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Dan Edelman's Million Mile Dodge Ram with Cummins Diesel

by Jessie Eustice

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"To me it's not a luxury car, it's just a truck," said Dan Edelman of his 1996 Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 truck -- a truck that has more than a million miles on it. That's 1,000,000 miles - with six zeroes. While the auto industry seems to be distracted by comfort and style, owners like Edelman buck the trend; valuing dependability and keeping their vehicles running well beyond the first 500,000 miles.

You may wonder if we checked the veracity of Dan's story. We did, using Dan's VIN numbers, Carfax, AutoCheck, and other sources. That's why we ask people to give their VINs when joining the 200,000 Mile Club.

Edelman said, "I have a 1994 Plymouth Voyager that's got 620,000 miles on it." Still, nowhere is Edelman's sense of values reflected more than in his Dodge truck, a heavy truck that is meant for work.

Though Dan Edelman did not do it this way, the Chrysler brochure for the truck says it will go 1,000,000 miles if you rebuild it every 300,000 miles. Edelman approached longevity another way. "The engine is very reliable - mostly mechanical except for ½ dozen electromechanical sensors in the valve body of the transmission - it's got mechanical fuel injectors, the fuel pump is mechanical - a simple but effective design. It was a good year to buy that kind of vehicle." Mainly, he just replaced equipment as needed: the alternator, the water pump, the battery, the radiator. Edelman describes the truck this way: "the old dog. It is reliable and simple, with few electrical things that can go wrong; it's a crude design to what they have now."

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Edelman essentially bought the truck for the engine - a Cummins diesel. He says he would have bought the engine no matter what make of the vehicle it was. He'd read about Clessie Cummins in The TDR Magazine, and he knew that it was a heavy duty machine that is used in a lot of construction equipment.

Edelman went through a few transmissions in the beginning. He says they're set up real smooth at the factory, "The factory sacrifices longevity for smooth shifting. But the drawback with that is that they wear out quickly. The drawback with a rebuilt transmission is that it's a much rougher shift to it, but it lasts a lot longer.

"I had one transmission put in it in Binghamton. I got 100 miles north to Syracuse and one of the metal lines that supplies transmission fluid to the transmission broke and it completely cooked a brand new transmission. After that, I rebuilt the transmission myself and adjusted it so that it would last much longer than a factory one."

The transmission Dan rebuilt himself now has 600,000 miles on it.

Thirty years ago Edelman drove GMs: a Camaro, and a Firebird. He had no idea he was going to put 300,000 to 400,000 miles on each, contracting to deliver things for the Federal Reserve. Now he's got a delivery business of his own, employees, trucks and vans and, for many years, he has invested his money, time, and sweat-equity in Chrysler products. The V-6 engines in these automobiles are very reliable, and to Dan Edelman, that is very important; his company puts a lot of miles on all its vehicles.

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"When I switched to vans and trucks the first van I got was a Chrysler in 1989, and I stuck with those, because I would buy them every three or four years and I had a good understanding of how to fix them as they progressed through the years. When I order vehicles, I always get the shop manual with it. They have very detailed descriptions on how to fix or rebuild parts of the trucks," said Edelman.

Living near the Great Lake Ontario, he's had a few harrowing experiences while driving. Once when the road was covered with black ice, he saw a vehicle pile-up at the bottom of a hill. There were a couple of tractor trailers and half a dozen cars all smashed up into each other. It was snowing and the road was icy. He was far enough away that he tried to slowly brake, but each time he touched the brakes, the truck would slide on the black ice covering the road. As he realized the truck wouldn't be able to stop on the hill, he steered it into the median, into a few feet of snow. There he stopped, put on the chains, and used four-wheel-drive to get out of the snow.

Another unwanted adventure happened in April; it had already snowed a half a foot when it started raining. Edelman was doing bank deliveries and the road was up high on a hill, but it had washed out in front and in behind of where Edelman was. Water in the ditches was washing up on the side of a small mountain. Edelman had drive through a ditch from field to field on the side of the mountain. He thought he was doing well when he got to the actual stream. He kept on in four wheel drive but realized as the vehicle was pulling through the stream that the water was up to his windows. The truck made it through, but it was a little iffy for a time.

Edelman is winding down his business now. When he was younger, he was accustomed to driving 500 to 600 miles a day. He puts 200-300 miles on the old dog in a day now.

Even in the 200,000 mile club, Edelman stands out as a unique truck owner.

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