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2008 Dodge Ram 5500 Chassis Cab - Please Don't Go!

Posted in Project Vehicles on September 1, 2008
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Photographers: 4-Wheel & Off-Road Staff
Hauled: Our publisher's broken M-715.

Never in the history of our magazine has there been a more coveted test vehicle than the Dodge Ram 5500 Chassis Cab with Jerr-Dan rollback tow deck. This 19,500-pound gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) truck not only hauls tons of stuff (and by "tons" we mean 5 or more), but it is also a 4x4 with some truly impressive components. In fact the drivetrain of this mega hauler would make for a killer trail rig should you want to run giant tires with gobs of Cummins diesel torque. These commercial-grade trucks are pretty serious contenders especially if the basic 1-ton truck won't fulfill your needs.

Did you know that trucks are ranked in different classes depending on their GVWR? While most of the trucks we cover are in Class 1 (6,000 pounds) or Class 2 (6,001 to 10,000 pounds), with the rare 1-ton touching into Class 3 (10,001 to 14,000 pounds). But these trucks get into the Class 4 (14,001 to 16,000 pounds) and Class 5 (16,001 to 19,500 pounds) ratings, which means they'll usually be found in a commercial fleet instead of your private driveway. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, and when you realize that these same chassis cab configurations are available both in two- and four-door variants and could be outfitted with a sweet motorhome while keeping the diesel and 4x4 options, you too will be lying awake dreaming of your next ultimate base camp or backwoods cabin on wheels.

The specs we're talking about are the new 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel, either a six-speed automatic or manual transmission, the tried-and-true New Venture 271 or 273 transfer cases, and a set of axles that will have any fullsize truck driver drooling. Plus since these trucks are specifically designed for aftermarket upfitters, the framerails behind the cab are built flat for ease of modification. The coil front suspension and the rear leaf-spring design have been carried over from the 3/4- and 1-ton truck, but of course they are upgraded for the heavier rated trucks.

We found the 5500 we tested to be powerful and unfazed until loads passed the 6,000-pound mark and even then it still trundled along with nary a care. The suspension wasn't what we would describe as lush, but then again this is a truck capable of hauling another 1-ton truck on its back so you can't be expecting a Cadillac ride. One thing we were extremely pleased with was the turning radius and that's with a 204-inch wheelbase. Now don't expect it to turn like a VW Beetle, but the 5500-like most of the trucks in its class-is offered with a front drive axle using massive 1550 U-joints that can reach steeper steering angles than the lighter trucks, and with the wider track the 5500 has a 581/2-foot turning circle while still boasting a 7,000-pound gross axle weight rating (GAWR).

A great aspect of the ride and drive of these trucks is the standard equipment exhaust brake. Even though our test model was governed at 70 mph and came with 153/8-inch front brakes, the exhaust brake was still a welcome addition when hauling our big diesel-powered Jeep JK down the notorious hills of the California Interstate known as the Grapevine.

Finally, our fabric seats in the SLT package truck were comfortable yet still offered more behind-the-seat space than regular cabs of years gone by. However, if you're looking to buy and build the ultimate family hauler, you'd probably be shopping for a four-door quad cab with the leather-trimmed Laramie package. Currently Dodge doesn't offer its massive Mega Cab option in the 4500 and 5500 models, but having driven and slept in the back seat of a Mega Cab 3500 during a 1,500-mile road trip, we'd be inclined to push our contacts at Dodge to offer one for those families looking to build the ultimate towing, camping, exploring, hauling super truck.

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