"I am not OCD," states Dave Harriton, rather unconvincingly, as he straightens the dipstick on the Cummins diesel to a perfect 90 degree angle. OCD would not be such a bad thing in someone who designs aftermarket components. The industry could use more people who are obsessive about the equipment they manufacturer. Harriton is the driving force behind American Expedition Vehicles, and his obsession explains a lot about the flawless Jeeps, and now Ram trucks, that AEV builds.
AEV's latest project is a fitting example of that strict adherence to perfection. While most vehicles we encounter at the SEMA Show are best described as rolling pieces of art, this AEV Ram is not just functional, it is ubercapable. Instead of lifting the truck to the sky to fit 41-inch Super Swamper Iroks, AEV added larger fender openings and only increased the ride height 3 inches. The inspiration comes from the Highline kits that AEV introduced for Jeep Wranglers nearly a decade ago. And the new suspension and steering goes beyond the industry goal to retain factory suspension geometry and actual improves the Ram's handling with revised pickup points that raise the roll center.
"The key here is the millions of dollars of engineering that the OE puts into engineering on the factory springs," Harriton explains. "The aftermarket just can't compete with the number of options offered. You're lucky to get a 'gas' and 'diesel' spring in the aftermarket, which wasn't as big a deal when you had rear leaves, but with the addition of rear coils, the frequency tuning becomes very, very important."
Ram offers dozens of different spring rates for the front and rear of the current HD trucks, depending on powertrain, wheelbase, and more. AEV retains the factory springs and adds 3 inches of lift through the use of cast aluminum spacers and new bracketry that moves the axle forward for tire clearance and revise the suspension geometry as well.
Beyond the huge tires, the most eye-catching feature of the Ram is the Australian tray bed. AEV built mounts to affix the bed to the Ram frame and added rear flares, wiring, and a rear bumper to make the bed look more like a factory option than an afterthought.
As more 4-wheel enthusiasts build vehicles for expedition travel, it makes sense for American Expedition Vehicles to design products for fullsize trucks with diesel engines, heavy duty axles, and enough payload to haul campers and trailers for extended forays into the backcountry. All with the same obsessive attention to detail that AEV's Jeep products are known for.
The AAM 9 1/4 front axle was regeared from 3.42 to 4.10, and an ARB Air Locker was installed at the same time. The AEV suspension retains the factory coil springs but adds 3 inches of height with aluminum spacers and revises the steering and suspension geometry. Both the new drag link and the track bar are forged, and the drag link is raised at the axle end to account for the added suspension height; the tie rod remains in the factory location.
The modular AEV front bumper is unlike anything else on the fullsize truck market. It is stamped from 3/16-inch-thick steel and accepts a 16,500-pound winch, in this case a Warn 16.5 with a Factor 55 Flatlink. Above the winch a 30-inch Vision X LED light bar complements the recessed 6.7-inch Vision X Cannon 50W LED lights. The bumper even has cast steel tow points that are fully rated to pass all OE load specifications and wear plates to slide along steep obstacles when the approach angle isn't enough to get a tire on the ledge.
Don't call it a snorkel. The AEV raised air intake offers advantages for more than just water crossings. By raising the location where air is drawn into the engine, less dust and dirt finds its way into the filter. AEV also uses a huge, commercial-grade precleaner that is self-cleaning to further ensure that only clean, cool air makes its way into the Cummins engine.
The interior of the Ram is clean and simple, with only the addition of AEV Cordura seat covers and an AEV panel to house the switches for the ARB Air Lockers and auxiliary lights. AMP Research steps make ingress and egress easy, even with 41-inch-tall Super Swampers.
Ram equipped the 2500 trucks with rear coil springs starting in 2014. AEV retains the factory arms but revises the rear suspension geometry to raise the roll center and improve handling. The rear suspension gets a 2-inch boost in ride height and benefits from AEV-specific Bilstein 5100 shocks.
The tray bed is a Ute LTD aluminum model that was imported from Australia, where these beds are a popular modification. AEV made custom mounts to fix the aluminum bed to the frame of the Ram and will offer something similar on the market in the future. In addition to increased storage area and ease of loading with the fold-down sides, the tray bed makes room for an ARB air compressor and a Titan 30-gallon auxiliary fuel tank under the flat floor by relocating the fullsize spare tire to the bed. The tire is mounted upright to take up less space.
The 6.7L Cummins engine and G56 six-speed manual transmission were left stock for dependability, including all of the required emissions equipment. Even though the manual-equipped diesels are rated for less power than their automatic counterparts, Harriton prefers the 6.29 First gear of the G56 for pavement and trail duty.
2015 Ram 2500 SLT
Engine: 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel
Transmission: G56 6-speed manual
Transfer case: NV273
Front Axle: AAM 9.25 with 4.10 gears and ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: AAM 11.5 with 4.10 gears and ARB Air Locker
Springs & Such: AEV DualSport 3-inch lift with custom tuned Bilstein 5100 shocks
Tires & Wheels: 41x14.50R17LT Interco Super Swamper Iroks on 17x10 AEV Katla wheels
Steering: PSC hydraulic assist
Other Stuff: AEV front bumper, Warn 16.5 winch, Factor 55 flat link, Vision X light bar, Vision X Cannon lights, AEV high-clearance fender flares, AEV raised air intake, Ute LTD tray bed, ARB air compressor, Titan 30-gal. auxiliary fuel tank, AMP Research steps, AEV seat covers, AEV switch panel