2004-2006 Dodge Ram SRT-10 Was The Last Word In Muscle Trucks
When the Dodge Ram SRT-10 hit the streets as a 2004 model, it wasn't the first time that Chrysler had stuffed a 10-cylinder engine under the hood of its popular full-size pickup. In fact, it was exactly a decade beforehand that the then-redesigned Ram would debut an iron-block V10 based on the similar aluminum unit found in the nascent Dodge Viper sports car.
Still, this 8.0-liter monster was more focused on tow-friendly torque than drag strip-friendly horsepower. The SRT-10 was considerably different. Intended from the outset to be a high performance pickup (in the vein of the successful Ford F-150 Lightning, which had no doubt served to light the project's wick at Dodge), the new Ram would borrow the Viper's V10 lock, stock and barrel, which meant a stunning 500 horsepower and 525 lb-ft of torque were on tap. Throw in a slick aero-focused styling package and a rambunctious outlaw image, and the Ram SRT-10 was unlike anything else on the road.
Squeezing the Viper's V10 into the Ram's engine bay wasn't all that difficult, given the substantial width and tall hood of the vehicle. Dodge beefed up the truck's cooling system and exhaust in order to support the additional power, and the oil pan was also replaced. The Ram's engine output dwarfed anything offered in a full-size pickup, and indeed, it still stands today as one of the mightiest street truck drivetrains to ever leave the factory. Even more impressive was the linear delivery of all that grunt, with almost all of its torque being generated over a wide 1,500 rpm to 5,600 rpm range..
Of course, when packaged on a pickup platform its prodigious production posed particular challenges. Specifically, traction: the rear-wheel drive Viper-truck had almost no weight sitting over the back axle, which meant initial models (which were exclusively offered with a six-speed manual gearbox, built by Tremec and shifted via a Hurst setup that dealt with the unique geometries of the transmission's mounting position) featured a unique traction bar setup to help with launch.
Even with ultra-low rear-end gearing (ranging from between 4:11 and 4:56), the Ram SRT-10 could touch 150 miles per hour at the top end, but slipping under 5 seconds on the sprint to 60-mph required drivers to put their dancing shoes on and feather the clutch in search of precious grip. Modern tire technology, of course, has improved things for current owners, but even the original 22-inch shoes offered a massive 305/40 profile for putting the power down.
The Dodge Ram SRT-10 stood apart from other pickups on the lot even before its massive V10 was fired up, due to the series of visual upgrades that had been made to the vehicle. The truck sat one inch lower in the front and featured a 2.5 inch drop at the rear, riding on Bilstein shock absorbers and borrowing its brakes and steering from the class-above heavy duty Ram. Air ducts in the body-colored front bumper directed a cool breeze towards 15-inch front rotors, with a billet grille and a snouty airscoop on the hood completing the visual package. Some models also featured a rear spoiler and a tonneau cover, although production issues prevented those items from being added to every truck.
By 2005, Dodge had added a second model to the Ram SRT-10 line-up that would shift the tone considerably. The four-door Quad cab body style didn't just add extra room for passengers, but it also made a four-speed automatic transmission standard equipment. Again lifted from Ram's HD trucks, this unit made substantial headway in terms of solving the pickup's traction problems, with the torque converter absorbing what frustrated clutch riders owners couldn't with their left feet.
It also added a practical dimension to the SRT-10 that had nothing to do with the back bench seat. Unlike the single-cab, six-speed truck, the new Ram offered a factory tow rating of 7,500 lbs, which was considerably higher than its predecessor (although owners regularly hitched a trailer up to either version of the pickup with no ill effects). It's also worth noting that switching from the four-speed to the manual is a simple enough project that only requires adding a one-piece driveshaft in terms of modifying the existing platform. This explains the occasional six-speed, four-door unicorn appearing on auction sites.
Performance-wise, there's a fair bit of difference between the two trucks. Despite being a bit better at hooking up, the extra 500 lbs or so of weight added by the Quad cab adds nearly a second to its 0-60 time, while pushing it just over 14 seconds in the quarter mile—more than a half second slower than the lighter regular cab.
Still Nothing Like It
Both on the street and on the track, the Dodge Ram SRT-10 could be a handful. Automatic trucks suffered from abrupt gearshifts, and both models understeered mightily when pushed through corners—that is to say, when the tail wasn't hanging out in a sideways smokescreen. SRT engineers did their best to dial out as much of the big rig's weight as they could, but this is still a hefty platform that was never designed to bob and weave.
As a straight-line muscle machine, or a calm daily cruiser, the SRT-10 pickup was a much more palatable option. It also had the distinction being useful for actual truck things, such as the aforementioned towing and of course hauling whatever would fit in its bed. This gave it a leg-up over the smaller Lightning, which was its primary competitor at the time. It also didn't suffer from the same heat-soak issues that would occasionally rear their heads when flogging the Ford's supercharged V8 (which was down 120 horses compared to the Dodge).
Today, these trucks are a shocking bargain on the used market. Initially priced between $45,000 and $50,000, they can often be found for less than half that, even on examples with less than 100,000 miles, which is even more surprising given that only 5,500 were ever built. Given that the Viper engine has been retired, and that any future Ram performance truck would almost certainly be equipped with a supercharged Hellcat V8 (and an automatic transmission), the SRT-10 represents a unique time capsule in Dodge's performance history that still has no real rival in modern-day showrooms.
The Ram SRT-10 wasn't the only muscle truck Dodge built in the early 2000s. Check out our history of the mid-size Dodge Dakota R/T.