Time to Retire the Big Red Thunder Chicken :( (My Truck)

Discussion in 'Functional Gear & Equipment' started by Thunder5Ranch, Dec 3, 2018.

  1. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    I bought Big Red in 2001 new and have driven it every day since. It is a dodge Laramie 2500 with all of the bells and whistles of the day back then. It has the 5.9 24 valve cummins long block diesel engine. The only mods I made to it was a straight 7 rockwell manual tranny, a aftermarket chipset that increased the HWY MPG to 25-26, some 4" lift blocks and beefed the springs up to comfortably haul 2000 pound bulk bags in the bed. It cost $23,900 back in 2001. Been a good and dependable truck for 17 years and worked hard over those years, not uncommon for me to pull 20,000 pound trailer loads with another 2k in the bed with it.

    Sadly age, abuse and use are catching up with the Big Red Thunder Chicken :( The truck has 397,000 miles and is in great shape. It is everything around the engine that is falling apart and breaking at the worst times. Went 16 years with the only expenses being fuel and regular maint. Now we have entered the phase where the rear end is going out, the steering gear box needs replaced, I already had to replace the Turbo that was not cheap, and about 50 other more minor things in that have failed or are on the verge of failing phase.

    So I have started truck shopping and just am not happy with anything I am finding including the prices now days. One salesman was honest and said "You are going to spend about twice the money or more for about half the truck." That really annoys me.

    What I need is a new truck with a diesel engine that can pull a 16,000 pound trailer 3-5 days per week 60-150 miles round trip. That comes or can be modified to get into the 22MPG + range on the highway. I want new with a solid warranty on the engine and drive train. A standard transmission, and obviously 4wd. I won't even consider a GM I will leave the bow ties for the Chevy fans out there :) Don't care for extended or crew cabs, must have at least a standard bed and preferably an extended bed.

    I am starting to think I should just buy a new bare bones and take to my mechanic to flesh it out with what I want and need. But event he bare bones Dodge 3500s I have been looking at come in at $30,000+ and would still need at least another $10,000-$15,000 in customization. Other option would be to just completely rebuild the Thunder Chicken but that easily gets into $30,000 in parts alone so no real savings there. I am not one to buy a new truck just have some perceived status of owning a big truck, I buy a new truck and then squeeze as many years of hard service out of it that I can, before the cost of maintaining it becomes comparable to the cost of replacing the truck.

    SO any advice ? Am I just just stuck buying an inferior chunk of iron with lots of useless high tech crap in it? So far what I have seen shopping around is really shiny, really pretty, really tech loaded JUNK that will be lucky to have a 5 year life. Am I missing something?
    Motomom34, BenP, Sapper John and 6 others like this.
  2. BenP

    BenP Monkey++ Site Supporter+

    Is your thunder chicken 4x4? I am wondering about the transmission swap you did.

    There is nothing new out there right now worth getting excited about. I just bought a 95' Dodge 3500 4x4 extended cab 12 valve Cummins with 160k miles on it.

    My dad recently bought a new Ford F250 Crew, 4x4, Gas, with vinyl floor mats, manual windows and locks for $26-28k. Mileage is not great but it will pull 14 rolls of hay without any trouble. I thought when he wears the engine out it would be neat to put a Cummins in it or one of those 6.6L Inline Ford diesel engines. It has an aluminum body which is a big selling point around here where the salt eats them up.
  3. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    Not sure how your licensing works where you are and if they tack on personal property taxes to the license fee. Also, insurance on a new truck would increase, but they aren't going to total it for what you have to put into it to bring it up to your operational standard.

    I hate making recommendations to folks on such a huge expenditure, so I'll just offer my experiences with my truck.

    It is a 2015 Ford F250 Super Duty XLT. Cloth seats, All Steel body, rear camera, cruise control, shift on the fly to 4WD, Automatic 6 speed transmission with electronic tow/Haul function, 6.7 Liter Turbocharged Diesel. I drag my 19,000 LB fifth wheel with ease. You have the capability to manually (electronically) up and down shift on the gear selector arm with just a punch of a button. I did add an Air/Lift "Loadlifter 5000" kit to the rear suspension with remote adjustment control to level out the load in the bed. I get almost 20 mpg unloaded and at freeway speeds, 11 to 13 mpg when towing. I don't know what chip sets are available to increase that mileage performance if any. This was the last All Steel bodied Ford Truck they manufactured.

