Anytime you take on a project vehicle, there’s a certain degree of chaos that goes along with the build. But when you add to the mix a hard deadline of a SEMA event, along with the fact that there will be dozens of project vehicles on display and pretty much every major truck builder in the industry examining your finished product, now your stress monitor goes off the charts.
For Brent Willsey of PowerTech Diesel in Idaho Falls, three months seemed to be plenty of time to complete such a task. After all, it would take a little while to collect the parts and pieces of the build, allow some time for the specialty work to get completed, and then still have plenty of time for the final assembly and tuning.
How hard could that be?
The focus of this project truck was to take the 2018 Dodge 3500 Meg Cab and put a McGaughy’s 12-inch lift on it with 42-inch Fury Off-Road tires on 24-inch Hostile Wheels with a Bradford Built flatbed (which meant stretching the frame about two feet). Of course, the engine had to feature a Werhli’s Custom Fab 64 mm single turbo with 2nd Gen Swap Kit with ARP Head Studs, Dynomite Diesel custom injectors, Banks Intercooler and Monster Ram Intake, Fass 165 Signature Series Pump and Amsoil fluid throughout. Then a few more bells and whistles to really make it stand out.
“We pretty much used guys that we already like and know; stuff we sell,” Willsey explained. He said much of the product used is the same stuff his customers purchase … with just a few exceptions to make this build stand out, such as the lift kit and flatbed.
Willsey said that when you build a SEMA truck, you really need to figure out a way to make it stand out. The 12-inch lift with a flatbed would definitely capture the attention of other builders.
But another challenge was to build a truck that had that unique look, but could still be a daily driver that was actually enjoyable to drive. The truck is nicknamed Brutus.
“A 12-inch lift on 42s is ridiculous no matter how you look at it,” Willsey said. “But you could put anybody in this truck, drive it and use it. There is nothing too crazy on this that you can't enjoy it as a truck.”
This wasn’t Willsey’s first time building a SEMA vehicle. He knew there would be a certain amount of hiccups along the way that may tighten up the schedule near the end. But still, three months is an eternity for a truck to be locked into the build cycle.
In August, Willsey made his purchase arrangements for a 2018 Dodge Ram 3500 Mega Cab and had it delivered directly to Stretch-My-Truck in Utah near the end of August to have the body lengthen to fit a long box for a flatbed that was an integral part of his design.
On Sept. 13 it was taken to Randy’s Transmission for a full build Aisin Trans. Willsey finally got his hands on his truck Oct. 4, just 26 days before SEMA. And he still had to strip it down to be painted and powder coated.
“We pretty much had mostly everything here ready to go,” Willsey explained. “But we were still changing our mind on what to powder coat and what wheels we wanted—we kept changing things and adding things.”
Willsey said about the time he thought he had everything taken care of … then he would awake at 2 a.m. and realized he had forgotten something.
“The problem is we try really hard to pay attention to detail,” he explained. “But it’s like building a house. You just can’t do framing until the foundation is done. You can’t paint until after the drywall is done. You just have to plan it out one step at a time. There are a lot of times we put something on only to realize it had to come back off until we got something else on. It’s like two steps forward and four steps back.”
But time was starting to get short. Decisions had to be made and parts needed to be painted.
“If it wasn’t for Velocity Auto Body and Tag Coating, these SEMA builds we do wouldn’t happen,” he said. “Just to be able to have the paint and powder coating done in time is everything. They know the drill. Alan Nickell at Velocity is usually here helping me late at night, not only making sure the paint is done but helping get the other parts on the truck and dialed in.”
Finally, the truck was back in the shop and things were ready to be installed. Most of the parts had shown up … but still, it was a matter of figuring out what could be installed now and what had to wait until other work was first completed. There were several brackets that had to be welded before the Bradford Built Beds steel work bed could be installed.
Still, there were plenty of loose ends to tie up so Willsey and his team were kept busy getting engine work done and the suspension parts installed.
With seven days left before check-in at SEMA , Willsey still had two weeks worth of work to do.
One of the constant challenges for a SEMA build is that just like anytime you work on a personal vehicle, most of the work has to be done after hours. During the day, Willsey focused on getting customer work completed so PowerTech Diesel can stay profitable. It’s only after closing time that he could then start working on his truck.
The closer the calendar got to SEMA, the later the hours for Willsey and his team. Nights were long and weekends were longer. Just days before the show, although most of the major work had been completed, there was still some wiring to be completed, brackets to be welded, tires and wheels to be installed and the bumper still had to be painted.
