Erik's Ram Project

Owner’s Name and City: Erik W. in Las Cruces, NM

Make, Model, and Year of Vehicle: 2001 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab 4x4

Engine: Factory 5.2 liter (318 ci) V8

Transmission: Factory NV3500 5-speed

Transfer Case: Factory NP231HD

Axles: Factory Chrysler 9.25 front; Factory Dana 44 front

Suspension: Stock for now

Wheels and tires: Stock ST wheels with 265/75/16 ATs

Winch: None

My son Erik is studying for his driver’s license now, and we have been looking for a good used truck that he can start his driving career with. He worked all summer and saved up his cash to supplement the few bucks I have set aside for his first ride (I did the same for his elder sister). His requirements were relatively rigid, which means we have been searching for several months. He wanted a full-size (half or 3/4-ton) four-wheel drive pickup with at least an extended cab. He strongly preferred one with a V8 and standard transmission, and I strongly preferred one with a solid front axle (I’m a big fan of manuals too). His mom and I also wanted him to get one new enough to have some modern safety features and a few creature comforts. Though I wasn’t restricted to one brand, I am a pretty die-hard Dodge truck fan, so that’s where we focused our search efforts. A couple days ago we finally found one that will be the platform for his multipurpose wagon.

Erik is now the proud owner of this 2001 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab 4x4. It has pretty high mileage at 194,000, but satisfies all of our criteria and came at a reasonable cost compared to some of the junk I’ve looked at for more money. It is bone stock, and overall it’s pretty solid, with no major mechanical issues. The old 318 runs nice and strong and doesn’t seem to use any oil. Tranny shifts smoothly and the 4wd engages solidly. It will likely need a clutch in the next 20-30k miles. It needs a bit of interior cleanup, a new dash, and maybe some weather stripping. Of course he wants a new radio and good speakers. We’ll probably replace the heater core and A/C condenser while we have the dash out for repair (when we get there).

Our objective is to build a strong, reliable, and comfortable daily driver and backcountry truck that he can camp and hunt out of during high school, and then take to college in three years. We’ll start off easy so he can get real familiar with his rig. Of course we’ll change the oil, all the gearboxes, and probably give it a tune-up. We’ll get it all cleaned up underneath and make sure there are no issues in the frontend. We’ll work our way through all the bushings, hoses, belts, and such, along with checking all the bolts and just firming everything up. Eventually it will get a mild lift to squeeze in 33-34 inch tires. That will probably require regearing the 3.55s to something a bit lower – 4.10s or 4.56s. In the meantime, we’ll likely use this truck as an excuse to weld more, as he wants a solid rear bumper and steps/sliders. We’ll probably just look for a Ranch Hand replacement front bumper, unless our fabrication skills improve quickly and we tackle a custom bumper.

Basically, the truck is his opportunity to learn the basics of vehicle ownership. It’s a blank slate for us to build up a truck that will reliably take him into the deserts and mountains, while safely getting him to school and work. With the limitation of funds faced by most teenagers, Erik included, getting to our destination will probably take all of those three years. It will be a great father-son journey though!

Hey zg, I saw that too.

Erik doesn't know it, of course, but he's getting a new dash for Christmas. I ordered the correct OEM color from LMC Truck, along with the clips to attach the instrument bezel, which appears to be in good shape still. We also have all the lubricants needed to change out all four gearboxes. Now that the fall hunting seasons are over, we can hopefully start making some progress. I hope to take some time away from work over the holidays so we can dedicate a day or two to the dash replacement job.