She's a big ol' truck. We chose a 1997 Dodge Ram 2500 with a Cummins turbo diesel because we knew that we wanted something that could easily carry the weight of a FWC and all our gear, and we wanted a proven reliable engine that wouldn't struggle. Even though the next gen 24 valve Cummins puts out more power and has more pep, the (mostly) mechanical systems of the 12 valve Cummins have been a blessing. Something goes wrong with a sensor? Engine still runs. Trust us, we know, hah!
Anyway we chose this platform because we needed strength and reliability, which we received in return with regular maintenance and a steady diet of diesel fuel. She's had her fair share of quirks along the way, but in the two years that we lived in her she never left us stranded.
Not until we told her that we were moving to Eugene and settling down. Then she blew a cooling line from the transmission while we were at a rest stop headed Westward towards our new home. Luckily we caught it before anything terrible could have happened, but being a specialty hose (and being Sunday when NOTHING is open in the South) it did leave us waiting for a day. But after a days wait and $20 later the hose showed up and we were back on our merry way. When we finally made it to Eugene and had lived here for a month or two, that same damn line from NAPA failed again, and again after that. So I did the smart thing and had a custom one built at a local shop and that put the end to the shenanigans.
Darlene has tackled some incredible routes and off-road trails that her (nor we) had any business being on. Lippincott Pass, all over Death Valley, all over Joshua Tree NP, the backroads of Northern California, the side roads of the Southeast. She handled them all with no problem, other than the panicked inexperienced driver at the wheel (me!).
After beating her stock suspension silly, we had the entire setup redone compliments of Deaver Suspension & Xplore Baja. Darlene was raised a solid 2" front and rear with brand new coils up front and new leaf springs in the rear perfectly matched the weight of the camper & gear. Bilstein shocks complimented all four corners and gave her a plush ride that we had never experienced before. We then had the entire front steering linkage redone with a more robust system, as well as new wheel bearings, ball joints and more!
As if that wasn't enough we were lucky enough to be introduced to Walter's Transmission where our stock transmission was completely torn apart and rebuilt with quality parts, ensuring us another 200,000+ miles of service!
There's a ton of love, blood, sweat and beers put into this truck. Since purchase we had every intention of keeping Darlene until the damn wheels fell off. This shows with the regular maintenance, upgrades and methodical documentation of everything from fillups & oil changes, to component receipts & installation records.
Since our acquisition of her she’s seen, in somewhat of a chronological timeline:
6/14 - A/C charged and sealed
New pioneer stereo head unit installed
7/14 - Felpro valve cover gaskets replaced
KDP tabbed & timing cover gasket replaced
Ujoints replaced on drive axle
New water pump
Transmission flush & band adjustment
Transfer case fluid flushed & replaced
11/14 - Rear wheel speed sensor replaced
Neutral safety switch replaced
Front hitch mount installed - so you can mount a bike rack up front, or precisely maneuver a trailer with the front of your truck like all the cool kids or whatever.
1/15 - New batteries installed
fuel feed/return soft lines replaced from engine to hard lines
New belt tensioner
2/15 - new tires
Front & rear differential oil changed
New lift pump installed
3/15 - steering damper installed
Rear axle leaf spring u-bolt replaced (old one was rusty and I didn’t trust it)
Leaky brake line replaced and whole system flushed & bled
FSS boot replaced, FSS cleaned and checked, and new relay installed.
Starter rebuilt with heavy duty parts
4/15 - new door speakers
7/15 - new brake lines because a couple were rusty and making me feel funny
New front brake pads
8/15 - Fuel heater core part thing delete. Still went through the system, but the actual heater was removed. Installed new screen and 90 degree hose.
New fuel overflow valve
10/15 - Hydraboost, power steering pump, steering gear and vacuum pump all replaced.
Steering gear replaced again since the reman one failed
12/15 - Transmission speed sensor replaced
Electronic speed sensor replaced
Throttle Position Sensor replaced
1/16 - New muffler & exhaust installed
Transmission governor sensor & solenoid replaced, band adjustment and new fluid.
