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Ram Long Hauler Concept: Long-Hauling First Drive

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on November 1, 2012 Comment (0)
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Contributors: John Cappa
Photographers: John Cappa

Nearly all of the original equipment vehicle manufacturers produce concept vehicles. Most of these vehicles are strictly show cars that can barely be driven on a closed-course. The gauges are often cardboard cutouts, the transmissions sometimes can’t get out of Second gear, and quite often the one-off suspension geometry makes them more unstable than a 50-year-old tricycle at 90 mph. The one exception to this rule has been Ram truck. The company has actually been producing functional concept vehicles for decades. A perfect example of this practice is the Ram Long-Hauler concept truck. Not only has Ram put a trailer behind this rig, they handed it out to a select group of ham-fisted magazine editors to give it a whirl too.

The Ram Long-Hauler materialized from the needs of high-end equestrian truck customers. When you consider all of the components (truck, horse trailer, and horses), the truck hauling the whole shebang was quite often the least expensive part of the equation. Once the potential customer was identified the Ram guys set to mapping out what the capabilities needed to be. The truck obviously had to be able to haul a heavy load. It needed to have an extremely comfortable interior with plenty of amenities for four people, and it needed to be able to drive all day long without refueling. The result is what you see here.

The Long-Hauler is based on an ’11 Class 5 Ram 5500 chassis-cab truck with a 197.4-inch wheelbase. This truck houses the 6.7L Cummins engine rated for 305hp and 610 lb-ft of torque (same as the chassis-cab configuration) and is backed by a medium-duty Aisin Seiki AS68RC six-speed automatic transmission, NV273 two-speed transfer case, a Magna front axle, and a monstrous Dana S111 rearend. Both axles house deep-for-a-diesel 4.88 gears; It’s built for hauling, not hauling-ass.

The rear seats are almost the same as the front seats in that they can be reclined into the Mega Cab. Plenty of electrical outlets, a Wi-Fi hotspot, a DVD system, and fold out tables make the long hauls seem a lot shorter.

To create the Long-Hauler concept, Ram designers took the crew cab body off the Ram 5500 frame and replaced it with a Mega Cab from a Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn pickup. Then they sourced an 8-foot Ram 3500 dualie bed and created a modified mounting structure to accommodate the Ram 5500’s much narrower chassis-cab framerail spacing. While that made the Long-Hauler look like a pickup, it created two new problems: there was roughly a 2-foot gap between the back of the Mega Cab and the front of the bed, and there was no way to mount a pickup truck rear bumper to the chassis-cab frame. But that didn’t stop the Ram designers.

An integrated mid-ship pickup box was built to fill the gap between the cab and frame. The small box was crafted from the rear portion of a truck cab and the leading edge of a Ram pickup box. Inside this mid-ship box lies a 38-gallon fuel tank, and the Ram 5500’s urea tank. To give the Long-Hauler its namesake fuel range, two more fuel tanks were added to the truck. The factory 22-gallon tank (that’s available on all chassis-cab trucks) was added. The 22- and 38-gallon tanks would have been enough fuel to run the 6.7L all day long. But in the spirit of the Long-Hauler concept a 110-gallon fuel tank was mounted in the bed of the truck giving a total fuel capacity of 170 gallons. The two add-on tanks are Siamesed and the three-tank fuel system is monitored and controlled by a Transfer Flow Trax-II computer-controlled auxiliary fuel tank system that actively transfers fuel to the main tank. With no load the Long-Hauler can likely commute coast-to-coast without refueling. Hauling a full load would diminish the range to around 1,500 miles.

In the bed area you’ll find the enclosed and locked 38-gallon fuel and urea tanks. The main bed houses a 110-gallon fuel tank that can be filled from either side, a gooseneck hitch, and a cutout tailgate with an electric release latch.

Underneath the Long-Hauler you’ll find front and rear Kelderman automatic, self-leveling, air spring suspensions accented with Rancho RS9000 shocks. You never have to worry that the air suspension is full when hauling a heavy load. When we hitched up our trailer the rear air springs were automatically filled, which brought the truck back up to ride height. The other major bonus to the air suspension (and a stark contrast to a stock Ram 5500) is that this Class 5 truck rides more like a ¾-ton. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s loaded or unloaded, it rides about the same either way.

The factory Ram 5500 front coils and shocks were replaced with Kelderman air springs and adjustable Rancho RS9000 shocks. In the rear the leaf springs were ditched in favor of a Kelderman link-style suspension with air springs. The air springs are filled automatically with an on-board compressor that also feeds air chucks at the front and rear for filling tires or do any other compressed-air chore.

Inside the Long-Hauler you will find more than the typical Laramie Longhorn comfort items and amenities. Up front, an EGT, boost, and rear axle temperature gauge were added to a custom-built center stack. Out back is where things went way beyond the factory options. The plush rear leather interior features fold-out work trays, power-actuated footrests, three 110-volt power points, a refrigerator, and there’s even a gun safe under the seat. To top it all off, there’s a rear seat DVD system and the truck acts as its own Wi-Fi hotspot.

The Transfer Flow Trax-II computer-controlled auxiliary fuel tank gauge is mounted in the center console. From here you can monitor how much fuel is in each tank and if the system is functioning properly.

So what do you do when you get your hands on the one of the biggest, baddest tow rigs on the planet? Well, you hitch up a trailer and toss on the biggest, baddest, heaviest, truck you got in the fleet. For us that meant loading our Carson 14,000-pound trailer with our long term ’12 Pickup Truck of the Year winner, the 3⁄4-ton Ram 2500 Crew Cab Power Wagon.

With an estimated combined weight of just more than 10,000 pounds, our towed trailer and 3⁄4-ton truck didn’t even make the Long-Hauler breathe hard. Most of the time we couldn’t even tell the trailer was back there. For this reason, the Long-Hauler is much better suited for towed loads in the neighborhood of 25,000 pounds plus—well into Class A license territory.

Now the question is whether Ram will build it and how soon can it be on the dealer lot? It’s hard to say. There certainly is a niche market for a high-end, heavy-hauler truck like this, however that market would likely be relatively small when you consider our estimated retail price of over $100,000.

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