Segment Twelve: 1989 to 1993 Diesel Pickups

Author: Don Bunn
I want to make something perfectly clear, this segment is not just about adding a diesel to Dodge Truck's engine lineup. When the Dodge-Cummins turbodiesel pickups came on the scene the light-duty truck market was changed forever. This may seem like a bold statement but let me explain. Its true that GM had diesel pickups in their line since 1978 and Ford since 1983. GM's diesel was manufactured and engineered in house and Ford's was purchased from Navistar. That's all well and good but the point is that Cummins's diesel is, in the words of owners who understand diesel engines, just like the engines installed in heavy-duty 18-wheel tractor trailer rigs. One early buyer remarked that he bought a Cummins engine which happened to be packaged in a Dodge pickup. That thinking changed, however, in 1994 when Dodge wrapped the new Ram pickup around the Cummins's diesel.

The Cummins engine was designed as a turbo powerplant from the block up just like every heavy-duty diesel engine Cummins builds. It went into production in late 1984 for such heavy-duty applications as combines, tractors, road graders, loaders, cranes, and crawlers.

Let's look at the big truck

Shown is the engine compartment of the world's first Dodge pickup powered with a Cummins diesel engine (other than engineering prototypes). This 1988 model was built and shown at the big Louisville truck show. (Photo: Cummins Engine Company)

features of the Cummins engine which sets it apart from the others. First, the Cummins is a six-cylinder which makes it much simpler and less costly to service than a V-8. The long stroke of an inline six turns out gobs of torque. The six has 40 percent fewer parts than the V-8 thus making maintenance and repairs faster and less costly.
Second, a direct injected Cummins engine has its fuel injected directly into the cylinder at the moment of combustion. The other two (diesel engines from Ford and GM) were indirect injected engines where they inject fuel into a pre-chamber where combustion begins prior to proceeding to the main part of the cylinder. The

A name badge identifying those trucks powered by the Cummins diesel appeared on each front fender side and on the pickup's tailgate. (Photo: DaimlerChrysler)

Cummins requires a considerably smaller radiator, and thus less coolant than the V-8s, because indirect injected engines lose more heat to the coolant than a direct injected does.

Third, the turbocharged Cummins gave its buyers a decided advantage when operating in high altitudes because its turbocharger keeps the engine working efficiently at both sea level and high altitudes. A non-turbo diesel loses 3 percent of power for every 1,000 feet of altitude. At 10,000 feet the V-8 lost about 30 percent of its power, the Cummins turbodiesel lost only about 5 percent.

This 1989 Dodge W250 pickup's styling is typical of the 1989 and 1990 diesel powered pickups. (Photo: Don Bunn)

The Cummins engine had been tested on the job for 5 years and more than 11 million miles before the first one was installed in a Dodge pickup.

The smaller Cummins's engine produced more torque than either of the other two competing diesel engines -- 400 lb. ft. vs. GM's 246 and Ford's 345.

With a manual transmission the Dodge's GCW rating was 16,000 pounds, or two tons greater than its closes competitor. In real life however those buyers who lined up to snap up the first Dodge Cummins pickups or chassis cabs began running the nation's freeways with heavily loaded trailers maxing out to as much as 30,000 pounds GCW! There wasn't any question about the truck's ability to move the load, the only question was could it stop?

This 1993 Dodge W350 dually pickup is Cummins powered. Its styling is typical of model years 1991 through 1993. (Photo: Bill Garland)

The result of all the above was that a new segment of the trucking industry was born. Sharp operators quickly saw and seized the opportunity to haul medium-sized trailer loads with a light-duty truck which cost a lot less to buy and operate. The mini-owner operators can keep as busy as they wish to be

and they can pick and choose the loads they want. They are called "Hot Shots." The Dodge Cummins was standard with a Getrag 5-speed O/D manual transmission, the 3-speed automatic was optional.

Dodge engineers brought back the heavy-duty rear wheel one-ton pickup to complement the powerful Cummins diesel. The Cummins option was limited to 3/4- and one-ton D/W250 and D/W350 pickups and chassis cabs. Dodge's entire full size pickup lineup for 1989 consisted of the D/W100 and D/W150 half-tons on 115- and 131-inch wheelbases and the 131-inch wheelbase and 131-inch D/W250 and D/W350 pickups. Dakota's lineup consisted of short

A sleeper unit was added behind the cab of this stretched frame 1993 D350 Cummins powered pickup. It also has a fifth wheel setup inside the box. This type of truck was favored by the Hot Shot operators. (Photo: Logistics by Bontreger)

and long wheelbase models, the new for 1989 Dakota Convertible and the new 318 powered Shelby Dakota pickup. Dodge no longer built crew cabs, Club Cabs or Utilines. Full-size Club Cab pickups built in Mexico returned in 1990. Club Cab

Dakotas built in Detroit were also new in 1990.

A well equipped 1989 Cummins powered W350 Sweptline pickup with automatic and the Prospector III Package carried a retail price of $19,483.00. This price included everything but sales tax and license. The Cummins engine was a $2,043.00 option.


Next Segment:

1994-1999: Dodge Ram Pickups