Part 4: Gears, Traction & Time To Go
Last year we built an '09 Dodge Ram 1500 crew cab show truck in our Project Black Sheep (Mar.- May '09). The new half-ton was built to clear 37-inch Mickey Thompson tires with as little suspension lift as possible. After a few weeks working with the shock research team at Edelbrock we were clearing the bigger rubber with just 1 3/4 inches of lift and total removal of the inner fender liners front and rear.
After the suspension work we modified the interior with Katzkin leather seat covers, and then took the Black Sheep to Randy Ellis Designs for front tube work in the form of a new front bumper and bed rails. The bumper was fitted with a row of Lightforce lights, while the bed tubes helped hauling a small four-wheeler. The final step involved a dramatic faux-armor paint job done by KC Customs in Santa Rosa, California.
The finished truck was a hit at last year's SEMA show, where it won a Design Excellence award from Chrysler, and it has since been displayed at various car shows and 4x4 events. Now it's time for Phase 2, four-wheeling!
In this episode the Black Sheep receives some better gearing and traction aids to make it go farther down the trail. Showmanship duty is pretty much finished for this machine; now it's time to get it dirty. The truck rides great, looks good, and over the next year will be souped up even more for off-road adventures.
Year In Review The Black Sheep has become a dedicated daily driver, a tow rig, and a beginner trail machine. It still has the flash of its early days, but the bed has garnered some scratches from hauling axles, parts, and camping gear, while the trailer hitch has towed for thousands of miles. The rear coil springs get squashed when towing a heavy load but always spring back when unhooked, and a weight distributing hitch has helped immensely. Other than a pesky "check engine" light, the missing plastic tailgate trim, and a nonfunctioning 110V outlet on the dash, we've had little complaints from the trusty half-ton. Mileage has ranged from 10 to 18, depending on the load, and with just over 26,000 miles we recently rotated the tires due to some front cupping (a realignment is on the To Do list). It's still one of the best-riding trucks we've ever driven.
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