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The 94-01 Dodge Ram 1500, the Last Classic Truck

Updated on September 6, 2018

My 97 Dodge ram 1500 with a 318

The restyled Dodge Ram was a trailblazer in truck styling when it debuted for the '94 model year. The big grille, low (small for the trucks size) headlights and bulging hood looks aggressive and demeaning. Its got a mean look, a no nonsense kinda look. And in 1994 the look was revolutionary especially compared to the other truck competitors at the time. Just go look at Ford and Chevrolet's trucks in 1994. Trucks were still boxy and utilitarian looking. Not saying there is anything wrong with that. I love the look of the old trucks. But this Ram was revolutionary in the way of body styling, and In my opinion what started the trend towards pickup trucks look to this day. It sold, It sold well jumping Chrysler's truck sales from 95,542 units in 1993 to 232,092 in 1994 and a lot more the following years especially after a certain movie came out with the ram as one of its biggest stars. While the body may have been revolutionary the drive train... not so much which is why I love them so.

Through the second gen Ram's run you had three engine choices for the 1500. The 1500 is all im going to talk about here. You had a choice of a 3.9 liter V6 which is really just the 5.2 v8 were fixing to talk about with 2 cylinders chopped off. While it is a bit under powered at around 170 HP its a really good tough motor that'll do way more than it was meant to. Dont expect to save any gas though. In my experience they get about the same at its dad, the 318. The 5.2 V8 ( or 318 cubic inches) is a very old, but tried and true Chrysler design. At around 230 HP and 300 lb ft of torque it'll do the job well for most people and last a long time doing it. The 5.9 V8 (360 cubic inches) is basically a bored and stroked 318. The 360 has an output of 245 horsepower and 315 lb ft of torque. I dont have any experience with the 360 but from everything I know and have heard its about as reliable as the 318, if not the same. All these motors even though they're known as the "Magnum" series are part of Chryslers LA series which dates all the way back to 1964! Even though they've went through some changes and upgrades the design is mostly the same over than span of over 30 years. I guess if it aint broke dont fix it. Which gets me to my next point. The automatic transmissions.

I know alot of people might not agree with me here. In my opinion the 46RE/RH doesn't deserve the bad rap it often gets. I also believe thats what scares alot of people away on these trucks. The 46re or A518 to put it simply is a Torqueflite 727 with an overdrive unit slapped on the back and a few electronics added on for "shift quality". The Torqueflite 727 dates all the way back to 1962, so the same thing i said with the motors, "If it aint broke dont fix it". The 46re seems to have a few little things that can go wrong that can make it seem like the unit is toast when actually it might not be. The biggest culprit I can think of is the governor sensor/ transducer which can really mess up shifts and sometimes not shift at all. Not to point fingers here but I think oftentimes transmission shops and/or mechanics makes things seem far worse than it is. Alot of people dont have mechanical knowledge and trust the mechanic to tell them or fix whats wrong. And we all know you cant always trust all mechanics. Alot of them can steer people into believing that the 46re is toast when a lot of times all it might would really need is a governor pressure sensor. Not saying all mechanics are like this. I know some good ones. But just like in life you have to be weary of who you trust. Something that i really do think is a problem and I know because me and my dad have rebuilt two of these transmissions is the check-ball in the cooler line. The idea was this check-ball was supposed to keep the torque converter prefilled but more often than not it'll just end up causing a clog in the cooler line and causing these transmissions to overheat. I mean overheat bad! That is the only thing that can kill off a 46re real quick. Now there is sometimes where the frictions wear out and these transmissions really are in need of a rebuild but they still usually last around 150k or more which really isnt bad. Definitely not deserving of the bad reputation these things have. And if you have to rebuild one, if you got a little mechanical knowledge give it a shot! You can order a rebuild kit and a manual online for way cheaper than having a shop rebuild it and this is one of the easiest transmissions to build. You never know till you try!

Overall I love the Second Generation Dodge ram. Ive owned two. To me its the perfect blend of a few modern things that make the driving experience a bit better while still nodding to Mopars past. Its the last truck to do so. And while were seeing less and less of them on the road I dont believe well ever see anything else like it ever again.


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