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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Ok guys I need some opinions about what some good engines and suspension options are for my future Ramcharger are. I'm going to need something for some light to moderate rock climbing, some fording, maybe a little muddin'. What kind of axles are ideal, can I keep it mostly stock for what I want? Please keep in mind I have no idea what 410 gears mean or a 727 tranny, I barely understand what a 360 ci motor is. How much of a lift is too much (cause I don't want to flip it). I'm sure different model years offered different things, what are some advantages and disadvantages of the different years? And from the little bit of research I've done the Ramchargers didn't have very beefy front or rear axles, unless I'm mistaken? How costly is it to swap out for Dana 60's? Are they neccessary? Independent or solid axle suspension for the front, rear, or both? Advantages of either? The only way I'm going to learn any of it is to start asking questions.  Thank you for any help or advice you can give me. Jason
 

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There is literally months worth of knowledge on here. I'll cover some of the basic stuff, starting with Gear Ratios

Most likely any Ramcharger you look at is going to have 3.23's or 3.55's (Stock), While "ok" for a Daily Driver they still suck :p. Lower Gear Ratios (numerically higher) like 3.90's or 4.10's are better, they give a "seat of the pants" boost in power and put the engine in it's powerband.

The powerband being where your engine performs best, better Mileage (although don't expect much there), More Responsive, blah.. I could go on for ages.

Stock Axles on an 80's/90's Ramcharger would be a Dana 44 Front and a Chrysler 9 1/4" Rear, Stock Axles on a 70's Ramcharger would be a Dana 44 Front and 1 of 3 possible Rears. A Chrysler 8 1/4", a Chrysler 8 3/4" (The Holy Grail of Light Duty Truck Rears) and the Chrysler 9 1/4"

Dana 60's are highly sought after and a D60 Front brings a large price tag usually. Your best bet would be to find an old beat up Donor Truck to rob these from (W250 and W350 / W200 and W300 3/4 Ton and 1-Ton 4x4 Dodge Trucks)

Transmissions :

1970's Ramchargers could have had a NP435 4-Speed Manual, a NP445 4-Speed Manual or a Torqueflite 727 3-Speed Automatic (i beleive there was also a 3-Speed Manual Transmission)

1980's / 1990's Ramchargers could have had a NP435 4-Speed Manual, a NV4500 5-Speed Manual (that i'm not sure on), a Torqueflite 727 3-Speed Automatic or a Torqueflite 518 4-Speed Overdrive Automatic

Suspension :

Leaf Springs (Front and Rear) on 4WD models, Leaf Springs (Rear) and Coil Springs (Front) on 2WD models.

The 1st Generation "Pop Top" Ramchargers (and Traildusters) had a Removeable Top/Roof (hence the nickname "pop top"), and a weaker Front Wheel Bearing Design (though they are known to last a very long time with proper maintence). The "Pop Top" Ramchargers had Full-Time 4 Wheel Drive (All Wheel Drive), That's a can of worms for another day because it's a huge topic all by itself. 1974 - 1980 were the Pop-Top Ramchargers (1980 was Part-Time 4-Wheel Drive though)

1981 - 1993 was the 2nd Generation Ramcharger, Solid Roof, Part Time 4WD, Revised/Stronger Front Wheel Bearings and a Larger Bolt Pattern. (1981 was also the last year of the Trailduster)

I'll let someone else take over explaining from there.

BTW here's some pics of a 1st Generation Pop Top.





The 1st picture is my '76 Ramcharger (in 2004) and the 2nd Picture is my '76 Ramcharger in 2010. Yes i'm in the process of restoring it back to mostly stock. Bought a replacement Tub/Body from another member here to start over with my Ramcharger
 

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I suggest you don't get ahead of yourself. Find your RC first, then slowly upgrade as you find weaknesses. Some folks think they have to do heavy mods before they can do anything with their rig, that is definitely not the case.
 

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KThaxton said:
I suggest you don't get ahead of yourself. Find your RC first, then slowly upgrade as you find weaknesses. Some folks think they have to do heavy mods before they can do anything with their rig, that is definitely not the case.
Good point, and it's true too. You can do alot of stuff in a Stock RC/Truck, and what can't be done with that, can be done with a mild one (that can be worked on after you own it)
 

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If you want a stock truck, buy a stock truck.  Keep in mind what a Ramcharger is and what it was designed to do and it will do the job satisfactorily.  No, a Ramcharger is not going to be an ideal tow vehicle for a vehicle of similar size and weight.  It's short wheelbase makes it a challenge towing heavy and/or large vehicles and later models do not have the power or gearing for it to do full time tow rig duty.  Stock axles are fine for what a Ramcharger is built for.  When you want to do something like rock crawling, it's time to upgrade with either aftermarket parts or just larger axles from a 3/4 or 1 ton pickup.

