Mike Valdez has plenty of experience in building mechanical giants. For the past few years he's been employed as an aircraft assembler and has worked on everything from MD11 commercial jets to C17 military cargo planes. So when Mike decided to build his '98 Dodge Ram 3500 into a vehicle that would be equally at home on pavement or on sand, it was no surprise when it turned out to be bigger and badder than any rig on his block.
In building his truck, Mike wanted a rig that could function as his daily driver (actually, his wife Veronica drives it to work most days), as well as a rig that he could take to one of his favorite weekend playgrounds--the sand dunes of Glamis, down near the Mexican border in Southern California. His friends thought he was crazy to try to build a dualie for the dunes but Mike was committed. First, he went to work on the suspension, using a Skyjacker 4 1/2-inch Softride lift system. The system combines coil springs and four Skyjacker Nitro shocks in the front, with leaf springs and two Nitros out back to damp the ride. A Skyjacker Nitro steering stabilizer enhances steering control.
To make room for the massive meats we wanted to use, Mike added an additional three inches of Dick Cepek lift to the body. These mods, along with custom-widened dual 8.25x16.5 (rear) and 9.75x16.5 (front) steel wheels, allowed for the 38-inch Super Swamper TSLs that give the dualie its gnarly stance. For recovery purposes, a Warn M12000 winch was bolted to an ultra-beefy Reunel front bumper that's equipped with D-rings. A set of PIAA 520 driving lights were mounted to the bumper and provide plenty of nighttime illumination. To aid in getting in and out of this sky-high dualie, Smittybilt step bars were installed. The step bars, bed, and bumper were topped with diamond plate for a custom look.
For reliability, Mike, who makes his home in Fullerton, California, decided to leave the big, black dualie's powertrain pretty much stock. In this case, stock is pretty good because under the hood dwells a 488ci V-10 that develops an estimated 325 horsepower. The V-10's breathing has been improved, thanks to a K&N filter and Flowmaster two-chamber mufflers. The power is channeled through a stock tranny with a Trans-Go shift kit and then to a stock transfer case that splits power to the axles--a Dana 60 with an ARB Air Locker in the front, a Dana 80 in the rear. Both axles feature 4.11:1 gears.
Inside, everything remains stock, with the exception of an Alpine 3-disc in-dash CD changer with two Alpine amps that send the tunes to two pairs of 6 1/2-inch tweeters and two 10-inch Fosgate woofers mounted under the rear seat.
In the world of big functional 4x4s, Mike Valdez' '98 Dodge dualie represents a fine example that's hard to miss, either on the street or on his beloved dunes.
Owner: Mike and Veronica Valdez, Fullerton, California
Vehicle/Model: '98 Dodge Ram 3500
Estimated Price: $45,000
Type: Dodge 488ci V-10
Intake: Stock EFI
Exhaust: Flowmaster mufflers
Horsepower (est.): 325
Transmission: Stock A518, 4-speed auto
Transfer Case: Stock
Front: Skyjacker SoftRide coils, 4 1/2-inch lift, (4) Skyjacker Nitro shocks, Skyjacker Nitro steering stabilizer
Rear: Skyjacker SoftRide Leaf springs, 412-inch lift, (2) Skyjacker Nitro shocks
Front: Dana 60, ARB Air Locker
Rear: Stock Dana 80
WHEELS AND TIRES
Wheels: 9.75x16.5 custom steel (front), 8.25x16.5 custom steel (rear)
Tires: 38x12.50 Super Swamper TSL