It’s massive, built like a tank, loaded with custom features, and incredibly functional. This ’74 Dodge belongs to Sam Ayars of Falcon, Colorado, and he calls it “Bud.” Why? We’ll get to that in a moment.
Sam is retired from the United States Air Force and is currently a government contractor. When it came time to build a truck, he had a plan. “I had my own ideas on what I wanted to build, and thanks to all of the shared knowledge out there on the forums, I was able to make very well educated decisions when it came time to pull the trigger and purchase the hardware,” Sam says. He also thanks his “wife and best friend” Tracy for all of her help throughout the build, as well as Ben White, Homer Smith, Steve Baker, and Neil Harrison, among others.
“There were a lot of ‘firsts’ for me on this one. Like most fabricators, I think of myself as an ‘imagineer.’ I tend to think pretty far outside the box and I like to explore different ways of doing things.” – Sam Ayars
He goes on to say, “There were a lot of ‘firsts’ for me on this one. Like most fabricators, I think of myself as an ‘imagineer.’ I tend to think pretty far outside the box, and I like to explore different ways of doing things. And I have no fear of failing. Failing just shows me the proper way how not to do something. I really had no idea how the truck would eventually end up, but I knew for certain that it would be big, capable, and … if successful, ridiculous loads of fun!”
We saw Sam and his rig in action at the Fullsize Invasion 2016 in Moab, and it was crystal clear to us that he met his goals.
But why does he call his truck Bud? Well, Bud stands for “Big Ugly Dodge.”
We beg to differ, and we think you will too. Sam’s Dodge is a beautiful thing.
At A Glance
Vehicle: ’74 Power Wagon “950”
Owner: Sam Ayars
Stomping grounds: Falcon, Colorado
Build time: 2 years planning, 2 years building
Engine: Cummins 6BT I-6 turbodiesel
Transmission: Chrysler 47RH
Transfer case(s): Offroad Design Ford NP203/205 Doubler
Low range ratio(s): 1.96:1, 3.92:1
Crawl ratio(s): 32.3:1, 64.5:1
Front axle/differential: 2 1/2-ton Rockwell, F-550 disc brakes, 6.72 gears/Yukon Grizzly Locker
Rear axle/differential: 2 1/2-ton Rockwell, F-350 dualie brakes, 6.72 gears/Yukon Grizzly Locker
Front: 4-inch-lift 56-in Pro Comp leaf springs, Offroad Design 4 1/2-in SuperShackles, Bilstein 5100 series shocks
Rear: 5 1/2-inch-lift 63-in Pro Comp leaf springs, Offroad Design 6-in SuperShackles, Bilstein 5100 series shocks
Steering: PSC hydro-assist, Vickers V10F pump, Offroad Design 4-in-drop pitman arm
Tires: 19.5/46-20LT Mickey Thompson Baja Claw
Wheels: 20x14 Stazworks double beadlock w/outer cold-rolled rings
Lighting: Forward, rear, and underbody
Armor: Custom 12-point rollcage, custom rock sliders, custom front bumper/stinger, custom rear bumper, custom belly cradle
Cool stuff: Three winches, custom tube doors, rear tailbench, modified M101 bed, custom aluminum tonneau cover, modified chassis
The Dodge body sits on custom mounts made from 1/4-inch plate steel. “I think the actual ‘body lift’ is about 8 inches,” Sam says. The front clip of the truck is from a ’78 Power Wagon and the cab is a ’74 crew cab. “The cab is a long story. About all that remains from the original rusty crew cab is the firewall, the door frames, the rocker inner framework, and the rear wall,” he notes. When Sam fabbed the new floor he included removable top covers between the front seats for easy access to the transmission and Doubler linkage. Between the rear seats he built a “dog house” to allow easy access to the Doubler. “The Doubler is designed to be unbolted/removed straight up through the floor (using an engine puller) and out the side,” he says. The roof of the truck is another cool mod. Sam cut the roof and windshield frame off the truck and welded a Ramcharger windshield frame onto the crew cab firewall. He then replaced the front of the crew cab roof with the front portion of a Ramcharger removable hardtop. “By do
The front axle is a 2 1/2-ton Rockwell pirated from a ’67 Kaiser M35. Sam wanted the truck to be an off-road animal but also street friendly, so axle mods were carefully addressed. Among many other things, Sam mounted the axle backwards and reclocked it by cutting it into three pieces and rotating the centersection forward 15 degrees (rotating the pinion up). After the 20-hour procedure, he reports no driveshaft bind and a “street-happy” positive caster angle. Other axle mods include a Yukon Grizzly Locker, Ouverson Engineering & Machine lockouts, and axle seals from Custom Off-Road Equipment. Braking is handled by F-550 calipers and rotors and a significant amount of modification was necessary to make ’em fit. The steering system retains the rear-mounted tie rod and includes a PSC hydro-assist steering box and hydraulic ram, Offroad Design 4-inch-drop pitman arm, and Borgeson steering shaft. Powering the steering system is a Vickers VF10F power steering pump. “Probably the most critical component of the
The entire frame has been boxed using 3/16-inch plate and there’s a “rockproof” belly cradle made from 2-inch, 0.250-wall square tube. This cradle holds and protects the divorced NP203/205 Offroad Design Doubler. The Doubler is tipped approximately 10 degrees rearward, and when combined with the input and output CV joints on the driveshafts, Sam reports absolutely no driveline vibrations. Speaking of the driveshafts, all were custom-built by Driveline Service in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The rear Rockwell 2 1/2-ton axle has been fit with a Yukon Grizzly locker and beefed with 1/4-inch plate. The rear spring perches were modified to rotate the axle back (pinion up) 15 degrees to gain a near-zero pinion angle to the driveshaft and zero bind at full compression or extension. The rear braking was also built by Sam. “I modified the original Rockwell spindle mounts (for the factory drums) to allow the Dana 80 backing plates to bolt on using four 3/4-inch bolts. The rotors bolt directly onto the Rockwell hubs (flipped out). All of the rear brake hardware is now a bolt-on deal, all with local off-the-shelf Dana 80 factory hardware. The brakes on this truck are nothing short of fantastic. The best brakes of any vehicle I have ever built, and even better than many new vehicles I’ve owned,” Sam says.
