This article originally appeared in the March 2022 issue.
Typically, we feature driveway builds and garage projects — the type of trucks our readers can relate to and maybe even learn something from. After seeing these two pickups crab walking down Las Vegas Boulevard, we had to make an exception.
Making A Scene
An amateur clearly didn’t throw these trucks together using YouTube as their guide. It took the work of a team of professionals using their diverse knowledge of mechanics, engineering, welding, coding and app development to make it happen. And the hard work paid off at the 2021 SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show.
Jay Leno, Keith Urban and the coolest diesel pickup builds you can find. SEMA is the pinnacle of the automotive aftermarket industry and that’s where we found Manny Ramirez and his Papi’s Garage team. They were plenty busy that week showing off the trucks, running their social media pages and making connections. On their Instagram page (@papisgarage) you can find a video of the two trucks on the Las Vegas Strip as they literally drove sideways. By the second day, SEMA had surpassed their expectations.
“We had already blown past what I ever expected we were gonna get as far as a following on Instagram, contacts, point of references and potential sales on the truck,” Ramirez said. “I expected SEMA to be a great marketing opportunity for us, but I never would have imagined that magnitude of exposure to happen in just four days.”
The first SEMA truck was a 2021 RAM 5500 6x6 with 24.14 Amani Forged rear wheels and 24x8.25 Amani Forged front wheels. The second a 2020 Chevrolet 5500 6x6 with a quarter-inch plate front bumper, a 17.5 thousand pound winch, High Country interior and 24x14 Ruthless Forged rear wheels with 24x8.25 Ruthless Forged front wheels. Both come with Radflow 10-inch travel remote reservoir shocks and Wilwood brakes.
Papi’s Management System
These pickups have a few tricks up their sleeves, thanks to Papi’s team member Adrian Fernandez. Fernandez used his previous app-building experience to design a management system that grants full control to the driver.
After connecting a phone to the management system via Bluetooth, the app provides a plethora of options. In normal mode, just the front tires will move and the app will tell you to what degree the turn angle currently operates. If your tires are facing to the left and you switch to crab mode, the rear tires will then mimic the front tires and turn to the left at an identical angle. If you then turn to the right, the rears will do the same. Finally, in tight turn mode the rear tires will do the opposite of the fronts. By turning the front wheels 30 degrees to the right, the rears will turn 30 degrees to the left allowing for extremely tight turns.
You also have the option to lock the rear wheels in any position, allowing you to control the fronts without the backs moving an inch. Like we said — full control.
How It Works
The plan was law school. Ramirez was a history major preparing to take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). He dropped out in 2016 and started doing hot rod builds and custom suspensions with some friends. The builds slowly got bigger and bigger and suddenly Papi’s Garage was rolling. Ramirez noticed 6x6’s were catching on and they went to work developing their method for building a 6x6 using their management system.
Papi’s is filled with a group of people with diverse backgrounds such as Fernandez, who knows how to code and was the head of security at a bank. They also have a team member who was a mechanical engineer for a power company, one who was a service manager at a dealership, another in nursing school and finally one who sold his business to help get Papi’s off the ground. Some have mechanical backgrounds, three of them are engineer oriented and two know how to weld. Truly a very diverse group.
“That’s the gist of why we feel we can do just about everything,” Ramirez explained. “We have a small group, but everybody in our small group knows a lot about a lot of different things. If I know 30 percent of a field and another partner knows 30 percent and another knows 15 percent, low and behold between all of us we know a lot of that subject.”
They started the build with an engineering focus by running everything on a computer before doing anything for real.
“A measure-eight-times-cut-once type of thing,” Ramirez said. “It was pretty simple in the sense that if it worked on the computer, it worked in real life for us.”
They started by buying the 2021 RAM 5500 with a Laramie package that comes with all the bells and whistles, followed by a cabin chassis that comes with the 84-inch wheel base they were looking for. The 84 inches grant them room to install the middle axle with a solid scrub radius when turning. They didn’t want the middle axle dragging.
Though the front axle is stock as far as steering goes, the rears are far from it. They are built with a 14-bolt center and ARB Air Lockers in the middle. The outside has Dana 60’s and all in all, they have the same payload as the stock 5500 axles.
Papi’s sells these as a “new” truck, so no engine modifications are made. While the Chevy build requires some welding, the RAM is like a built-on kit.
“You can literally buy this RAM,” Ramirez said, “bolt on all this stuff, drive it around, unbolt all this stuff and put it back to stock. There are no frame modifications on that truck.”
To run the rear steering, PSC 8-inch RAM mounts are placed in the middle of the axles and controlled by a 13-gallon-per-minute valve monoblock with an electric hydraulic power unit.
Ramirez sees the 6x6’s as something people who want to make a statement will buy, because they’re not cheap, but he also sees a lot of people enjoying it despite that flaw.
“If you’re a full off-road guy, you can appreciate it,” he concluded. “If you’re a full show truck guy, you can appreciate it. If you’re a full big tire guy, you can appreciate it. It appeals to a myriad of different enthusiasts, which is crazy because normally builds head entirely in one sole direction.”
These builds took about eight months to complete and Papi’s is currently putting the final touches on their management system as it enters production.