Expert Built By DPP

Vehicle Build: 2016 Cummins "Howitzer"

  Expert Built By DPP
Vehicle Build: 2016 Cummins "Howitzer"
6.7L Cummins


PHASE 1 (February 2017): As many of you may know, we have an obsession for offroading. This obsession comes from our love of trucks, big tires, horsepower, and the great outdoors. As part of this obs ... read more

PHASE 1 (February 2017):

As many of you may know, we have an obsession for offroading. This obsession comes from our love of trucks, big tires, horsepower, and the great outdoors. As part of this obsession, we have been involved with Petersen’s 4 Wheel & Offroad Ultimate Adventure since 2012. Not only are we the title sponsor again for the upcoming 2017 Ultimate Adventure, but we have participated in each adventure that has us testing the limits of our vehicles in the most extreme environments, such as our trip through Death Valley last year. Some of you may remember Ultimate Adventure 2014 in which we built project Mjolnir. Mjolnir is a Cummins powered 2013 Ram 2500 regular cab long box that was treated to the full meal deal to kill it on the trail, and so it did. However, we learned a hard lesson with Mjolnir when wheeling with a bunch of Jeeps: wheelbase. While we were able to conquer every obstacle, this behemoth of a truck on 40” tires received plenty of body damage when squeezing through tight, tree ridden trails and required a little extra oomph in certain situations to avoid becoming high centered.

With Ultimate Adventure 2017 quickly approaching, we went to the drawing board on what our UA17 build would be. It quickly became evident that we wanted another Mjolnir, just not quite as much of her. We wanted a 2500 regular cab, short bed, and since no one builds this configuration from the factory, we knew we had one option: build it ourselves. Let us introduce you to Project Howitzer.

Howitzer, or Howie as we like to affectionately call him, started life as a brand new 2016 Ram 2500 featuring the mighty 6.7L Cummins power plant backed by a 68RFE six speed automatic transmission in a regular cab, long bed configuration. The ultimate goals for Howie were to reduce the overall wheelbase, dramatically improve the suspension for offroading, run 40” or larger tires, and roughly double the factory horsepower while maintaining full emissions compliance, all while keeping superb street manners. Sounds easy enough, right?


The first order of business was to put Howie on the chopping block, quite literally, and cut him in half. Have you ever seen that magic trick where the magician’s assistant is loaded into a box and the magician uses some type of cutting device to cut the assistant in half? Well, our device was a plasma torch, and done so right at the factory seam towards the back of the cab. With the frame now cut in half, we then took a frame from a crew cab, short bed, and performed the same treatment to give us the short bed section of frame we needed. With a fair amount of persuasion, the short bed frame was literally slid into the front half at the factory seam. While this may not be the easiest method of achieving our goal, it gave us the exact same result as if Ram were to build this application from the factory.

Now, to make our truck even cooler, we thought it would be perfect with a RamBox bed instead of a traditional bed to give us a ton of storage options. If you don’t know what a RamBox is, basically it’s a bed with built-in toolboxes in the side, taking up the typically unused areas around the wheel wells. Fortunately, we were able to find a RamBox bed in perfect condition locally and all of the mounting points with our new grafted frame lined up 100%. BOOM….sketchy part done!


With the scariest portion of the build complete, we were now able to move onto the powertrain upgrades. As previously mentioned, we had a goal to roughly double the power output, which puts us in the sub-600 range, but with the twist of also maintaining complete emissions compliance. This means that the factory EGR and DPF systems would be retained, which requires a slightly different approach and a somewhat more in-depth parts list. But we have found that when properly built, you can absolutely achieve this result, it merely takes a different train of thought. With the cab off, accessing the engine was much simpler, and we started to dive in.

We started things out by yarding the factory camshaft in favor of a Hamilton Cams built 178-208 DPF Friendly Street Cam and a set of Hamilton Valve Springs to aid in the engine’s inhalation and exhalation. While we were in there we swapped out the stock, boring injectors for a set of balanced 90 horsepower injectors from our good friends over at Dynomite Diesel Products. One thing that really separates DDP from the majority of “injector builders” out there is they aren’t just punching out the injectors to create larger holes for additional fueling. They take into account spray angle, displacement, balance rate, return rate, and every other factor that is required to properly build a set of injectors. If you’re ready to up the ante on your horsepower goals, Dynomite has a huge selection of fueling upgrades. And to button it up, we slapped in some ARP head studs to prevent a blown head gasket down the road.


