlier version which lacks the extra gear.
As you can see, the door panels are held on by various aftermarket door panel fastening screws. This is not a big problem, as the *ahem* headliner was attached by screws directly from the factory.
Audio, Infotainment, Gadgets
The factory air conditioning no longer works, but thankfully the factory windows do! The radio works acceptably, though the digital display on it does not. The best entertainment available is simply rolling down the passenger window and listening to the tired old pushrod v8 scream at an unacceptably high cruising rpm.
Though this may be a heavy duty example of a typical D-series pickup, it is equipped with only the base v8: an electronic throttle body fuel injection unit, displacing 318 cubic inches (That's 5.2 litres for you communists). The heart of this truck has been a bastion of reliability. It may leak and burn everything it can, but whether the abuse includes bouncing off of the rev limiter, straining against a heavy load, or being partially submerged in a "surprise bottomless puddle", the spunky little 318 shakes it off.
At 170 hp @ 4000 rpm, and 260 lb/ft of torque @ 2000 rpm, this mill may not seem like much at first. However, a closer look at the torque number shows a glimmer of hope. 260 ft/lbs at 2,000 rpm is not bad. That's well into cruising range, so that peak torque is nearly always available to you. On paper, this engine was low on power, even for 1989, but it truly can pull its weight so long as you aren't expecting a miracle. To be fair, this particular truck has advanced timing, an unrestricted air intake, and a custom dual exhaust featuring 8" long glasspacks, and a magnaflow dual inlet outlet catalytic converter. As such, the true power output may be closer to 175 horsepower.
"Grandpa! Wake up, Grandpa! It's time to get to work! We have to move the truck!" shouts the engine to the transmission. As previously mentioned, the transmission in this truck has been replaced with a heavy duty 727 loadflite unit, as the torqueflite A500 unit had previously expired.
After a decade or so of towing and hauling without a transmission cooler, the loadflite fell ill and decided to start shifting very slowly. A few quarts of transmission fluid and a filter, some love, and a band adjustment have gotten the transmission to shift with drag race ready quickness and firmness. It may even shift a bit too firmly, as it will occasionally chirp second gear unprovoked. There must still be some gunk in the valve body of the transmission, as it takes a while to "warm up and wake up" and start shifting completely autonomously if the ambient temperature is below freezing.
Driving the truck and operating the transmission is simple enough once it is warm. With only three gears, most of your time will be spent in direct drive. With the 3.90 axle ratio, 65 miles per hour occurs at about 3,000 rpm. Highway and city fuel economy therefore match. Even considering the age and sophistication of the truck and motor, 65 or even 75 mph is mostly comfortable, if a bit buzzy (especially with a homemade polyurethane transmission "mount").
It came with a factory installed RWAL system, which I'm fairly certain stands for "readily withdraws all line-pressure". This device is supposed to cause the rear wheels to have the function of anti-lock braking, but it really does nothing, and just acts as a blockage to the rear brake lines once it fails. This system has been bypassed, for safety.
The pedal feels lazy but effective for the first inch or so of travel (think 1974 Cadillac!), but quickly becomes firmer as it is depressed, providing full lockup of all four wheels at speed if so desired. Don't get me wrong, you have to STAND on the pedal for full lockup, so its not like they are touchy. However, if you need that capability, it is there. Threshold braking is intuitive, as the pedal provides a good feel.
If you are pulling a trailer with brakes, the brake controller adds additional braking force. It is wired into the brake lights to apply the brakes to an adjustable but static force over a period of a few seconds. There is also a touch sensitive trigger, to apply the trailer brakes at any force at any time, even without touching the truck's brakes. Can you say, "TRAILER DORIFTO?!?"
Ride and Handling
You probably won't be going fast enough to surpass the limits of this truck's handling, Oversteer is very controllable, owing to the long wheelbase. The rear springs are taken directly from a Panzer Tank, and it is equipped with a front sway bar. As such, body roll is less than expected. Once, when a sway-bar link broke, simple tasks like turning into a parking spot would result in titanic pitching.
On smooth roads, the big old bench seat treats you well. The steering is effortless, if a bit vague. Hit a bump, however, and things start feeling like they may fall apart. They may, actually. Again, the rear springs are so stiff that even if the rear shocks were good, they still wouldn't have a chance to do anything. The front shocks are worn, and the front springs are a bit more forgiving. The front has a tendency to bounce slightly, but never concerning, only enough to make you feel the gentle waves of the sea.
Hauling, Towing, Cargo Management
This is where the old turd really shines. The bed is as big as you can get on a pickup. Cargo management consists of six stake pockets on the bed rails. You can strap stuff to that or whatever. Yeah.
Factory gross weight is 7500 lbs, and the truck's empty weight is 4400 lbs. This gives you a 3100 pound allowance of manly stuff or personal obesity to cart around. If you can manage to load it to 7500lbs, it feels fine. The Panzer tank springs begin to bow slightly, and the brakes still provide lockup. Those 170 horses start to feel a little more like ponies at this point.
Load it past the limit, and things start feeling a little more "limited". A 1970s version of this same truck could have a 9000 lb gross weight instead of the lighter 7500. Thinking, "Eh, what's the difference?" I decided to test the older 9000 lb limit with some topsoil. At this point, the overload springs engage, the brakes still stop well, but are prone to fade, and the worn shocks finally become apparent.
As for towing, Dodge sets no "limit" per say, but gives a suggestion for any 1989 truck with a 318 motor and auto transmission to tow 5500 lbs, and for a truck with a 360 transmission to tow 7500 lbs. These numbers apply to ½ ton, ¾ ton, and 1 ton trucks. Things start getting a little hairy around 6500 lbs. As the truck is relatively light, it can have some trouble keeping the trailer in line if the load is not well distributed and begins to sway. This could be remedied with a weight distributing hitch, as many who tow weights in this range use. Acceleration is slow but steady. With the load taken off of the truck's suspension, and trailer brakes assisting in stopping, the ride is comfortable, as long as you avoid trailer sway.
Off-Road and Maneuverability
The turning circle is comparable to that of the moon. What would usually be a three point turn can easily take five points.
With an open differential, off-roading is simple. If you hit the obstacle with enough speed to carry yourself through it, you will make it. If you don't, then you won't. The current tires do help, but I wouldn't count on them.
For having paid $1200 five years ago, and having to spend $20-100 on repairs every few months, I would say this is a great value. If you are looking for a heavy duty truck for a reasonable price, an old Dodge like this might be for you. If you are looking for an efficient daily driver, run away. Fuel economy is currently 12 miles per gallon, city or highway. With lighter, less aggressive tires, I averaged a relatively good 14.5 miles per gallon.
You won't need to adorn this piece of machinery with prosthetic testicles. It has its own. This rough and tumble truck is ready to roll. You'll feel like a working class grandpa driving it, and that's okay. If you don't mind wrenching on something minor every few weeks, this perpetual project will leave you oil soaked, dirty, sore, and fulfilled. It gets my seal of approval.
MSRP New: Approximately $13,000
Price as tested: Far less than $13,000
Engine: Pushrod 318 LA with electronic throttle body fuel injection
Output: 170 hp @ 4000 rpm, 260 lb/ft @ 2000 rpm
Fuel economy: 11 city, 13 highway
Tested Curb Weight: 4400 lbs
GVW: 7500 lbs
Turning Diameter: 47'