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Discussion Starter #1
So I have been in the works of looking for a reliable vehicle for having at college and I found a few 1st Gens on facebook that caught my eye. I currently drive an old ford ranger which is great but I wouldn't be comfortable driving it farther than the 2 hour trip from home to my college(which I make maybe twice a month). I have been wanting another 4x4 truck so that I could sell my old one as I wouldn't have any use for it anymore, and I thought a Cummins might be a good idea since I've been told they're built like a brick house. I'm trying to get my dad on board with it which doesn't seem too hard as he used to have a 2nd gen Cummins that he loved. I'm just trying to decide if I would be making a good choice in doing this. I am also fairly mechanically inclined as well as my father and I am not the kind of kid that would go all out with crazy mods just to roll coal or be cool or anything, I just want a reliable truck that will last.

The one truck that I am interested in is a 1991 W250 LE with 180k for $6500. It has the 3 spd auto transmission which from what I've read isn't bad it's just not the greatest for speed. It was not factory intercooled but the current owner installed an intercooler from a '93. The floor has been sanded and coated with rust inhibitor and has kilmat as well. From the pictures the frame looks very clean and possibly undercoated at one point and it also has a 4" lift. The only issue is that the whole passenger side is beat up almost like it slid into a ditch. The grill and bumper have been replaced and the rest looks like mostly cosmetic damage which doesn't bother me a lot as once I'm out of college I would get it redone. I just want to know if this is a good deal, an ok deal, or if I'd be getting screwed. It's been posted for some time now and the price has already dropped from $7500 which makes me wonder if it's not in as great of shape as it seems. I know it's hard to tell everything without actually looking at it and driving it but from what I can tell it's pretty solid mechanically and the only rust I see is just surface. Is there anything specific I should check? I've been doing a lot of research so I know a lot of what to look for but definitely not everything. Thanks!
 

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Welcome to the board, and the possible ownership of a 1st gen. There is a "Sticky" thread, second one down from the top on this page, that has a ton of info in it on what to look for and asses when buying a 1st gen truck, so take a good read through that and go from there.

This question is asked quite frequently but it's very subjective since location, weather conditions, supply and demand can affect the values greatly from one place to another. If all the things check out, and "YOU" are happy with the asking price then go for it and don't give it a second thought. :D
 

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if it went into a ditch there is a very good possibility of frame damage which might be why its been listed so long, its not hard to twist a ladder frame especially if the trucks lifted, the one in my avatar is my first cummins but I've been building 4x4s for everything from basic trail rigs to hard use mud boggers and rock crawlers for 30+ years... its rare to find a truck thats went into a ditch hard enough to do body damage without twisting the frame, usually manifested in one side sitting higher than the other, best way to tell without an alignment rack is to actually drive it and have a friend follow to observe how it tracks, otherwise get it parked on level cement and measure the distance from center of each spring perch to the frame.. sure could be a sagging spring but normally they all start to sag at the same rate so a difference usually points to a frame issue another area to look to spot a frame thats been "diamonded" is the front spring rear hangers if one is further forward than the other it usually indicates a frame is outa square.. usually from the bubba who pulled it outa the ditch by hooking up to one side of the frame rather than a proper center mounted pulling point... usually using some form of diesel powered farm equipment.. noway I'd agree to a price until its inspected correctly
 

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I agree with both of these guys. However I’ve learned that with these trucks, especially W250’s and W350’s, time is of the essence.

I have a habit of checking CL every day. Actually more of an addition. Lol. I usually favorite anything that I think I would be interested in and on average they don’t last but 5 days.

I can also tell you that they come up more often than you think when you look nationwide. However get ready to drop at least $1k to ship.

If you found one in your area and your gut tells you its good then I say pull the trigger and get the project moving.

Why don’t you share the link so that we can give you a better opinion?