To aid in fuel delivery for our higher flowing injectors, we looked to BD-Power for their direct replacement 12mm CP3 injection pump that will deliver 72% more fuel compared to the stock pump to ensure we don’t drain the rail no matter the circumstance. For this particular build, we appreciate the simplicity that a direct replacement would provide compared to that of a dual CP3 kit. And with our horsepower goals, the BD pump will have zero issues supplying sufficient amounts of fuel when commanded. To keep the CP3 fed, we upgraded the low pressure side with a FASS Titanium lift pump capable of flowing 150 gallons per hour. Not only will this pump outlast the stocker (and guaranteed for life to do so), but generates substantially more fuel volume, plus will protect our injectors by removing harmful contaminants and entrained air from the fuel. And for any of your Cummins owners out there, you’re probably familiar with what is known as “1/4 tank issues” that arise from traditional fuel pick up tubes in which the tube can no longer feed fuel once your tank is below roughly ¼ full. Because this truck would be seeing plenty of high angle obstacles, we opted for a FASS Sump with Integrated Suction Tube Kit that ensures you will get fuel down to the last drop. And finally to round out the fuel side of things, a Fleece Fuel Distribution Block was installed. These are really cool because not only does it act as a fuel filter delete since we no longer needed the stock filter with the use of the FASS Titanium, but its also a, you guessed it, fuel distribution block. You may be asking what the heck you would need a distribution block for. Well, the primary reason for most is that it gives you a clean way to run your feed and return lines on dual CP3 setups. Another benefit, though, is it gives you a means to mount your factory sensors back in place that were unplugged with the removal of the factory fuel filter. Since we are only running a single CP3, we didn’t need it for routing of the fuel lines, but it is a great way to maintain our factory WIF (Water In Fuel) sensor and any other auxiliary sensors.


Now, with the fueling and engine upgrades complete, this bad boy needed some air! In order to stay on track with keeping all emissions components intact, we replaced our stock VGT with one of BD-Power’s HE351VE Screamer Turbos. The Screamer features a 64.5mm Ballistic Compressor Wheel and a larger 70mm turbine wheel for increased airflow, all while maintaining complete VGT functionality (including the factory exhaust brake). Due to the larger size and superior wheels, this bolt-in turbo is capable of supporting 690 horsepower. To complement the Screamer’s capabilities in moving air, we swapped out the stock exhaust manifold for a BD-Power 2 Piece Pulse Flow. This manifold features a larger inside diameter for additional airflow, removing yet another bottleneck, but is also a two piece design with a slip joint that will aid in preventing manifold cracks under high heat. And yes, you bolt the factory EGR cooler right back in place on top of the manifold.

Then, we went and did something. You know, its not really a party with only one turbo, so we added another one! And no better way than to upgrade with an ATS Aurora Plus 5000 Compound Turbo Kit that keeps the stock VGT (Variable Geometry Turbo) in place, but in our case, the BD Screamer. That’s right, this kit is designed to add an Aurora 5000 71mm turbo with your factory turbo (or upgraded VGT), meaning you get all of the benefits of a compound turbo kit, but still get to retain the VGT, and is completely emissions compliant. ATS is one of the forerunners in diesel performance, and they have been an advocate for retaining emissions equipment since day one. This is exemplified with the Aurora system, its truly an absolute work of art. The cast hot pipe found in this kit will not only outflow the traditional fabricated units everyone else uses, but it also just looks and fits a heck of a lot better, perfectly aligning with the stock exhaust downpipe. Further, the Aurora 5000 that takes center stage of this kit is not their standard 5000, it has been modified specifically for use in this compound kit. In order to appease the emissions system, its imperative to allow it to properly function in a similar fashion as to how it was originally engineered. This involves creating a certain amount of back pressure, but even more important heat. Heat is used during the continually running passive regeneration cycles this engine uses to essentially “de-soot” itself, and without heat, it will cause an ill effect of clogging the system prematurely. And this fact is what separates this kit from most others, and also one of the biggest hurdles when building power with emissions intact. The common train of thought is that you want to reduce your EGT’s (Exhaust Gas Temperatures) as much as possible, and while its still important on a 6.7L Cummins to reduce temperatures, it has to be done in a controlled manner that is parallel to that of the factory parameters.

