THE MODERN dual-cab ute is a hell of a thing. It’s the do-it-all 4X4 for just about anyone who knows the excitement you’ll find at the business end of a low-range lever. They’re fuel efficient, comfortable and can lug around a load of groceries before carting a tonne of pavers in the back. Then, to top it all off, they have plenty of room to take your family to the far reaches of the country, and do it with more than six litres of American turbo-diesel grunt under the bonnet … what? Yep, the dual-cab American pick-up might be the perfect Aussie ute.
While the Ram 2500 you’re ogling has an American heart inside, it has been meticulously pieced together with Australia in mind. If you haven’t heard the name John Davis before, he’s the brains behind the original Bush Ranger vehicles – wild, barely legal buggies based on the Range Rover and designed to dominate any track in Oz. In more recent years he has penned the name Trucks N Toys (TNT) with his son Ben, where they piece together American full-size trucks from mild to wild for select clientele.
The beast on these pages is one of two the pair own the keys to, along with a dually 3500. Both are designed to not only give them the privilege to roll through golden-clad streets like royalty, but to show off to envious Cruiser owners what life looks like when you grab a ram by the horns.
WITH a relatively minor market share in Oz, some people are still left wondering why Dodge Rams aren’t ‘Dodges’ anymore and why tacky minivans are. For that, we have the Italians and minivans to thank. When Fiat bought out Chrysler (the owner of Dodge) and created Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), part of the new strategy was to make Dodge cool again – less Dodge Journey, more Dodge Challenger. Unfortunately, the minivans didn’t get the memo and still remain, but Ram was turned into its own offshoot and marketed as a serious truck. They’re still made by the same people, still built in the same factories and still sport Dodge emblems if you know where to look.
To stop suicidal ’roos diving feet first through the truck-sized radiator, John fitted up a huge Full Guard bullbar from Washington-based TrailReady. The behemoth not only sports four uprights with headlight and radiator protection, but it’s zapped together with 6mm mild-steel mounts and 5mm mild-steel wings to ensure anything this side of a Texas Longhorn won’t make a dent.
To give the Ram pulling power, TNT equipped the aptly named TRX37 package with a Warn 12,000lb Tabor winch wrapped in 25 metres of steel cable. Keeping the winch company is not one but five LED lights pounding out eye-watering amounts of lumens. The wings of the bar sport a pair of six-inch and four-inch round LED lights, while a 30-inch E-Series Pro bar from Rigid Industries carries out the bulk of the work. The aggressive front end is rounded out with a combination of Aussie and American components: the UHF aerial whip feeds back into the hidden unit inside, while the in-your-face Ram AmeriHood is a trick fibreglass component.
A BIG truck needs a big heart, and delivering the horses required to achieve the stock Laramie 2500’s towing capacity of almost 7000kg is a 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel snorting max power of 276kW and max torque of 1084Nm. An American Expedition Vehicles’ snorkel funnels fresh air into the six-cylinder diesel by the cubic feet.
TNT added five inches of freedom down the flanks, with a set of pocketstyle Bushwacker flares bolting to the front and rear guards. The badges, handles, side-steps and mirrors are all colour-coded black, with the latter flipping out into a tow-position for any trailer you can find larger than a Ram. Extra storage space has been bolted on up top, with the addition of a Rhino Pioneer roof rack which holds a second LED light bar for good measure.
The ‘cool shit’ box was ticked when ordering from the factory, with the optional ‘Ram boxes’ offering additionalstorage along both flanks on the tub. But, like most builds, the coolest part is still sourced from the aftermarket: the fulllength Pace Edwards roller rack covering the monster-sized tub, which electronically opens and closes with the push of a button. While it might sound like a gimmick, anyone who’s ever tried to roll back a tonneau cover six-foot in the air would understand. Rounding out the Ram’s external upgrades is another offering from TrailReady.
ATECO claim its conversion is the best on the market, and it’s easy to see why when you slot your backside behind the captain’s wheel. With factory support and custom-made componentry the conversion is near impossible to pick from a factory right-hook offering. Match that with cow-hide and a good-old-boy bench seat up front and the Ram’s interior starts making a whole lotta sense!
The 5mm-plate steel rear bar ensures anything short of a Mack Truck rear-ending you will barely register a blip, and the quick fold-out steps protect the tub offroad and allow for easy access to the tub.
While most of the exterior modifications have revolved around making it talk the talk, a bunch of underbody work has made it walk the walk. From the factory, Rams come with a super-sized version of the suspension systems found in 105 series Land Cruisers and GQ/GU Patrols: live axles with radius arms up front, and a live axle with coil springs up the back. While the front radius arm system might do a stout job of holding the front axle in place, it quickly starts causing issues when lifted. Rather than opt for offset bushes or replacement arms like our Cruisers and Patrols receive, TNT instead went all out with a full replacement 4-link arrangement from BDS suspension. It picks up the original mounts on the diff end, but replaces the single-radius arm with two separate links going to a new dropstyle mount on the chassis. The heavy-duty offering picks up the factory mounts for strength then corrects caster for big lifts and provides less caster change as the suspension cycles on- and off-road. The end result is a more compliant suspension without the janky handling normally associated with big lifts.
The massive centre console easily converts to a third seat when you wish to ride three-up.
Pace Edwards electricopening roller-shutter secures the tub and makes opening and closing a simple affair.
Rhino Rack Platform provides extra storage and a mounting point for the 52-inch curved LED bar.
Pricey components, like the Rigid LED light bar, finish off the build with maximum longevity in mind.
The TrailReady rear bar not only protects the tub off-road, but makes accessing the tub a snap.
The front end is completed with a set of four-inch lifted coils and six individual Fox shock absorbers; two are mounted to the factory tie-rod giving huge steering dampening, while twin shocks on either corner mount to the BDS bracketry and control the weight of the 6.7L diesel-six. The rear is levelled out with a set of 2.5inch lifted coil springs, with matching 2.0 Fox Shock absorbers on either corner.
TNT tuned the kit for improved performance on- and off-road for Aussie conditions and to pass a swerve and brake test to be fully road legal. That testing also ticked the box for the 18-inch Method Race Wheels and 37-inch mud tyres on each corner, giving massive ground clearance.
While the Ram might look like it towers above all, the reality is they’re a near-on perfect setup for serious travel and towing. You might not want to punt one down rock steps, but when you’re coasting down the Vic High Country with the exhaust brake keeping your off-road van in check, it’s hard to imagine a better 4X4; although, it seems Trucks N Toys did.
THERE are two things to consider with shock absorber measurements: their overall length and their piston diameter. Stepping up to the four-inch lift meant Trucks N Toys were only able to spec the smaller 2.0 diameter shock in the right length, but by bolting in two shocks instead of one the effective piston diameter is huge, easily reigning in the Ram’s considerable bulk. The twin shocks also give the added benefit of additional redundancy.