In today’s world, where multimillion-dollar overlanding vehicles exist, it’s nice to see a simple old hunting/camping truck for trips into the backwoods. OK, maybe this truck isn’t just some old beater hunting truck, but the components are reliable and simple.
Chuck Valceshini started with a regular cab 2006 Dodge 2500 and took it to Rob Bonney Fabrication in Peoria, Arizona, to create a reliable (and warm) heavy-duty truck for Northern Russia and Siberia. Chuck has a day job in oil exploration but likes hunting in his off time. He plans to do both in this truck the next time he’s on assignment in the frozen east.
Bonney put tons of man-hours into making this one of the best equipped, most capable, and reliable backwoods rigs you can imagine. Most of the fabrication includes extensive insulation and reinforcement of the Caravan Camper shell. The camper also has its own electrical system (isolated from the truck’s factory wiring), a gas heater, a steel roof rack with an aluminum aircraft landing strip material for decking, a 900-pound externally mounted crane for lifting game into the truck, and more.
We accompanied Bonney on the first shakedown run to Colorado, duplicating the high altitude and cold temperature environment that Chuck intends to use the truck in.
Rob Bonney Fabrication (RBF) is responsible for the vast majority of the metal work on the Dodge. One exception is the large aluminum bumper sourced from Denver Off Road. This bumper contains a Kingone 12,000-pound electric winch in case the hunting truck gets stuck.
The 5.9L Cummins diesel has plenty of grunt to turn the Continentals, but if more traction is needed ARB Air Lockers can be engaged with the flip of a switch. The rocker guards incorporate expanded steel to form steps for access to the truck even when she’s coated in ice.
The rear bumper was built by RBF and houses a 12,000-pound Mile Marker hydraulic winch. The roof rack is accessible via the removable aluminum ladder or Caravan Camper mounted steps.
The 275/80R20 Continental MPT-81tires were a special request of owner Chuck Valceshini because the size is common overseas. Walker Evans 20-inch beadlock wheels ensure that the tires stay in place even when used at lower than road pressure. The tires are almost 38 inches tall.
Carli progressive-rate front 3-inch lift coils, custom Deaver rear springs, and a complement of four 3-inch King remote reservoir shocks give the truck a prerunner-like ride that you wouldn’t expect for a big heavy diesel truck.
The Cummins was kept stock for reliability. A South Bend Dual Disc clutch mates the 24-valve to a G56 six-speeed manual transmission. A stock NV271 transfer case sends power to the factory front and rear AAM axles. Gearing is 3.73:1. The isolator switch separates the factory wiring from the secondary electrical system from Finish Line Racing. Both systems remain isolated, but the switch can be turned to start the Dodge via the rear battery if need be.
A Caravan Camper shell was extensively reworked by RBF, with three layers of insulation to keep occupants warm in frigid Russian weather. An Espar diesel-powered heater can warm either the camper or the diesel engine. The Air Lockers are powered by an ARB Twin Compressor, which can also fill tires.
The inside of the caravan camper has clean bead rolled aluminum panels that cover the wiring and insulation. Modular decking with Baltic Birch plywood makes for a sturdy elevated cargo area or sleeping area.
The decking over the National Luna freezer fridge can be opened from the side window.
Fabricated box runners support the rocker guard steps. The ends of these structures are further strengthened by tube tying to the frame and spring mounts.
The inverter and fuse panel for the camper electronics are visible in the bottom left near the storage area for the 900-pound crane.
The fold-down rear step serves as a license plate mount when not in use.
An extendable awning provides shade on sunny Siberian days
The folding electric crane from Spitz Lift can be mounted to either rear corner of the camper shell via the roof rack. The crane can deliver up to 900 pounds of payload to the rear opening of the camper.
The interior of the truck has switches for the various accessories, a padded Tuffy middle console, and MasterCraft seats.
Bonney built this beautiful flat roof rack without railings. The aluminum panels can be removed if necessary and interlocked to create traction surfaces for the truck if necessary
After the shakedown run to Colorado it became clear that the factory steering system was not up to par with the rest of the truck’s supple suspension. Heavy-duty steering parts including a tie rod, a draglink, tie-rod ends, a steering box brace, and a track bar bracing were sourced from Synergy Manufacturing. This is supplemented with custom reinforcements from RBF.
Crossmembers were reinforced, and a skidplate from the oil pan to the rear axle was designed by Bonney. The skid is made of 1/4-inch steel plate and provides ample protection.
2006 Dodge Ram 2500
Engine: 24-valve 5.9L Cummins turbodiesel
Transmission: G56 6-speed manual, South Bend Dual Disc clutch
Transfer Case: NP271
Front Axle: 9.25 AAM with 3.73 gears and an ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: 11.5 AAM with 3.73 gears and an ARB Air Locker
Springs & Such: 3-inch Carli progressive-rate coils, 3-inch King shocks (front); custom Deaver Springs, 3-inch King shocks, long-travel airbags (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 275/80R20 Continental MPT-81 on 20-inch Walker Evans beadlocks
Steering: Synergy Mfg. steering with RBF reinforcements
Lighting: extensive Rigid LED lights
Other Stuff: Complete underbelly skidplates, custom rocker guards with integrated cold-weather steps, triple-insulated Caravan Camper with heater and roof rack with removable 900-pound loading crane, custom winch bumpers (and winches) front and rear, National Luna freezer/fridge.