The Elk Hunter (Part 4)

Adding Those Needed Touches

Published in the August 2013 Issue August 2013

The transition from a stock 2005 Dodge SLT 2500 crew cab long box to where the 5.9L Cummins sits today has been quite a journey for Adam Westfall. But his trip is far from being complete. As an avid outdoorsman, he’s put a lot of thought into the upgrades and modifications on the project truck known as The Elk Hunter. By the time hunting season rolls around this fall, his Ram will be nearly bullet-proof and ready for the mountains.

You’re only as successful as your equipment when it comes to hunting and no one understands this better than Westfall. If his truck isn’t dependable, then the season could be lost and that means an empty freezer for a family who counts on a successful hunt for food. Each step of this build has been precisely calculated so when complete, Westfall will have exactly what he needs to get where the big elk roam.

Part 1 How We Got Here

Steps toward his goals started a few months back when he added front (aFe) and rear differential (PPE) covers, plus a deeper transmission pan (B&M Racing). The increase in capacity helps keep the temperatures down when he’s pulling a trailer. Also in the first part of this build, front and rear Ranch Hand bumpers were added to help protect the truck during his off-road adventures.

Part 2 Major Upgrades

In the next series of upgrades, Westfall hooked up with Line-X of Idaho Falls to spray not only the bed, but also the side rocker panels for those times he’s going through tall brush. Next up was a big step in the project when Westfall added the top-of-the-line 60-gallon in-bed fuel tank/tool box combo from TITAN Fuel Tanks. This now gives him greater range between fill-ups when he’s deep in the mountains, plus having the lighted fuel gauge—complete with a switch—allows him to see and control everything from inside the cab of his truck.

Next up was a heavy-duty gooseneck hitch from B&W Hitch to replace the bulky fifth wheel plate that came on the truck when he bought it. He also added Pocket Style flares from Bushwacker that are designed for Ram owners with oversized, off-road wheel and tire packages. (That’s a hint on what is next). Following those upgrades he installed the AirDog II 165 system, which is a must-have for serious truck owners. The fuel-air separation system improves diesel engine performance by separating the entrained air from the fuel, also improving fuel economy through improved injection timing, increased power and better fuel burn.

And finally the last install for part two in the series was to add the new 6-inch WIDESIDER XL Bars from BIG COUNTRY that now give him a solid wide step to use when climbing into his truck.

Part 3 Adding Horsepower

In the last installment, Westfall teamed up with Banks Power and its 5.9L PowerPack. The full set of installs was done by Powerlabs Diesel in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and the results exceeded any expectations he might have had.

The PowerPack offers some of the best products the company has to offer and it’s packaged together to give you everything you need including a Monster-Ram Intake Manifold, 4-inch Monster Exhaust, Ram-Air Intake System, Techni-Cooler Intercooler and an EconoMind Diesel Tuner and Banks iQ 2.0 that is calibrated for work and towing. It power adjusts on-the-fly, tunes timing and fuel pressure, includes a built-in engine and transmission safeguards, has a special fuel economy mode and it’s all done through the Banks iQ-man/machine interface.

Banks Power was reporting gains of up to 100 horsepower and over 235 ft/lbs of torque, but his final results were actually a little better. The dyno numbers following the PowerPack install has the truck sitting at 467.4 hp and 911.5 ft/lbs. of torque. That’s a gain of 128.6 hp and 307.4 ft/lbs. of torque. An exhaust brake from Banks Power was also added to dramatically cut downhill speed without using your wheel brakes.


The next step with this build for Westfall was to add a little more style as well as function to his Dodge 2500. While searching for a headache rack and bed rail system, the same company with proven innovation kept coming to mind. With plenty of options out there, BACKBONE was his first choice and that was before he learned about another way this company was going to make its system more unique than what was currently being offered. BACKBONE has created a solid name for itself in this industry by using quarter-inch aluminum with its over-built designs.

“The manufacturing process includes water jetting, milling, hand tig welding and powder coating,” says BACKBONE rep Damon Maxwell. “It’s modular, which lends itself to customization and it comes with a range of color and finish options from mild to wild. It also has an

integrated LED lighting option aswell as the ability to customize the Tail Bones with custom logos.”

Configurations include Bare Bones (bed rails only), Baby Back (short bed rails), Full Back (full length bed rails) and V Back (rear hoop that creates a complete ladder rack).

Another added bonus with this company is that these different configurations work in conjunction with other aftermarket companies such as RIGID LED lights and Truxedo bed covers.

It was the customer service that was the biggest factor in Westfall’s decision to go with BACKBONE.

“We don’t subscribe to common corporate culture, but instead we strive to actually connect to our customers’ sense of individuality while providing a product that functions on two levels, namely aesthetics and utility,” says Maxwell. “In combination with our sister company, we have nearly a 20-year history manufacturing in aluminum and our products are custom from top to bottom.”

Follow The Full Back

BACKBONE’s “Full Back” configuration adds both protection and style. With bed rails that run the entire length of the bed (as well as across the bed near the cab), the Full Back transforms an average truck bed into a hard core hauling box. Its integrated t-slot system allows the sliding “Knuckle” tie-downs to be moved virtually anywhere on the rack, including the headache loop.

