Part 1: Making It Our Own
Enough with the letters already. We know, we know, it is time to get started on building up our 2005 Dodge Power Wagon! So what took us so long? Ever since it retired from the long-term fleet, we have had a grandiose vision of a project buildup, but it always seems like there was another project that was taking priority or we didn't have enough time, or we just couldn't really settle on the direction we wanted to go with it.
To us, the Power Wagon is a special truck, the Holy Grail of what a 3/4-ton pickup should be, with its flexy suspension, fullsize capability, front and rear lockers and oh-so-fancy electronically disconnecting sway bar. We wanted to improve on the area to make a better Power Wagon, without taking away at all from what it is. When it comes to this truck, we have standards, and we are not going to be the guys who ruin it.
So after months (years, really) of debate and a stock truck begging for some well-planned mods, we decided we were going to go with mild yet functional upgrades. Because we wanted to maintain the towing ability, while increasing trailability, we determined 35-inch tires would suit us just fine, especially since the Power Wagon is already sporting low 4.56:1 gearing. We want to focus on storage and recovery improvements, as well as protection and other mods that will enhance what the Power Wagon is, or what it was designed for.
In this first installment, we decided to just dip our toes in the water and go with tires, suspension and a programmer to get the buildup rolling.
For the wheel and tire package, we went with a set of Mickey Thompson Baja ATZs mounted on Dick Cepek's great-looking new Torque wheels--a perfect complement to our project Power Wagon. Because the full suspension we ordered wasn't available in time for this install, we gave our buddies over at Daystar a call and asked for their assistance in providing us with a Power Wagon-specific coil-spring spacer. Daystar doesn't have one in the catalog, but sent us a prototype 1-inch spacer (the Power Wagon already sits about 2 inches higher than a standard Ram from the factory) to test out on our Wagon until we complete the next phase of our suspension buildup.
Lastly, we ordered up a Hypertech Max Power programmer. With these simple mods, our Power Wagon sits right, improves upon its factory ride and looks great. We think it is the perfect start to an exciting buildup.
We consider the Baja ATZ to be an aggressive all-terrain tire, meaning it will be slightly louder on the highway than a conventional A/T, but it offers a more aggressive tread pattern for off-highway jaunts. The ATZ features a wide footprint for its size, plus beefy tread blocks with siping for stability and all-weather capability. It also has a two-ply sidewall with sidewall biters, and in the 35x12.5R17 size that we chose has a 3,000-pound load rating for towing duty.
Check out this wheel. Here is the all-new Dick Cepek DC-Torque wheel. The mix of flat black and a machined surface is perfect for the look we are trying to achieve with Project Power Wagon, and the satin clear coat will keep the wheel looking nice for a long time. The DC-Torque offers maximum caliper clearance for big brake kits, high offset for late-model rigs, and is tire pressure sensor-friendly. We went with the 17x8.5 sizing, which has an impressive 3,640-pound load rating per wheel.
The Hypertech Max Power programmer is as easy to install as plugging in to your OBD II port and following the onscreen instructions. It offers a variety of different functions from top-speed limiter changing to changing where the rev-limiter comes in and reading trouble codes. It also has two tunes--one for 87 octane, which Hypertech says will add 7 horsepower and 10 lb-ft of torque, or the tune for premium fuel which is said to give a boost of 13 horsepower and 16 lb-ft of torque.
How It Works
So far, so good. With the mix of spacers and flare trimming, we aren't getting any more rub, and the Daystar coil spacers do isolate the coil springs further, mellowing out the quick sharp hits you feel on broken pavement, making it a more comfortable ride around town.
We like the fact that Hypertech Max Power has a performance tune for 87-octane, allowing us to offset the bigger wheels and tires with a little extra kick without the expense of premium fuel.
The wheel and tire combination has us impressed, not only with style, but with capability. The ATZ tires have been wonderful on-road and offer good grip in the dirt. Project Power Wagon will be headed back to the Midwest Bureau for the remainder of the build so we'll be able to tell you how they perform in weather--something we don't see too often in Southern California--and in the Midwest soil.