By on March 22, 2017

WorkbootsLet’s get one thing straight right from the start: like last week, this comparison isn’t going to change anyone’s mind. Truck buyers are a notoriously loyal lot, so the online bleatings of a shrimp-filled journalist are unlikely to curry favor with folks whose work boots are firmly entrenched in one of these three camps.

Thing is, though, I do know a thing or two about trucks. Plus, I had a deadline to meet and needed a topic for today. Having recently completed the trifecta by finally getting the chance to drive all three diesel behemoths listed here, I started to ask myself how these workhorses would compare in single cab, four-wheel drive, base trim. Fleet managers, please click on through: we’re about to step into the world of bare-bones diesel trucks.

All three trucks, equipped as regular cab, diesel, four-wheel-drive models, are within a pencil’s width of each other in terms of price. Configured this way but sans optional frippery, the Ford F-250 XL, Ram 2500 Tradesman, and Chevrolet Silverado 2500 WT sticker for $45,420, $45,540, and $46,865 respectively. At this price point, I’d call that pretty equal footing.

The same can be said for safety features. All of these trucks find themselves equipped with a raft of airbags and stability control systems, items that my grandfather could only dream in his mid-‘80s GMC. All manner of theft-deterrent appears as standard equipment, lest a miscreant attempt to jack your honest working truck from the job site.

I will argue heartily against those who feel their base trucks need to feel like a penalty box. Today’s economies of scale assure us of better equipment levels in base rides – take the backup camera and power seat in the $20,000 Chevy Colorado as a good example. In the land of heavy-duty diesel, Chevy’s $1,300 price premium buys shoppers a few creature comforts over its Detroit rivals. Power door locks are standard, as is cruise control. These features must be cobbled together through a myriad of optional packages on the other trucks.

Naturally, these trucks are purchased for their brawny payload and towing performance, and all three offer capacities far exceeding anything found in non-commercial showrooms only a few short years ago. Nary a truck in this trio puts out fewer than 900 lb-ft of torque or accepts less than a ton of payload. Let’s examine the individual numbers, keeping in mind that all the gonzo towing ratings are for fifth-wheel hauling.

ram-2500

Ram’s 6.7-liter Cummins inline-six is rated at 385 hp and 900 lb-ft of torque. Despite these heady numbers, it’s the lowest output of the group. So, too, are its maximum recommended towing and payload limits: 17,610 lbs and 2583 lbs, respectively. The 30,000-lb towing figure is marketing bravado reserved for more expensive trims. Ram usurped its competition in torque and towing ratings the last time it redesigned the Ram, and I expect it will do the same when the new Ram appears, whenever that may be. For now, though, this is where the Ram sits.

The option of a six-speed stickshift in the Ram severely tests my love for all things manual but in the real world, an automatic is the more logical option. If you’ve ever experienced the misery of trying to reverse an 8,000-lb trailer up a slight incline with a three-pedal pickup truck, then you know what I’m on about. Skilled haul tractor-trailer drivers may freely laugh at my protestations. Also, it’s worth noting that choosing to row-row-row-your-Ram cuts towing capacity by more than a couple of thousand pounds.

ford-f250

Dearborn introduced its new Super Duty for the 2017 model year, marking a return to a shared cab with its little half-ton brother. The 6.7-liter PowerStroke diesel V8 makes the most grunt of all three trucks, powerstroking its way to 440 hp and 925 lb-ft of twist. Choosing to plow some of its aluminium weight savings back into the chassis, the burly Ford sees its maximum payload crest 3,000 lbs, meaning one could drop a Mazda MX-5 in the bed and still have almost 700 lbs to spare. Fifth-wheel towing maxes out at about 16,000 lbs.

