1999 Dodge van engine noise

I finally got around to replacing the water pump on my '99 V6 ram 1500 van.. I have never seen a water pump eroded so badly... it even eroded the timing cover a bit...... anyway, while i was there, I undid the
remaining bolts of the timing cover and replaced the timing chain as well. also, whilst I was under, I noticed the driver's engine mount had separated. Replaced that for $10.
Engine runs better than it ever has since I have owned it. Still puffs a little smoke on startup...
What I am worried about is a noise I hear that is reminiscent to a rod knock. However, unlike the normal rod knock, this noise quiets as the engine gets to operating temperature.
Is the 3,9 litre V6 prone to piston slap? Does it have hypereutectic pistons or something? This pig only has 120k on it and I really need it to last as long as possible... I paid $1000 and had to immediately replace the driver's side stub axle carrier. This last service, I installed a new timing set, water pump, and radiator...
I like the van, but damn... it's a lot more maintenance than my '85 or my '75 ever required...
Oh yeah, the fuel pump is singing also, so no telling when that thing will strand me...
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Maybe previous owener did not put proper coolant mixture and just kept adding water to radiator.

Could be an exhaust leak which sounds like a broken lifter, then as the manifold heats expands, closing off the leaky area.

I had a 99 Ram with the 3.9 and ran the crap out of it, but did mantainace on it regularly. Never had a problem. This vehicle seems like it was not taken care of very well..

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