Under the hood is a 6BT Cummins turbodiesel from a ’90 Dodge Ram. “The engine has more than 300,000 miles on it. The long-block has never been opened. I cleaned the engine, replaced all the external gaskets and resealed the engine, tabbed the KDP, and painted it Cummins engine beige. The original non-intercooled injection pump died years ago, and I replaced it with an intercooled VE44 injection pump I already had, along with the matching high-pressure hard lines, which conveniently threaded right onto the original non-intercooled 9mm injectors. It runs excellent and makes smooth, reliable power to wheel this 9,000-pound truck,” Sam says. Additionally, the turbo is from a ’99 24-valve Cummins engine, the factory wiring harness was modified and reused, a standalone secondary wiring harness was fabbed for all accessories, and a pair of X2 Power AGM batteries were installed to provide current (they reside on a custom shelf that’s welded to the inside of the truck’s frame, just inboard of the rear tire). The engin
Sam fabbed up the front bumper/stinger using 2- and 1 1/2-inch-diameter tubing. The bumper solidly mounts a massive 12,000-pound Warn winch. It also provides a mount for a pair of aftermarket LED lights (“Light for where I’m going”). Speaking of lighting, Sam also mounted up a pair of LED lights under the truck (“Light for where I am”) and rear-facing lights (“Lights for where I’ve been”).
Inside, the seats are from a M35A3, the steering wheel is a reproduction of a ’52 M38 Jeep, there’s an ididit steering column, an etrailer.com center console, and Auto Meter Z-Series gauges among other things. Keeping occupants safe is a custom 12-point rollcage that ties into the vehicles frame.
Bilstein 5100 series shocks are used at all four corners of the leaf-spring-equipped rig. Up front are 56-inch-long, 4-inch-lift Pro Comp springs equipped with 4 1/2-inch Offroad Design SuperShackles. Out back are 63-inch-long, 5 1/2-inch-lift Pro Comp springs equipped with 6-inch-long SuperShackles. “In order to contain excessive axlewrap, I drilled the ends of each of the overload leafs on all four leaf packs and fitted both ends with military wrap straps, which do a great job of containing axlewrap and preventing the leaf packs from extruding too far,” Sam says. He also got creative with the front leaf springs. “In order to use the big 56-inch front leafs without having excessive lift under the frame, I decided to mount the shackles on the forward half of the front leafs. This allowed the rear mount to be a fixed point, with the shackle taking up some of the natural rise in the frame. This decision has proven to be successful. The truck enjoys nearly no bumpsteer and handles very well considering how big the tires and everything are,” he notes.
The tail of the truck is loaded with functional, custom features. The bed was fabricated from a ’67 Case M101A3 military trailer. Among other things, Sam shortened it by 2 1/2 feet, widened the wheelwells, and added a custom aluminum tonneau cover. The tailgate was modified so it could be removed from the truck and securely positioned below the bumper for use as a work bench or lunch table in less than 30 seconds. Other mods and additions include a custom rear bumper, 12,000-pound Badland winch, removable vise, and a staggering collection of bed-mounted parts including a jack, axleshafts, drive flanges, hub seals, pitman arm, fluids, grease, sealants, thread locker, winching accessories, welding supplies, clean-up kit, and much more.
The spare 46-inch tire and wheel weighs approximately 250 pounds, so Sam mounted a 2,500-pound ATV winch to the front of the truck’s cargo bed to draw the spare tire and wheel into the bed. The ATV winch came as a remote-control unit, which he didn’t want, so he modified the unit to accept the controller of the rear-mounted Badland winch.