Inside, drivers should expect to find vinyl seats and a hose-it-out rubber covered floor, and the interior design is light years ahead of last year’s festival of plastic. While fancy pants Lariat and Platinum trims look great, I still get more than a whiff of poverty in the XL Super Duty. The big grille and headlights which work so well on swanky examples look very utilitarian on the base truck.

chev-2500

We drove the new-for-2017 Duramax in Texas a few months ago and while its torque is not at the top of the diesel pile (yes, we live in a world where 910 lb-ft is not the highest torque rating in a non-commercial truck), its 6.6-liter Duramax V8 does have five more horses in the stable than a PowerStroke. Despite its 6,671-lb curb weight, a base model WT can accept a 2,880-lb payload or confidently hook itself to a 15,900-lb fifth-wheel trailer.

Proving once again that there’s no plate like chrome, Chevy sees fit to garnish the front of its heavy hauler with a good dose of the shiny stuff, rather than force customers to choose a dark color in an effort to hide acres of black plastic. Styling is extremely subjective, but the Silverado looks the best of the three to this jaundiced eye. The option of $0 cloth seats and a standard fully automatic locking rear differential in the Chevy makes a difference, too.

This means, then, that I gotta go with the Chevy. Sure, the DEF refill remains annoyingly under the hood and the squared-off styling is not to everyone’s taste, but it’s hard to argue with capability and value compared to the other two trucks — even if it is about $1,300 dearer than its cross-town rivals. I can hear the die-hard brand loyalists hammering away on their keyboards already…

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The models above is shown in Trump Bucks, absent of regional incentives and cash allowances. As always, your dealer may sell for less.

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65 Comments on “Ace of Base: Single Cab, 3/4-Ton Diesel Trucks...”


  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    4wd diesel ain’t exactly base…

    Given the quoted payloads, what we really have here is 1-1.5-ton trucks in civilian guise.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Yeah I’d be really interested in seeing an Ace of Base of both the current half-tons (fleet v6 rwd spec) and current midsizers (4cyl rwds). In fact a side-by side comparing half tons to midsize fleet trucks could be really interesting, to see if it’s not any pricier to get a refrigerator white F150 for the same price as a less powerful 4cyl Frontier/Colorado.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @gtemnykh – in Canada a regular cab 4×4 pickup costs around 10k more than a comparable extended cab 4×4 compact truck. A Chevy 1500 4×4 fleet queen is 41k and a fleet queen 4×4 Colorado is 31k. The thing that muddies the waters is the fact that the domestics are willing to throw huge discounts at full sized pickups. That very same 41k Chevy 1500 has a 7k discount on it.
        My local Ford dealer has a row of fleet spec regular cab 4×4 F150’s. All have heavy payload packages, 5.0 V8, E-locker diff, spray in box liner and headache rack. MSRP is 43k but right now have a 10k rebate.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Here you go the AT is a $1,250 upcharge on the Colorado but I included it since it is standard on the Silvy.

        Colorado extended cab 2wd 4cyl AT $21,778
        Silverado extended cab 2wd 6cyl AT $24,825
        Silverado reg cab 2wd 6cyl AT $19,175

        So yeah if you are looking for the cheapest 1/2 ton pickup the full size is cheaper to get out the door.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @Scoutdude – that has been my argument against small trucks all along.
          Price-wise, the gap isn’t significant enough to warrant the purchase of the small truck. The only reason to buy a small truck is its smaller size.

          • 0 avatar
            srh

            I haven’t looked recently, but last time I was in the market I was frustrated to find that even the mileage on a full-size pickup was comparable (maybe 0.5 – 1.0 MPG less) than a compact.

            That may have changed more recently, but then there seems to be a renaissance in full-size pickup mileage as well, so maybe not.

            I can see the argument for a compact truck for a city dweller, but for everyone else a full-size just seems to make more sense.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Here are the rest of the cheapest pickups.

            Ram 1500 $18,178
            Quad Cab $21,775
            F150 $19,225
            Super Cab $20,579
            Frontier King Cab $19,787
            Titan V8 4wd $26,984

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @srh – mpg is another issue. There isn’t much of a difference.
            My 2010 F150 supercrew’s mpg isn’t much worse than the Ranger Extended cab truck I owned.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      “Base” as in rubber floors, vinyl (knit) split-bench seats, column shift, steel wheels, etc.