The rails protect the truck bed and Westfall went with the optional Skull Screen to protect the cab and rear window. The Skull Screen is BACKBONE’s signature piece. It’s what happens when style and utility meet on the street. Each unit is essentially a one-off to the specs of your rig, machined from solid quarter-inch plate aluminum. With its staggered hole pattern pulling from race-inspired roots, and its deeply milled chamfers, the Skull Screen is pure, simple and unapologetic. It embodies the very spirit of BACKBONE, as well as this avid hunter who refuses to compromise.

V Back

To transform the Full Back into a complete ladder rack, Westfall also went with the V Back. The V Back is ideal for those who use their rig for work and play, but don’t want a boxy rack that completely ruins the look of the truck. The V Back, when added to the Full Back configuration, creates a solid, sliding, and reversible hauling platform. Its uniquely raked patent-pending design affords head room for getting into the truck bed, or extra hauling potential for longer loads. And, at the end of the week when the work is done, the V Back can be moved into “play” position at the cab, forming an aggressive dual “roll-bar” look. BACKBONE’s own beefy custom aluminum extrusions and tig-welded construction are the quality you’d expect from an American-made product.

Going Camo

When Westfall first contacted BACKBONE he knew he wanted the Full Back, but he was also interested in hearing some ideas the company was working on. One option that was in the works was adding a camo hunting pattern to the accent pieces throughout the entire system. BACKBONE was in contact with Jim Gilbert, owner of West Coast Hydrographics, who wanted to do a camo dip.

“Jim’s reputation and background as a painter as well as restorer made him our go-to choice when it came to using water dip patterning on BACKBONE products,” says Maxwell. “His knowledge of materials and background, as well as the fact that he works with companies like RIGID Industries, Bushwacker and Warn to name a few, is a testament to the quality work he does.”

In keeping with its inherent resistance to “off the shelf” items, when it came to lighting, BACKBONE went custom and called upon one of the country’s foremost LED specialists. The result was a completely custom 24 LED system with brake, turn and running lights. Bright enough to get you noticed, these powerful compact units utilize the latest LED technology to add an element of safety and style to any rig. The LED lights are built into the Tail Bones with the BACKBONE BB logo.

Installing Tips

For the average do-it-yourselfer, installation is very straightforward. BACKBONE adds its own humor to the instructions, which makes the process fun as well as entertaining. Some steps Westfall wasn’t aware of until he went to do the install was using leveling spacers for the bed rails. Since the majority of stock trucks slope on top of the bed, it’s important to use the provided shims to make sure everything is level.

The bed rails are the most time-consuming because there is a lot of drilling and bolting for this part of the install. But once on, the snug fitting headache rack went on easily and then Westfall just tightened up all the bolts and it was as simple as that.

The bed rails come with four tie-downs, all in the same hunting camo pattern as the accent pieces, and the same slots below the headache rack allow you room for additional tie-downs if wanted or to move and adjust the provided ones as needed.

Mile Marker

Back when Westfall ordered the Legend Bullnose front bumper as well as the Sport Back bumper from Ranch Hand, he was already looking ahead. Besides the high quality and custom fit, he went with these specific bumpers that include receiver hitches so a winch could be added later. It’s later.

Westfall had made it this far by being selective, so he relied on those instincts while looking for the right winch. What he found with Mile Marker was a solid company who not only provides quality winches, but can also provide the optional cradle mount as well as a quick disconnect kit to complete the package. For those with a receiver-type hookup, a quick disconnect system for the front mount is a must.

Mile Marker’s detachable winch mounts provide versatility and Westfall liked that he’d be able to move his winch from front to back depending on the situation. The cradle mount fits a 2-inch Class III receiver hitch, which is what he has on his truck.

The Winch

Truth is, a winch spends most of its lifetime sitting on a vehicle unused. As it is exposed to the elements, dormant parts can pit, rust, and corrode, leading to component failure. Westfall needed a proven system that wouldn’t flinch at the thought of water, mud or snow and that’s what led him to the all new Project ES (Element Sealed) winch from Mile Marker.

Featuring best in class line speeds, corrosion-proof construction, submersible solenoids with marine-grade connections, the new Mile Marker winch also has19 watertight seals to conquer every element imaginable. The Project ES winches have been independently lab certified to the IP68 standard to be impermeable to liquid and dust.

Third Option

Mile Marker has been a popular fit for many truck enthusiasts, especially with this setup that allows the winch to be used in either the front or rear receiver. Westfall took this versatility a step further and built a third option for the back of his truck by designing and constructing a receiver hitch below the TITAN in-bed fuel tank and tool box. He wanted the receiver hitch in-bed so the Mile Marker winch can be used to get his animals in, plus this is where he stores the winch when he’s not using it.

Moving Forward

Plans are already in the works for the final major round of installs that will help Westfall get his truck where he wants it to be since we’re getting close to the fall season where he hopes to see more than just the leaves fall.

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