Earlier this year as we scoured the rocks of Moab, Utah, for fullsize trucks in a land covered by Jeeps, we zeroed in on a fullsize trail monster heading towards us. We quickly swarmed Rob Knoell’s Ramcharger. And after spending the day with Rob—running the entire Golden Spike trail in record time—we realized that we had a new trail-running bud for next year’s Easter Jeep Safari, and an absolutely great feature truck to show you.
We contacted Rob after the trip, asking him to tell us about his Ramcharger. He put together such a good story for us that we couldn’t think of a better way to give it to you than straight from the horse’s (er, Rob’s) mouth:
“I guess it started sometime in 2005 when my friend (Stan Prueitt) kept telling me about rockcrawling and how much fun it was. In December that year, Stan decided he wanted to sell a couple of Ramchargers he had. I chose the black and gold one because it had a new 360 motor. A deal was struck and I started to modify it. When I first got the Ramcharger it was sporting the stock-sized 235/75R15 tires on aluminum wheels. Shortly after that I installed some 32X11.50R15s on the same wheels. Then came the exhaust. The stock wuss-master exhaust system was not up to my tastes and I had it replaced with a dual 2.5-inch pipes and 50 Series Flowmaster mufflers.
“Now that I had the sound I was after it was time for the real work to begin. I bought a set of Allied 32-bolt beadlocks and 36-inch IROK tires. I sat down with a six pack of my juice boxes and started to cut up the fenders in an effort to make them fit without a lift. It was important to keep the truck low to keep the center of gravity as low. Later that night and a few Sawzall blades later, I had the tires fitting well but there was still some contact when I flexed the truck and turned the tires.
“After a trip to Desert Rat in Albuquerque I had a 5-inch Superlift kit including the stainless steel brake lines and steering correction. I took the Ramcharger back to Stan’s and he helped me install the lift. Everything was working well and I had the truck together enough to attend my first Easter Jeep Safari in 2006.
“I was hooked on wheeling. As soon as I got home I went to a local shop (Knecht’s Automotive) to order new gears and lockers. The owner of the shop told me he would order anything I wanted, but the axles I was working with would only give me problems down the road. I still had the stock Dana 44 up front and the Chrysler 9 1/4 on the rear. He told me that I’d be money ahead if I was to wait and start with some 1-ton axles.
“If I was going to need 1-ton axles, then I should get ready for them. I sold the 36-inch IROKs and ordered up a set of 42-inch IROKs. Then I found a company called BC Broncos who was willing to make some axle pivots that I needed for the rear axle. These pivots went under the leaf springs and above the axle and allowed for the axle to change angles without putting a bind on the leaf springs. They worked well enough.
“My next step was hacking off the roof from behind the front seats all the way back. This created a kind of half-cab-looking rig that I was eager to try out again. Easter Jeep Safari 2007 is where I tried all my new modifications out. It worked well as could be expected for having tires way too big for the gearing. I toasted the transmission, broke the steering, and snapped the rear driveshaft.