      To some, 4X4 and diesel are a requirement. Luckily there’s not a forced trim-level for these.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “4wd diesel ain’t exactly base…”
      Agreed. Diesel engines aren’t base.
      I do not remember the last time I saw a diesel engine in a base regular cab truck. All of the fleets in my region do not buy regular cab diesel pickups. Even most of the fleet crew cab trucks are gassers. Fleets do not want to put 10k worth of engine/transmission in a truck that will get destroyed in three years.
      I’ve seen the rare dually regular cab long box but not in a new truck. That is the only Ram that can tow 30k.

      “Given the quoted payloads, what we really have here is 1-1.5-ton trucks in civilian guise.”
      IIRC 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton etc. were military specifications from the WW2 era. Those terms have long been inaccurate when used to label domestic pickups. The numeric designations are more closely tied to commercial class ratings.
      Class 1: compact trucks and the extinct “light half ton” F100, C/K100
      Class 2a: “heavy half” F150, Chev/GM 1500, Ram 1500
      Class 2b: “3/4 ton” F250, Ram 2500, Chev/GM 2500
      Class 3: “1 ton” F350, Ram 3500, Chev/GM 3500
      Class 4: F450

      You have probably noticed that the prefix i.e. 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 lines up with truck class.

      • 0 avatar

        3/4 ton and one ton 4×4 diesel reg cab is a fairly common truck for landscapers here in CT. One man operation types tend to run crew cabs as they get used for family use too. But the guys running 3-4 crews really like reg cab’s. 4×4 is a requirement for plowing and I gather the diesel is for resale and towing, but I noticed some seem to be switching back to gas now.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          With cheap gas right now, as well as how the emissions stuff current diesels are saddled with both introduce a bunch of failure prone components and have reduced MPG, if I were a fleet operator/business owner I’d have a hard time not going with cheaper (to buy and maintain) gassers, unless I was doing a lot of towing. Unladen, the MPG gap really isn’t big enough to justify the cost IMO. Something like a Ram 2500 with the base 5.7L Hemi gets mid-teens MPG unladen, the bigger 6.4 probably lower-mid teens. The current cummins would not get more than 20, probably more like 18 or so. Now if they offered the downsized 3.0L Ecodiesel motor in the 2500 for the sake of MPG while sacrificing max towing numbers, that might make the MPG gap big enough to consider.

          For some real transaction prices, semi-locally I can find a Ram 2500 diesel (RWD, reg cab long bed) for $36k as the cheapest listed-price option.
          A 2500 in the same basic configuration but with a 5.7L can be found for $26k, the cheapest 6.4L is listed at $27k.
          No way I could justify a $10k upcharge unless I really needed that maximum towing capability.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            What are your thoughts on 3UZ-FE? What are it’s weak points? Thx in advance.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Rock solid motor built to last. Just budget for the t-belt change. $800-$1kish with parts/labor at an indie, might as well do cam/crank seals while you’re in there, they’ll be leaking slightly by now, oh and rad hoses. It’s an interference motor so even though the belts have been known to last to 200k miles, it’s not something to gamble with IMO. There was recently a really clean 241k mile LS430 for sale locally for a measly $1700 or something silly like that, being sold by a wealthy dude in the nice part of town. He just wanted a quick sale (or else was going to take the tax write-off as a donation). Man I kind of wish I scooped it up. But you need to remember, with the LS Lexi, more so than the motor/transmission, I’d say where things get expensive is stuff like maintaining the suspension. This isn’t like an ES where you can just buy generic aftermarket Camry control arms, all the stuff is one-off and pricey. I sold my ES for $2200 recently (I wanted a small truck for summer landscaping projects, and something more fun to drive), I had added up the cost of new struts all around going the cheap route (Monroe quick struts in rear, pieced together parts in front with new strut mounts, spring isolators, bump stops, bellows) and it would be about $650 for parts. Doing it “right” with OE stuff would quickly run it up to $1k+ just in parts. And that’s JUST struts (not any control arms or ball joints, which thankfully were still in great shape), on a measly ES. Toyota OEM parts, to say nothing of Lexus, are not cheap. The LS introduces a lot more interior do-dads like power steering wheel adjustment, etc that are known to fail sometimes. For comparison’s sake I just bought shocks all around for my new Ranger, did OE Motorcraft in front and air-adjustable Monroes out back, the total came to $122 with shipping.

