We Drive the First Ever 1985 Dodge Ram Cummins Prototype #001 & a New 2019 Cummins (Video)

The 1985 Dodge Ram Cummins Prototype (Photo: TFLtruck)

The 1985 Dodge Ram Cummins prototype is a recently restored rolling bit of diesel history. Equipped with an inline six-cylinder, 12-valve turbo-diesel B59 power plant, this 1985 Dodge Ram Cummins prototype was a rolling testbed for Cummins that led to the revolutionary 1988 Dodge Ram diesel pickup truck.

It began life as a Dodge Ram 350 SE Prospector with a gas V8.

After its mission was complete, this very 1985 Ram Cummins prototype was relegated to shop duty for Cummins. Suffice to say, over twenty years of heavy use, it was well worn. The good folks at Cummins invested their own time to doing a complete frame-off restoration of the truck, bringing it back to its original glory. In 2013, they finished the restoration and what you see in these images and video is the finished result.


Growing up driving old tow trucks, buses and loaders, I was used to the sound and feel of older diesels, but it was different in the 1985 Ram Cummins prototype. The metal is thin, everything shakes and, despite the brand-new-old interior, it is not the most comfortable driving experience.

It is very loud – which makes it kind of awesome.

There is something to be said about an engine that’s built to pull – hard. Sure, about 400 lbs-feet of torque sounds like a midsize truck today, but it was epic back in the day. You feel it as it huffs and puffs up to each 2,200 (or so) rpm shift.

Old Vs New. The 1985 Dodge Ram Cummins vs a 2019 Ram HD 3500 (Photo: TFLtruck)

Connected to a three-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission, the old Ram was slow to shift and occasionally shuttered when it did. Smooth driving was achieved when a touch of power was added to the lumbering diesel. Still, it was never unduly difficult, just a bit primitive.

I was careful not to push the accelerator too hard, that 4:10 rear end would happily spin its tires given even modest prodding. I suspect the Cummins folks may have added a little hot salsa to the mix when restoring the engine. Either way, you feel like you could pull down a skyscraper with this setup.

Steering is typical over-boosted power steering of the day, so it’s vague. Brakes are strong, but they lack feel as well. The main point of this truck was to test the power under the trembling hood, and that’s exactly what it did. This was the beginning of a potent relationship that’s still incredibly relevant today.

You can feel it in the old Dodge Ram’s DNA.

It was a very short drive, but it was one that Andre Smirnov and I found very educational. A lot of thing have changed in the past few decades. It’s great to see where things started.

In this video, we compare the old Ram vs a brand new one. As you will see, the differences are extreme.

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.