    Here is a link to the Edmonds reviews... Used 2015 Ford F-250 Super Duty Review & Ratings | Edmunds
    Edmonds; shows pricing for this truck USED from $30,000 to $40,000 depending on mileage and options
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2018
  4. Here in the upper Midwest, salt on the roads DEVOWERS car bodies. How are those aluminum bodies going to stand up to road salt?.
  5. 3M-TA3

    3M-TA3 Cold Wet Monkey Site Supporter++

    My new Ram (2015) and my old RAM (1997) are still for the most part the same truck. The main difference is sheet metal and motor technology. I've been all through the old one as things have failed over the years (not much, but as it typical seems you have to take the whole truck apart to replace a single part these days).

    My new Ram is a rebuilt that was salvaged and rebuilt by folks who specialize in that. The damage (I've seen the pictures - they gave me full documentation) was body panels only. You can't tell that their repairs were not factory. It has very low miles, still has the factory warranty, and I paid about 2/3 of what it would have cost otherwise. I don't care about resale value as I plan to drive it until it dies.
  6. techsar

    techsar Monkey+++

    I may stand alone on this...but as long as the frame and body are sound, I would seriously consider the rebuild route. New trucks have problematic DEF systems, more computers to give problems and likely not be as capable without dumping more money into them.
  7. arleigh

    arleigh Goophy monkey

    I'd much rather restore my old truck than buy a new one. .
    If I replace the bearings I know the job is done right ,you never know the lemons you might get from the factory.
    If the frame is not fractured any where and the cab is intact ,most every thing is replaceable/reparable .
    Looks like you've gotten good service out of that truck and it is simple enough yet that you can actually tinker with it . Tax right off .
    A new truck is not to going to be so forgiving. New stuff is more frail, more destructible . higher taxes DMV fees.
    The tendency in advertising is over rating rather than honest rating. IMO
    Of course if you're not a mechanic, you are dependent on third party handling , then that is expensive .
    The other problem of course is time .
    Obviously time is money and having equipment ready to go on demand might require not waiting for your old truck to be refurbished.
  8. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    Forgot about the DEF crap, and I do notice a definite reduction in performance when the exhaust filter is being cleaned.... It is like the exhaust brake is engaged.
  9. Grandpa Patch

    Grandpa Patch Monkey+

    I would ask you these few questions; 1) Is there some particular feature of the new truck, that can only be obtained by getting a new truck, that you just have-to-have? 2) Can you customize and rebuild your current truck into more of what you want compared to buying a new truck and customizing it? 3) Can you add more to your current trucks interior console (as is or customized) than you can on a new truck? i.e. CB, Ham, Stereo (A lot of options under stereo can include back up cam (with or without seperate trailer cam) hands free phone, GPS Nav, etc.
    sec_monkey and 3M-TA3 like this.
  10. UncleMorgan

    UncleMorgan I eat vegetables. My friends are not vegetables.

    Well, maybe this will help.

    Right now in Central Florida there is a Craigslist ad for a 1999 Dodge Laramie. It has a Cummins diesel, and the mileage is 50,721. The truck looks pristine, right down to the tan leather seats. The price is $15,000.00.

    I wouldn't be surprised if they jumped at an offer of 12K.

    It may be a real jewel that's just a little too old for most people's perceived status.

    Have a look at it at
    Dodge Truck 2500 Diesel LOW MILES (Summerfield)

    Summerfield is a little burg about 100 miles south of Jax.

