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You Should All Be Aware That In 2003 Dodge Offered An 8.0-Liter V10 Pickup With A Manual Transmission

All images: Miata.net via Kyle DeGennaro on Oppositelock (Facebook)
All images: Miata.net via Kyle DeGennaro on Oppositelock (Facebook)
Truck YeahThe trucks are good!

New full-size trucks with manual transmissions no longer exist in the U.S. after the departure of the 2018 Ram 2500. This means, if you want to row your own gears in a big truck, you have to buy used. The good news is that there’s lots of cool stuff on the market, including this single-model year-only Dodge Ram 2500 with a V10 and a stick. Yes, you read that right: a V10 and a stick.

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I write this only because, for some reason, I forgot this truck even existed. Hell, I don’t even know if I ever knew it existed, because it’s just so rare. Back when the third-generation Ram debuted in 2002 (for the 1500) and 2003 (for the 2500 and 3500), you could get a heavy duty Cummins with a manual, you could get the Ram 1500 with a 3.7-liter V6 and a manual, and the 4.7-liter V8 in the 1500 could come bolted to a stick.

That’s all well and good, but what really matters is the fact that, under the hood of the gas heavy duty Ram, was an 8.0-liter V10 that could be hooked to a five-speed manual. Yes. Eight liters of V10 fury with a manual transmission. It’s a bit weird, since 2003 was the first model year for the new truck, and it was the final model year with the 8.0-liter, which only ever came mated to an automatic prior to 2003. So for some reason, Dodge decided to keep the V10 around for one year into the new generation, and then hook a manual to it for the first time—again, only for one year. It’s bizarre, but that’s what makes this truck—for sale on Miata.net—so intriguing.

Illustration for article titled You Should All Be Aware That In 2003 Dodge Offered An 8.0-Liter V10 Pickup With A Manual Transmission
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You can learn more about this V10—which was related to the LA family of V8 engines with roots that go back to the 1960s—from the website Cummins Hub. Here’s what it has to say about the mill:

Dodge’s 8.0L V10 is part of the Chrysler LA engine family and is based on the 360 CID V8 platform, but with a lengthened stroke and two additional cylinders. The V10's longer stroke length contributes to its low end torque - 450 lb-ft at a mere 2,400 rpm. The engine was mated to the Chrysler 47RH automatic transmission for 1994 and 1995 model years, the 47RE for 1996 to 2002 model years, and the 48RE for 2003, the last year that the engine was offered. A New Venture NV4500 5 speed manual transmission was also available for 2003, however a manual transmission was not available in earlier model years. The 8.0L Magnum V10 was discontinued following the 2003 model year, being phased out in favor or more sophisticated and fuel efficient engine platforms. While the V10 made respectable horsepower and torque, the market quickly outgrew its large size and aging technology.

Illustration for article titled You Should All Be Aware That In 2003 Dodge Offered An 8.0-Liter V10 Pickup With A Manual Transmission

With only 310 horsepower from 10 cylinders, the Magnum V10 isn’t exactly powerful, but when it launched for the 1994 model year, it was apparently a big deal, with Allpar saying it had the “highest torque and horsepower, with the broadest usable torque curve (1,000 - 4,000 rpm) of any large gas engine in the field, when introduced.”

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That horsepower figure, by the way, was 300, though it increased to 310 in the late 1990s. Torque was 450 lb-ft throughout the engine’s decade-long lifespan. That’s quite a bit of twist going through the NV4500 five-speed manual, and wth a ~5.6:1 first gear ratio, I bet this truck could pull damn near anything.

This particular machine is for sale for $13,500, which isn’t cheap. But that’s a hell of a rig.

Correction June 1, 2020 5:30 P.M. ET: It does appear that the previous-generation Ram also mated the Magnum V10 to the NV4500 five-speed. The 2003 model, though, is the only third-gen with that combo. (Also, since readers want me to mention it: Don’t forget about the Ram SRT-10, which also mated a V10 to a manual transmission).

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

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DISCUSSION

So I’ve got 15-20 on that truck. Well, closer to 15 on that one, because as a manual, it doesn’t have the transmission coolers or cooler lines that an automatic would have.

What killed the V-10 Ram? Irrelevance and high intake air charge temperatures. The take-rate was already vanishingly small compared to the Cummins in the BR/BE predecessor to the DR, but they wanted to keep it anyway. So in it went.

There was one minor problem: the BR/BE had the air filter box on the driver’s side, while the DR was designed with the airbox on the passenger side. The V-10's throttle body was on the left side of the upper intake as installed in the BR/BE. No big deal, just flip the (symmetrical) upper intake, point the TB at the airbox, Bob’s yer uncle. Except that put the plenum into the brake booster and master cylinder. Even with the smaller-diameter hydroboost booster, no joy.

There was no money to redesign the intake manifold. So they came up with a clean-air tube that ran from the front passenger corner airbox, across the top of the gap between the radiator and intake manifold, a U-turn, and into the throttle body.

Needless to say, that clean-air tube absorbed a lot of heat in high ambient, high-load conditions. And the Intake Air Temperature (IAT) would skyrocket and the ECU would go into detonation-protect mode, adding fuel and chopping spark advance, which both killed power and spiked EGTs. Pity the poor close-coupled light-off cats who had to endure that abuse.

The end result was a powertrain that could not even remotely tow like the Cummins. It would accelerate nicely, but had a hard time passing a gas station, especially loaded. With both standard and HO versions of the Cummins available for 2003, the decision was made to just not do any promotion of the V10. No mention in the advertising, nothing. It shows up as available in the brochure and the order sheets, but that’s about it. I believe total production was in the low 4-digits for the model year, and it quietly disappeared at the end of the year. 

This is only the second production ‘03 DR V10 I’ve ever seen in the wild. An autocrossing pal in eastern Ohio bought one new (Hi, Mark!) for use as a tow vehicle.