Heater core & hose replaced. (Holy **** if this wasn’t the HARDEST and WORST job I’ve done, hands down, in the entire time we’ve owned Darlene)
3/16 - Pyro, Boost & Trans temp guages installed
Front disc brake pads replaced
Rear brake shoes replaced, drum checked, springs replaced, parking brake reset, brakes reset, etc.
Steering gear replaced the third and final time, along with power steering pump seal. This time the shop did it correctly and used a solid reman one.
Steering brace from Synergy installed
6/15 - Oil pressure sensor replaced
7/15 - New auxiliary driving lights installed
9/16 - a lot of the following is documented here: https://www.facebook...ing.trio/posts/
New front brake pads and NEW rotors installed.
New wheel bearings installed on front
New studs installed in rotors & lugs to match
New 17” Method Racing wheels installed (all 5)
New Cooper ATP tires installed (all 5) 285/70R17
New Bilstein shocks on all 4 corners
New front coil shocks from Deaver Springs (+2 in lift)
New leaf springs in rear to match height and PERFECTLY dialed in for the weight of the camper, two occupants, gear and fuel. So so so so so much more smooth and balanced drive.
Brand new custom steering linkage that ELMINATES any kind of steering wobble, and drastically increases the strength. Heim joints too, so no more shitty ball joints.
Brand new rebuildable Dynatrac HD balljoints (should be last time they EVER need to be done)
All U-joints on front driveline, as well as main driveline replaced.
Remember that old exhaust & muffler? Yeah, it was cheap and the guy who installed it screwed up so I got that chopped off and had a new exhaust tip put on. She’s back to being louder, but now the exhaust doesn’t come up between the cab and bed!
Transmission completely rebuilt with upgraded hardware by Walter Selva at Walter’s Transmissions in Temecula CA
New ATS transmission pan installed
New Kenwood 2-meter radio and antenna installed.
Light bar installed on grill, where it should be.
10/16 - valves adjusted to spec
2/17 - Transmission cooling line replaced
4/17 - transmission cooling line replaced, again
5/17 - damnit, transmission cooling line replaced again, but this time with custom USA made hose. The built in valve to prevent TC drainback is NO LONGER THERE, so you have to start the truck in neutral and let it warm up for like, 30 seconds or a minute at most. Which you should do anyway for the engine. See story below*
6/17 - Cooling system cleaned and flushed with Cummins Restore Plus and proper coolant.
New Cummins thermostat
New Gates water pump
New Viton marine-grade bio-diesel resistant rubber fuel lines from tank to engine.
Fuel heater bullshit bypass. Just straight from the tank to the lift pump and out to the injector. No more wonky routing
New Cummins lift pump
New TorkTek adjustable fuel overflow relief valve - biodiesel safe with Viton & adjustable pressure
Fuel pressure sensor installed.
12/17 - new “sport” headlights installed, and wiring FIXED so that it doesn’t pass all that voltage through the friggin in-cab switch and melt it. SO MUCH MORE LIGHT AT NIGHT!
Other things include:
Custom rear platform. Great for a dog, that’s where Alfredo spent most of his time. Below is storage. Sturdy and reliable. If you don’t like it, it’s easy enough to take out with a couple hours and a six pack of beer, and the rear seats are still there. If it’s a deal-breaker for you unless it’s removed I’ll take care of it as long as you send a deposit.
Fire extinguisher mounted under driver’s seat
Flashlight holster, I’ll probably keep the flashlight though.
Tire chains for all 4 tires
All kinds of spare parts, bits & bolts, fluids and who knows what else
Overhead netting for in-cab gear
Towing brake system
Polycarbonate dash cover, because the dash underneath is basically non-existent
Free scrapes and scratches from tons of adventures
Free stickers from adventures, sponsors and cool folks we met along the way. If these are a deal-breaker for you just let us know and we’ll get them removed best we can. But we think it adds character and a bit of a story to the history of this rig.