Home » Sixes, Stickshifts, And Short Beds: 1990 Chevy C1500 vs 1998 Dodge Ram 1500

Sixes, Stickshifts, And Short Beds: 1990 Chevy C1500 vs 1998 Dodge Ram 1500

Sbsd 3 27 2024
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Good morning! For your mid-week Showdown we’re going to look at two beat-up old short-bed trucks, one from Chevy and one from Dodge. Both are manuals, both are V6-powered, and both run and drive just fine according to the sellers. Sorry, Ford fans; I couldn’t find a comparable F-150 to add to this mix.

I sort of guessed what the outcome of yesterday’s vote would be, and I was right. It’s hard to beat a decent-priced Honda Civic, especially a desirable model that hasn’t been messed with. The Civic Si left the base-model Dodge Stealth in the dust.

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Many of you called the Stealth “bloated” or “underpowered,” and yeah, with what’s basically a minivan V6 hauling that much car around, you aren’t going to impress anyone with sheer acceleration. But speaking as a fifty-one-year-old guy with more things that hurt every morning, comfort counts, and a bigger, heavier car is just going to be a nicer place to be. Twenty years ago, I’d have taken the Civic in a heartbeat, but now, I think I’d rather have the Dodge.

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Now, let’s talk trucks. Historically, short bed single cab manuals have been the enthusiast’s choice when it came to full-size trucks, and if it has a stepside bed, even better. They may not haul as much stuff, but they look cooler doing it. Such trucks are more likely to be basic models, though, which means six-cylinder engines are common. Only one of these is a stepside, but they’re both sticks with V6 engines. Let’s see what you make of them.

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1990 Chevrolet C1500 Cheyenne – $2,600

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Engine/drivetrain: 4.3 liter overhead valve V6, five-speed manual, RWD

Location: Dallas, TX

Odometer reading: 198,000 miles

Operational status: “Excellent motor,” the ad says

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I suppose it goes without saying that I’m a fan of the GMT400 trucks. I own one, and it’s high up on my list of favorites of all the vehicles I’ve owned. Like mine, this truck is powered by the basic three-fourths-of-a-small-block 4.3 liter V6. Unleash the fury of all of its one hundred and sixty horsepower, and it sounds just like the school bus you rode to third grade in. Unlike mine, this truck has a five-speed transmission, geared more for play than for work.

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The seller is a person of few words, so we don’t get a whole lot of information to go on here. But there isn’t a whole lot to this truck mechanically; the throttle-body fuel injection system is simple and robust, the NV3500 transmission is pretty bulletproof except for some issues with sloppy shift linkages, and since it’s 2WD, there’s not much going on underneath either. It has air conditioning, and the compressor looks kinda-sorta-newish, so maybe it even works.

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This truck appears to have had some upgrades above its original Cheyenne trim level. The floors are still rubber, but the seat has been replaced by a more cushy bench seat, maybe out of an up-level truck, or maybe out of some luxury barge or other. The plastic dash is, of course, trashed; they get brittle and fall apart long before the rest of the truck does. And unless I’m mistaken, the grille and headlights have been replaced with a later Silverado grille and composite headlights; this should have big rectangular sealed-beam headlights and a gray plastic grille.

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It has also been painted – if you want to call it that. The flat red is primer, I would guess; the truck appears to have been red originally. GMT400 stepside bed sides are fiberglass, and this one looks like it has lost a few arguments with parking lot bollards. The rear bumper is also absent; it looks like it might have had a fiberglass roll pan back there at one point, but that’s gone now too.

1998 Dodge Ram 1500 – $3,700

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.9 liter overhead valve V6, five-speed manual, RWD

Location: Fort Worth, TX

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Odometer reading: 300,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives great

In 1994, Dodge surprised the truck world with a whole new line of trucks, styled to look a little bit like big rigs, but with comfortable, car-like interiors. Sales went from “Oh right; Dodge makes trucks too” to “Hotcake sellers wish business was this good.” This truck wasn’t the first step towards pickup trucks taking over the market, but its place in that history can’t be denied.

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This truck is equipped with the smallest available engine, a 3.9 liter V6 which, like Chevy’s 4.3, is basically a V8 with two cylinders hacked off. And like the Chevy, its placement at the far back of an engine bay designed to accommodate much longer engines makes for a comically large cooling fan shroud. The trucks have one other thing in common as well: both use the same New Venture 3500 five-speed transmission. This one has been rebuilt recently and has a new clutch. The seller says you could “drive this truck anywhere,” despite its high mileage.

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The seller didn’t see fit to include any decent interior photos, but what we can see is what’s expected: basic rubber floor mats, sturdy cloth upholstery, and an aftermarket stereo wedged into the dash. It’s all dusty and a little bit broken-looking. This is one area where I really do miss ’60s and ’70s trucks; steel dashboards and vinyl seats age better than all the modern plastic stuff. It all gets equally beat up, but the old interiors wear it better. This just looks tired.

