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  • Good Cheap Tow Vehicle

    A couple years ago I picked this '96 Dodge up from a buddy...relatively straight, good (I think) Cummins six w/ 275K miles and a few Banks mods, wasted interior (typical) and wasted automatic transmission (also typical). $2500, if it had had a good manual trans it would have been three times that. What I don't like is that automatic, no rear doors, and I think I could really use 4wd once in a while which this is not. A plus would be, it's pre-smog 12-valve meaning it doesn't have to go to a smog station every two years, a requirement in CA starting for 1998.

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    With the negatives, I didn't have much love for this thing...in fact I just got it for parts and 'cause the guy needed money and it's gone nowhere, with CA registration fees piling up each year.

    Lately however I've been looking at trucks to get a little more than the beater single-cab 2wd I currently use. After pondering market prices and conditions, I think what I'm going to do is combine parts of this truck with a couple others I've picked up cheap, and maybe my own one, and get everything I want in a tow vehicle and possibly come in under five grand if I include selling off extra parts. Labor costs not included! Some times I don't know why I do what I do, but that's what I do.

    Three things I've got here that are a huge help for such a project are, driveway/yard space, a bigger engine hoist than what is the usual (Craigslist, $150) and a small tractor to lift and pull things around with. A forklift would do also, which could be rented for a couple days if someone needed but I think I'm set up.

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    Off comes the bed, eight bolts and a couple of wires. This is an OK bed if a little dinged up inside.

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    Reaching in from the side made lifting the cab off do-able. I don't know yet what portion if any I'll be using of that.

    Here on the left is the remaining frame and drivetrain; on the right is the same part of a '96 V10/auto 4x4 I hauled home at the end of last year for $600 (damaged in front, with the motor half rebuilt but then left out in a sandstorm). The four-by has most of what I'll need to uprgrade the two-by chassis.

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    After lots of imaginative thought as to what I could do with that 300hp V10 I think the answer is, nothing. Sell or scrap later. I'll have a pile of other parts to sell off also.

    Here's the four-by frame now, stripped and getting brackets etc. cut off. The 2wd and 4wd frames use the same rails but have the different stampings welded on.

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    Last edited by Loren; September 3rd, 2018, 06:12 AM.
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  • #2

    Re: Good Cheap Tow Vehicle

    After a few hours and a bit of grinding, here is the pile of parts I'll need to convert my 2wd frame to 4wd:

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    With the Cummins motor out, the frame get pushed up to the garage door and tilted for work. Looks like a full day of cutting and welding now, we'll see how far we get. I sure would like to have this rolling again (the rear axle's getting changed too) by the end of Labor Day.

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    • #3

      Re: Good Cheap Tow Vehicle

      I don't know anything about the '96 Dodge diesel auto transmissions but I do know that the later model transmissions and torque convertors can be made pretty much bullet proof.

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      • #4

        Re: Good Cheap Tow Vehicle

        Both of those autos have supposedly been rebuilt within the last 10K miles, with the diesel one having (again supposedly) a tough converter but failing anyway. I'll see later if I can get a couple of bucks for them.
        ...

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        • #5

          Re: Good Cheap Tow Vehicle

          fun project, going to convert to locking hubs too?
          Doing it all wrong since 1966

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          • #6

            Re: Good Cheap Tow Vehicle

            I look forward to more updates! I think I would enjoy rebuilding trucks.
            ​​​​
            (P.S. I can't see the pictures in the first post, might be my phone, pics is #2 show up.
            http://www.bangshift.com/forum/forum...-consolidation

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            • #7

              Re: Good Cheap Tow Vehicle

              I look forward to more updates! I think I would enjoy rebuilding trucks.
              ​​​​
              (P.S. I can't see the pictures in the first post, might be my phone, pics is #2 show up.
              all dodges look the same? me neither, but the second set gives the idea that Loren is in for a heap of work
              Doing it all wrong since 1966

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              • #8

                Re: Good Cheap Tow Vehicle

                No initial pics here either.

                Having a LOT of experience with Dodge Diesels, let me tell you what I learned:

                1) The auto (727-based) trans can be made bullet-proof. My trans guy did (IIRC) 28 individual mods to toughen it up and INSISTED that we go with the Gale Banks billet converter if I wanted a lifetime warranty. It works! Most of these trans failures are the result of the converter failing and the schrapnel taking out the trans.

                2) At least on the 24 valve engine, the Bosch lift pump is simply inadequate to supply the engine. The cure is a FASS - like the Banks converter, not cheap but a complete problem solver.

                3) I'm running a simple tuner on "towing" mode. Makes a ton more power and better fuel economy. A little smoke 'till the turbo spools up but then nothing visual.

                BTW - the interior in mine has held up really well. It's originally a Florida truck and has sat outside since I owned it (it's seen lots of sunlight). The dash, however, has failed. Evidently Chrysler's supplier for these picked the wrong plastic formulation. But the seats, AC outlets, switches, etc. have all done well. So I guess I'm saying that, other than the dash, you probably can pick up a decent interior from a salvage yard with a bit of looking. I haven't looked lately but I've seen NOS dashes on Ebay in the $250 range.