So basically, if you want a fullsize SUV that gets rather poor gas mileage, has plenty on interior room for 4 adults and room in the back for cargo, gets groceries even in 2' of snow and is just generally an all around cool vehicle to own, buy a Ramcharger.  Decide if you want a manual or automatic transmission and if you want a '70 bodystyle with the removable steel top or an '80s model with a non-removable top, then decide what engine you want.  The motto of this site is "It's not what you buy, it's what you build", but if your mechanical knowledge and skills are not up to the task, you might be better to stick with what you can buy.  There's no shame in not being a mechanic or fabricator, that knowledge and those skills come with time and experience.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you everyone for your advice and opinions. While I'm not going to buy one just to throw a bunch of stuff on it, I really want to just start learning what some of the things do and what some of the modifications are that I can do to it. When I buy one, it will probably stay stock for a while and then I'll start noticing limitations of my style of usage and want to adjust it according to those needs. I'm curious, anyone here use their rig for fording? When you guys upgrade your axles what is involved in the selection process as well as what you have to change to upgrade your "target" part. Basically if you decide you want to upgrade your rear axle, so you buy your new one, are you changing just the housing and keeping the origional gears, or changing gears too? Is it even possible to change only the housing and keep the origional gears? Is there a specific area on this site that I can go to, kind of like a library, to find out some of this information?
 

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Ok, since you mentioned that you have no knowledge of what "4.10 gears" means, I'm going to assume that you may be a little fuzzy on how the gear ratio relates to performance and drivability.  Stock most Ramchargers have 3.23 gears in the axles.  This means for every 3.2 rotations of the driveshaft, you get one rotation of the tire.  3.23s are considered "tall gears" or highway gears since they put the engine in it's operating RPM range at highway speeds.  Tall gears also increase the top speed of the vehicle somewhat, IF the engine and aerodynamics of the vehicle allow it.  For example, my '72 Charger SE, which is a car by the way, I built for high speed and with it's 2.76 rear axle gears it could top out just over 160 MPH.  It was NOT anywhere near stock though.  In contrast a gear like 4.10s, which mean that for every 4.1 rotations of the driveshaft you get one tire rotation, they are considered "low gears".  With more rotations of the driveshaft to each tire rotation, the engine has more leverage against the weight of the vehicle.  This means it has more pulling power but at the cost of top speed.  Just like changing gears on a 10 speed bike, the higher gears mean more speed with a higher amount of effort, the lower gears mean less speed and less effort required to move.

As for axles and what you can swap, generally you look for something better than what you have that will bolt in.  There are a lot of different axles out there but generally the easiest and simplest axles to swap are in the heavier models of Dodge pickups.  Dodge 3/4 and 1 ton trucks generally have heavier axles than their 1/2 ton counterparts.  All Ramchargers are 1/2 ton and usually have a 9 1/4" Chrysler Corporate rear axle and a Dana 44 front axle of one type or another.  The 9 1/4" is named as such due to it's 9 1/4" diameter ring gear in the axle.  Dana axles are numbered by model according to the size, usually smallest to largest.  An upgrade for a Ramcharger would be the 8 lug Dana 60 rear axle and 8 lug Dana 44HD front axle from a 3/4 ton truck.  For more beef, you could go with Dana 60 axles front and rear.  Naturally a Dana 60 is larger than a Dana 44, but it also has several other design features that make it a lot stronger.  Choosing which axle meets your needs requires a lot of thought and some research into exactly what you plan to do.

As for fording, fording should be avoided at all costs.  It can be done, but requires a lot of preparation and maintenance to do it without damaging something.  It's also usually discouraged by the Tread Lightly guidelines.  Even the military avoids fording these days since there are better options and most modern military vehicles do not have fording kits available to prepare them for fording like the military vehicles from the 1960s and older.  Basic fording requires all drivetrain vent lines to be rerouted up above the water line, the engine must be sealed if it is going to be submerged and all vents, exhaust and air intakes routed above the waterline and its generally a good idea to mount critical electronics above the water as well.  There is a ton more than can be done and even then it takes a lot of experience and skill to do so.  If you are just going to get into a creek that comes up above the wheel hubs, you can usually do that with nothing more than routing the drivetrain vent lines up higher but even then you would probably have to change out the axle fluid and repack the front wheel bearings as well as grease all the chassis and drivetrain points.  Something that would have water up over the engine require a lot more modifications and should never be attempted by a stock truck.  It should also be noted that fast moving water only a foot deep can easily wash a vehicle away.  Fording of any depth should not be considered by the novice wheeler.  Just my .02
 
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