Remember when school shop projects usually meant building a birdhouse, ashtray or a volcano? Well, for a talented group of kids in the Butler Tech-sponsored Engineering Design Shop at Ross High School in Hamilton, Ohio, the school project was much cooler!
The student build team consisting of Jake Fritz, Nate Gander, Zach Habermehl, Tommy Hall, Doug Loos, Alex Slade, Ben Warman and Nick Zaenkert worked with advisors Eric Huhn and Bob Zaenkert to put a 4.5L John Deere PowerTech turbo-diesel engine in an ’01 Dodge 1500 pickup. The school’s sports teams are called the Ross Rams so building a Dodge Ram pickup just seems right.
The extra-cab Dodge was in fair condition when purchased, sporting dents, body and frame rust, and a blown transmission. But the students were determined to transform it into something their farming community could be proud of.
REMOVING OLD ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
To start the transformation, the student builders removed the gas engine and transmission from the truck and fabricated mounts to install a new power plant in the form of a 4045T John Deere PowerTech 4.5L that was originally installed in a commercial straw chopper. After getting the engine mounted, the crew also had to wire it as a stand-alone piece with its own dedicated ignition switch as they were not able to make the Dodge computer talk to the John Deere engine.
Since the truck already had a balky transmission, the build team opted to replace it rather than rebuild it and try to make the electronic controls on the 46RE work with the new John Deere engine. They chose to install a 47RH transmission behind the 4045T that operates strictly on hydraulic pressure rather than electronic controls. Gear selection is handled by a floor-mounted B&M Megashifter.
The stock Chrysler torque converter was used along with a custom flexplate to link the engine to the transmission. The manual transfer case was also retained to keep the 4WD functional on the Dodge. To get the power to the axles, the front driveshafts had to be lengthened while the rear was shortened to accommodate for the longer transmission.
Stay tuned for Part 2, which will give you a closer look at what happened under the hood of this 2001 Dodge!
Text and Photos by Chris Tobin