With a budget that barely pays for fuel, most teens enlist the aid of friends and family to learn the ins and outs of working on their own vehicles. But every so often, you run across a father and son who spend quality bonding time hunched over the fenders of the kid’s newfound ride while dad teaches him the way around wrenches and mechanics.
Such is the story behind Jordan Jackson’s ultra-clean ‘97 Dodge Ram we spotted at Thunder in Muncie earlier this year. Both Jordan and his father, David, teamed up to build the truck from a wreck, and the pair couldn’t have been more proud when their efforts were reward by a Best of Show in the Show and Shine Competition at Thunder in Muncie. And to make the day even more special, we pulled Jordan and his rig aside to showcase his work in a Diesel World feature.
Jordan’s hands-on truck building lessons began at the tender age of 14, because his father owns Jackson’s Body Shop in their hometown of Connersville, Indiana. With plenty of experience turning wrenches and doing body and paint prep work, the duo picked up a totaled (and we do mean totaled) ‘97 Dodge 2500 extended-cab long-bed 4×4. The express purpose was to build Jordan a pulling truck so he and his cousin could compete together. There wasn’t much they could salvage from the wrecked truck, other than the Cummins 12-valve drivetrain, so the ground-up project began with a new frame, cab and all new sheet metal.
The detail on the truck is second to none, certainly more than you’d find on the average 2.6 pulling truck. The replacement frame was blasted and painted gloss black, while Chase McCombs, of McComb’s Fabrication, came up with the custom traction bars, front weight brackets, rear hitch setup and driveshaft loops, all of which were painted silver. To finish off the frame, a set of Top Gun Customz control arms was attached up front. And to make the frame a roller, a set of 305/55R20 Nitto Trail Grapplers was mounted to 20-inch Eagle Alloy model 79 wheels.
The original Cummins 12-valve was freshened before any body panels were hung, because it’s easier to work on a engine sitting in a frame. Energy Suspension urethane motor mounts hold the Cummins in place, and a set of ARP head studs adds extra protection for high-boost situations from the High Tech Turbo Custom 66/74/14 turbo that cranks out a whopping 62 pounds of boost, according to Jordan.
Feeding the turbo fresh air is an aFe Stage 2 intake. On the exhaust side, the 4-inch HPC-coated exhaust exits through a single 8-inch stack in the bed. Cross bolts in the downpipe ensure that any errant turbo parts never leave the truck.
On the fuel side, an Air Dog II 200-gph setup feeds a Dave’s Diesel 13mm Quick Rate P-Pump, which supplies fuel to Scheid Diesel Lightning Series 5x.018 injectors. On the dyno, the truck makes a solid 500 horsepower. And, in keeping with the clean look of the truck, the valve covers and intake pipes were painted silver.
To handle the rigors of sled pulling and the abundance of torque, the NV4500 five-speed is fitted with a South Bend double-disc clutch setup. Power then travels through the stock 241 transfer case to a single one-piece driveshaft, courtesy of Power Train, and to 3:55 rearend gears.
With the mechanicals out of the way, it was time to reassemble the Dodge. An all-steel cowl induction hood with a ghosted Cummins “C” on it replaces the stocker. Attached to the hood is a Option Racing horizontal polished billet grille in a chrome grille shell. Aftermarket fenders house chrome single halo headlights, while an EFX chrome bumper complements the grille with its own polished billet insert. And, instead of a bumper, a steel roll pan was mounted out back for a clean look.
The bed is a refurbished original Dodge bed with spray-in bed liners, diamond plate bedrails and tailgate cover. Lighting mods include chrome Recon LED taillights, clean 1998-2002 LED cab lights and a chrome LED third brake light. Anyone who has ever sprayed black paint knows the truck has to be perfectly straight before it comes out nice. David did all of the finish work and applied the black basecoat/clearcoat paint on the truck. (We’re betting everyone got in on the color sanding and buffing part.)
The inside of Jordan’s Dodge is just as clean. It features a custom headliner with a silver Cummins “C” that replaces the stocker, as well as new carpeting to match. A set of Glowshift gauges monitors boost, EGTs and fuel pressure, and a custom control panel houses switches for fuel and air shut-offs. A great driving atmosphere is provided by a Pioneer sound system (installed by Steve Moster, of Connersville, Indiana).
Based on what you see here, we’d call Jordan’s Dodge the ultimate father/son project. The 19-year-old is also honing his mechanical skills at Lincoln Tech, in Indianapolis, where he’s studying to be a diesel mechanic. We’d say he has a good start on things.
By Kevin Wilson
Photography: Kevin Wilson