This article originally appeared in the Winter 2020 issue.
Accident recoveries always make for great stories, especially when we’re talking about decked-out diesel pickups, and this truck is absolutely no exception! As a light green 6.7L Cummins-powered 2012 RAM 3500 Laramie Longhorn edition owned by Michael Tarlton of Fletcher, N.C., the truck has come a very long way. “This truck, while material, has been a long-time dream in the making,” says Michael. Finished with paint by a local named Chris Anderson, it certainly looks like a dream, especially being a Laramie Longhorn with a RamBox for plenty of extra bed storage. Don’t you think? Michael is a very courageous guy, and his build (and recovery build) really highlights that so well. He has quite a high-end truck for the model year. If your vehicle had a lot of bells and whistles, wouldn’t you feel extra motivated to keep it going strong and show it off so boldly?
Michael is a corrosion engineer with more than 21 years of industry experience whose expertise is based around infrastructural systems and commercial and industrial manufacturing; on top of that, he is a huge vehicle enthusiast. He travels all over the U.S. for his job, and he purchased his high-end RAM in the spring of 2017.
“I was searching for about 12 weeks for this particular year, make, model and trim package,” he says. “It proved to be pretty hard to find so when I found one I immediately booked a flight to Oklahoma and paid a deposit over the phone.”
Originally a jet black beast, his truck was built and moderately used as a performance machine until March 2019 when a minivan blew through a red light crashed into it, causing a major accident. While Michael didn’t suffer any injuries, the truck suffered several large dents around the cab, hood, grille guard, doors, fenders and headlights. Then it went to Mountain Power Performance to undergo the bulk of the major rebuild, including the frame swap, fabrication, and post-paint assembly. “Alexis and the team at Mountain Power Performance did a lot of nice work,” Michael says.
Michael uses the post-accident truck now for a variety of walks of life, including his job, off-roading, hauling, competitions against street cars and traveling. “Up until the accident, the truck pulled a 30-foot-long, 25,900-pound gooseneck trailer and a 30-foot bumper pull camper,” the corrosion engineer says about his hauling activity. “I have since sold both, but we are hoping to pick up a fifth-wheel camper next spring and I replaced the gooseneck trailer with a smaller flatbed equipment trailer.”
He lives in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, so Michael spends a decent amount of time in the great outdoors, and the photos show off a big part of his lifestyle well. “When I am home I do quite a bit of hiking and camping,” Michael says. “This area is not only beautiful, but presents a variety of opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature.”
The pictures do not show the finished truck (Michael still had not yet completed the color finish when these were taken), but even then when the photos were taken, the truck still sported a lot of mods that’ll really blow you away! This truck isn’t only a great performance beast; it’s great for all aspects of one’s life, especially for traveling and work alike as it features lots of storage thanks to the RamBox compartments on both sides of the bed. So many storage compartments on the truck can make it a recreational traveler’s dream, as equipment such as skis or snowboards could be stored away in them. Michael has an exceptional lifestyle as he really gets big comprehensive use out of the truck for pretty much everything it’s designed for on top of being a show horse.
Since performance is Michael’s biggest passion, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that his rig has so many mods from the engine to the wheels. Of course, the engine starts off the chain and is the core of all the mods. A FASS fuel filter system offers big performance jumps with significant improvements in fuel volume delivery and improved starts in cold weather as it does a better job at removing water, air, and debris from the fuel. The cylinder head, head gasket, and valves are machined with ARP head studs, and they all help to create significant boosts in power and torque. To top off the combustion and pre-combustion side of performance, EFILive tuning by HPP/CTT Tuning on Michael’s truck offers four available tunes: 30hp Economy, 60hp Tow, 100hp Street, and 135hp Performance. The tuning also shifts on the fly and works with Android and iPhone devices. Michael complements the tuning with an Edge CTS2 digital gauge pod.
Behind the grille is an Icebox Performance four-core aluminum bar and plate radiator custom hand-built in-house by Radiator Supply House, a company that carefully thinks out each project for each application. With the radiator is a Wagner Performance intercooler, a high performance and corrosion-resistant intercooler with a unique stepped-core design that allows for better fuel economy and makes Michael’s Cummins better for hauling. An AEV vented hood reduces heat in the engine bay, optimizing intake performance. Beyond the exhaust valves, the BD Diesel Performance exhaust manifold and BorgWarner SXE369 turbo really help the engine to breathe with some huge boost. The turbo, with a flow rate of 100 pounds per minute, is capable of supporting more than 800hp and lasts longer with higher power levels than its SX3 and SX4 counterparts!
