2008 Dodge Ram Chassis Cabs
By: Mike Levine Posted: 10-08-07 00:09 PT
© 2007 PickupTruck.com

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Chrysler’s proud to say it. They’re down in the dumps with their new 2008 Dodge Ram 4500 / 5500 Chassis Cab trucks, and that’s exactly where they plan to stay, and grow.

Though the overall market for full size trucks continues to slow, Chrysler is bullish on sales at the top end of the spectrum, above Class 3 heavy duty pickups in the Class 4 and 5 commercial segments.

Rigs in the fourth and fifth brackets have gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) of 14,001-pounds to 16,000-pounds and 16,001-pounds to 19,500-pounds, and they usually don’t come with factory-mounted pickup beds - Ford's F-450 is the big exception. Instead they’re sold as incomplete vehicles to upfitters who bolt on custom aftermarket packages (‘applications’ in commercial lingo), like, dump truck boxes, service bodies, rollback wreckers, and stake beds, for business customers.

Chrysler is predicting the segment will grow from 140,000 units last year to 156,000 units by 2012.

There’s one thing you need to know if you’re new to the world of commercial chassis, besides the plural form of chassis is also spelled ‘chassis’. These trucks might look like pickups missing their pickup parts, but they’re special-built beasts of burden.

All chassis cabs, regardless of make, have frame rails that are spaced exactly 34-inches apart. That’s a narrower gap than you'll find on a typical pickup. The Dodge Ram 1500, for example, has 38-inch spacing. The distance from the back of the cab to the rear axle is also uniform, so applications can be easily bolted behind the cab and ported from one truck to the next without the need for custom fit or engineering.

Last year Chrysler introduced the 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 Chassis Cab in the Class 3 segment - GVWR of 10,000-pounds to 14,000-pounds. It was the first Ram commercial chassis since 2001, when Chrysler surrendered the heavy duty chassis cab segment to General Motors and Ford.

The Ram 3500 Chassis Cab broke new ground in several areas. It offered a Freightliner engineered and sourced C-channel frame - shared with Freightliner’s Sterling unit in the Bullet commercial chassis – with best-in-class 50,000-psi steel, class leading single rear wheel GVWR of 10,200-pounds, the most powerful V8 gas engine (5.7-liter HEMI), and largest standard fuel tank. The 3500 was also the first Ram to receive Cummins’ new 6.7-liter turbodiesel.

Now, Dodge has moved further upstream and made additional changes to suit the rigorous and diverse needs of commercial customers.

The biggest difference between the Ram 3500 and new 4500/5500 Chassis Cabs is the suspension. The 3500 shares most of its suspension components with the Dodge Ram 3500 Heavy Duty pickup, while the 4500/5500 commercials have all-new, stronger suspensions to support heavier loads and applications.

There’s a five-link coil-spring and solid axle up front with rear leafs and solid axles in back. The same solid front axle is used for both the 4500 and 5500, and it boasts a standard gross axle weight rating (GAWR, pronounced ‘GAUER’) of 7,000-pounds. The rear axles are different. The 4500 dual rear wheel (DRW) has a GAWR of 9,350-pounds and the 5500 has a 13,500-pounds GAWR for the dually. GAWR is how much weight the axles can support meeting the trucks’ maximum GVWR. Chrysler made sure all the suspension components fall below the flat surface of the frame rail tops, so they won’t interfere with upfitter applications.

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