1992 W250 conversion, 6 inch skyjacker, 2inch body, cross over, Borgeson,HE351CW, 37x13.5x20R, 3.54 gears, Auto

1991, W350, non IC, single cab, 285/75/16R, 4.10 gears, 5 speed Getrag
 

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Cummins are great motors and First gens are great, simple trucks. However, I'm not sure I would consider any vehicle that is 28+ years old to be a top choice for reliability, cummins or not. Things wear out, most trucks of that vintage were used like trucks and many used very hard. I'm not trying to talk you out of one, if you're looking for a bit of a project a first gen cummins will be great, but expect to tinker on it. A lot.
 

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Cummins are great motors and First gens are great, simple trucks. However, I'm not sure I would consider any vehicle that is 28+ years old to be a top choice for reliability, cummins or not. Things wear out, most trucks of that vintage were used like trucks and many used very hard. I'm not trying to talk you out of one, if you're looking for a bit of a project a first gen cummins will be great, but expect to tinker on it. A lot.


100 % correct. I recently bought a 91 and man does it need work behind the curtain. Transmission mounts, motor mounts, AC issues, leaking oil in numerous places. It’s working as we speak but these trucks require $$$ to get them up to daily driver specs.



1992 W250 conversion, 6 inch skyjacker, 2inch body, cross over, Borgeson,HE351CW, 37x13.5x20R, 3.54 gears, Auto

1991, W350, non IC, single cab, 285/75/16R, 4.10 gears, 5 speed Getrag
 

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100 % correct. I recently bought a 91 and man does it need work behind the curtain. Transmission mounts, motor mounts, AC issues, leaking oil in numerous places. It’s working as we speak but these trucks require $$$ to get them up to daily driver specs.



1992 W250 conversion, 6 inch skyjacker, 2inch body, cross over, Borgeson,HE351CW, 37x13.5x20R, 3.54 gears, Auto

1991, W350, non IC, single cab, 285/75/16R, 4.10 gears, 5 speed Getrag
I daily drive my first gen and it has been 100 percent reliable at 265k miles. Just have to stay up on maintenance and if it is an auto plan for a trans build. Still even if you have a high maintenance first gen it is much cheaper than a new truck payment and will get better MPG.
 

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Still even if you have a high maintenance first gen it is much cheaper than a new truck payment and will get better MPG.

Ain’t that the truth.



1992 W250 conversion, 6 inch skyjacker, 2inch body, cross over, Borgeson,HE351CW, 37x13.5x20R, 3.54 gears, Auto

1991, W350, non IC, single cab, 285/75/16R, 4.10 gears, 5 speed Getrag
 

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FWIW, if you spend most of your trips driving empty, and on pavement... a 2wd cummins truck with locker or traction aid is IMHO a much more comfortable ride. Find one with 3.54 and overdrive (pref 5spd) for the best economy.
 

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There were plenty of months I spent a brand new truck's payment on my old first gen.... granted it was a conversion and far from stock, but still. So easy to get into the mindset of "just this one last thing and it'll be where I want it." One of the biggest problems with these old trucks is there are so many things you can do to them it's hard to leave it alone!

Again, not trying to dissuade you, just be realistic. A first gen cummins, or any 28+ yo vehicle is never going to be "2015 corolla jump and go" reliable.
 

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I have been driving my crewcab daily since I bought it almost 10 years ago, has been dead nuts reliable. When when I first bought it was 2wd i re/re'd the front suspension and addressed some motor leaks etc, but then for the next 3+ years was no issues, then I did the 4wd conversion....big job and took about 9 months in the driveway to complete, but since then no major issues.

As mentioned even a high maintenance 1st gen is still going to a lot cheaper then a new truck with payments, and then shop rate charges for "diagnostics" etc. Heck budget to spend half what a new truck payment is on your 1st gen per month for 1 year and you will most likely have darn near a new truck. ;)
 

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The closest I got to dumping a 'new truck payment' into my W250 was a new radiator. Biggest breakdown was changing the starter in the post-office parking lot. The powertrain on these 1stgens is dead-nuts reliable. Automatics not included.

