Getting Started

June 20th, 2011

By Kevin Wilson

It’s a no-brainer that most of the readers of Diesel World Magazine own and enjoy diesel trucks. On the other hand, there are quite a few folks who read the magazine but don’t own a diesel. We get a handful of “what if” letters each year that describe the desire to own a diesel and wanting to know how to modify it. So, how do you get started in this passion we call “diesel”? Simple: Start small.

Let’s be realistic. Any later-model, used diesel truck will set you back nearly $20,000, and many of these potential hot rods have quite a bit more than 100,000 miles on them. Sure, you can still find a few first-gen Dodges on the cheap, such as our Project First Gen, which was a rusted-out farm truck when we got it, but you’d better be prepared to do a lot of work and spend a few bucks on it.

Speaking of a low-buck stout ride, a gentleman from Las Vegas found a clapped out second-generation Dodge and modified it into a 12-second hot rod, complete with lots of dents and a missing grille, for under $3,500 … so he claims. He cleaned house in the burnout contest at the Desert Diesel Nationals in Phoenix and ran 12-second passes all day. That’s our kind of rat trap.

We also hear from a lot of high schoolers wanting to get into the diesel hobby. Many of them are still searching for their first ride and would prefer having a diesel truck to some rice burner. So, how do you get started in the diesel hobby, and what’s the cheapest way in? Look for big bargains, old trucks and rich relatives.

Based on my own experiences, there are deals to be had out there. When I was a teen, I scoured many a backyard to find my potential project car that was sitting, abandoned and on jack stands. All I had to do was offer the owner a few bucks to get the thing out of his yard, and boom—I had wheels. As I said earlier, we found Project First Gen alongside a barn in Indiana. It had been “parked” in waist-high weeds for a few years, but with fresh fuel and a couple of good batteries, it started right up and we drove it off … slowly.

The truck you see here is an original and rare half-ton short bed Chevy with the 6.2L Diesel. The new owner bought it for $1,300. The body is straight, and the truck drives, but the engine makes a lot of semi-ugly noises.

Other bargains include the used K5 Blazers the military regularly gets rid of via government auctions. You might recall the Blazer that we stuck a Banks turbo on a few issues back. That guy got it at a government auction for under $2,000. Many of those trucks are low-mile, low-use vehicles that just need to get off the books.

While owning a $2,000 military 24-volt 6.2L Blazer might not be the diesel of your dreams, it’s a foot in the door, so to speak, and a way to eventually trade up to what you really want. Remember, one man’s junk (no, not that kind of junk) is another man’s treasure. Happy hunting.

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