The Golden Age of Diesel Pick-Up trucks

It’s 2020, and, in my opinion, we are in the golden age for diesel pickup trucks.  There is no doubt in my mind that today’s truck shopper has the absolute best options for heavy duty trucks that there has ever been.  Gone are the days where pick-up trucks pulling heavy campers are struggling to pull up mountains.  Today’s trucks are powerful, efficient, safe, and very comfortable. However, the current age of trucks started with two incredible powerplants. Some would say that those two diesel engines marked the golden age of diesel pick up trucks.

What is a Golden Age

A golden age is when something or someone is at their peak.  A time in the past fondly remembered.  In the past 30 years there are two diesel power plants that are legendary. Therefore, it does beg the question, in 25 years will people look back at today’s trucks and think fondly of them as the best there ever was? 

Two Legendary Diesel Engines

In my mind there are two particular types of trucks that people remember now fondly and sometimes say they were the gold standard or the best a truck will ever be.  These two trucks were great trucks but what really drove them was the power plant. 

The 5.9L Cummins Diesel 

he 5.9L Cummins Diesel first arrived in the automotive market in the late 80’s in the Ram 2500 and 3500 series.  Immediately, these diesels dominated the market for people who needed a reliable heavy duty pick up truck.  The power was legendary.  The engine featured all mechanical fuel injection and a factory turbo charger.  The truck was a great truck before it had the diesel, but when the Ram was partnered with the Cummins power plant it became indomitable.  

The competitors didn’t really have an answer for the Cummins Turbo-Diesel.  The Ford offering was a naturally aspirated 7.3L diesel provided by International Harvester.  Chevrolet had a 6.2L naturally aspirated diesel provided by Detroit Diesel.  Neither of which were as powerful or featured that wonderful turbo charged option. 

One feature the Cummins diesel had was an inline 6 layout.  This kept the engine block strong and had a reputation for producing tremendous torque. As a result, all of these benefits came without sacrificing reliability of the engine.  Consequently, there are several people who have put one 1 million miles on their Cummins powered Ram pick-up trucks. 

Consequently, to this day the Ram features a Cummins inline 6 turbo diesel.  The power is tremendous and the torque is amazing.  People absolutely love their Cummins Rams!

You can read all about the history of the 5.9L Cummins here

The 7.3L Powerstroke Diesel

In 1994 Ford responded with a new electronically controlled fuel injection, turbo charged, powerful, and reliable 7.3L Powerstroke Diesel.  As a result, this engine was a quantum leap forward in diesel technology.  This fact enabled diesels could be programmed with computer chips or programmers.  This marked the start of the real power war in the diesel market between the big three (Chrysler, GM, and Ford).  

People fell in love with the Powerstroke because of many factors.  The engine proved to be reliable, strong, and made towing much easier.  It was a worthy competitor to the 5.9L Cummins.  However, it had an advantage over the Cummins.  In addition, being electronically controlled, diagnosis of issues was easier as the code reader could point the technician in the right direction.  

The 7.3L Powerstroke was updated through the years and by the end of its run in mid 2003 is was a favorite among Ford Diesel enthusiasts.  It’s successor, the 6.0L Powerstroke,  and later the 6.4L which both had a string of problems and helped the value of the older 7.3L Powerstrokes stay high.  For instance, even today, a good running 7.3L Super Duty truck can command a premium price.  

You can read more about the 7.3L Powerstroke here


The 5.9L Cummins and the 7.3L Powerstroke is arguably the best diesel power plants of the last 30 years.  They will continue into the future serving their owners well with just a little maintenance.  However, in the next blog post we will talk about today’s Diesel powered trucks and how they improve power, comfort, and efficiency. 

What about you?  Do you have a fond memory of the 7.3L Powerstroke or the 5.9L Cummins.  Comment below and let us know.