To continue our endeavor of airflow upgrades, we now steered our attention to the drivers side of the engine. In case you’ve never seen the stock intake manifold and plenum once removed from the engine, we’ll save you the boring details, its an atrocity. We shouldn’t say that, the manifold isn’t so bad, it definitely has room for improvement, but its not terrible. But the intake plenum is one of the worst bottlenecks on any diesel engine ever produced. Specifically, the plenum is the long plate that runs the length of the head that the manifolds bolts down to. The area that is intended to flow cool, dense air after leaving the intercooler instead is a super restrictive grid heater design. In general, grid heaters aren’t restrictive, but the way this was designed puts two large tabs of metal right into the air stream, causing a ton of turbulence right where you don’t want it. To rectify this issue, we exchanged the stock plenum with a higher flowing, non-grid heater BD-Power Open Grid Intake Plenum. To maximize the final air charge, an aFe BladeRunner intake manifold featuring their exclusive MDV (Multiple Directional Vane) technology was bolted down. Again, this piece allows you to retain the factory EGR valve, but is designed substantially better than the stock piece with a larger inside diameter and integrated grooves, or vanes, that speed up the air charge. Just remember, airflow equates to horsepower, and every bit counts!


Phew, with all of the engine hard parts installed, a little ECM tuning from our brothers from another mother at ATS assisted in dialing in the calibrations perfectly. While its essential to pick the right components in your build, its equally important, if not more so, to get the right tuning to maximize the benefits and ensure everything is running optimally. And we opted to utilize ATS’ custom tuning performed via EFILive due to their extensive knowledge of performance tuning with the emissions systems left intact. This will net us the biggest power gains overall, but not over fuel the engine, again, causing the EGR and DPF to clog prematurely. All of this is an absolute balancing act of ramping up the performance, but counter balancing at the same time.


In order to get all of this new power to the ground, we now turned our attention to the transmission. Since this transmission was brand new, like 50 miles on it brand new, we decided to not replace the entire transmission, merely upgrade all of the major hard parts. On trucks with higher miles, we would always recommend a full build, but in this case, we know that our build list will have no problem supporting our power goals. The most obvious of upgrades comes from a BD-Power Triple Disc Enhanced Stall Torque Converter. This converter nets three times the holding power of the stock unit and has 95% fluid coupling to engine RPM transfer, compared to 75% of the original unit. When upgrading to a stronger converter, its imperative to also upgrade at least the input shaft and flex plate to avoid either of these shearing in half, and so we did! In short, since the converter now has less slip, that torque has to go somewhere, and the shaft and flex plate are next in line. A BD-Power Black FleX-Plate and ATS Billet Input Shaft were used to complement the converter. Neither of these need much explanation, simply put, they’re strong and don’t break. Now, one of the biggest weaknesses of the 68RFE transmission is its case, they crack! And this problem only worsens as more stress is put on the transmission, and you can bet this particular unit is going to see a LOT of stress. Some have taken the route of swapping in 47 or 48RE transmissions, and even Ford 4R100 conversions, but we opted instead to add rigidity with the addition of an ATS Case Brace and a BD-Power Deep Sump Transmission Pan. Yes, that’s right, a transmission pan does add rigidity because the cast aluminum construction has less deflection than the stamped steel construction of a stock pan. And now to polish off our transmission, it would need some custom TCM (Transmission Control Module) tuning from PPEI. With all of these upgrades done to the transmission, just as with the engine upgrades, you really need to update the computer to make electronic adjustments to how everything operates, and the guys at PPEI are pros at this. One of the things they do in the TCM tuning is bump up the demanded pressure to deliver firmer shifts, instead of those squishy factory shifts. This is done easily enough in the tuning, but to get the full 175+ psi line pressure, you need to upgrade the separator plates in the valve body. Here again, BD-Power had us covered with what they call their ProTect68 Pressure Control Kit.