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It’s pretty tired outside, too, with sun-scorched paint and missing trim. It looks straight and rust-free, though, which is something. And I like the basic steelies with beauty rings; they’re good honest truck wheels.

Short-bed single-cab trucks like these are useful for work, but it has always seemed that their primary purpose was to look cool. These are both too old and tired-looking to impress anyone, but they’ve still got some life left in them. And just because they have V6s now doesn’t necessarily mean they need to keep them. But which one is a better deal? You tell me.

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(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Michael Fortenbery
Michael Fortenbery
21 days ago

Thanks for adding the price points in the poll!

67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
21 days ago

that Dodge just looks so much more solid

Marques Dean
Marques Dean
21 days ago

If Autopian was around 13 years ago I could’ve given you guys one of my trucks to make it a three way shootout!!
2003 Ford F-150 XL Regular Cab long bed
3.8 liter Essex V6/5-speed manual 2 wheel drive. Forest Green with a grey interior-A/C blew cold!
It had 101,000 miles on it when I bought it used,had it for a couple of years,ended up trading it in. I was averaging 21-22 mpg in it!!
Best of all-unlike other Essex engines-it didn’t blow its head gaskets!lmao

Gregory A Hasselbach
Gregory A Hasselbach
21 days ago

Reminds me of “Stick Shifts and Safety Belts” by Cake.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
21 days ago

Dodge for sure…better condition than the Chevy which I like too. I have driven both of these for lawn care and they are good trucks. I love the design of this 2nd gen Ram but especially the 3rd gen. I’m surprised the dash on this one still looks ok (from what we can see)

Baja_Engineer
Baja_Engineer
21 days ago

If both were the same price I’d take the Dodge. But the Chevy has the stepside and I can’t say no to that if it costs less than a Dodge with 100K more miles in it (and more expensive on top of that). The GMT400 trucks are already going up in value, clean this puppy up, get a fresh paint job and use it for a few years, you’ll get your money back I’m sure

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
22 days ago

Once again I vote no to both shit boxes.
Good job Mark.

Not The Ford 289
Not The Ford 289
22 days ago

That Chevy is just too dirty and well… It’s a Chevy, with a V6. I have to go with the Dodge and do a really weird engine swap; a slant six.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
22 days ago

Dodge fan here but 100,000 more miles over $1,000 more on a statement newer motor no information? Isn’t even a good looking Dodge model. So Chevy by default

John E
John E
22 days ago

Neither. The Chevy is just way too beat up to be restored to any work use and only a Chevy super fan would spend what it would take to make it a “sport truck”. Pass. I owned and loved my 1998 Dodge Ram 1500 Laramie QC 5.2L and got almost 20 years and 214,000 easy miles out of her. My favorite truck, by far. But that is a 300k mile base truck that will never be worth fixing ANYTHING on it and there will be a lot to fix EVERY month you own it. Pass. But I also currently own a nice, low mileage 2019 Ram 1500 with the much superior 3.6L and a bumper to bumper 120k mile warranty. So, I have no need for a shit box.

JDE
JDE
22 days ago

Too bad about the fiberglass on that Stepside, but I would still take that over the Big Rig Dodge. Also I know just about any SBC to LS to LT will fit in there nicely and sport trucks are making a comeback.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
22 days ago

I don’t want either of them… so I’m voting for the one that is cheaper.

Stephen Walter Gossin
Stephen Walter Gossin
22 days ago

I’m going Dodge for two days in a row over here! Great Showdown as always, Mark.

Those interiors clean up really easily, I have proof:

https://www.theautopian.com/what-i-learned-restoring-a-600-dodge-ram-with-a-burned-up-transmission-and-ruined-interior/

Car Guy - RHM
Car Guy - RHM
22 days ago

A similar Ford with the 4.9 six would be the overall winner.

Argentine Utop
Argentine Utop
22 days ago

Trucks are not my cup of coffee, but the Dodge may become presentable with some TLC. How much is a reasonable paint job?

Jatkat
Jatkat
22 days ago

Four point three baybeee!

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
22 days ago

Hi Mark,

Thanks for reminding me to check my vaccination status. It turns out I needed a tetanus shot just to look at these pictures.

FrontWillDrive
FrontWillDrive
22 days ago

Ordinarily I’m a GMT400 guy all day, hell I own one. But a not (visibly) rusty manual shorty Dodge, even being a V6, gets my vote compared to a stepside anything. I know it’s an unpopular take but I prefer fleetsides, to me it’s a generally cleaner look styling wise.

Gubbin
Gubbin
22 days ago

I’ll take the Dodge, it’ll carry 2,000#, tow 3,300# and has airbags. The Chev can’t even beat my li’l Nissan for bed size or payload.

JDE
JDE
22 days ago
Reply to  Gubbin

Pretty sure the Chevy is good for 4,000 lbs of towing with the 3/4 350 and a manual trans. And Airbags of that vintage are scarier than without altogether.

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