    You might be able to mix & match, pick the best of both, and then sell the spare off for most of the cost. Or just keep it as a second working truck/goldmine of parts.
    SB21, Gator 45/70 and Grandpa Patch like this.
  11. SB21

    SB21 Monkey+++

    This looks like it would be a good deal . See if you can get one of the local Monkeys to check it out for you. Before it gets gone. You can put a lift kit on it , take it thru the field and sling some mud on it , and make it yours .
    Gator 45/70 and Grandpa Patch like this.
  12. Gator 45/70

    Gator 45/70 Monkey+++

    I think your mind is made up, Buy used,sink some coin in it and it should outlive the amount of time needed before you retire
    sec_monkey likes this.
  13. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    New is the only real option for warranty work alone. Also insurance not going cover anything older than Y2K and I would not drop even 12k on a truck that blue books for less than 7k :) Insurance is a big one in the decision making as well, they just are not going to insure anything older than 2000 (Commercial fleet policy) and they really don't like covering anything older than 10 years and really prefer it be 0-5 years old.

    Guess what I am shooting for here is who has bought newer 2016-2017-2018 heavy duty trucks and how well they have held up. Could care less about status :) I want something I can work hard and abuse for the next 15 years or so. Don't care about options beyond standard tranny, A/C, Tilt Steering, Cruise Control and a ash tray.
    Gator 45/70 and Grandpa Patch like this.
  14. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Looking at the Dodge website I can get a custom build for what I want for around $38,000 + or - LOL if it were practical I would restore my old 1971 International 3/4 ton to new and run it, but I need to do a little better than 4-5 MPG LOL.
  15. oil pan 4

    oil pan 4 Monkey+++

    Those turbos are cheap now.
    I got the HE351VE turbo off a Cummins for my diesel suburban back in 2011.
    Paid like $160 for one that was nearly new. Paid a little more to make it fit.
    Those are a popular upgrade for 24 valve Cummins.

    Until I got my 2011 leaf my newest car was the 1989 fire bird I bought in 2016.

    Tell us more about that 7 speed manual.
    sec_monkey and Gator 45/70 like this.
  16. techsar

    techsar Monkey+++

    You seem set on the 6.7 Cummins, so be prepared to have a constant job cleaning out the egr feedback ports...and if possible find a delete for the DEF and catalyst. NoX sensors are not cheap, but you may have annual emissions testing that would preclude this course of action.
    sec_monkey and Gator 45/70 like this.
  17. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    what Techsar says I'm in agreement with. THe new diesels are not worth the money and that damned additive annoys me
    Cruisin Sloth and Gator 45/70 like this.
  18. sec_monkey

    sec_monkey SM Security Administrator

    [ditto] [ditto] wut @techsar said plus plus

    due to emissions regulations plus MPG requirements plus safety requirements plus other regulations most new vehicles are :cry: :( :cry: :( :mad: :mad: :cry: :cry: [banghead] [banghead]

    most heavy/heavier duty work trucks cost a fortune n might break on ya in 1-12 months .. ..

    plus there were the diesel emissions scandals [ VW .. plus plus plus plus ]

    best bet might be to buy a truck from AZ, CA or FL that is identical or jus about identical to yer Big Red Thunder Chicken or jus swap the whole body out [ that would cost a lot of $$$$ in labor tho ]

    [chopper] [chopper]
    Ganado and Gator 45/70 like this.
  19. oldawg

    oldawg Monkey+++

    When I retired in '07 we had 10-12 hot shots leased out of our terminal. The biggest gripe among them wasn't about brands of their pick ups it was that none of them were handling the larger loads nearly as well as the earlier models. Our customer base was 50% oil patch. Power was still ok? but the running gear and especially cabs, frames, and suspensions were sending them to the shop far more often than the 80s and 90s models. Electronics were a constant pain. A lot of them moved to medium duty trucks just to do the same job say an 89 or 99 1 ton dually would be doing before. Admittedly my knowledge is dated but I still see companies using medium duty trucks to do jobs the a few years ago 1 tons were doing. So maybe look in that direction and keep and fix up "thunder Chicken" for Sunday.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2018
  20. BenP

    BenP Monkey++ Site Supporter+

    I guess time will tell, salt will cause aluminum to oxidize but it will not deteriorate like steel does.
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