Alright, so now we’ve got the engine and tranny done, what’s next? As we mentioned earlier, this truck would be running 40” or larger tires, and specifically, those tires are 42” x 14.50” x 17” Maxxis Trepador Street Compounds featuring a bias ply construction wrapped around beadlocked KMC Machette Krawls with 3.5” of backspacing. If that sounds like a big tire to you, good, it is. With all that tire means that axle upgrades are no longer optional, they are required. We have been using and selling gear packages from Nitro Gear & Axle for years now, and they’ve never let us down, so they hooked us up with a 5.13 ratio set of front and rear gears to make sure we weren’t doing 100 MPH in second gear. While in the axle housings, we are also upgrading with front and rear ARB Air Lockers. These are awesome because unlike traditional lockers, you control when you want to be locked up for ultimate traction and unlocked for street driving. They are operated by an onboard compressor, and no better match than an ARB Twin Air . With the Twin Air, you can control both lockers and have full on board air for inflating tires, running air tools, or whatever else you need. The last piece of the puzzle (at least for now) in the axle department is the addition of a Dynatrac Free Spin Kit with their upgraded DynaLoc hubs used in conjunction with a set of RCV axles designed specifically for use with the Free Spin Kit. While many use this kit to eliminate drag in two wheel drive mode on their Rams to increase mileage and reduce wear, we have a slightly different reasoning. First, these parts are way stronger than the stock American Axle components, and secondly, the Free Spin Kit eliminates the weak inner axle disconnect and u-joint with the addition of the RCV axles. With this combination, we ditch the failure prone u-joints in favor of CV joints, plus get the strength of RCV axles that are far superior to their AAM counterparts. Besides the sheer difference in strength between a traditional U-joint and a CV-joint, CV’s also have the added benefit that they will not have that bucking sensation in low range gear when turning that U-joints are notorious for. And with 42” tires, you need to eliminate any weak points in the axles given the opportunity.

And that’s where ol’ Howie resides as this is being written, but with continuous work being done, that will change in the next five minutes, as we still have plenty left to do in preparation for UA17. Make sure to check back often as progress is made on the suspension, body, bumpers, lighting, interior, and so much more. We can’t wait to see how this beast runs down the trail and to show, yet again, that diesels truly do dominate in everything.

PHASE 2 (April 2017):

Here we are, with Easter Jeep Safari 2017 underway, and it required all hands on deck working feverishly to complete Project Howitzer. For those that haven’t been following this build, you can check out the details in the first installment by clicking HERE. In short, we’ve taken a 2016 Cummins powered Ram 2500 regular cab long box, turned it into a short box on 42’s and done a lot of “out of the box thinking” upgrades. In the last post, we discussed engine, transmission, axle, wheel, and tire upgrades that had been accomplished. Since then, we’ve made a host of new updates to transform this truck into an off road beast, unlike anything you, or anyone else, has seen before.


Our typical montage when building an off road oriented vehicle is to shove as big of a tire with as minimal lift as possible. In order to aid in clearing the massive 42” Trepadors without requiring ten inches of lift, we utilized a set of Front and Rear Highmark Fender Flares from our good friends over at American Expedition Vehicles, also known as AEV. These are not your average fender flare, but rather a heavy duty fender extension that necessitates cutting the factory sheet metal in order to enlarge the physical wheel well opening. AEV offers rear fenders suited for both standard bed sides, as well as RamBox versions, which was right up our alley with our integration of a RamBox bed on this build. Typically, these flares are designed to mate 40” tires with a minimal three inches of front end lift, allowing for the type of stance we were after.

Further, to complement the flares, and provide the means to house a winch, lighting and create a better approach angle, we bolted on an AEV Premium Front Bumper that simply has to be the cleanest, most functional replacement bumper on the market for Heavy Duty Rams. This bumper is so clean one could easily mistake it for a factory bumper, but once you get in and look at the overall construction, you know it means serious business. Rounding out the list of body upgrades from AEV, we opted for one of their Heat Reduction Hoods that has a unique design that not only complements the factory body lines of the entire truck, but also features prominent air induction openings at opposing sides, drawing cool air into the engine bay. But why did we REALLY do it….because it looks awesome!

