All you truck guys will agree with me on this one. Don't you hate it when you spend a bunch of time building up a truck in your town trying to be the first one to have all the cool wheels and all the aftermarket goodies, only to realize what you've started? Well, that is exactly what happened to me a couple of years ago with a lifted Dodge Mega Cab. I thought it was all unique, had sweet wheels, big tires, the works, but it wasn't long before everybody and their cousin was driving by at eye level giving me the thumbs up. I remember saying to myself, "Well, that's that."
It was not a year later that I went down to my local Dodge dealer and went searching for my next diesel truck, but this time, I was going for something different. I know I'm not the only one, nor the first guy to build a custom truck, but I have to tell you it feels pretty dang good to roll down the street with something not a lot of people have. So since my test results came back and it was official that I was completely addicted to diesel trucks, I thought I'd try building another one that screams "different."
This 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 Dually began its life just like any other stock truck; low to the ground, gutless, afraid, you know the deal. I can still hear my parents saying, "Nice, that's a lot better than that huge monster truck you had." "It'll make a great work truck," my brother would hint. "Are you kidding?" my wife, bless her heart, would say. All the comments and suggestions that would lead anyone to believe this thing would stay stock. My mission had just begun.
For starters, the truck went through the paces of getting what-in my opinion-is a solid foundation for a custom build. I sprayed the truck bed, tinted the windows, added some mud flaps, removed all the emblems, and threw in some floor mats. Next, I dove right in and began planning the theme behind the truck, which immediately became the Tonka because of the regular cab. I came across Throttle Down Kustoms while reading an issue of Diesel Tech magazine and knew this was a fundamental part of my truck's future. A few emails and phone calls later I was at Throttle Down Kustoms' shop. They bolted up the bumpers and added the arsenal of PIAA lights to make anytime daytime. Built from 3/16-inch plate steel, the bumpers are available in many styles and can be custom tailored to fit your needs. The truck was really starting to take shape.
Wheels and tires were next and, knowing the overall look of the truck I envisioned, I wanted something that would not only stand out but also perform. I went to MKW Alloys and hooked on to a set of 17-inch M26 rims for the dually. And because I wanted things to stay blacked out on the truck, I had Premier Powder Coating give the rims the flat black finish you see here. The tires were easy, LT285/75R17 Toyo MT's thanks to Les Schwab Tires. I had to start adding some engine mods so the Edge A2 with back-up camera and GPS went into the truck along with the Edge Juice. The guys at Edge also set me up with the Hot Unlock, which really brings the truck to life. I added a Stage 2 AFE intake and had CFM outfit the 5.9L Cummins with their intake manifold. CFM intake manifolds are a one-piece composite design that helps insulate engine heat from interfering with the cold air entering the intercooler. The exhaust was handled by MBRP with their set of duals while Hushpower set me up with a muffler that produces an awesome rumble from under the truck. The combination dropped exhaust gas temps considerably and Hushpower's unique muffler design gave my Tonka truck a much-needed performance boost.
Now that I had gone this far, it was too late to turn back. I spoke with DT's editor about setting up some install articles to get the truck in the magazine, and things really started to pick up. I professionally ride snowmobiles for a number of great companies; Fox Racing Shox is one of them. I depend on their shocks to prevent me from crushing myself every time I drop a cliff, hit a big cornice, or just rip down the trail, so why wouldn't I have that same performance on my truck. The Off-Road division of Fox Racing Shox helped me set up the truck with their 2.5-inch reservoir shocks up front and 2-inch reservoir shocks in back.
KORE sent out their pre-runner lift system that set the truck's front end up just right and allowed for some much needed travel. Powerlabs Diesel in Idaho Falls, ID did an awesome job installing the lift. I can honestly say that the combination of quality shocks and lift components have made a huge difference in the truck's ride and handling. A Fox steering stabilizer and a set of Firestone rear airbags complete the suspension upgrades. The sled deck in the bed of the truck is built by Toy Up Industries. The deck utilizes a unique one-piece ramp design and is the lightest steel sled deck in the industry, allowing me to transport two snowmobiles without a trailer.
Since the truck was now a little higher than stock, N-Fab sent out a set of steps that were-of course-powder coated flat black to match everything. The steps are an all-welded one-piece design made from .084-inch corrosion-protected tubing and the step surface provides plenty of traction. A must when hopping in and out of the truck with my snowmobile boots on. I also went to Mag-Hytec to outfit the truck's front and rear differentials with new covers. The aluminum covers offer fluid capacity benefits and all the hardware is stainless steel. Keeping the black theme going, I ordered up some blacked out cab, fender, and taillights as well as tint for the headlights. The Tonka was looking mean and was ready to enjoy!
