This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue.
Photography by Kelly Manuel
Growing up, Jess McDaniel of Terre Haute, Ind., was always around muscle cars. When her older brother got a beautiful first generation Cummins, she always loved catching a ride whenever she could. But it was when she was about 14 or 15 and attended the Scheid Diesel Extravaganza for the first time that the diesel bug really bit hard.
“I saw all of the trucks there with all of their mods and really became a fan then,” Jess remembers.
Because her family has always had Mopar vehicles, she picked a 1999 5-speed 24-valve when she was ready to invest in her first truck. Jess eventually upgraded that for a 2006 5.9L Cummins with a built SunCoast and EFILive tune, and when the time was right, she sold the 5.9L for her current baby, a 2012 Ram 2500 Laramie Limited.
Jess was still toying around with modification ideas for her own build when she took a ride in a Cummins pulling truck.
“It was the greatest thing I have probably ever done. The sound, the horsepower and the adrenaline was awesome and especially the win,” she grins. “So I personally asked Chase Fleece, one of the owners of Fleece Performance Engineering, what he would do to make my truck faster and he sent me an estimate the next day.”
First thing on the list was a 6-inch Rough Country lift, followed by an upgraded exhaust system and a 5-position switch EFILive tuner in March of 2015.
“In November, I got an estimate on parts that would really give my truck some horsepower,” Jess says. “I went with a 68RFE SunCoast transmission and billet flexplate, Fleece Performance Engineering S463 turbo and Steed Speed manifold, 200hp injectors, and an AirDog II-4G 165GPH air/fuel separation system.”
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Jess also opted for installing a PowerFlo 750 CP3 injection pump to keep up fuel rail pressure and higher rear-wheel horsepower. She also invested in a Custom Aged ARP625 head stud kit and upgraded her wheels to 22x12 Fuel Forged FF16’s with a negative 56 offset wrapped in aggressive 35-inch Open Country Toyo M/T tires.
Jess adds, “My best friend Cameron Guersney owns Knockout Kustomz in Jamestown, Ind., and he gave my truck the 2014+ headlight conversion kit, which included LEDs from LED Concepts.”
Ready To Show
Now that her first big wave of modifications has wrapped up, Jess says, “So far, so good. Everything has helped tremendously; having a fast vehicle feels amazing and it has also helped my MPG depending on what tune I have it in!”
Jess was excited to head to the TS Performance show this year so she could show off her truck in the Show and Shine competition. As luck would have it though, after PRIDE Truck Wash cleaned it up on her way to the competition, her build was already covered in mud again by the time she arrived.
“My boyfriend and I filled up my cleaning bucket with water and used a McDonald’s cup to dump it down the sides of my truck to help clean it up. About 10 buckets and some wax later I won the Best Dodge down there. I left before they announced the winners but I had a friend bring it back home with him,” she smiles.
Thanks to so many friends like the aforementioned, Jess has felt a lot of encouragement as she’s gotten more deeply involved in the diesel industry.
“I’ve met so many great people when I’m at truck shows, and the compliments and every opinion kind of helps me with what I should do next or anything along those lines,” she says.
For anyone who finds herself sitting on the fence when it comes to getting involved in diesels, Jess advises, “If you even have the thought cross your mind, you should totally do it! There are always diesel events going on and it’s definitely fun showing the boys up!”
As she continues to improve her RAM and tackle future modification plans, one thing’s certain—Jess will keep doing exactly that.
AirDog Diesel Fuel Systems
Fleece Performance Engineering
Knockout Kustomz LLC
PRIDE Truck Wash LLC
Rough Country Suspension Systems
Scheid Diesel Service Co.
Steed Speed Performance, Inc.
SunCoast Diesel Transmissions