Out back, we opted for one of Mercenary Offroad’s “A-Bomb” High Clearance Wrap Around Bumpers that is nothing short of a work of art. You could consider this a “bolt-on” if you don’t find yourself sobbing in the corner when the Sawzall has to come out. That’s right, in order to make this a “high clearance” bumper, it involves removing the rear quarter rocker panels, which is replaced with the wrap around portion of the bumper. This bad boy also has provisions to house a winch where the spare tire would traditionally go, as that is really just wasted space once you put 42’s on all four corners. Even with the newfound high departure angle the A-Bomb provides, its built with enough rigidity to support the entire weight of the truck and essentially act as a skid plate after a hard descent. And even with the narrow stature of this bumper and hidden winch capability, Mercenary still managed to fit in a receiver hitch somehow, so as to not lose sight that its still a Cummins powered truck.

While we may be pretty good behind a wrench and a welder, we do not consider ourselves bodymen. And no, we’re not talking about dead lifts and leg curls here, we’re talking about massaging fenders, paint, you know, body shop kind of stuff. And in order to make the necessary modifications for the A-Bomb and the AEV Highmark Fender Flares, we opted to bow out of that installation and take it to the professionals at our go-to body shop to avoid the outcome looking like an atrocity. Besides installation of the flares and rear bumper, we also had them tackle an unforeseen, but necessary, body modification we encountered after the wheelbase had been shortened. Unbeknownst to us until we dropped the cab onto the newly shortened frame, the fuel tank no longer had clearance as half of it was tucked under the cab. But, a little cutting, hammering, and welding, and we were good as gold.

The BIG change, though, came next, in something we’ve all decided should be a factory option…….removal of the pinch weld and eradicating about two inches from the bottom of the cab and bed. Yep, you read that right, a cut off wheel was taken about two inches up along the length of the truck, and then stitched back together with an end result that you wouldn’t even notice if you didn’t know what you were looking for. The intention behind this was to effectively raise the ground clearance and allow the soon-to-be-built rock sliders a place to tuck into. After a healthy dose of paint on the hood and to eliminate any unwanted chrome, the truck returned to our shop for further dissection.

Back in its stable, fabrication began on the rock sliders that, similar to the rear bumper, needed the ability to support the entire weight of the truck in the event it found itself rock crawling with a herd of Jeeps. Constructed of both box and round tubing, the rails extend wheel to wheel and of course were tied directly to the frame. And if you catch us on the trail, be sure to check out the tube ends, using a fabrication part affectionately called “The Happy Ending,” a machined end cap featuring an integrated bottle opener, for when you need a cold beverage after a long day on the trail. After the sliders were in place, it was evident that our methodology of “measure twice, cut once” was a success. The sliders were perfectly sucked up into the body with an outcome that still had more ground clearance than if the stock pinch welds were still in place without sliders.


If you’ve ever tried to turn a 42” tall tire on dry pavement, you understand that the steering shaft will scream in pain and likely shear before the tires move a millimeter. No big surprise here that we upgraded the steering box with a PSC and integrated hydraulic ram assist to provide one finger steering wheel movement. Once you’ve had it on one rig, its no longer optional, it’s a necessity. To complement our new effortless steering, we also opted to mount up a BD-Power Steering Box Brace that ties the sector shaft to the frame on both sides. Not only does this support the sector shaft to prevent against steering wander caused by the drag link wrenching on the shaft, it also acts as a crossmember for the frame, adding strength, and strength is good!


Since we’re out front, lets chat about our winches. Yes, that’s plural…wiiiinnnncccchhheeeeesss, as in more than one. Tucked behind our AEV Premium Front Bumper is the highly capable WARN 16.5ti-S Heavyweight Series Winch that will be able to handle yanking this behemoth of a truck past any obstacle that its unable to scale under its own power. A Factor 55 Hawse Fairlead ensures that our synthetic rope rolls in and out of the winch unscathed. Out back, we looked to WARN, yet again, for one of their compact Zeon 12-S Platinum units that will pull us to safety if necessary, or just help a fellow off roader that may be “winch deprived” to follow in our tracks.