IMO, there's nothing newer that's going be any easier on my wallet.
 

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Mine was a conversion, so not apples to apples, but damn, I was ALWAYS working on it. Granted it never left me stranded, ever, i was under the hood every weekend. It was the main reason I sold it really. Tired of sinking money into it and tired of working on it all the damn time. That being said, if I had started out with a Cummins truck, I'd probably still have it.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks for all of the input guys, it is greatly appreciated! For the time being I have decided to hold off until around the end of summer so I can earn some more money. However, I will still be keeping an eye out on facebook and craigslist to get an idea of what it will cost me to find the one I want, and where to find it. I don't need anything in perfect condition and I don't plan to do any major upgrades until after college. But I will most likely try to find one with 4x4 as I live in Iowa and if we have another winter like what we just went through then 4x4 is needed, which is why I'm not too keen on buying a car. I don't mind putting in work on it and I can still get by in the event that it is down for a while. It will be driven locally most of the time, but if I get an internship out of state then that is when it will be driven the most. I'm still not 100% sure yet but if I decide to get one I will be looking more towards a 1991.5-1993 4x4 5 speed with around 200k or less if possible, and ideally nothing more than surface rust on at least the cab. If you have any more opinions please share as I'm still trying to learn.
 

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if ya want low to no rust then your better off to start watching listings in states that don't have harsh winters and don't salt the roads, here in AZ non rusted trucks are common as long as they were not brought here by someone migrating from the rust belt.. texas as long as they didn't come from coastal areas, new mexico stay away from colorado trucks most I've delt with were rifddled with cancer same with trucks outa utah for the most part, california if they didn't spend alota time on the coast are usually pretty rust free... Iowa your probably gonna have to work a lil harder to find low rust 1st gens...

btw mines an interesting example, the sheet metal is totally rust free and perfect BUT every part of the frame has a dusting of surface rust... we couldn't figure it out and as the previous owner has passed away nobody to ask the sheet metal screams native AZ truck then one day I took the grill out to put LED driving lights behind it and found something that I hadn't noticed.. a block heater plug... I had no reason to even look for one as the trucks so clean it was assumed to be an Az truck but... there is no place in AZ where anyone uses a block heater.... then when I took out the original bench seat I found a note just part of the litter that accumulates and gets trapped under seats.... "remember to wash under truck before parking in garage if it ends up snowing" the owner was very meticules about always washing the truck down after it was used during winter... I still don't know where it originated but if not for the block heater I'd never had suspected it was not a native Az truck...
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I just started searching around southern Missouri, Arkansas, etc. and have found a few decent trucks. I'm trying to search areas basically straight south of Iowa so that I can pick it up myself rather than pay to have it shipped. But I would definitely trailer it back and go through all the fluids first (at the bare minimum) before I even think about driving it that far.
 

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bbtw, other than this recent IP leak I've never had to do anything other than put fue in my 1st gen and drive it.. its usually dragging 1 of several trailers around some of the most beatup streets and roads this side of Iraq never a whimper and I'm not a slow driver nor do I pamper the truck... totally reliable even with the leak on the IP she still purrs and will light up both rears if I drop the clutch in 2nd and bark 3rd if I stay in the throttle...
 

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Keep a written list of the trucks you find for sale, and all the details, condition, options, etc, so you can easily go back and see what the asking/sold price was. I do this whenever I am looking at a major purchase, and I research a wider area then I plan on looking for the purchase in as well....just to have an idea of what the "general" pricing is on the item.
 

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Keep a written list of the trucks you find for sale, and all the details, condition, options, etc, so you can easily go back and see what the asking/sold price was. I do this whenever I am looking at a major purchase, and I research a wider area then I plan on looking for the purchase in as well....just to have an idea of what the "general" pricing is on the item.


Excellent idea


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