We just needed a truck. Nothing too fancy, just a truck. These days it's harder and harder to get the basic truck that was everywhere just 15- 20 years ago. That's where the idea for this project came from. Imagine what you would want if you could get a new truck and then delete everything down to just what you needed. Our list was short: 4x4, diesel engine, four doors, 1-ton drivetrain, manual transmission. Our truck doesn't need leather seats, an expensive radio, carpet, or fancy paint. It needs to be able to repel dirt inside while working great in the dirt. And believe it or not, only one automaker offers this truck (with the manual transmission), Dodge.
The manual transmission is dying, and we hate to see it go. Automatics are great-some are downright amazing-but there is something about shifting gears that just feels right when driving a big truck. A manual tranny also reduces complexity by deleting the powertrain computer and using less wiring and cooling lines. Dodge is the last manufacturer that makes a fullsize pickup with a manual transmission, so we grabbed one while we still could.
The '10 Dodge Ram 3500 Crew Cab 4x4 we chose is just about perfect. It comes with a 6.7L Cummins diesel, six-speed manual Mercedes transmission, and AAM 91/4 and 111/2 axles. We chose the base ST model with Dark Slate and Medium Graystone interior colors, but vinyl seat and floor coverings. We did option a few extra items: a heavy-duty snowplow package with a 180-amp alternator and a transfer case skidplate, $135; an additional cigar lighter, $30; 3.73 gears with 265/70R17 off-road tires, $200; a bedliner, $245; and the integrated trailer brake controller, $230. These are all important upgrades for a truck destined to drag trailers, haul stuff, and serve as a backcountry explorer, highway hauler, and weekly work machine for the next several hundred thousand miles. We'll likely spruce it up, but only to make it work harder, go farther, and be more useful.