One thing about Easter Jeep Safari are the night time trail runs. Some of the most epic rides and lasting memories are made traversing trails through the middle of the night, sometimes ending with a sunrise on a rocky bluff, ready to hit the trails again the next day. And when it comes to night wheeling, lighting is your friend, and no better friend than LED. Howitzer received a plethora of lighting upgrades that keep the path well lit, and well, look pretty cool to boot. The AEV Premium Front Bumper houses four Baja Designs XL Racer Editions, with one pair in a clear lens, the other amber. Out back, we’ve fitted the Mercenary bumper with a pair of Baja Designs S2 Flush Mount LED’s to aid in knowing what’s behind us. The flush mount design keeps them well protected from getting snagged on any obstacle and keeps the wiring out of harm’s way, as well. Now, something very familiar in the Jeep crowd, but not so much for pickups, we added even more Baja Designs to the A-Pillar area with some cool, custom brackets from ZROADZ. These brackets mount to the hood hinge and wrap around the back side of the hood, allowing provisions for single post light mounting. But with the addition of a ZROADZ Dual Pod Adapter Plate at each pillar, we now had room for two pairs of lights at each pillar (because more is always better, right?!). Residing in these locations are another pair of forward facing XL Racer Editions and then a pair of S2 Pro’s that are positioned to light the sides of Howitzer, making it easier to see rocks and other obstacles as we are directly approaching them. And finally to add one last bit of upgraded lighting, plus complement the general aesthetics of Howitzer, we swapped out the factory headlight housings for a set of factory SLT Sport headlights that come with a black housing, instead of our existing chrome, and then upgraded the bulbs to LED. In comparison to HID that has been popular for years, LED does not require a failure prone external ballast, an obvious perk.


In case you weren’t counting, we just rattled off that we have a total of five pairs of lights. Five pairs of lights equates to five separate switches, which you may be wondering where we plan to mount five switches. We’ve all been there, you start with one pair of lights, no biggie, mount a switch on the dash. Then you add another pair from a different brand, so on goes another switch, but it looks different than the initial switch…..ugh. And the problem only worsens with time and additional 12 volt accessories being added. In order to avoid having five switches haphazardly mounted to the dash, we looked to Switch-Pros for one of their 8-Switch Panel Power Systems that consolidates all of our switches and fuses into a single system. So not only does this clean up your dash, but also under your hood as all of your leads are ran to a control center, with merely a single power and ground going to the battery.

Speaking of control centers, we also decided to add an Insight CTS2 from Edge Products that allows us to keep an eye on all of our powertrain vitals, such as exhaust gas temperature (EGT), boost, fuel pressure, and about a zillion other PID’s. The CTS line has advanced tenfold since its initial release, truly staying on par with current technology. With Edge’s EAS (Edge Accessory System) you can daisy chain as many sensors as your little heart desires to monitor literally anything you want. If you wanted to know how many times your driveline rotated per year, they probably have a sensor for that.

At this point, you may be wondering how in the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks the factory alternator is going to keep up with the demands of all this power being drawn. Well, its not, as we upgraded to a Mechman S Series Alternator capable of pumping out a massive 320 Amps. Featuring six phase technology and huge twin rectifier assemblies, keeping dual batteries charged is no longer a concern, even if we wanted to run both winches at the same time, turn on every light we have, and crank up the radio while running the air compressor…..sure, why not?!


For this last major phase of the build, there was one last thing to upgrade, the seating. For a daily driven truck that primarily sees pristine highway, the factory seats are just fine. Comfortable, easy to get into, great support, basically all of the amenities you would want. But for a rig that is built to climb like a billy goat, there’s room for improvement. Side bolstering and head support are probably the biggest pitfalls to the factory seating, as you find yourself shifting all over the place in off camber situations, making it difficult to maintain a solid grasp on your controls. To rectify this, we picked up a set of Mastercraft 3G seats that, with a little fabrication, were mounted to the factory seat sliders in order to maintain the stock up and down, and front to back movements. With this customization, as opposed to just mounting it to the holes in the floor, we’re able to keep the good things about the factory setup, but benefit with the additional support afforded by the Mastercraft upgrades.

And that’s about it. With these upgrades, Howitzer is ready for some time in the dirt, and no better place to get it done than Easter Jeep Safari. No more typing, lets go get this thing on the rocks!


Its Spring time, warm weather is upon us, birds are chirping, the days are getting longer, and all of that means only one thing to us: Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. This was our sixth year in a row attending this amazing event that turns a small town into an offroading mecca for one solid week, bringing everyone from weekend warriors to the biggest names in the industry out on the red rocks for some fun in the sun. This year was filled mostly with highs and a few unexpected hurdles to overcome, but worth every second of any debacles and we built some cool stories that will last.

