Car shoppers are typically advised not to put a lot of money into an old car with a new or rebuilt engine that can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $8,000. And that advice is reasonable…overall. Specifically because the average vehicle cost brand new is about $48,000, with some reliable makes and models of small cars and sedans that can be bought around the mid-$30,000 range.
However, the same advice does not necessarily apply to trucks. Especially when truck prices for some heavy-duty models are easily running $70-80,000 or more depending on the trim package and its intended use.
But is it really worth doing or having done?
Related article: Six Vehicles with Fatal Engines or Transmissions to Avoid
The Truck of Choice for This Test
That was the fundamental question of a two-part Project Farms YouTube series where the host had not only an engine upgrade to his 1996 Dodge Ram 2500 with a 12-valve Cummins diesel engine, but also an upgrade to the transmission as well to handle the extra horsepower. Back in 1996 the unmodified original when new was 160 HP. The goal of the modifications was to achieve between 400- 500 HP in this older 27-year-old model.
According to the Hemmings.com website, “The 12-valve 5.9 was equipped with an inline fuel pump from 1994 until the arrival of the 24-valve 5.9 in 1998. These are considered among the best of the breed. Power ratings ranged from 160 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque with an automatic/175 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque with a manual in 1994, up to 180 hp with an automatic and 215 hp with a manual in 1998.”
From the description of his old Ram 2500, the host’s truck likely suffered from significantly less HP due to its age, evidenced by that it took nearly one minute to go from 0-60 mph---a real problem on the highway, especially when towing.
The Rebuilds as a Test of Worth
Follow along with the host in this two-part series (or at the very least watch the 2nd installment of the two-part series) to discover what was done, how it was done, and if the end result really was worth the money and effort (an investment, really) put into a farm truck that is twenty-seven years old.
From the video(s) you will discover:
- Why investing similar upgrades into a vehicle is comparing apples to oranges between trucks and cars.
- The fact that these engines can be 600,000-mile wonders.
- What was used in the upgrades and rebuild for both the engine and the transmission.
- Why it is so important to upgrade the transmission and not the engine alone.
- Just how many parts and the complexity of even an older automatic transmission might reasonably deter a DIY mechanic from attempting this rebuild alone.
- The need and the importance of outside expert advice and help.
- Some good advice on this topic from comments at the end of both videos
Did I Waste $5000 on Engine Parts? More Horsepower & MPGs? (Part 1)
Did I Waste $4000 on a DIY Transmission Rebuild? Let’s Find Out!
How much for a 1996 Dodge Ram 2500?
Even if you do not own a mid to late 90’s Dodge Ram, a perusal of Carfax, Hemmings, and other car and truck related sites reveals that you can expect to find quite a few ads of these trucks with about 150,000 miles on it (more of less) ranging in price from $5,000 to $20,000, which can be a good deal with these upgrades depending on its condition.
Of course, a pre-purchase inspection by a mechanic with experience working on Dodge Rams and your input on what you are looking for in upgrades is a must, to ensure that you are starting out on a worthwhile project that should achieve results similar to the host’s build.
For additional articles related to vehicle rebuilds, here are three for your consideration:
- What a Used Toyota Engine Rebuild Can Cost
- Engine Removal, Without Removing the Hood on That GM
- The Truck Engine Nobody Likes
Timothy Boyer is an automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on “Zen and the Art of DIY Car Repair” website, the Zen Mechanic blog and on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites and Facebook for daily news and topics related to new and used cars and trucks.
Image source: Pexels