Overland Expedition Ram 2500 Cummins Build (Phase 1)

Hey guys, It’s Kevin. I’m checking in from the Boulders OHV Park which is basically north-west of Phoenix, Arizona, near abouts Lake Pleasant. Scenic trails covering quite a good distance, good camp spots and the occasional sighting of wild burros, desert tortoise, lizards, rattlesnakes and birds. This is one of the Virgin runs, maybe the second or third run I’ve taken with this little Dodge Ram Overland Expedition rig project I’ve got here.

I started with a 1994 Cummins, standard cab, long bed, four-wheel-drive. Basically ugly as sin which I suppose is exactly the way I wanted it. I’m building this thing to go down through Central and South America with as little attention I attract the better. So a dented dinged-up scratched paint four-wheel-drive vehicle with ugly wheels on it is probably going to attract a lot less attention than say a hundred and fifty thousand dollar Unimog rig or something like that or a brand-new pickup.

I bought this Knapheide low-profile Service-body off of Craigslist and then I put a little Fleetwood pop-up truck camper also found on Craigslist on the back of it. Had to modify the camper slightly but frankly it was a lot easier than I expected it to be. One of the negatives with running this setup, this is a low profile truck service body by the way, the regular ones are about I think 4-6 inches taller than this and it wouldn’t work well with the camper.

The floor of the thing is about 4 or 6 inches higher or something like that, than a regular pickup is, so you can see the gap up there above the cab and below the bed area. I’m going to use that to my advantage. I’m actually going to store a set of the Australian lightweight recovery device MaxTrax there and use some kind of, I don’t know, I’ll put some kind of locker or some sort up there. But basically, it’s just like I said, just kind of a big ugly truck, you know not super exciting, doesn’t look like anything that anybody’s gonna want for their own collection.

The reason why I chose the service body. I don’t know if you’ve had a camper or truck camper but basically you’ve got to store everything inside of the camper. So here’s what I’m doing and this is obviously very very early on in the build. I’ve got my tool box set up here, basically, lid flips up, stuff on top. Down here there is a flap that opens up, drops down and there are drawers of tools that come out, this is a machinist toolbox by the way that I picked up and really really like.

I got a factory 36 gallon diesel tank here and the old 12-valve Cummins, right in here. The 12-valve Cummins Turbo Diesel is very flexible on the quality of the fuel it will burn…and since we’ll be traveling through countries with various fuel quality, building a later-model electronic- injected model would be problematic.

Here’s more stuff like this I haven’t even got to yet, but I do have all of my little odds and ends stored in here for right now. Here’s a cord if I decide to do any kind of RV park camping, I can hook that in right here, and I can also charge the battery which is in here with this outlet which is kind of nice. I don’t have it wired up to the truck quite yet, there’s some kind of a drain on the system and I don’t want to drain all the batteries down.

We’ve got miscellaneous stuff there and here are all sorts of fluids. I’ve got a jerrycan that’s going to hold diesel fuel just in case 36 gallons isn’t enough. Here I’ve got all kinds of, you know, radiator fluid, water, transmission fluid that sort of thing.

I’ll show you the inside real super quick. There’s nothing at all exciting about it. It’s just a 1990s camper. A climate-controlled bedroom and kitchen, 3-way fridge which is kinda nice, small seating and workspace area, and adequate storage for multiple months of clothing and supplies. We added a memory-foam mattress for the queen bed space above the cab, and purchased high-end sheets and blankets, investing heavily in sleeping comfort…a requirement for us to spend months away from home.

I haven’t gotten the fridge hooked up yet. Haven’t got the propane system to work properly either. The propane system was part of what I had to modify in order to get it to fit into the service body unfortunately. So don’t quite have that ready to go yet.

On this side here, this is where the propane used to go, however the feed for it was up underneath, tucked up under here and I couldn’t couldn’t work with that. I had to remove it in order to get it onto the service body. So I relocated the propane tanks which I’ll show you in a second (in the video).

There is all the recovery gear, stuff like that. This is for the sand car / off-road car that I’ve got, right there behind me in the frame shot. So that’s all the extra parts. Here I’ve got camp chairs, footstool, that sort of thing. And then here’s where I relocated the propane. So I’ve got two regular 20-gallon, I’m sorry, 20-pound, 5 gallon propane containers there. I’ve got my Coleman camp stove with me right now because like I said the propane’s not hooked up to the actual camper yet.

And then the cab was a mess. This is like an old farmtruck, so you know it’s got a lot of wear on it. I replaced the bench seats, these are buckets out of 2004-08 or something Dodge Caravan. It’s got the fold-down armrest on here and they’re super super comfortable. I left the factory center console but I’m going to get rid of that as soon as I build a custom one.

I took some liberties with the dashboard here. There were already holes and stuff and it was a little bit cracked and pretty ugly, so what I did was, I screwed a couple of hangers and such to the thing. I’ve got my headlamp down below here, garbage bag. This is just a little tool belt kind of thing from the Home Depot tool section and again the same exact set-up here. I literally just screwed them into the dashboard. So, super low tech.

Between the seats, I have got a whole bunch of gear and stuff that I use when I go camping. It’s really easy to remove, I just used the third passenger belt there. So basically that’s it. Like I said I’m keeping it kind of ugly. I will remove this fender and some dents and it will get painted eventually, but I just really want to keep it kinda slow and low and fly under the radar screen.

I’ll keep you up-to-date on the on, on the completion of the project. As if there will ever be a completion of any project that I undertake. Its just a matter of whether the modifications are big ones or tiny ones. So anyway, I don’t know if I said it or not but this is a four-wheel-drive. It’s got a 8800lb GVW package with Dana 60 front and Dana 70 rear, so it’s plenty beefy.

It’s got a 47RH trans which is probably the weak point of the whole system and then the old simple mechanically-injected 12-valve Cummins will probably be around once I’m dead and my grandkids are dead, I’m guessing. These things are unbelievable. This one’s got I don’t know almost 300,000 miles on it.

I just had a mechanic check it out. I said, “Hey, I’m gonna be taking this down south of the border and wanna make sure everything’s good, you know before I start building this thing, please let me know if the engines going to need any work”. And he just looked at it and said, “No man, you’re good for another couple 100,000 miles at least”.

So I’ll keep oil in it, and drive it under a 100 miles an hour I suppose. The one thing about this rig is that the camper just ends up being a bit of a wind sock so you really got to kind of take your time, you know 60-65 miles an hour is a pretty good speed.

Anyway that’s all I got for you for now. If you have any questions please let me know, happy to answer them for you. And yeah it’s just been a really fun project.

I totally dig the service body, it’s awesome to just be able to drill holes wherever you want, you don’t have to worry about messing up the bed of your truck or whatever. And you know its super cool to just simply put things where you want things. I’ve you know, I have cut a couple of holes into the thing with a hole saw for plumbing and electrical and that sort of thing, and you know its awesome to not care about the bed or the look or appearance of the truck itself or camper for that matter. You know you can just totally put things in the way you want it, without spending a whole lot of time stressing about things like, it’s a brand-new truck, I can’t do that, it’s gonna look horrible and wat-not.

So anyway, thanks for dropping by, appreciate it and we will catch up with you real soon. Like I said if you have any questions feel free to drop them below here and would love to hear from you if you’re building something similar and have some tips for me. Take good care.

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