1997 Cummins Towho/Expo

blakeape

Adventurer
I have been lurking for a while and really enjoying the site so I figured I would share 1 of my projects. I originally built a 1996 Tacoma for expo type use and drove it from Maine to California and Baja to Canada mostly chasing snow and H2O. I still have the Taco and love it, but as you'll see it turned into a rock crawler that I still drive on the street.

I moved to Montana in 2003 and worked for myself as a Carpenter. The Taco got a little overwhelmed carrying all my tools and pulling trailers so in May of 04 I bought a 1997 Dodge SLT, extended cab 4x4 5spd, 8800GVW, with 4:10 gears and 133K on the ticker. I paid $10,900 but had to rebuild the front end and steering. The truck was bone stock with a B&W turnover goose-neck ball in the bed. It had definitely been worked hard when I got it, probably a ranch truck. Anyway, it also had 265/75R16 tires and with the 4:10 gears it really only wanted to go about 65-70 mph and the speed limit is 75 on the interstates here. Here's one of the earliest pics I could find of it towing my Taco to Moab in 2005. I think it has a used set of BFG AT's 285/75R16's in this pic.
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blakeape

Adventurer
I need to remember how to attach multiple pics at once. So soon the truck got a few mods and maintenance; custom ground fuel plate, advanced timing, 4"exhaust, pyrometer and boost gauge, a 13" Southbend clutch, valve adjustment and some 315/75R16 Toyo MT's. The 35's and fuel mods really helped the performance and mileage and the truck was finally able to comfortably cruise highway speeds. Then I went skiing and snowmobiling in Jackson Hole and on the way home a boulder the size of a basketball rolled off a hillside in a construction zone and crippled the Dodge. It hit me right in the front license plate taking out the bumper, A/C condenser, intercooler, radiator, fan and fan clutch. A friend was with me and had some fancy AAA that gave me a free tow to Victor Idaho almost 100 miles and dropped the truck at a shop that another friend worked at. His boss got me all the parts except the bumper over night from Salt Lake City and I fixed the truck in the parking in the rain, sleet and snow and drove it back to MT. When I got home I built my first steel bumper. I also built a ladder rack sometime in the mix of things.



 

blakeape

Adventurer
Thanks, Yes it is a 12 Valve and the Taco has progressed even further in the crawler direction and now rolls on 42's.

The Dodge worked hard for years as the tow rig/ work truck and got a 2" leveler kit and then a 5" Top Gunz Customs coil lift and some used 37" BFG At's.

 

blakeape

Adventurer
Alrighty then! So I got a used Pac Brake exhaust brake for $150 but had to get a few new parts and install the heavier exhaust springs. I am probably into it about $400, but it is awesome for towing. I also bought my own used topper for $50 and painted it black (the topper in the first pic is borrowed). Fast forward a few years and traded a set of tires to a friend who painted my truck. I have always found good deals on red vehicles and it is one of my least favorite colors so charcoal gray it is. I went back to school, changed professions and the truck got a little love being that I didn't need it every day anymore. I used it more for kayaking and exploring than dragging equipment and tools.


 

blakeape

Adventurer
I also bought a mid 90's Jayco pop-up slide in camper from a friend for $2750. My girlfriend really likes it and it is super comfortable, but usually if I am just going out for a night or 2 I either sleep in a tent or under the topper. the camper is really nice for longer kayaking adventures though with all the rain we get hear in the spring.


 

mustangwarrior

Adventurer
nice truck, i really want a diesel,

i know i've see this truck before, either somewhere elso on here, or maybe pirate 4x4?

any other pics of the ladder rack? i'm hoping to have two canoes this summer and will need a rack, i like the way yours sticks out because i will want to maintain my soft cover and tool box,
 

blakeape

Adventurer
Thanks for the compliments everyone, yes you probably have seen the truck on pirate 4x4. I am now a paramedic/firefighter but still do side jobs and just built myself a house so the Dodge still hauls plenty of lumber, tools, equipment, etc. I built some rock-sliders a few years back out of .120 wall 3"x1.5" tubing with gussets and frame plates. I can lift the side of the truck off the ground with a high lift if needed. They also make a great step for loading things on the top of the truck. I am going to extend them a little though. Last winter I jack-knifed in my friends driveway pulling my tractor and the sliders saved the side of the truck. I got a little dent in the front of the bed and the extended cab, but it would have been much worse without them and no damage if they were a little further out. They have a D-ring welded to them that the camper attaches to in the front.


The ladder racks are on my old beater Chevy right now and they are designed so a topper can slide in and you still have an approximately 4 inch ledge to walk around on for loading things. The other nice thing about the platform is it makes a nice rub rail for the top of the bed if you find yourself planted against a tree or something while cutting firewood. Guess how I know?
 

Rot Box

Explorer
Haha I've seen your rig on Pirate as well. Once upon a time I was searching around for leaf spring/Ford 60 swaps for my 01 24v when I stumbled across yours. Kiss unit bearings, trac bars, and ball joints goodbye! :bike_rider:

Btw welcome! Expo is a great place to be.
 

blakeape

Adventurer
Ah yes the leaf springs. So as I mentioned before I put a 5 inch Top Gunz Customs lift on the truck. I was never real impressed with the kit and originally installed it thinking I would eventually put a Ford Dana 60 under the coil lift. I fought death wobble with the lift, the Dodge steering had worn out for the 3rd time in about 70K, the trac bar was shot, I was always skeptical about the vacuum actuated 2 piece axle shaft and in August of 09 I finally lost a unit bearing. I parked the truck until November of 09 and collected parts. I decided to go with Ford Super Duty lift springs, a completely rebuilt 1979 Ford Dana 60, 35 spline stub shaft and hubs, a homemade custom trac bar, cross over steering and brand new 37x12.50R17 E rated Goodyear MTR's. I did a full detailed write up on Pirate 4x4 that anyone interested can read here:
http://www.pirate4x4.com/forum/showthread.php?t=850288
I sold the Dodge Dana 60 and most of my old lift kit and am very happy with the end product. The truck drives much better and I can do 75mph with the hubs turned in. I trust the truck and can rebuild the front end on the side of the road with basic hand tools and find the parts I need at any auto parts store.


 

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