            Not to scare you off of Lexus ownership, as long as things are budgeted for and you’re willing to bite the bullet to “baseline” it with some proper maintenance and wear-item replacement up front, you’ll have an awesome cruiser that wears like iron.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          mopar4wd – small contractors around my part of the world all drive diesel pickups but that is because the owner drives them. There are valid applications for diesels.
          Fleet trucks in the forest resource industry tend not to last much beyond 3 years or 100,000 miles before they fall apart.

  • avatar
    MrIcky

    Shrimp curry. now I’m hungry.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    How long before our Ozzie friends show up (wake up) to “tell” us how these trucks wouldn’t exist if they weren’t so “Protected” from their Chinese, Indian and Thai “equivalents” and “rivals”, then scamper off into bush when question on the lunacy of the concept?

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      Do not exist here, or more the case died out here.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Who cares? Since its a “RHD only” country, US pickup makers wont give it a 2nd thought. Or a 1st thought, working at full capacity keeping up with US demand.

        Except “aftermarket”, RHD fullsize US pickups still sell in big enough numbers in Australia to keep conversion companies working overtime. And this despite $140,000 selling prices.

        I’ve talked to many, many Australians on OZ forums that would absolutely kill for a US fullsize pickup!

        No you don’t speak for them.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Not sure what source you had, but I think your Ram numbers are off. The power quoted is only for those equipped with the Aisin transmission, which is 3500 only.

    The 2500 is 370/800 with an auto and 350/660 with a manual.

    Maximum Payload/towing on the auto is 2720/17550 and manual is 2610/16460. The Canadian numbers are slightly different at 2670/17550 and 2570/16450.

    ramtrucks.com/assets/towing_guide
    /pdf/2017_ram_2500_towing_charts.pdf

  • avatar
    threeer

    Still trying to come to grips with a $45k price tag that includes vinyl seats and rubber flooring…

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Bring on the 7/8-ton trucks!

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Sorry but Ford didn’t put the weight savings back into the payload. My all steel 06 crew cab has a 3,000 lb payload rating.

    Also no need for a myriad of options to get power locks at least on the F250 fleet pricing of the power equipment group for $1173 which also gets you heated mirrors in addition to your power windows and locks that includes the tailgate, RKE with 4 integrated remotes. So all in $34442 out the door unless you want one out of stock and then it is a $250 up charge.

    Meanwhile the out the door price for the Chevy is $38183 again with a $250 up charge for vehicles out of stock.

    But the reality is that it is very unlikely that you will find a fleet buyer that will opt for a diesel in this configuration. They usually only do those on DRW crew cabs. In that case your out the door is $29,178 for the Chevy and $26,218 for the Ford.

    Meanwhile the few fleets that get Ram’ed will shell out $34,175 for a diesel and $25,775 for a base gas engine or $26,225 if you want the HD gas engine.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Is your’s a gas V8? Diesel reduces “payload”.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        True mine is a gasser but it also has 2 more full size doors and a back seat. I’d have to look it up to be certain but I think the payload penalty on that particular year is only about 200lbs since most of the extra weight is up front and they up the front spring rate.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          The diesel option doesn’t increase the GVWR, so payload is reduced by the extra weight of the diesel engine, DEF tank, 2nd battery, etc. That’s what I understand anyway. Diesels can add 900 lbs to the weight of the truck.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Mine is an 06 so no DEF and they did up the GVW with the diesel.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            The ’05, ’06, ’07 are the absolute best years for Super Duty diesels. Mine’s an ’06 F-550 with an aluminum “tray”. It’s a Keeper too.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    *sigh*

    Mud/’crete coated work boots, an icon of optimistic, affluent and expansionist suburban America.

