These $100,000 Dodge Cummins Builds Are How You Craft a Top-Shelf Truck
That might sound like crazy money—it is—but wait until you see the quality of these old-school diesels coming from this Pennsylvania shop.
The trucks from our childhood keep climbing up and to the right of every value graph posted by Hagerty and Bring a Trailer like they're tech stocks. What's more, Farmer Joe on Facebook Marketplace thinks his rig is worth its weight in gold because he saw one "just like it" fetch six figures on Barrett-Jackson last week. The reality is a vehicle is only worth what someone will pay. It appears people have no problem paying around $100,000 for New Era Performance's Dodge diesel builds.
They're just that good, not only because they're unbelievably clean on the outside but also because they're totally redone underneath the laser-cut sheet metal. Charlie Pitcher, the owner of New Era Performance, has the right idea for building high-end trucks that do more than look good in a showroom. He tells me that it starts with a coilover front suspension swap, expertly modified mechanical diesels, and super fabrication work.
"The first thing we hit on is, are you trying to go for an original truck, or do you want it to be comfortable and have power? Usually, it's the latter of the two," Pitcher explains. "We tend to drive home the coilover suspension conversion on the front end. Doing that and the long-travel leaf spring rear makes the ride quality of these trucks really nice."
New Era is known for its 1972-1993 Dodge Ram pickups. The earlier models are often referred to as Tin Grilles, while the newer ones are usually called First Gens. Pitcher says they're different from what shops normally go after, allowing them to craft memorable builds time and again through impeccable work.
It helps to start with a clean truck in the first place, of course. And since New Era Performance is located an hour away from Philadelphia, inside the rust belt, they usually source trucks from further west. That means turning to Nevada, Utah, and other states where the pickups haven't been subjected to decades of moisture and salt.
"To get the results you want, you're playing with all sorts of different trucks and parts, getting the good pieces put together," Pitcher says.
For example, the frosted green truck you see here got its frame from Texas. Even though the body is an older Tin Grille design, Pitcher built it atop a '92-'93 Dodge chassis as the frame rails are taller and, therefore, sturdier. That's just the start of how much attention is paid to detail, and it's also a flex of how much truck knowledge the three guys at New Era possess.
"We try to make usable vehicles," Pitcher says. "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."
"The tasteful mods for the Cummins are usually an injection pump, turbo work, head studs, resealing the engine with new gaskets and cosmetic paint," Pitcher continues. "Unless they spec out a full rebuild, usually we find a good-running, low-mileage [truck] and give it a freshening up."
There's typically a ton of custom fabrication involved with these builds, and Pitcher is no stranger to drawing up new frame designs for the sake of both strength and comfort. He then uses his metalworking know-how to make his sketches a reality. Most of it is self-taught, though he's spent the past decade working in a shop to hone his skills.
Pitcher's ability to draw up custom parts carries on to bodywork, too. It's arguably just as impressive when you pop the hood and see the spotless front fenders or any other masterfully crafted metal piece that's normally hidden from view. They look this clean because they're first designed in a CAD program before the files are sent to a local laser shop for production.
"We're at the point where we can draw an assembly and get it cut," he says. "Then, a few days later, the parts show up and everything goes together like a jigsaw puzzle. You don't have to trim or grind or cut anything. It just fits together."
Even though the process is constantly being tweaked and streamlined, these builds don't happen overnight. Pitcher tells me they usually quote 12-18 months for jobs similar to the green truck, which are comprehensive. That's from when they get started, too, which might be next week or six months after a customer commissions a truck.
This is the game you play when you're dealing with high quality and high expectations. Not everyone treats trucks like true collector pieces, but when you're applying a lifetime of lived experience to create the best rig possible, that's what you end up with. You don't have to own a pickup like this to be a true enthusiast, though if that's what you claim to be, you ought to recognize how pristine these projects are.
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