I set my sights on the interior of the truck and had Extreme Sounds build a custom speaker box for a pair of 10-inch Crossfire subs powered by a 600-watt Crossfire amp. A Clarion head unit with DVD and an S50 Sirius Satellite radio complete the video and audio. I also have a 15-pound bottle of nitrous behind the driver's seat set up by Boondocker Performance for that extra boost of power when I need it.
To keep a close eye on all the engine vitals, Danin Inc. sent out a full set of Di/Pricol Optix gauges that were powder coated gun-metal gray. The gauges have UV-resistant lenses and 100 percent led illumination. They also feature Stepper Motor movements, which for full sweep gauges are the most accurate set up available. I also valued the idea that the gauges were all individually tested before being shipped my way. Otherwise the truck's interior remains pretty stock.for now.
The Dodge project had slowed down for a while when things got super busy for me during this last spring, but recently picked back up when I spoke with Dynomite Diesel Performance about installing one of their turbos and a set of 90hp injector nozzles. Powerlabs Diesel handled the install and we wanted to have some dyno numbers for the before and after. When the parts arrived, the Powerlabs crew went right to work and this is what went down.
We wanted to get an accurate dyno number with all the current components so we strapped the dually to the Powerlabs Diesel dyno and began the process. It was my first time running my truck on a dyno.it is so much fun!
Once we racked up a few solid dyno runs, we popped the hood and got to work. The first step was to remove the intake tube and expose the stock turbo. Brice of Powerlabs elected to remove the exhaust manifold with the turbo to save time and get to the assembly on the new turbo a lot quicker.
Since the new Challenger 45 turbo from Dynomite Diesel Performance was a direct bolt-on, the install was simple and the finished product looked great. The turbo will help support around 500 rear-wheel horsepower while keeping cool EGTs thanks to unique internal modifications to the turbine wheel and compressor. It also maintains a stock look for your factory warranty. It will reduce drive pressure by as much as 20-plus pounds when used with a mild tuner and 50 hp injectors. An absolute workhorse for those of us that tow! Once the DDP turbo was set and all the needed lines were tightened to spec, the AFE intake tube was reinstalled.
Now that the turbo assembly was complete, the removal of the stock injectors was the next step. As a note to everyone out there, the Powerlabs mechanics noticed some "finger tight" nuts and bolts inside the valve cover, which could have caused some series damage down the road. My advice would be to never assume that your truck was built on a Tuesday or Wednesday, but maybe on a late Friday afternoon.
On the stock injectors that came right out of the engine, you can notice the diesel markings up top. Evidence that the stock lift pump and injector pump may not be keeping up with the demands of the modified motor components. In order to build power in a diesel truck the combination of air and fuel needs to complement one another. Therefore, adding a larger turbo and larger injectors may also require the installation of an aftermarket lift pump to supply plenty of No. 2 diesel to the motor. We picked up an AirDog 100 lift pump thanks to Diesel Performance Parts, which is a great place to pick up most every part imaginable to build your own version of the ultimate diesel. The AirDog 100 has an adjustable regulator which allows us to set and control fuel delivery pressure to the engine's CP3 fuel pump. The AirDog also serves as a water separator and fuel air separator. The fuel sent to the engine from the AirDog unit is a higher quality, cleaner fuel that results in a better, more powerful and more efficient combustion.
With the 90hp injectors installed, cover fastened and DDP turbo assembled, Brent Wilsey of Powerlabs Diesel does a routine check of all the components before returning to the dyno.
The dyno numbers said it all. The upgraded turbo and the injector nozzles from Dynomite Diesel Performance made an incredible improvement to the horsepower and torque on the 5.9L Cummins. Once we matched the truck's improved air flow and injector capabilities with the Air Dog Fuel system we got from Diesel Performance Parts, things really came together. When the smoke cleared from Powerlabs' dyno we were pumped to see the final numbers. This wicked dually stomped down 509.9 horsepower and 1025.8 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels. We had done it! I had set out to build a very dependable 500-hp diesel truck and with the help and support of the sponsors involved, mission accomplished!
This truck build has been an awesome experience and it's not even close to finished. I have tons of performance add-ons that no diesel addict can ignore, including a full ATS transmission with Five Star Torque converter, billet shafts, flex plate, and Co-pilot. So stay tuned for more install articles on this truck and keep a look out in your rear view-because this Tonka truck will be coming up fast.