Copious sums of money continue to blow superheated air into niche vehicle markets — anyone seen the valuation curve for the AMC Javelin AMX lately? There have been two big knock-on effects. The first is enthusiasts turning to models that haven’t got much love as hobby cars. The second is news of more restomodders turning out gorgeous examples of vehicles that haven’t had their day yet. Pickup trucks are in the restomod spotlight of late, vintage Fords and Chevys getting most of the love. The Drive turned its attention to New Era Performance in Pennsylvania, a shop dedicated to third-generation Dodges. It appears owner Charlie Pitcher put himself through self-taught restomod school by turning out one handmade component at a time with a business called Metal by Charlie. When all his talents come together, the result can be something like the teal truck above, a $100,000 assemblage of diesel-powered custom fabrication.
Dodge stuck to its third-gen pickups an unexpectedly long time, from 1972 to 1993. The truck above is an early third-gen Dodge pickup body once stripped back to a bare metal shell atop a much stronger 1992 Dodge Ram chassis. In 1978, Dodge dabbled with Mitsubishi diesel engines for just two production years, returning to oil burners in 1989 with the Cummins B Series engines. New Era sticks to Cummins, going with anything from a refreshed and lightly modified four-cylinder to a Banks Big Hoss with a giant Garrett turbo. The front axle rides on a coilover suspension, the rear on long-travel leaf springs. The interior’s entirely redone, right down to new door cards and custom speaker grilles. Pitcher told The Drive, “A lot of the stuff we’re building is way overbuilt. The main thing we focus on is the powertrain and suspension, so everything is built to be durable and easy to work on—simple, reliable, that kind of thing.”
Not every new truck costs $100,000; the custom part catalog goes as low as $29 for a stainless steel intake flange or $35 for door handle backing plates, a weak spot on third-gens. The company put a 1993 Dodge Power Ram 350 Cummins Dually on Bring a Trailer at the end of last year, the truck given a frame-off refresh and a six-speed manual transmission swap among the custom work. The winning bidder paid $42,350. Pitcher said, “Unless [customers] spec out a full rebuild, usually we find a good-running, low-mileage [truck] and give it a freshening up.” For those ready to ball out, complete custom jobs take 12-18 months of build time on top of that six figures.