    Thanks for the warm fuzzy from 1960.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      See plenty of them in today’s optimistic, affluent, and expansionist city America.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Not sure where you live OldManPants, but I guarantee that I could find someone wearing authentic mud and concrete covered work boots within easy walking distance of work here in Plano, TX. Plano is mostly built out, but roads, buildings, etc. get rebuilt whenever the old ones either wear out or need to be expanded. I saw men replacing sections of concrete in the street and building new buildings on the drive to work. Took a different route last week and saw a 4th highway lane each way was open for traffic. Last night I saw an unbelievable amount of rock and dirt moved to a low-lying area so it would be suitable for new construction. Not so sure about settling and foundation issues, but pretty sure that site can’t flood with it’s newly increased elevation.

  • avatar
    ilkhan

    “the burly Ford sees its maximum payload crest 3,000 lbs, meaning one could drop a Mazda MX-5 in the bed and still have almost 700 lbs to spare. Fifth-wheel towing maxes out at about 16,000 lbs.”

    “Despite its 6,671-lb curb weight, a base model WT can accept a 2,880-lb payload or confidently hook itself to a 15,900-lb fifth-wheel trailer.”

    “This means, then, that I gotta go with the Chevy. Sure, the DEF refill remains annoyingly under the hood and the squared-off styling is not to everyone’s taste, but it’s hard to argue with capability and value compared to the other two trucks — even if it is about $1,300 dearer than its cross-town rivals.”

    So the Chevy hauls less, tows less, weighs more, and is $1300 more expensive, but somehow the Chevy is a better capability/value truck?

  • avatar
    MrIcky

    All the max weight, hp, etc. that gets advertised is so overblown. For most, it’s a yes/no question for will it tow what you need to tow followed by gas mileage both loaded and unloaded. That, of course, isn’t in the spec sheet but it’s what most people really want to know and try to find out about. People who are pretty meh about the mileage in their car will brag all day on how their truck got 11mpg over Snoqualmie Pass towing a 13,500 trailer.

  • avatar
    NoID

    Might as well go straight to the 1-ton dually single cab standard bed. Now that’s a unicorn you don’t generally see.

    And it will only cost you about forty grand!

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @NoID
      My question what work use has a dually? They are as rare as Hens teeth here and have never seen them being used.
      I can understand their use as a more stable platform for an RV

      • 0 avatar

        Hot shot transport market tends to run dually agriculture towing goose neck trailers. Excavation contractors hauling bobcats. All of them tend to have Duallies. You also see them for heavy payloads like sanding trucks for snow mason dumps and flatbeds. Also tow trucks.

      • 0 avatar

        Basically all the jobs other countries use cabover cab and chassis duallies (Isuzu UD etc).

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @mopar4wd
          Basically very light truck duties here. Gooseneck Trailers strangely not used for general towing here .Quoted max towing payloads would make them light trucks, payloads heavier Utes. Your Isuzu and UD models you have in NA would fall into the very light truck category

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        RobertRyan, dually pickup trucks are used to pull large fifth wheel trailers. Better stability in wind at highway speeds. Most states allow individuals with a standard drivers license to drive a heavy-duty pickup truck towing up to 10,000 lbs. Higher limits are allowed for agricultural use in some states. Farm families put the children to work driving on back roads when their legs are long enough to reach the pedals. Where I grew up in Kansas 14 year olds can legally drive the dually pickup/big trailer combination for farm-related work.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @George B
          I mentioned that, they were a lot more stable. I can see they would be primarily used for 5th Wheels and light Duty towing

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Yeah 20k is light towing. Fact is the DRWs are also required to get the highest GVWR and GCVWR available.

            And yeah a good chunk of buyers go for the Dually so they can say they have a Dually.

            Personally since I don’t do lots of heaving towing I choose the SRW for the narrower width.

