Owner Story: Our Louisville, CO House Burned Down, But Our Beloved Truck Survived!

The truck's name is "Rosie".

dodge ram 1500 survived marshall fire colorado gary gravante patrick kramer
image: Patrick Kramer & 9News

This heartfelt story is sent in by Gary Gravante. It’s great to hear that Gary and his family are safe, and it is terrible that he and his neighbors lost their homes. The glimmer of good news is that their beloved pickup truck – 2004 Dodge Ram 1500 4×4 survived the devastating Marshall Fire.

Huge thanks to the courageous firefighters, such as Patrick Kramer of Longmont, Colorado, and his team, for doing everything possible to minimize damage. The image you see above and the video below are sent in by Patrick Kramer.

Here is one of the places where donations for fire victims can be made: https://www.commfound.org/grants/get-grant/Boulder-County-Wildfire-Fund

Gary writes:

“We were one of the families that lost our house in the Marshall fire last week.  Our house is the very first one the firefighters are fighting in this 9News video on Youtube:

At about 0:12 seconds into the video it moves to the front of the house, and you can see our red truck in the driveway that we call “Rosie”. Fortunately for the truck, the wind was blowing to the north towards the other homes and not directly hitting the truck. It took us about 5 days to get back to the lot because it was closed, but when we did get back, the side you see in that video was fine, but the passenger side of the truck toward the front of the vehicle “melted” a bit, and the passenger front tire was flat.

From what we could tell, it was just some of the plastic parts that melted (headlight, side mirror, door handle, bumper trim, etc) and the paint got a bit burnt. The metal parts of the truck were OK (see attached pic).

2005 dodge ram 1500 hemi manual
image: Gary G.

The good news was that it started, and we all cheered! Our neighbors were happy since Rosie has been a fixture since 2007. It was really snowing that first day, so we came back a couple of days later and changed that front tire (my daughter Ella helping in the pic), and drove it over to a storage facility on Dillon road.

The big reason we were so happy is that I have had the truck since my daughter was 4. It is a manual transmission 4×4 truck, so I know it would be a rare vehicle. I tried to take really good care of it.  When my daughter was 15, she started to learn how to drive the car, and then it was the truck she drove in high school. A 5’4″ teen driving a big manual Dodge truck was unusual, to say the least! She is in college now and still drives a 2018 manual (yay), Subaru Forester, around Tacoma, Washington. She still uses the truck when she is home.

It was a happy event in a sea of bad news, so I thought you might enjoy the story. Please understand that we are 100 percent fine financially, and we will get through the loss of our house. This email is 100% only about the truck, and I do plan to fix it as best I can to make it a daily driver again.  The only thing we are trying to decide is if we make it look new again, or keep some of the “burnt patina” as a badge of honor for the future. There are some other interesting aspects of the story that I could tell you about or even show you if you think you might like to check some of it out in person.  It is near Avista Hospital for reference.

P.S. all but about three of the 120 or so homes in our neighborhood were burnt to the ground including every other vehicle that we saw, so the fact that Rosie survived was even more of a surprise!

The truck’s survival is just part of the story – here is another and unhappy part of the story…

Gary writes:

“The other part of the story is a bit of a sad ending, but possibly interesting as well.  Back in May 2021, I decided I would like to try to rebuild a salvage yard 2005 5.7L Hemi V8 engine and install it in Rosie. The gen-3 half-ton 1500 Rams never had Hemi engines with manual transmissions. Mine is a 4.7L V8, which is a bit wimpy.  Only the 2500 Rams up to about 2005 could be had with a Hemi and a manual. 

I did it mainly for fun, but boy it took forever because of the supply chain delays for parts. Eventually, by about late November, I finished it. I actually built a stroker motor, so it was increased from 5.7L (345 ci) to about 6.1L (370 ci). It also had a mild cam for better torque rather than horsepower, which I wanted in that heavy truck.  I also bought a new Tremec TR-4050 5-speed manual for a 4×4 (the picture attached shows it connected to a dodge transfer case), and a center force clutch, as an upgrade to the stock NV3500 transmission/clutch.

I have attached a picture of the Hemi when I had it running on an engine stand in my garage.  When I was done with all the testing, I removed it from the engine stand, put it on an engine cart, and placed the transmission behind it on a transmission jack.  My plan was to start final fit checks with the transmission the afternoon of December 30th, but that is when the fire hit…

Gary G.

The engine and transmission were in the garage, so they burned in the fire, and many aluminum parts on each of them melted! It is a bit hard to see because there is a lot of roof debris on them in the final picture, but the aluminum valve covers melted off, and the case of the transmission melted away and you can see the steel gears inside – so crazy!  I do plan to try it again since it was going so well, and SOME day maybe Rosie will be back together and have a happy new engine.