If you had less than $3,000 to spend and you want to conquer the extreme trails in a fullsize rig, what would you buy?
Here's the deal: You've got less than $3,000 to spend, you live in New Mexico, and you want to conquer the extreme trails in a fullsize rig. What do you do? If you're Rick Rohrbacher you look for a screaming deal and perform all of the work yourself.
Rick scored big time, paying just $400 for a very clean 360-powered '79 Ramcharger. Since the purchase, he's put about $2,500, lots of clever home-grown modifications, and hundreds of dents into a machine that will go places that would make a bighorn sheep dizzy.
Leaving well enough alone, the stock 200,000-mile 360 was treated to a new timing chain, and the NP203 transfer case got a Mile Marker part-time kit. The stock 3.55 gears just weren't cutting it, so in went a Dana 60 rear and Dana 44 front from a '74 Dodge truck. A one-ton Ford rear driveshaft that fit between the rearend and transfer case was procured from the local boneyard, but Rick had to shell out some real dough for the custom-built front 'shaft.
Turning to the suspension, a set of 2-1/2-inch Skyjacker front springs with an add-a-leaf, and stock 3/4-ton Dodge rear springs hold up the Ramcharger. By far the trickest part of this Ramcharger is the homemade cantilever drop-shackle hangers in the rear. Rick enlisted the help of Bill Lance of Alamagordo, New Mexico, to box the factory shackle hangers and move them forward on the frame. Cut and welded main leafs from Chevy front springs provide the mounting points to the newly-boxed shackle brackets and Chevy front spring shackles. Factory Dodge front bumpstop brackets with Chevy bumpstops were mounted in the original shackle bracket locations and serve as a rest for the cantilever arm when not in droop.
When asked about the body, Rick simply replies, "I love my sawzall." That's apparent. The front fenders and most of the rear quarter-panels and floor have been whacked off to improve departure angles, while the fenders have been heavily trimmed to fit the bald 36-inch military Hummer tires. The factory hoop rollbar was incorporated into the full eight-point rollcage.
This big Dodge proves that you dont need a ton of money to go out and enjoy yourself on the trail. After all, where else would you expect to find a ram but transversing a big pile of rocks.