Behind the engine is a RevMax transmission, a unit rated for up to 850hp and built and tested to the harshest tolerances by a single technician from beginning to end.
“We haven't had the truck dynoed yet, but we are shooting for around 800 whp,” Michael says. “We have made significant performance modifications to the truck before and during the build, but right now we are trying to finish working through our punch list before we do the last of the performance mods.” The transmission has a deep 4.5-quart cast aluminum pan with a drain plug and comes with a two-year unlimited mileage warranty. Yukon differentials and axles complete the driveline and PML differential covers keep it all cool to optimize performance.
The Big Good-Lookin’ Ride
The truck doesn’t have the biggest of lifts, but it does sport a Rancho leveling spring kit with Bilstein shocks. Offering a 2.5-inch lift, the direct bolt-up kit also includes high-strength steel sway bar spacers. Also on the steering and suspension are SuspensionMaxx heavy-duty end links and Timbren axle bump stops, which allow for a very smooth ride. All of this was done with a complete frame replacement since the truck was involved in the accident. The suspension sits on Black Rhino 20-inch Arsenal wheels with 38-inch Nitto Ridge Grappler tires, providing an excellent balance between off-roading ability and highway ability; the tires actually provide a remarkably quiet ride on the highway and help make Michael’s RAM great for road trips. Additionally, on the inside of the vehicle is a Console Vault full-floor console safe that allows Michael to safely store his valuables, and the WeatherTech mats help keep his vehicle clean. Both of these are excellent products to have in a vehicle used for work.
On the outside of the big [Lizard]’s body are a Fab Fours Open Fender System and a Fab Fours Matrix Prerunner Front Bumper. The fender system has a lower center of gravity, but it allows the truck to still look like an aggressive beast as Michael can use his huge wheels and tires without having to give the truck a huge lift. The rear bumper is a DV8 Offroad. The front and rear bumpers, which provide exceptional protection, also add to the aggressive look and allow for the use of LED lights, which on this truck are Rigid SAE Fog LEDs and Baja Designs Spot-Flood LEDs. The Fog LEDs, because they are SAE-compliant, can be used both on- and off-road. The lights provide long-range high-intensity light while using little energy for up to 50,000 hours. The Baja Designs Spot-Flood LEDs outshine their competition through both appearance and performance, and they make Michael’s truck great for his job. The Retroshop XB LED headlights and Recon taillights add to the bright looks. A WARN Zeon 10S winch offers 100 feet of synthetic rope and can pull up to 10,000 pounds.
“The winch is nice for sure,” he says. “We used it to pull a tree trunk out of the backyard through the gate in our fence, but no rescue work yet. There are a lot of folks around here who have recovery equipment on their vehicles, so it is not too common to stumble upon someone who is stuck.”
However, that doesn’t mean he won’t come across someone who’s stuck.
Michael really enjoys his rebuilt truck, and it feels like a new machine now. “It is crazy, but it doesn't feel like the same truck at all,” he says. “In fact, that was part of the reason we decided to do something drastically different.” While doing this build, Michael faced some backlash from peers who didn’t think he could go so far with his truck; however, they underestimated him as he persisted and pulled through in the end. “Never let your aspirations be limited by others’ lack of vision,” he says. For future mods on this truck, Michael plans to make it even more of a performance beast, as he wants to include a CP3 fuel pump and new performance injectors; he’ll be able to do even better in truck pulls with those! He also plans to add a KC M-Rack, which will add even more off-road character to his truck. With all the things he’s doing to this truck, Michael has so much adventure planned in store with it. He’ll certainly enjoy some great camping trips with the trailer he’s planning to acquire.
Automotive Racing Products
BD Diesel Performance
Black Rhino Wheels
FASS Diesel Fuel Systems
Mountain Power Performance
Radiator Supply House
Recon Truck Accessories
Yukon Gear & Axle