1. home
  2. news
  3. features
  4. The Hazel Ramcharger Rebuild

The Hazel Ramcharger Rebuild

Fond Memories or Selective Amnesia?

Recently, I've been spending more time than usual creating fourwheeler.com content from my collection of archival images I've amassed over my 20-plus years here among the MotorTrend off-road brands. One of the things I've been doing is pulling some photos from a couple projects I built before our brands were all online. And one of those builds was the Hazel Ramcharger.

To be fair, I never gave the Ramcharger an official project name, but as my only vehicle at the time, I built the '85 Dodge in the pages of 4-Wheel & Off-Road from roughly 2000 -2002. And because many of those older stories weren't shot with digital cameras and most of those tech stories were published only in print, whenever I show newer audience members photos of that truck, it's always a big crowd favorite. Even I remember it very fondly, but when I really think back on that build, parts of it are really dated and not worth repeating. Taking off the lenses of selective memory, if I were to build another hardcore off-road fullsize 4x4, I'd so several things differently.

Fuel Injection: I used to run a huge Rochester Q-Jet on the stock 318. It worked killer off-road, but at altitude it ran rich, and in certain hard acceleration conditions it would load up and stumble a bit. These days I'd most definitely install a junkyard Hemi in front of the manual with a swap components from Holley.

Tires and Wheels: The 42-inch Swamper TSLs worked really well off-road, and I loved the width, but when I built this rig one of my few options for getting wheels that cleared the big 1-ton calipers on the Dana 60 were re-centered Humvee 16.5-inch-diamter wheels. Nowadays I'd go for a 17-inch beadlock (I like TrailReady) with some streetable 42x13.50 Maxxis Trepadors.

Suspension: It sat way too tall, and I had constant axle-wrap issues despite custom National spring packs in the rear. Nowadays, I'd build a front and rear four-link with coilovers for hammer-down ledge climbing.

Gearing and Axles: I originally had 4.10 gearing in the axles, but because I only upgraded one axle at a time, I never actually pulled the trigger on a full gear swap. Let me tell you, 4.10s and 42s pushed by a 318 barely gets the job done. Plus, I went through a stupid amount of work to hog the rear Dana 60 spindles to upgrade from 30-spline to larger 1.5-inch 35-spline axleshafts. Nowadays, I'd just grab a junkyard 14-bolt, add disc brakes and 5.13s, stab in an Ultimate Dana 60 front crate axle with monster SPL70 axleshaft joints, and finish the drivetrain with a Ford NP205 and Offroad Design Magnum Box.

But otherwise, I really did love that truck, from the factory NP435 manual transmission to the gutted interior to the sheet of clear Lexan I bolted to the firewall to cover the hole where the HVAC was. I could peer down and see what was in front of the passenger-side tire perfectly. There's nothing like 'wheeling a full-bodied fullsize on the trail. Maybe I'll build another after all. Anybody selling a Ramcharger?

More Videos