      • 0 avatar
        Jagboi

        See lots of them in the oilpatch, especially the tool companies. All that steel in the tools is heavy, but doesn’t need a physically larger truck. Or a wellhead/wellhead valves for example.

        Also as mentioned the hotshot companies, again hauling oilfield related supplies that can be heavy but not necessary large.

        In the spring they are a big advantage when the roadbans come on.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Dually regular cab pickups (not chassis cabs, pickups) don’t really make much sense to me. If you bought a dually, you’re probably using it for heavy OTR towing. And if you’re doing long-haul towing, you probably want a crew cab or at least an extended cab either for passenger space, asst. cargo space, or just for the longer wheelbase.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Freeway legal “farm tractors,” is one use case they seem popular for. Lots of them moving goosenecks with horses and equipment around.

        And I see some carrying heavy slide in campers, like Bigfoots and such.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yup if I was using a pickup for the kind of loads the DRW pickups can handle, vocationally, I’d definitely want the crew cab purely for the wheelbase unless of course it was lots of in-city or tight locations.

      • 0 avatar

        Like said on the pleasure side slide in camper people like them for keeping the overall package small (thou it’s moving more towards crew cabs). For work many business that haul large loads around town or in state seem to use them. When I worked in boatyards they were somewhat common, the places I worked mostly had extended cabs thou. I know the local boat trailer distributors (wholesale) use them for maxing payload (stacking trailers in the bed) as well as towing.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    My brother and I spent a good part of the week researching an Ace of Base to tow a 30-ft. gooseneck flatbed. We’re buying a new truck for a warranty. Base 3/4-ton, 4×4, regular cab diesel with carpet delete. We looked at Ford, GM, and Ram…and Nissan and Toyota just for literal laughs. Our equipment preferences put the Ford & GM very close in price. The Ram was a few thousand less…but the sticker price didn’t mean anything to us.

    Modern HD pickup trucks are amazing machines. Powertrains for every brand are putting out numbers close to medium duty trucks of 15-20 years ago…and over double what my ’94 diesel did. All brands are very similar in their capabilities. Therefore, the decision nearly always comes down to preferences: color, styling, dealer, seat, option, or the dreaded chrome. Our decision was pretty simple for our needs and prejudices. We will order a Ram Tradesman next week. Why? An inline-6 diesel and a transmission that requires three pedals. Ram is the only company that offers a manual transmission. Past experience with the Cummins and Powerstroke engines made the other decision easy.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      I agree on an inline 6 being somewhat easier to work on than a V8, but past experience cannot necessarily be relied upon when it comes to these diesels. Not one of them can be compared to the 1990s Cummins or 7.3l Powerstroke in terms of reliability. The new emissions systems will, not may, will require servicing.

      • 0 avatar
        EquipmentJunkie

        I agree and I know. That’s why we have avoided replacing our medium duty truck with another one. The heavy truck market has had many black eyes over the last 10 years when it comes to emissions…just ask a Navistar owner. Our plan is to trade the Ram when the warranty runs out.

    • 0 avatar
      DevilsRotary86

      My friend has a 40 something foot 5th wheel toy hauler. He recently got a mid 90’s Chevrolet 3500 Cheyenne dually with a stickshift and 454 engine. Former welder’s truck with that weird all metal flatbed. Definitely not a conventional choice, but it works well for him.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Why the manual in the Ram Tradesman? The automatic is at least as good, if not better, in most applications an HD truck is used for. And I say that as someone who regularly uses a stick-shift F-350 almost to the point of a DD.

    • 0 avatar
      EquipmentJunkie

      Update: My brother drove a Ford, GM, and Ram. Trying to be open-minded.

      GM is out of diesels until mid-summer. The dealer can’t quote a price less than $500 off of sticker since incentives are only quoted at delivery. That means GM is $6-7K more than Ford or Ram…for a truck that might come in July at the earliest. The salesperson is very frustrated.

      Ram is getting very low on manual transmissions. Our dealer says that the rumor is that the manual option disappears next year.

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