You may have followed our Great White Dodge Ram project that, with all its modifications, became quite a truck. We loved it, but wives, 88-year-old moms, etc. refused to drive or ride in it because it was "too wide (fender flares) and too high (suspension and tires)." It wasn't too wide or too high, but this wouldn't do for one of the family's daily drivers. We decided to build another truck with no lift (except slightly larger tires and a few modifications) that would make the vehicle an easy-to-live-with, all-around workhorse.
We chose to go with a silver '06 Dodge Ram Quad Cab shortbed 4x4 with an H.O. Cummins diesel and automatic transmission. The Dodge has the SLT trim level with Big Horn option group that includes aluminum wheels, trailer tow package, Sirius satellite radio, and other desirable items. The Dodge has a strong hydroformed frame, which no longer allows the bed to flex into the cab when off-roading, and a small turning radius. The 5.9 H.O. Cummins needs no introduction and is a fabulous diesel mill, not only for light trucks, but also for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, albeit in different states of tune. We used to say that the Cummins would last a lot longer than the truck that it was in, but that's no longer the case. There are plenty of old Dodges still going strong with unbelievable miles on the clock and the Cummins under the hood. Our truck also has an 11.5-inch AAM rearend with a TracRite helical-gear limited-slip.
On our F-150, we used an A.R.E. cap and Bedrug bedliner. These products impressed us so much that we decided to use both of them again for our Ram. We again chose to use a Z-Series cap from A.R.E. The Z-Series is a very strong, well-built cap that features soft, rounded lines which match the truck's. The rear door on the Z-Series is curved to match the styling of the cap and give the truck an SUV look. The third brake light, which is required by law, is recessed into the fiberglass and curved to match the cap's styling for a great look. The Z-Series features rotary "slam action" latches that allow you to open and close the door with the same motions as you use to close the truck door. A comment about slam action: If you slam the glass rear door of the Z-Series, it won't latch all the way. If you gently close it, it latches tightly and easily. In our opinion, "slam action" is a poor name for this quality latch. The OE-quality lock features a double-sided key just like the truck's.
We had a few options installed on this Z-Series cap. We again went with the tilt-down, front sliding window for easy cleaning. We also added a battery-operated interior light, an interior clothing-hanger rod, and a Yakima Control Tower rack that will allow us to carry bikes, equipment, a kayak, or just about anything else we can think of on top of the truck.
Our Bedrug, the plastic bedliner that looks like a carpet, has worked very well for us in past projects and looks like it will continue to do so in our new Ram. The closed-cell foam backing bonded to the plastic-fiber surface won't absorb liquids, keeping them on the surface where they can be easily washed away just like a hard plastic bedliner - and that includes oil and other spills we sometimes have to deal with on our off-road forays. The plastic foam backing is heat- and pressure-molded for each truck model, conforming exactly to the contours of the bed. This affords a tough, flat, knee-friendly, nonskid surface that cushions fragile cargo and is also a great place to throw a sleeping bag during camping excursions. All the factory tie-downs and two-tier loading features are retained with the Bedrug.
The Dodge alloy wheels are some of the best you can get, so we opted to keep them. We did want to go with a larger tire for more flotation, better traction, and looks. The LT315/70R17 (35-inch) BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/AKO is a proven tire that works in all situations. We're a bit concerned about its "D" load-range rating, but it will still carry more load than we'll ever need when it's pumped up to maximum pressure (BFG - there are plenty of truck owners who do need the E load rating, so give us a 35-inch E-rated tire too). Thirty-five-inch tires fit on the stock Dodge wheels with little or no rubbing and no suspension lift at all. If you choose an aftermarket wheel with less than 6 inches of backspacing, you'll increase scrub radius and get rubbing. We'd like to see more aftermarket wheels with 6 inches of backspacing.
While we wanted to leave the truck the stock height, we didn't want to keep the woefully inadequate stock shocks. Kroeker Off Road Engineering (KORE) has been building very-high-performance Dodge Ram suspensions for a long time. We installed a KORE Unlimited system on our Great White project and its performance was stunning, on- and off-road. KORE just introduced its specially valved Fox 2-inch reservoir shocks for trucks that have no lift, and we, of course, immediately procured a set for our truck. Kent Kroeker, the owner of KORE, is a perfectionist, and the suspension components he sells reflect his dedication to offering high-quality parts that really work.
The Dodge Power Wagon we just received for a long-term test has nice-looking fender flares that protect the body. Mopar Accessories sells these very same flares through local Dodge dealers, so we picked up a set. We also got a pair of rear fenderwell liners that will keep crud out of the fenderwells. 2001-and-older Dodge trucks used to have these fenderwell liners standard, but the new trucks don't. The flares and the liners come with hardware and instructions for easy installation. Most of the holes needed for installation are already there.
After St. George Toppers, Mountain Toppers, and Mount Logan Off-Road got finished with our truck, we were amazed at how well it worked. The Bedrug and A.R.E. Z-Series shell worked just as well as they did on our last project. The KORE/Fox shocks made a gigantic difference in the truck's ride and handling, both on- and off-road! The compression damping is a little softer than stock, which gives us a great ride. Rebound damping is very controlled, and we really like the feel this gives our Ram. The stock shocks must have had very little rebound damping at all.
We plan on adding a Dynatrac manual hub kit (so we can quit turning everything up front in two-wheel drive) and some other Mopar accessories that will make life in the truck much nicer. Look for these additions and more in upcoming installments.