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1989 Dodge D250 - Old Truck Blues

Life with a 24-year-old diesel

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We all like horsepower in the magazine industry, but there’s also more to trucks than just going fast. Case in point: Project Rust Bucket, our ’89 Dodge Ram D250, has had its fair share of problems over the past couple of years, stemming simply from being an old truck. The Dodge also alternated between being daily driven and sitting for long periods of time, which is about the worst environment for an older vehicle.

Since there are still tons of old diesels out there, we’ve compiled a list of our own mechanical woes that involved our D250, in the hopes that people looking to invest in an older truck might know what they’ll be up against. In true real-world fashion, some items have been fixed, while other nonessential problems have been put off. We’re also still chasing a vibration we thought we’d solved twice (new transmission mount, then bypassing the A/C compressor), but alas, it still plagues us.

So we’ll take you along for the ride of the problems we’ve had for the last few years. Interestingly enough, very few have been horsepower related. More often than not, it’s simply the price of not having a truck payment or emissions to deal with.

Quick Specs:
Since the Dodge hasn’t been in the magazine in any major way now for more than a year, we figured we’d give you the ins and outs of the current state of Project Rust Bucket. For a comprehensive story on the four-year build, check out “Zero to Hero” in the March 2012 issue.

Year/Make/Model: 1989 Dodge Ram D250
Owner: Jason Sands
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Odometer: 233,046 miles
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg (city), 24 mpg (hwy)
Engine: 5.9L Cummins I-6
Transmission: 47RH build by J&H Performance with a billet input shaft and custom flexplate, Sun Coast Converters manual valvebody, and Diesel Performance Converters torque converter
Mods: Scheid Diesel 14mm VE pump and 5x.025-inch injectors, O-ringed and ported head, ARP studs, AirDog 165-gph lift pump, Majestic Turbo 62mm S300, Turbosmart wastegate on a custom exhaust manifold, Diamond Eye 4-inch exhaust, Nitrous Express two-stage nitrous system, K&N air filter, Snow Performance water-methanol injection
Horsepower: 487 rwhp (no nitrous), 972 rwhp (both stages)
Torque: 913 lb-ft (no nitrous), 1,855 lb-ft (both stages)
Performance: 2.30-second 60-foot, 8.86 seconds at 89 mph (eighth-mile), 13.1 seconds at 118 mph (quarter-mile) (one stage of nitrous)
Cost to Duplicate: $15,000

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15 comments
Jim Thiess
Jim Thiess

13.1 @118!!! If it would hook it could be in the 11s. Are you still running an open diff?

Josh Elpers
Josh Elpers

Come hook me up with upgrades for mine!! 89 5.9 cummins, 3 speed no over drive 727 trans

Mike Pete
Mike Pete

I remember seeing Project Rust Bucket on DPM a few years ago. It's amazing to see this truck transformed from a basic 5.9L Cummins to what you see and hear now.

Robert O'Neill
Robert O'Neill

Rustbucket???????? No way !! Only way to go , had chevys & furds now have a 99 DODGE can't beat it !!!!!!!!!!

Diesel Power Magazine
Diesel Power Magazine

Only 1 full run on the truck, 13.1 at 118mph, nitrous at half track, one stage, no traction. Working on better times!

Jim Thiess
Jim Thiess

On both kits, but it looks like it doesn't hook too well... So I guess there may not be a time with both kits used

Matt Guy
Matt Guy

Nice truck.it'll b cool 2 drive that around

Diesel Power