A Well-Preserved, Rust-Free 620,000-Mile First-Gen

They rust out, fall apart and the Cummins under the hood outlasts the rest of the truck. How many times have you heard those jabs directed at first-gen trucks over the years? While some of that criticism may be warranted, it certainly can’t be applied to all ’89-’93 Dodges. Meet Tyler Turay’s ’93 D250 Club Cab, for example. His mint-condition ¾-ton Dodge sports a rust-free body and chassis, features a 6BT 5.9L that’s never been tampered with, and has 620,000 miles on the odometer. Despite its age and mileage, it’s essentially been trapped in time, thanks in large part to the original owner’s strict maintenance regimens, an uncompromising adherence to OEM replacement parts, cross-country driving style, and general avoidance of salt and humidity.

Upon returning to Missouri from Arizona, where the truck had lived for more than two decades, the original owner found himself at LinCo Diesel Performance, Tyler’s place of employment, inquiring about a low-idle issue. It was here that the prospect of the owner selling the truck piqued Tyler’s interest. “Finding a first-gen this clean and original was one thing,” he told us. “But the fact that it had so many miles on it, a nice interior, and being that it was a one-owner truck, I just couldn’t pass it up.” A suitcase worth of service records may have helped seal the deal, and Tyler soon found himself behind the wheel of a first-gen daily driver. In the pages that follow, we’ll take a walk around his well-preserved piece of diesel history.

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Tyler’s service records show that the factory Bosch VE injection pump was rebuilt years ago, but the pump’s tamper-proof cover shows no signs of removal—which suggests that no one has attempted to access the maximum fuel screw to turn things up. The engine’s easy start-ups in cold weather also indicate that factory timing is still in the mix, and that the grid heater works flawlessly. Although the injectors were pop-tested at the same time the VE was overhauled, there is no indication that they were rebuilt.
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You would never guess this 5.9L Cummins had 620,000 miles on it. Despite the usual wear items every engine has (water pump, thermostat, alternator, etc.), this 12-valve 6BT has gone completely untouched other than for regular valve adjustments. The one item Tyler has had to replace is the belt tensioner, which he believed was installed incorrectly before he got his hands on the truck. The green valve cover gaskets indicate Fel-Pro units were used during someone’s last trip under the individual valve covers (presumably to run the valves).
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Despite the VE pump’s solid reliability over the years, the truck’s low-idle rpm issue was traced back to its throttle linkage, which after nearly 30 years had simply worn out. It was here, at LinCo Diesel Performance, where Tyler got his first look at the truck. A short while later, he owned it. The cleanest high-mile first-gen he’d ever laid eyes on literally fell right into his lap.
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One component that’s been every bit as sound as the Cummins power plant itself is the Holset WH1C. To Tyler’s knowledge, the fixed geometry turbo has never been removed from the exhaust manifold. Without a doubt, operating at the stock boost level (18-psi max), seeing regular oil changes, and benefitting from always having a fresh air filter upwind of it helped keep it alive the past 29 years.
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Many don’t even know that first-gen’s left the factory with this heat shield positioned between the turbo downpipe and firewall. The reason(s) you don’t usually find them anymore are due to the rivets or the pinch welds failing (due to rust, age, vibration, or all of the above), or the simple fact that a different exhaust system has been added.
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Even though power hasn’t been pushed beyond the factory 160-hp and 400 lb-ft rating, the truck was treated to two reman A518 automatics prior to Tyler taking over ownership. Then shortly after obtaining the truck, the converter let go. Upon teardown, Tyler realized a simple converter replacement would’ve kept him driving, but he used it as an opportunity to beef things up a bit. First, a low-stall, non-lockup converter from Sun Coast got the call. From there, Raybestos stage 1 clutches went in, with nine used in the overdrive pack (vs. the factory five) and five direct clutches going back in (vs. four clutches, stock). Further upgrades entailed a Raybestos second gear band and a billet second gear accumulator piston.
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As a D250, overload leaf springs wouldn’t have been standard equipment, so the original owner ordered his with them (perhaps because he knew that he would always have something in the bed). Another heavy-duty factory add-on came in the form of an external auxiliary transmission cooler, complete with a fan and mounted up under the bed.
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It’s not the Dana 80 that became an option on ¾-ton second-gen’s, but the factory rear Dana 70 proved more than enough to handle this first-gen’s workload for the first 620,000 miles. The 10.54-inch diameter ring gear ‘70 is equipped with a highway-friendly 3.54:1 axle ratio.
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Here’s something you don’t see every day: an original first-gen dash that isn’t cracked and something other than a bench seat. Both the dash and passenger seat are immaculate, as is the factory center console and flooring. In addition to never having a fifth wheel or gooseneck hitch installed in the bed, it also appears that the original owner had very few passengers along for this cross-country drives.
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There’s no aftermarket or custom rear bench seat in this Club Cab, but it’s pretty clear the jump seats have rarely ever been used. It’s a long way from fifth-gen status, but (once again) is a great reminder of just how well preserved this truck is.
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As far as fuel economy is concerned, Tyler reports seeing upper teens regularly. And while his best tank to date hand-calculated out to 19.5-mpg, he believes 20-mpg is easily possible on the highway, and under the right conditions.
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One of the biggest things Tyler point out about the first-gen is that everything still works. The factory A/C system, overdrive switch on the dash, the power windows, power door locks, and even the power mirrors still function perfectly.
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The heap of service records and receipts that came with the truck revealed that it had been repainted back in 2012, most likely on account of the Arizona sunshine. A stickler for preventative maintenance, the original owner had invoices totaling more than $20,000, having replaced things like ball joints, tie-rod ends, and brakes long before they were due. However, those kinds of preemptive measures are the reason the truck is still on the road, still driving straight, and still functioning flawlessly in every respect almost 30 years after it rolled off the assembly line.
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The miles rack up fast when your truck is your primary means of earning a living. Such was the case for the truck’s original owner. After purchasing the ’93 D250 brand-new, more than 101,000 miles were accumulated in just the first 11 months alone. The reason? The first-gen was used in a hot-shot operation where anything that fit in its 8-foot bed would be hauled anywhere in the country. This meant the first-gen saw a ton of highway miles, usually operated well below GVWR, and spent very little time hooked to a trailer.
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Things like this usually peel off over time. Not the case here. Every single under hood label is still intact, including the belt routing diagram shown, the jack usage and storage sticker, and the A/C system warning. Even the original label on the core support is still present.
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