                Fun project!

                Dan

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                • #9

                  Re: Good Cheap Tow Vehicle

                  I've tried re-loading the first pics. Site was being a little ornery that morning.

                  fun project, going to convert to locking hubs too?
                  I've read about where these are converted to Ford one-ton locking hubs and if this were my primary off-roader I might do it. However I have no "in" on getting the required parts and would pay through the nose for something I really don't need here, I think I'll stick with the stock Dodge unit bearings and Central Axle Disconnect with maybe a cable actuator instead of the vacuum one.


                  No initial pics here either.

                  Having a LOT of experience with Dodge Diesels, let me tell you what I learned:

                  1) The auto (727-based) trans can be made bullet-proof. My trans guy did (IIRC) 28 individual mods to toughen it up and INSISTED that we go with the Gale Banks billet converter if I wanted a lifetime warranty. It works! Most of these trans failures are the result of the converter failing and the schrapnel taking out the trans.
                  I do believe those autos can be fixed but you're lucky to get a guy who can do it. This trans had been gone through twice. And, pricey! Me I just like that stick-shift anyhow.

                  2) At least on the 24 valve engine, the Bosch lift pump is simply inadequate to supply the engine. The cure is a FASS - like the Banks converter, not cheap but a complete problem solver.
                  I have a lot of reading to do to see what works on these and what fails. The lift pump there now looks to have been replaced recently, "who-knows" what it is. I may go so far as having a more experienced Cummins mechanic than I look all this over...if I should do something like replace a head gasket it would sure be easier now than with the motor in the truck, buried halfway under the windshield.

                  3) I'm running a simple tuner on "towing" mode. Makes a ton more power and better fuel economy. A little smoke 'till the turbo spools up but then nothing visual.
                  Ah, no electronics on this ol' twelve-valve. The starter, tach and headlights is about it. Fuel is all done mechanically, one squirt at a time.

                  BTW - the interior in mine has held up really well. It's originally a Florida truck and has sat outside since I owned it (it's seen lots of sunlight). The dash, however, has failed. Evidently Chrysler's supplier for these picked the wrong plastic formulation. But the seats, AC outlets, switches, etc. have all done well. So I guess I'm saying that, other than the dash, you probably can pick up a decent interior from a salvage yard with a bit of looking. I haven't looked lately but I've seen NOS dashes on Ebay in the $250 range.

                  Fun project!

                  Dan
                  Those dashes are amazing in how they completely break to pieces. The whole huge thing is plastic, too. Fortunately the 4x4 I bought out in the desert had an unusual perfect dash, that was part of the value in that deal.

                  Here's the left side spring cup all welded in...actually two pieces, one on top of the other. Seems weird they didn't wrap a little material around the bottom edge of the frame rail but there was no indication this didn't work OK. I'm not a very happy guy with a mig welder so I'll just be sure to get enough on there. Needs a can of semi-flat black Krylon now.

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                  The under-engine crossmember is sure an odd-shape part but it works around a number of components. It didn't fit in too well and I determined it to have been bent slightly in the crash the donor truck had been in. A quick session in the press brake cured that. The strap of metal clamped on is an indicator of how far I've bent it, note the sharpie marks on the right end.

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                  After pushing the rails apart a little it fit right in and the rails snapped back with pressure removed. Clean, measure, weld.

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                  Last edited by Loren; September 3rd, 2018, 06:57 AM.
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                  • #10

                    Re: Good Cheap Tow Vehicle

                    Looking good! Sorry I don't have more info on the 12 valve - but it's out there.

                    Dan

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                    • #11

                      Re: Good Cheap Tow Vehicle

                      You are going to make me miss my old cummins. If it didn't leak like sive, need the front end overhauled, and have wiring issues I would have kept it. Maybe I should just put a 12 valve in my chevy.
                      http://www.bangshift.com/forum/forum...-consolidation

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                      • #12

                        Re: Good Cheap Tow Vehicle

                        You are going to make me miss my old cummins. If it didn't leak like sive, need the front end overhauled, and have wiring issues I would have kept it. Maybe I should just put a 12 valve in my chevy.
                        very popular swap I think, though, Loren has an issue or two with Chevy trucks.....
                        Doing it all wrong since 1966

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                        • #13

                          Re: Good Cheap Tow Vehicle

                          The last one couldn't pull a hill without the exhaust manifolds hitting thousands of degrees.

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                          The one before that was a nice truck except for the small matter of being possessed by Satan.
                          ...

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                          • #14

                            Re: Good Cheap Tow Vehicle


                            The one before that was a nice truck except for the small matter of being possessed by Satan.
                            trifling details
                            Doing it all wrong since 1966

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                            • #15

                              Re: Good Cheap Tow Vehicle

                              The gas 6.0 does ok for now. I have been trying to get the mustang more street friendly so I don't need the tow rig often.
                              http://www.bangshift.com/forum/forum...-consolidation

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