His shop may have looked chaotic with parts still strung around the work benches ... but everything was in control. The plan was finally coming together.
Once the bumper got back from paint, it was installed and the lights put on. There was still a clear braw and some window tint that had to be applied. Everything had to be cleaned, detailed and loaded on a gooseneck so it could make the 650-mile trek south to Las Vegas.
“I don’t have a lot of miles on this truck and haven’t been able to tune it since we’ve re-geared,” he explained. “So rather than missing with it, and risking rock chips and such, we’ll just tape up the front and put it on a trailer and hauled it down to Vegas.”
How chaotic was the final week? “On a scale of one to 10 … it was a 12,” Willsey said.
Although Willsey said he never was too worried about missing the deadline, it was the concern of paying attention to detail that kept him focused.
“I think we pretty much got everything we planned on,” he said. “When it finally left the shop it was perfect and ready to rock and roll.”
Although everything was in working order, there were still some tuning issues that had to wait until after the week-long SEMA event. Willsey uses EFILive for his own custom tuning.
If you’ve ever been to SEMA, you know what a huge show it is, covering about every segment of the automotive industry and featuring hundreds of specialty builds. Trying to stand out here is like a clown trying to stand out at a clown convention … everyone’s got that rubber nose on and is screaming for attention.
But Brutus did stand out in a very quiet way. The quality of workmanship blended with an almost natural look for a unique work truck gave it that special something that caused the show attendees to take a little extra time admiring its presentation.
“It looked good, and it got good attention,” Willsey explained. “And as far as drivability and power goes, the way it's set up is perfect. The gearing, the tires, the turbo, injectors—it's all matched together. That thing is super drivable even though it being so flipping big. It is 100 percent drivable and usable.”
Willsey said his wife drove the truck the other day and really enjoyed it … although she was a little concerned about running over other vehicles since it’s just such a monster on the road.
Future of Brutus
With every SEMA build, there is a promotional aspect of it that makes it worth the effort. Brutus will be no different.
“We already have people asking about it (to purchase). But we usually try to keep them (SEMA builds) for a while and use them at shows and just to show them off,” he explained. “We'll keep it around to show and sell parts with … until somebody offers me too much money for it. Then it'll go away.”
Although the last week of the build was fairly intense, for Willsey it was predictable.
“This definitely was not the easiest (SEMA build) we've done,” he said. “But then, it wasn’t the hardest either.”
And just like all other SEMA trucks, after it serves its purpose it will be sold and Willsey will move on to the next build.
“I don't get too attached to them,” he said. “It's just a truck to me. It is what it is. We just did something different. It's cool, and it definitely served its purpose.”
As for SEMA … well there’s still plenty of time until November 2019 … or is there.
BRUTIS build sheet
Suspension: McGaughys 12-inch lift on King 2.5 Coil-Overs; Atlas Suspension 8-inch full spring in rear, custom Firestone Long Travel Airbag setup with semi auto level altuator and Snake River Steel custom brackets for bags.
Tires: Fury Off-Road Tires 42x15.50 Country Hunters.
Wheels: Hostile Wheels 24x14 sprocket with a -76 offset.
Bumper: Fusion Bumpers Base Bumper with the re-designed center section built for a 5500 Ram.
Fuel System: Dynomite Diesel Products Injectors and fuel rail; Fass Fuel Systems 165 Signature Series Pump.
Forced air: Wehrli Custom Fab 2nd Gen Swap with an SXE 64mm and Steed Speed manifold. ARP head studs.
Intercooler/manifold: Banks Power Monster Ram 4-inch intake manifold, pipes and intercooler.
Exhaust: Aero 50/50 XL Muffler.
Transmission: Aisin Trans with a full build by Randy’s Transmissions.
Electronics: Edge Products Insight Monitor; Whistler Group Radar; Banks Power 1.8 iDash monitor/gauge., Switch Pros, Firewire Off-Road.
Grille: Royalty Core with custom ram skull.
Paint and powder: Velocity Auto Body and Tag Coatings.
Flatbed: Bradford Built Beds steel work-bed, Stretch My Truck long bed frame extension.
Other: Dodge Factory 5500 Flares, AMP Research Steps, HornBlaster Train Horns (Katrina Kit), 55 gallon Titon Tanks, ATS Disc Cover in the Rear, Jackson Express Polishing, Amsoil fluid throughout.