This article originally appeared in the July 2020 issue.
This old Dodge is owned by Mike Martin, who served in the U.S. Navy Submarines unit. Originally from Xenia, Ohio, he now lives in the mountains of western North Carolina.
His diesel story starts back in 1978 when he was attending vocational school and his instructor told him he could make a lot of money as a diesel mechanic. After graduating, his brother enlisted in the Navy and encouraged him to join as well. Mike was obliged to do so, as they made a bet Mike would make more money if he did so. He ended up working as an electronics technician (ET), and served in that sector until being honorably discharged in 1986.
“In the end, I decided not to make it a career,” he says. “I immediately went to work at a machine shop until I could decide what I wanted to do with my life.”
Over the years, Mike became involved in truck and tractor pulls. The military still runs in his family though, as he has a son currently serving in the Army, stationed in Baghdad, Iraq (his son’s truck is also featured in this issue). It’s a short-bed single cab with a big ride that is best known as Frankentruck.
“Frankentruck is a name a friend of mine used to describe what I had gotten into, and it stuck with this build,” Mike says.
This 12-valve Cummins-powered beast stands out from many others because it actually is a conversion, meaning the body was salvaged from a half-ton truck and was installed on a three-quarter-ton four-wheel-drive Cummins-powered chassis (with its diesel dash and wiring still intact) that was salvaged from a wrecked truck.
“A friend of mine had a son who was helping a friend of his at a towing company, who told me about this 1995 Cummins RAM that rolled down a mountain,” he says. “He also asked me if I was interested in this 1998 gas RAM with a bad transmission.” The towing company worker figured Mike might get a great deal by acquiring two run-down parts trucks and making a build out of them, and so he did.
“I had no real plan when I got started,” Mike says. “I just figured I’d somehow combine the two into one.” In sticking with the body’s short bed, Mike cut about 30 inches out of the frame and adjusted the rear end to get the bed to fit on it.
“It was quite the undertaking with a cherry picker and board framing during incremental lifting of both cabs,” he remembers. “I got it moving under its own power before getting rid of the gap.” Unfortunately, during this process, he had to swap the diesel’s tank for the gas truck’s tank since the diesel tank was hitting the transfer case and differential upon the frame being cut. Sometimes, you just have to make do with what you have though.
Much work has been done under the hood on Frankentruck as well. Some major performance enhancements on this engine include a killer dowel pin (KDP) kit, turbo boost elbow, and 40 percent over performance injectors. Additionally, Power Driven Diesel played a huge part on the truck with its aftermarket valve and governor springs, timing kit, and an AFC Live in-cab fuel tuner. ARP head studs and a Fluidampr harmonic damper help the engine to structurally withstand all the increased performance. Topping off the engine performance is a PYPES 5-inch exhaust system. The beefy truck also uses a built 47RH transmission that was completed by Jeff Garmon at Garmon Diesel Transmissions.
“He built me a Stage 2.5 (everything except a billet intermediate shaft) transmission that I love,” he says. “It has a triple disc converter, and a lock-up switch that automatically locks when it shifts into second gear and unlocks when it shifts back to first.”
That’s a lot of engine and powertrain work, but he’s not done. Mike plans to do quite a bit more in the future in preparing for more performance events, as he has some DIY triple turbo compounds in store along with a fuel pump upgrade. “It’s to max out my stock bottom end before building a killer street engine,” he says. “If a little is good, and more is better, then too much must be just right!” The truck as it stands now puts out roughly 407 horsepower and 951 pound-feet of torque, totally exceeding Mike’s expectations.
The white RAM is now Mike’s daily driver that spends most of its time as his commute vehicle, but it generally sees usage for all walks of life you might think of. “This truck is for play, road trips, hauling, whatever,” he says. “It’s a truck; it can do pretty much anything.”
Other than work, he attends diesel performance and truck shows as his time will allow. After all, he’s very much into hot rodding and has been for decades. He travels great distances for road trips as well.
“Last summer, I drove it to Ohio twice,” he says. “One of those times was to attend the Firepunk Outlaw Diesel Revenge at my old hometown drag strip.” With the new Summit Sealer Primer paint job on top of this swap, Frankentruck has undergone quite a makeover; he plans on doing even more paint work. Because of its lift, ride and sinister looks, this old Cummins truck definitely deserves its name. The 20-inch Fuel Off-Road wheels, 35-inch Fury Country Hunter M/T tires, and traction bars play the most significant role in giving the truck its big stance. Even though Mike discharged from the Navy, the experience certainly enhanced his mechanical skill set that helped him advance in the aftermarket diesel industry.
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