Built to Last

Published in the September 2017 Issue August 2018 Feature Joseph Bjork

The Line-X Ultra coating on Lee Frongner’s truck is about 40 times tougher than a comparable powdercoat. The 100 percent aliphatic polyurea thin-build spray is physically durable, sparkles with a pressure wash, and is sunproof with its 100 percent UV-stable formulation. Lee, the former owner and operator of a Line-X franchise in Shelley, Idaho, had his eye on the material for nearly two years for his personal truck before it became available, and when the opportunity finally came, this thin-build coating became the final touch on a project years in the making. He says, “I knew when I saw the material that as soon as it was available I wanted to spray the truck. They say it’s ten times more durable than powder coating.” At that strength, his thoughts raced with the possibilities, and he finally got the chance to finish off his project work truck with a brilliant white Line-X Ultra coating when it became available about six months ago. “I’ve always liked just a really clean truck,” Lee says. “It turned out really, really nicely.” 

He continues, “I just wondered what the ease of care would be for the Line-X Ultra. With a high-pressure washer and some mild scrubbing, it comes cleaner than any paint I’ve been around.” Easy to maintain, this ultra robust coating protects the truck’s surface from grime, bumps, and bruises, but for this truck, that extreme durability isn’t just skin deep. That same commitment to toughness for the long term has influenced every decision Lee Frongner has made in regard to this truck from the purchase to the paint job, and 200,000 hardworking miles later, the pickup is proving daily that it is here for the long haul. 

Robust Or Bust 

In Lee’s other business as a construction contractor, his income is literally dependent on his ability to move to job sites reliably. As such, he had no intention of hitching up to a less than reliable machine. “It’s our livelihood, really,” Lee says. “It’s what gets all of our tools to and from the job site, and it had to be reliable.” Every component and system in this truck had to be ready to work as hard as he did, no matter what, without breaking or failing to perform to the highest level. “The truck is really my work truck,” Lee says. "It has been for the life of it. We purchased it with 10,000 miles on it back in 2008. I’m just about to hit 200,000 miles on the pickup, and it’s pulled a trailer 95 percent of its life.” 

The Truck Selection 

Right from the beginning, Lee’s sole priority for his work truck was reliability, and when he went into the market to buy, he did his research to find a truck he could count on. Eventually, he settled on the 2007 Dodge Ram because of the reputation for reliability of the 5.9 liter and the 48RE transmission. “I knew they were having some issues with the 6.7s,” Lee says, “and that’s why I stuck with the 5.9.”

Tricking It Out

Lee was living in Washington when he purchased the truck, and knowing that he was going to be moving back to Idaho, he decided early on to upgrade the wheels, tires, and bumper to match the rugged landscape and prepare for the risk of hitting big game animals. From there, the improvements designed to make the truck more robust kept coming until they reached the very heart of the machine. 

The first major undertaking was improving the truck’s ride with a 6-inch soft ride BDS lift kit that Lee chose for the full leaf springs in the back and the long travel front end. Lee says, “Since I use this truck for everything, whether it’s hunting, fishing, working, whatever it is, this truck is there. I wanted it to function and ride nice. Honestly, it rides better than any factory 2007 Dodge Ram I’ve ever been in, and that’s really where it began.” Cam Hulse of Adrenaline Performance in Shelley, Idaho, installed the kit and has worked closely with Lee through the whole process of giving this project a form of immortality.

The first taste of improved performance came when the first chip went on it. The gains in power impressed Lee tremendously, though they also made him wonder about power in the long term. With longevity and durability as the guiding light, Lee and Cam set out to make this truck an undying beast.

They put traction bars on it, followed by Mag-Hytec differential covers, and then Cam built a transmission for it with a Mag-Hytec deep dish transmission pan and all OP shafts. “They said it would handle 2,000 horsepower and unlimited torque.” Lee says. “Have I ever dreamed of that number? No. But it was all about making it to endure what I do with it on a daily basis. Cam built me a set of compounds for it using Garrett turbos: 3788R on top—“They call it a stage 2 housing to help it light a little quicker”—and then we did a GT 42 with a 45 wheel with extended tips and mirrored housing. So that’s, again, a very reliable towing set of compounds.”

Then it was motor work, again centering on what they needed to do to make sure that the motor lived. 

In building the motor, they opted to put in 2003-2004 pistons. They went back to the old 2003-2004 injectors because they were known to be more durable than the pistons from its own model years. Again, the decision was about durability. Then they added a Hamilton cam shaft and Hamilton springs and put in ARP head studs before they had the motor balanced and blueprinted, just to make sure that everything was as it needed to be. After having the heads polished, they got a PPE manifold on it with ATS twin CP3s.

Lee is quite pleased with the 5-inch Magna Flow exhaust system, which transitions from a single 5-inch pipe to dual fours out the back. “I just really liked the sound of anything that Magna Flow’s ever made,” he says, “and I was happy that we spent a little extra money to do that because it doesn’t sound like any other Dodge you’ve ever heard, I promise you. It just has a really nice tone, and it’s not overbearing.”

With several of the parts, such as the difficult-to-get OP shafts, Lee had to exercise patience getting the hoped-for upgrades, but he says it was all worth it for the higher quality. “I always believe there is no second best. You go with the best you can possibly afford, and it will reward itself. Do your research! It’ll tell you what’s good and bad. Consumers will tell you what’s good and bad. So if you’re willing to wait, I think you’ll make the right decision.”

The Immortal

Now nearly ten years since purchasing the truck, and six months after the final coat of Line-X Ultra sealed the deal, Lee is more than pleased with the results. “I’ve never come close to breaking anything in this truck,” he says. Even things which are supposed to wear out and be replaced like the batteries have benefited from Lee’s commitment to robust quality. The Odyssey batteries he installed back in 2008 or 2009 have now been going strong for nearly ten years and have never had a problem. That feat is all the more ludicrously impressive when you bear in mind that this is a working man’s truck starting every day in Southeast Idaho, where the winter temperatures can regularly drop well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Now those are cold cranking amps! 

With his Edge CTS and other cab-mounted gauges to monitor transmission temperature, fuel pressure, and other diagnostic measures, Lee can say with confidence that the long-term robust truck is going strong. “I can’t say thank you enough to Cam and the crew at Adrenaline Performance for all the work that they put into making it what it is today.”

The Final Touch

Josh at Line-X of Idaho Falls went to great lengths to break the truck down, put it back together and spray it when the Line-X Ultra became available. Favoring a clean look, Lee had fender flares molded into the truck and sprayed the material with a plain white mixture to get rid of any of those body lines and to complement the existing black Line-Xed parts. Josh, who started working for Lee at the Line-X franchise a little over three years ago, recently approached Lee about buying the franchise. Josh had impressed Lee with his work over the years, so Lee knew he was the right guy with the ability and time to grow the company and sold it to him. Lee says, “Josh is the best sprayer I've have met.”

The resulting finish with the Ultra is nothing short of excellent, and it really stands out from the crowd. Lee says, “So it’s a white truck, and if you park it next to another white truck, the truck next to it looks dirty, even when it isn’t! With a high pressure washer and some mild scrubbing, it comes cleaner than any paint I’ve been around.” 

At the end of the day, Lee says he would do it all over again. “Where we use it on a daily basis, having 200,000 miles on a towing pickup and still be driving it, I didn’t think that was possible.” 

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