New Parts Hauler

My 1993 Dakota started acting up a little bit in January so, I took a weekend to do some diagnostic work on it. At 148,000 miles it didn't surprise me that it was a little down on power. A compression check showed 2 of the cyls with only 110 lbs. of compression. Adding a little oil in the cylinders before a re-check brought those 2 up to about 180 lbs. One cyl was at 190 and the other 3 were around 140. Looks like it needed rings and a valve job. The catalytic convertor was toast and the clutch was slipping too. It had a few dings in it and the paint was looking a little shoddy so, I started thinking about replacing it. Doing the repairs it needed wasn't really an option. I didn't want to put that much money in it and I certainly didn't want it taking time away from the Cadillac project.

I went to the Pomona swap meet that weekend and looked at a few finished trucks. Nothing there that caught my eye would have been practical for the amount of driving I do. There was a very nicely restored '67 SS 396 El Camino that I liked but I knew the gas mileage would have killed me at 15,000 - 20,000 miles a year.

I decided to look at new trucks. I checked out the local dealers on a Saturday night, just looking. I actually started paying attention to some of the ads that I had been hearing on the radio too. One particularly obnoxious spot that seemed to run every ten minutes had this guy yelling about full size Dodge trucks for $13,990. With a MSRP of about $18,500 and a dealer invoice of about $17,100 I figured it was some kind of bait and switch scam. You know, the dealer only had one at that price and it just left the lot but they have this fully optioned model right here, ready to take home. I went down there to check it out fully expecting to get jerked around. Much to my surprise, they had several trucks at that price (however, they were all the way in the back corner of the back lot and I had to specifically ask to see the $13,990 truck). I asked how they can sell it dor that price. The sales person said that there was a $2000 rebate deducted from the price and the remaining difference was part of the advertising budget. After a quick test drive I told her to write it up. I'll take it for $13,990. The guy who did the paper work did try to sell me some profit enhancing additions like an extended warranty (why do I need that when it already has 7/70?), and an alarm but I told him "no thanks, all I want is the truck."

It's a base model Ram 1500 regular cab with a short bed, 3.7L 215 hp V6 and a 5 speed. It has some of the usual things that I expected with a base model like vinyl floor mats and crank windows. Some of the things that I didn't expect on a base model are A/C, AM/FM cassette stereo, chrome bumpers, power R&P, power steering, 4 wheel disc brakes and 17" wheels.

Eventhough it's quite a bit bigger than my Dakota, it handles and rides very well. One I didn't like is that it was way too high.

That's a yardstick up against the truck at the center of the front and rear wheels.

So, I bought a Ground Force lowering kit for it. It's supposed to lower the truck about 4.5" in the back and 1.6" in the front depending on options according to the instructions.

The rear is a flip kit that moves the rear axle from the bottom to the top of the rear springs. It includes new rear snubbers, shocks and rear spring hangers that raise the rear enough so, the frame does not need to be "C" notched for clearance. It took me about 5 hours to install the rear flip kit.

It already looked better but I was a little worried about the front. The instructions said 1.6" of drop plus or minus, depending on options. My truck doesn't have any options and with the 6 cyl it might go UP!

It took me about 3 hours to install the springs and shocks on the front. A lot of that time was spent trying to get the upper ball joints and the tie rod ends separated. The front only went down 1/4". That wasn't enough so, since it was Sunday afternoon and I couldn't call the place I got the kit from, I decided to just cut the stock springs and put them back in there temporarily until I figured out what to do about the new springs. 1.5 coils sounded good so, I cut them with the die grinder and put them in. It only took about 2 hours this time.

Well, 1.5 coils was way too much. It was sitting right on the snubbers. It looked pretty cool but it was too low to drive. I called the place I got the kit the next day and he said that assumed the truck had a V8. The kit for six cyl trucks had springs that are 1 coil shorter. I told him that I would just cut the ones I had rather than him ordering another kit to swap the springs. After my 1.5 coil cutting adventure, I decided to just cut 1/2 coil to see how it looked. If it wasn't enough I could always cut a little more. It's kinda hard (impossible) to put some back though if you cut too much.

1/2 coil was just right it brought the front down just under 2 inches.

The third time it only took an hour to swap the front springs and that included cleaing up and putting the tools away. I had it aligned to factory specs before driving it. It rides a little firmer than before but still very comfortable and it handles great.

Now I have to see if I can get those emblems off the doors and maybe find some new wheels.