This year was a little different for us from years past as it was the first time we would not be bringing a Jeep as one of our toys. Yeah, we know, it’s a Jeep event, but you wouldn’t believe the amount of non-Jeeps that are there, and we really like our full size diesel powered rigs in case you hadn’t noticed, so it only seemed fitting. In previous posts, we took our readers along the journey of building our brand new, off-the-showroom-floor 2016 Ram 2500 Cummins into a regular cab, short box on 42’s. In case you missed any of that, click on the links below so you can check out all of the awesomeness that went into the build of Project Howitzer, or Howie as we affectionately call him Besides finishing up on Howie, we were also building a Jeep JKU for S&B Filters that we would unveil to them at EJS. This was not a short order build either, as it was originally a two wheel drive (yes, they make those!) completely virgin Jeep that needed a lot of attention before it would be ready to party with the big boys in Moab.

As our deadline of Friday quickly approached, we knew that long days and longer nights lay ahead. The good news is that both vehicles were ready to roll Friday, but it wasn’t until 11:00 at night, a departure time that was even a little late for our blood. It was decided that a good nights rest was in order and we would hit it hard Saturday. With little to no testing on S&B’s completely revamped JKU, we hit the road for the long road trip to Moab. To some, this would seem like an atrocity waiting to happen. However, we are confident in our capabilities with the level of detail we put into the builds, and the background knowledge that is shared by our entire team, so to us, it’s a null issue.

It wasn’t long after hitting the road on Saturday that the “fun” started. In case you didn’t catch the sarcasm in our quotation marks, it runs deep. Allow me to paint the picture for you; S&B’s Jeep is from SoCal, where Jeep tops aren’t really a thing, and we’re from Washington State, and would be driving through North Idaho and Montana before dropping south. And up here in this neck of the woods, Jeep tops are definitely a thing. The rain started in on us, which wasn’t all that bad, but then the snow…oh, the snow….it came and it never wanted to lift. As long as you were going over 45 MPH, it really wasn’t all that bad as the snow would just shoot right over. Then Butte, Montana happened where we were met with hurricane force winds and a full on tsunami level rainstorm. So I guess its good that the snow turned to rain again??!! Oh well, we were on our way to have a LOT of fun in Utah, just remember to keep your eyes on the prize.

Wrapped in a Carhartt jacket, head covered by a fur hat, and heater blowing like a windstorm in the Mojave desert, we continued our journey southbound back into Idaho where, upon entering into Idaho Falls, the rain turned back into snow and our passenger side windshield wiper decided it had enough and went on strike. That’s right, no top and only one windshield wiper, which means that our heat source had to be turned over to defrost to prevent the glass from frosting over. At this point, we were moving a little slower so we decided to stop in Spanish Fork, Utah for some much needed rest and a hot meal. The next morning, we were welcomed by three inches of fresh, “beautiful” snow blanketing the terrain (did you notice those sarcastic quotation marks again?). If you’ve ever seen the movie “Finding Nemo,” its reminiscent of Dory’s words of wisdom, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

As if Mother Nature had opened the gates of heaven, as we rolled down the descent into Moab, the skies cleared and the temperature quickly rose to an inviting 60 degrees. We could feel our morale lifting and anticipation growing. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, we had Howie unloaded from the trailer and went to get some grub before hitting our first trail. It became immediately apparent that we would need to do a little finessing on the AEV Premium Front Bumper to avoid tearing a chunk out of our new 42” Maxxis Trepadors. Our trusty sidekicks, Cody Bear and Pistol Pete, went to work with a grinder and cut off wheel to give us the extra clearance we needed with the help of some borrowed tools from our friends at Nemesis Industries. In no time flat, we were on the trails with a group of industry friends and ready to see how our creation handled the rocks. Being good boys, we decided to break Howie in on Fins and Things, a mediocre level trail that does feature some more difficult lines that would allow us to stretch her legs and test the articulation capabilities. One obstacle in and it was evident that we nailed it, truck was performing flawlessly. We spent a few hours traversing the trails, meandering our way up rock strewn ascents and crawling down their counterparts. For those that have never been to Moab, we highly recommend Fins and Things as your first trail, no matter your skill level, just so you can first familiarize yourself with how your vehicle performs in this particular terrain. With some dirt on the tires and the snow melted from our minds, it was time to meet up with the crew from S&B for the official unveiling of their new toy over dinner and discussion.

