Dodge Ram Meets John Deere – Replacing Transmission

- June 14, 2013

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!

diesel truck

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.

Diesel Truck
While the shop class did a great job repairing the rust and dents, they turned the truck over to the professionals at Boitnott’s Custom Paint to apply the Planet Color paint and cool tear-away graphics complete with their school and John Deere logos.

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.

Dodge Ram Meets John Deere
Project presenters Nick Zaenkert, Zack Habermehl and Jake Fritz represented the student build team at Skills USA competition where the team took first place at both the state and national level.

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.

Dodge Ram Meets John Deere
The students fabricated custom ladder-style traction bars to prevent axle wrap when they put down the power.

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.

truck exhales through 4-inch exhaust
Dual polished 6-inch Aussie-Cut stacks terminate the exhaust system in the bed. Below the surface, the truck exhales through a 4-inch exhaust from the turbo back to the stacks.

Stay tuned for Part 2, which will give you a closer look at what happened under the hood of this 2001 Dodge!

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