Why did Ram roll out a smoke-belching 1985 Dodge Ram heavy-duty pickup with a 5.9-liter Cummins oil-burner at the press launch of its light-duty diesel this month in Los Angeles? It wanted to demonstrate how far diesel technology has come in the past three decades.
Ram announced in February that it will bring back diesel-powered half-ton pickups after a lapse of 35 years. The Ram 1500 diesel will be powered by a 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel from Italy's VM Motori and is scheduled to arrive in showrooms around the first of the year.
The 1985 truck, a prototype restored by Cummins, is pristine inside and out despite having nearly 70,000 miles on the clock. But it's a diesel from a bygone era, and it belches smoke and rumbles like a tractor.
Modern high-pressure diesel engines, like those used in the Ram, operate more efficiently and quietly and produce more power. For example, though nearly double the displacement, the original Ram diesel produced 400 pounds-feet of torque -- 20 less than the 3.0-liter VM Motori engine being used in the Ram 1500.