Don’t be shocked by this ’87 Dodge Ramcharger’s stock-ish appearance. This daily driver is wheeling and able to take Homer Smith to work every day and deliver a comfortable ride to far off the beaten path family camping trips that include trail moshing.
“My goal was to create a truck as close to original that I can drive on the freeway and the trail,” Homer says when asked about his build goals. Even the little things mattered. “With only minor fender trimming we were even able to keep all the stock molding,” he says. The Ramcharger also has many personal touches. “Sometimes I get ribbed about that old shovel on my roof rack. That old shovel belonged to my grandfather Albert Homer Anderson, a coal miner during WWII. When he left West Virginia for Michigan in the ’50s, he took his shovel with him and put it to work building his house himself. After his death, it’s how I take his memory with me on the trails,” Homer shared.
Homer, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, has a long history with this Dodge. He purchased it from his younger brother, Bryan, in 2001 (who acquired it from its original owner), and together, they installed a motor and also did some bodywork before they repainted it in its original colors. In April 2012, he took it to his friend, Sam Ayars’, garage to be made more adept to trail use. The result is this incredible vintage Ramcharger that can wheel hard but still be a comfortable daily driver.
Atop the Ramcharger is a Smittybilt Defender roof rack fit with a 40-inch Pro Comp LED lightbar. Below the stock headlights a Superwinch Talon 9.5 is situated on a custom bumper, which also holds two 6-inch Pro Comp LED lights that are magnetically mounted (with “scary strong” neodymium magnets that have more than 250 pounds of pulling force) so they will stay in place while wheeling but can be adjusted for improved visibility during night wheeling or to help light a work area in the dark. A 3-inch body lift makes way for 2x2-inch, 1/8-inch-thick square tube nerf bars welded to the frame. The Ramcharger rolls on 36x15.50R16LT Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ tires mounted to 10-inch-wide Pro Comp Xtreme Rock Crawler Series 52 black steel wheels.
At A Glance
Vehicle: ’87 Dodge Ramcharger
Owner: Homer Smith
Stomping grounds: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Build time: Two years
Engine: Chrysler 408ci V-8
Transfer case(s): NorthWest Fabworks Blackbox, NP208 transfer case
Low range ratio(s): 2.62:1, 2.72:1, 7.13:1
Crawl ratio(s): 29.3:1, 30.4:1, 79.7:1
Front axle/differential: Dana 60, 4.56:1 gears/ARB Air Locker
Rear axle/differential: Dana 70HD, 4.56:1 gears/Eaton Detroit Locker
The front axle is a Dana 60, and it’s been armored with a Riddler Manufacturing diff cover and fit with an ARB Air Locker, 35-spline chromoly axleshafts, and 4.56:1 ratio gears. The front suspension uses Willys Jeep Parts 3-inch-drop shackles, repositioned Bilstein 5100 series shocks, and Skyjacker Softride D400S leaf springs. Homer aims the Ramcharger’s big 36-inch tires with help from a 4-inch Offroad Design pitman arm and PSC Motorsports ram-assist steering components (the frame area around the steering box was also reinforced). Steering fluid is cooled via a fan-cooled radiator that is mounted high and out of harm’s way in front of the A/C evaporator.
Front: Skyjacker Softride D400S leaf springs, Willys Jeep Parts 3-in shackles, Bilstein 5100 series shocks
Rear: 56-in Pro Comp Chevy-application leaf springs, Willys Jeep Parts 3-in shackles, Bilstein 5100 series shocks
Steering: Offroad Design 4-in-drop pitman arm, PSC hydro-assist, radiator with fan
Tires: 36x15.50R16LT Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ
Wheels: 16x10 Pro Comp Xtreme Rock Crawler Series 52
Lighting: 40-in LED lightbar, custom magnetic Pro Comp LED lights
Armor: Custom bumpers, nerf bars, belly cradle
Cool stuff: Front-mounted Superwinch Talon 9.5 winch, rear-mounted Badland 9,000-pound winch, VIAIR air compressor,
Out back is a Dana 70HD axle that was pirated from a dualie truck. Like the front axle it has 4.56:1 ratio gears and a Riddler Manufacturing diff cover. It has been fit with a Detroit Locker to ensure power is sent to both wheels. The rear suspension includes Pro Comp 56-inch-long Chevy-application leaf springs, Willys Jeep Parts 3-inch shackles, and repositioned Bilstein 5100 series shocks. Power is delivered to both of the truck’s axles via heavy-duty driveshafts from Drive Line Service in Colorado Springs.
Homer beefed the underbody of his Ramcharger as well. “I removed the transmission crossmember and created a belly cradle that connects the transmission, NP208 T-case, and NorthWest Fabworks Blackbox using two standard engine mounts,” he says.
Under the hood is a monster 408ci V-8. This ’plant has a variety of mods including JE forged pistons, Edelbrock Performer RPM aluminum heads and RPM Air-Gap intake, Comp Cams camshaft and roller rockers, Cloyes Gear & Products double roller timing set, FAST EZ-EFI fuel injection, a MSD coil and distributor, and Moroso 9-quart oil pan. At the rear wheels, horsepower is said to be 315 at 5,300 rpm and torque is said to be 352 lb-ft at 5,300 rpm. Exhaust gases are carried via Jet Hot-coated Doug Thorley headers, 3 1/2-inch pipes, and 2 1/2-inch tailpipes. Electrical needs are met by a 220-amp alternator, a pair of Optima RedTop batteries, and the factory wiring harness (with some modifications). “We put the headlights on relays and set up two sub power stations. One under the hood for all the LED lights on relays and to run the front and rear winches. The second sub power station is in the glove box,” Homer says. The engine is mated to an A518 four-speed automatic transmission that was heavily modified by H&M Transmission & Automotive in Castle Rock, Colorado. Components include a B&M flex plate, Continental torque converter, B&M pan, and two B&M controllers that were modified for overdrive and lockup.
Inside, the Ramcharger has been upgraded with a number of mods including a pair of bucket seats from a ’92 Ramcharger (with aftermarket seat heaters and reupholstered by Knowles Trim Shop in Colorado Springs, Colorado), a ’12 GMC Yukon center console, Charcoal Grey carpet, sound deadening material, and an army of Auto Meter gauges to monitor vital functions. “We installed two B&M controllers for overdrive and lockup. I can set overdrive and lockup to engage automatically at any speed (for normal driving) and I can disengage both at the column shifter,” Homer notes. To facilitate these functions he added a later model shifter with an overdrive on/off button. Other interior mods include a Pioneer head unit with integrated DVD player, backup camera, and GPS navigation; Alpine four-channel amplifier; JBL speakers; and Cobra CB radio, all installed by Homer.
The cargo area of the Ramcharger is clean and orderly but holds an assortment of items including recovery equipment, a Hi-Lift jack, emergency fuel, and an air hose reel.
The custom rear winch bumper is made from 2x2x1/8-inch square steel with a winch plate made from 1/4-inch steel. This bumper holds a Badland 9.000-pound winch. Integrated into the bumper is a 2-inch receiver hitch and a pair of clevis mounting points. It’s also worth noting that the bumper was designed with pass-through features for the tailpipes to provide protection. Two 6-inch Pro Comp LED driving lights are affixed to the rear bumper with strong magnets, which keep the lights in place during wheeling, but allow adjustability to throw light wherever needed.
In the glove box is a sub power station. It includes the FAST EZ-EFI computer, posts for the battery, and ignition hot-posts that connect all the interior power ports. On a related note, the starter relay was moved behind the fender to keep it safe and dry.