The Reincarnation: My Turbocharged Minitruck

Yesterday we reviewed the riveting tale of the triumphant rise and epic fall of my first truck. Today I am presenting you with what I am calling “The Reincarnation”.  With my first truck solemnly resting in a junkyard far beyond the point of no return, I found myself in desperate need of that missing flame that my Dodge Ram 50 and I once had.  I needed to have the heart and soul of my first truck, but with heaping gobs of horsepower, more interior space, and a clutch pedal.  To me, that would be pure perfection.

Being a fairly typical gearhead, I get a thrill when I open my hood for people and surprise them with a power plant that they don’t expect.  I’m not talking about Chevy engines in Fords though, that is still bizarre to me…  I am talking more about upgrades within the same genre.  Like a Dodge minitruck with the same make fuel injected, turbocharged, DOHC engine where a carbureted loaf once puttered.  Doubling or tripling the factory horsepower and getting more than 1 horsepower per cubic inch intrigues me. It’s even better when it appears like the vehicle came that way.  Onlookers begin to question their own eyes.

As you may or may not know, a Dodge Ram 50 truck is really the same as a Mitsubishi Mightymax truck so most parts are interchangeable.  Mitsubishi built them for Dodge in the 1980′s and early 1990′s using all Mitsubishi parts, and Dodge decals.  So, I figured that if Dodge equals Mitsubishi and Mitsubishi built 220 horsepower turbocharged Mitsubishi Eclipses, then I could potentially get a 4G63 turbo Mitsubishi Eclipse (DSM) engine swapped into a Dodge Ram 50.  Simple! With some bolt on upgrades, I could be in the neighborhood of 250+ horsepower, and I liked that thought, a lot.

One day, many years ago, I was hanging out on some local automotive internet forums when a kid asked if anybody needed parts from a 1989 Dodge Ram 50 Extended cab.  I wasn’t actually looking to buy a truck at that time but I sent him a message anyway asking if he had the whole truck and what was wrong with it.  He quickly responded letting me know that he had the whole truck, it was in great shape, but had a hole in the engine block.  It was currently sitting in a parking lot and it needed to be gone ASAP.  Could this be my new Ram 50? I thought.  “Oh and 1 more thing” he said, “it’s free and has a clean title”.   Yes, everything had officially fallen into place.

I picked up the truck the following weekend, and it was exactly what I had been dreaming about for years.  Clean original paint, macro (extended) cab, low mileage, straight body, very little rust, it was perfect in my eyes.  Within days, I had ripped the junk engine out and grabbed an engine from a 1991 Mitsubishi Eclipse.  I dropped the 4G63 into it’s new home with custom motor mounts, and a variety of other custom accessories.  Wiring, plumbing, cutting & welding was intense for a couple months, and at the 3 month mark, the truck was drivable.

Driving it brings back all the happiness and memories that I had in my first truck, but now with more tire burning gross displays of horsepower, and 5 gears to shift through.  I have been driving it for several years now, and it never lets me down (unless I deserve it).  It starts every time, runs smooth, and generally loves to be a usable truck again.

Current list of modifications:

- 1989 Dodge Ram 50 Macro Cab 5 speed truck
- 1991 Mitsubishi Eclipse 4G63 Engine. DOHC, turbo, intercooled, ~18psi.
- 1985 Mitsubishi Montero Limited Slip Differential, 3:55 gears.
- Cadillac Escalade 17″ wheels
- Custom clutch
- 1987 Dodge Ram 50 2.0L 5 speed transmission
- 1991 Mitsubishi Eclipse FWD Flywheel
- Custom driveshaft, motor mounts, radiator pipes
- 1991 Mitsubishi Mightymax waterpump
- 1993+ Mitsubishi Mightymax Grille + Bumper

After my first truck’s lesson, I can’t see myself ever getting rid of this truck.  The fact that it will get sideways at 40+ mph is enough to scare me to death and make me keep it forever.

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