Monday morning, after a short stint on a trail ride put on by Dynatrac, we switched gears and headed out to Flat Iron Mesa so that we could give S&B some one-on-one “how-to” courses. Sometimes, these courses can involve a lot of “do as I say, not as I do,” but this went pretty smooth and they were in the groove in no time. At that point, all of us shot over and made the full loop of Fins and Things that consisted of S&B’s JKU, Howie, and our Tracker. While huge group rides are fun, this quaint outing was a blast as no one was pressured to move through an obstacle beyond their capability.

Tuesday, we awoke amped up to start the day with the Warn sponsored trail ride that takes us to Behind the Rocks. You could say that Howitzer put on a clinic called “How to Make It Look Easy 101.” That truck just rolled right up and over anything we pointed it at. Unfortunately, our Tracker didn’t share in the same glory as it grenaded the rear differential on a rock, also causing catastrophic failure of the transfer case. No worries, we got the Tracker back to the trailer in time for us to swing over to the Dynatrac party at Grandpa’s Garage.

At the halfway point of EJS, and the entire reason we originally started attending, was the Fullsize Invasion. This event is tailored specifically for the “wheelbase impaired” rigs that takes us on the Gold Bar Rim trail. While the trail may not be as narrow with quite as many hard core obstacles as some of the others, it still has numerous areas that you can get buck wild on and test the limits of your vehicle. At this point, it truly felt as if Howie had found its own and we had Jedi mastered its capabilities. A lot of the video you can see of Howie was taken on the Fullsize Invasion, but honestly, the video doesn’t do it justice. That night, we met up with our buddy ol’ pal, Fred Williams from Dirt Every Day, and the rest of the gang in preparation for our annual night run up Hell’s Revenge. This gnarly trail is sketchy in the daytime as you traverse up a steep, narrow, slick rock canyon. At night, though, when your lights are aiming at the sky, you’re relying solely on your spotters to navigate. One wrong line up Hells Revenge, and you’re likely to be seeing sky-ground-sky-ground-sky-ground, all the way to the bottom.

Since the Tracker was down and out, and not wanting to leave anyone behind, we parked Howie to give him a break and busted out Sledge, our crew cab short box Cummins featuring a full AEV package with 40’s. With the four of us comfortably riding in Sledge, we crawled right through Hell’s Revenge, made it to the most spectacular view point at the top of the trail, and circled back. Sledge can best be described as a Swiss Army Knife truck. It towed Howie all the way to Moab with ease, and the only change we made for Hells Revenge was to air down the tires. I think anyone can appreciate a truck of that diversity that can still haul a large family around.

Thursday marks the beginning of the vendor show with booths galore showcasing all of the newly released offroading products from all of the big name companies. This is a great opportunity for us to make our rounds seeing old industry friends, and making new ones that will allow us to offer you the latest products. Probably our favorite booth was from Axis Industries, showcasing their Cummins 2.8L swap components, and we look forward to bringing you more details on that very soon as we gain more insight and more of these engines become available. That afternoon, we loaded up Howie onto the back of Nemesis Industries’ flat bed trailer for display and we high tailed it out of there, itching to go hit some trails again with Sledge.

The vendor show continued through Friday where we sat down with a few of the magazine editors about some upcoming articles that may or may not be featuring Howitzer. That evening was the annual last night sushi dinner where you can see exactly how much raw fish and Sake you can consume before hating yourself.

As usual, Saturday morning came way too early and marked the end of EJS and our stay in Moab. The return trip home was not nearly as exciting as the trek there, only to be disturbed by several unforeseen detours caused by our fearless leader, Cooper, essentially forgetting that he was the leader of the pack, leaving his posse in his dust.

Overall, Easter Jeep Safari 2017 was yet another amazing experience that we will never forget, and you can count your bottom dollar that we will be back again next year. As for Howitzer? He’s off getting a custom expedition rack built at Nemesis Industries and reinvigorating himself before being put through the paces at the upcoming Ultimate Adventure.

Vehicle Build: 2016 Cummins "Howitzer"
Vehicle Build: 2016 Cummins "Howitzer"