The Elk Hunter: Getting Our Ram Squared Away

Part 5

Published in the September 2013 Issue September 2013 Brady L. Kay with Michael Deulley

It’s kind of like being in your home­town and not really noticing all the changes that take place year after year. Then one day your friend comes back to the area for a visit after being away for years and that’s when you’re able to appreciate the changes that have been made. Because these changes were gradual, you didn’t really notice them, but through his eyes it becomes clear.

Adam Westfall’s 2005 Dodge SLT 2500 crew cab long box is kind of like that. His friends and family have enjoyed the changes that have been made to this once bone stock truck, but until you pull up a photo of where his Ram was just a couple of months ago, you almost can’t appreciate where it sits today.

The goal from day one with this 5.9L Cummins is to have this build—best known as the Elk Hunter—ready in time for hunting season. It’s now September, and the avid outdoorsman loves what he’s seeing.

Part 1

Where We Started

Steps toward his goal of creating a bulletproof, hunting machine started 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. 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 adding 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

Next, 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.

Part 4

Style Meets Function

In the last round of installments, West­fall added more style as well as function to his Ram. He installed a headache rack and bed rail system from BACKBONE. It was the customer service that was the biggest factor in the hunter’s decision to go with BACKBONE and the Full Back configura­tion, plus this is one of the best headache racks in the industry right now with the unique look of the Skull Screen. The rails protect the truck bed and the optional Skull Screen protects the cab and rear window. The Skull Screen is BACKBONE’s signature piece and it’s easy to see why.

On this system for the Elk Hunter truck, BACKBONE worked closely with Jim Gilbert and West Coast Hydrographics on camouflage accent pieces that tie in the hunting theme.

Besides the headache rack and bedrails, Westfall also installed the Mile Marker winch that fits perfectly with the Legend Bullnose front bumper as well as the Sport Back bumper from Ranch Hand. Featuring best-in-class line speeds, corrosion-proof construction, submersible solenoids with marine-grade connections, the new Project ES Mile Marker winch has19 watertight seals to conquer every element imaginable.

Part 5

Leveling It Up

Westfall considered adding a lift to his 2005 Ram, but decided against it and instead wanted to add a front leveling kit. This is one of those upgrades where if you don’t get a high-quality product to start with, it will only lead to problems down the road. That’s why his first and only call was to Sinister Diesel. Its 2-inch leveling kit is precision manufactured using high-quality aluminum and you can tell just from holding it, it’s a solid product.

The first step was to lift the front of the truck with a floor jack by the axle and then place jack stands under the frame just in front of the transmission cross mem­ber. Next Westfall removed the wheels and with a little upward pressure on the shocks, he then removed the upper shock bolt. Next he let the pressure off the shocks and removed the three nuts that hold the shock tower in place. Then the last step was to remove the lower shock bolt and then pull the shock out through the top. After doing this to the other side, he removed the sway bar nuts and pulled it out of the way so he was then ready to get to the actual install.

Tech Tip

The instructions didn’t mention it, but after watching several YouTube videos when preparing to do his own install, one common theme or tip was to use a coil spring compressor. Westfall was able to rent this tool from a local parts store and it did save him some time.

“Every video I watched the guys doing the installs would say, ‘if I would have just known about it sooner it would have made the job quicker,’ so I went out and borrowed one,” says Westfall. “And in watching the videos, this Sinister is a cut above what I saw being installed by others and you can tell it’s a solid, high-quality product.”


To go to all of this work of adding the leveling kit and not replace the stock shocks would have been a wast­ed opportunity so Westfall ordered a set of four shocks from a top company who knows a thing or two about sus­pensions. If Westfall decides down the road to add a lift, his first call will be to Skyjacker but for now he was happy just to add their shocks. Skyjacker is one of those companies that naturally fit with diesel performance trucks and that’s why you will find their shocks on a lot of quality trucks.

