Restoring a 2nd Gen Dodge Truck

I wish I could take credit for the work done here, but this is something that's simply far outside of my skill level. Still, I thought I'd share the process here because I'm sure there are others who might appreciate it, and it's something that I've wanted to do since I got my truck back in 2013: A full body restoration. A full restoration is certainly not something makes sense for every old truck, because usually if the body is rotten there are other mechanical issues lurking under the surface too. I decided it was worth it for two reasons: one, it's a 12-valve Cummins (1995) -- which means the engine will last forever and the truck will always have value to diesel enthusiasts -- and two, the frame is in good shape, with only surface rust, thanks to annual trips to the local oil undercoating shop. The body, however, had some pretty serious rot in all the spots that are typical for this body style.

Before Restoration - 1 of 10 Before Restoration - 2 of 10 Before Restoration - 3 of 10 Before Restoration - 4 of 10 Before Restoration - 5 of 10 Before Restoration - 6 of 10 Before Restoration - 7 of 10 Before Restoration - 8 of 10 Before Restoration - 9 of 10 Before Restoration - 10 of 10

After chatting with a few body shops, I finally found one that was willing to do the restoration. The first couple I tried mainly do insurance/collision work so they didn't have time for a restoration project. Fortunately, the second shop I talked to was able to recommend a home-based shop nearby that mainly did restorations, and so I stopped there and scheduled the job after taking out a small loan to cover the estimated cost. After they'd had the truck in the shop for a couple of weeks, I stopped by to take some pictures. They had already replaced all the bad body panels and started puttying/sanding/priming for paint.

Paint job progress two weeks in - 1 of 4 Paint job progress two weeks in - 2 of 4 Paint job progress two weeks in - 3 of 4 Paint job progress two weeks in - 4 of 4

As it turns out, it was way easier and cheaper for them to just get a new bed than to repair the old one. And since Dodge made this body style for so long, it wasn't hard to find one that was rust-free. This one came from Nevada, if I remember right. And what's nice is that it was already lined with a spray-in bedliner, something I wanted to do anyway.

New bed - 1 of 2 New bed - 2 of 2

I had also gotten new headlight and tail light assemblies because the original ones were showing their age. I found some LED tail lights which are nice and bright and have a somewhat upgraded look, but still similar to the stock ones. I opted to not use LED headlights, though, because I can't stand the insanely bright ones that people put on their trucks. Instead, I got an enclosure with a better reflective surface and cleaner look which would still use standard bulbs.

I'm really happy with the result. One thing that was a bit unexpected was that something as tiny as the different pin stripe color can completely change the look of the rest of the paint. I had gone back and forth about the color since I never really loved the forest green... but with the fresh new paint and blue pinstripe, it has a totally different look and I really like how it came out. You'll also notice the tailgate is missing in these pictures... The old one was beyond repair, so shortly after this I ended up getting a new one and the shop painted it as well.

All finished. It's a brand new old truck. - 1 of 6 All finished. It's a brand new old truck. - 2 of 6 All finished. It's a brand new old truck. - 3 of 6 All finished. It's a brand new old truck. - 4 of 6 All finished. It's a brand new old truck. - 5 of 6 All finished. It's a brand new old truck. - 6 of 6

The results speak for themselves! Of course the next big project (after this one is paid off) will be to swap the stock automatic transmission (47RH) with a manual one (NV4500). Then it will finally be a real truck.

Modified Wednesday, April 07, 2021