Westfall went with the new M95 Monotube Performance Shocks from Skyjacker because the single tube design helps operating temperatures stay cooler under extreme conditions. The high pres­sure nitrogen gas and floating piston technology combine to create the fastest responding shock ever, which will come in handy this fall when Westfall hits the hunting trails.

The M95 shocks are custom tuned for each vehicle and designed for 180 degree directional mounting, which made the install process very easy. The monotube design has a 46mm large bore and is one of the largest out there. The shocks feature a silver paint with clear coat finish and include polyurethane bushings and all nec­essary hardware and retail for around $69.

Back Together

Westfall liked the blue color of the Sin­ister leveling kit, but once installed it was mostly covered up. It’s tucks up nicely so you hardly see it, but the important thing is that it works.

Following in the reverse order, once the leveling kit was installed just above the shock tower Westfall put everything back on in the order he removed it. He had heard stories of this job taking up to five hours or longer, but the actual time was just over two and a half hours and that included adding the two rear Skyjacker shocks as well.

What’s Missing?

With the truck now level and looking as heavy-duty as ever, the stock tires and wheels had become a little bit of an eye sore to the driver.

“I knew I’d have to get bigger tires and wheels because the truck just doesn’t look right with the stock wheels,” says Westfall. “So much has been done to it from the wheels up that to stop here would sell the truck short of its full potential.”

Going With V-Tec

A visit to Les Schwab Tire Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho, on 17th street was already on the schedule books because after adding the leveling kit the truck needed to be aligned. So Westfall figured, why not add new tires and wheels while the shop had it?

The V-Tec series of wheels from Vision Wheel, Inc., is quickly becoming a popular option with diesel enthusiasts. Being able to offer a wide range of wheels to help give each truck a custom look is key, plus its selection is hard to beat when it comes to finding the perfect fit.

Vision includes wheels with a variety of finishes in­cluding chrome as well as solid black. From the Ranch Hand bumpers and BACK­BONE headache rack to the in TITAN in-bed fuel tank and Line-X sprayed side panels, a lot of effort has gone into this truck to emphasize the black accents. So adding chrome wheels to this hunting truck was not an option. Yet, going for a complete blackout didn’t seem like the right option either. Luckily for Westfall, the V-Tec series has an offer­ing that is the perfect compromise to what he was looking for.

“The new Rage in a black milled fin­ish was exactly what I wanted,” says the avid hunter. “It comes in other sizes, but I had decided a long time ago that I needed 20-inch wheels to make my truck look right.”

Welcome To Fun Country

With bigger wheels you need bigger tires and because so much thought had gone into planning each step of this build, Westfall wasn’t about to compromise. Dick Cepek is a trusted name in the truck world because its tires get the job done. Settling for anything less at this stage in the build would have gone against everything Westfall has been working towards as he gets closer to the start of hunting season.

Dick Cepek recently released its Fun Coun­try line of tires and the more Westfall learned about them, the more he liked.

The Fun Country tire was developed using a unique combination of design elements, tech­nology and engineering to deliver excellent off-road traction, a quieter ride and superior durability.

The wide lateral and offset tread grooves together with the larger surface area to deliver excellent grip and responsive off-road traction that will come in handy this fall.

Westfall knew the Fun Country tire was right for him and decided to go with the LT305/55R20 121/118Q.

When they arrived, the computer optimized pitch sequence in the tread design caught his attention first. It reduces pattern noise for a quieter ride and even wear, but it was the unique look that he liked the most.

The Beast

As the Elk Hunter project truck pulled away from the Les Schwab Tire Center, it finally looked like the hunting truck Westfall had envi­sioned from day one from top to bot­tom. The new tires and wheels instantly give the truck a more aggressive look and Westfall couldn’t stop smiling.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled,” says the hunter. “I can’t believe what a differ­ence those new tires and wheels make. It’s better than I could have ever imagined.”

With the ag­gressive-looking Dodge now level with improved shocks, plus new tires and wheels, this truck is nearly complete. There is still a little more to do to this truck and we’ll cover it in the next issue when we recap the entire build.

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