Donavin Davis’ Ultra-Rare 1998 Dodge Ram Cummins
Automotive enthusiasts far and wide seek out the rarest and most hard to find versions of popular vehicles for many reasons, chief among many of them unfortunately seems to be greed by collectors that store these amazing vehicles away waiting for them to continue to rise in value while the world is deprived of seeing these automotive masterpieces on the road and at shows. Donavin Davis is a 34-year-old diesel mechanic that bucks that trend—the young man lives and loves all things diesel, especially Cummins powered Dodge Ram pickups. Having owned at least seven Cummins diesel Dodge Rams over the years with four of them still in his current stable it is not a stretch to consider Davis a Cummins collector. But unlike those collectors looking to just cash in on a rare find, he is a true connoisseur and enjoys owning, wrenching on, driving, and of course showing off his Cummins rides!
1998 was a year of transition for the Cummins powered Dodge Ram pickups; it was the last year for the venerable 12-valve Cummins engine but the first year for the Quad Cab body configuration. Finding one of these truck in good shape is difficult but finding one with a 5-speed NV4500 manual transmission backing the Cummins is nearly impossible leading some Cummins enthusiasts to nickname it the Holy Grail. Davis’ crusade for the Holy Grail began years ago and finally came to a conclusion when he found his dream truck online from a seller in California. Without seeing the truck in person, he completed the online sale and had the truck shipped to him in Indiana. Due to a miscommunication between the seller and the CA DMV it took more than a year for him to receive the title meaning he couldn’t register or drive the truck. But he didn’t let the complications get to him and took advantage of the time off the road to meticulously clean the truck top to bottom including detailing and painting the chassis and suspension components. He also buffed and polished the factory paint which as you can see is still in perfect condition.
During the wait for the title, he also developed and refined his plans for the truck to turn the otherwise stock pickup into a head-turning showstopper without breaking the bank or turning it into an unusable trailer queen. He would upgrade and reupholster the interior, install a mild lift kit along with new wheels and tires before wrapping up the project with custom powder coating and hand-polished aluminum throughout the chassis, body, and engine bay to make his Holy Grail stand out in any crowd of custom diesel trucks. This has been proven out as he has won the coveted Best Dodge Award for the Scheid Diesel Extravaganza show-in-shine for the past two years to go with his three other awards from past years in his other Dodge trucks.
After buffing and polishing the factory paint to look better than new Davis decided to dress it up some more by removing the original emblems and badges to give the truck cleaner lines then he installed a set of ’03 chrome embossed tailgate emblems on the truck for a pop of brightness in the rear. Up front a similar pop of brightness comes from chrome inserts installed in the color matched front bumper and grille shell as well as a custom polished aluminum blank badge from Billet Badges. Body modifications were wrapped up with the installation of a Street Scene rear roll pan and a steel cowl hood that the team at Mills Body Shop in Newburgh, IN painted bright white to match the factory paint along with the tow mirrors and door handles.
Lifting the hood reveals Davis’ crowning jewel, his coveted 12-valve Cummins turbo diesel engine. In typical Davis fashion he completely cleaned, detailed, and painted the engine bay and engine to look better than the day it rolled of the assembly line. Then he upgraded the performance by installing 4K Governor Springs from Power Driven Diesel along with their 3-piece exhaust manifold feeding spent gases to the factory turbocharger that Davis dressed up by hand polishing the compressor housing. The turbo inhales clean air through an AEM Brute Force cold air intake that feeds directly into the polished compressor housing. The compressed charge is then fed through the intercooler and a powder coated boost tube into the Pusher Intakes polished intake elbow where it is then delivered into the Cummins cylinder head. Spent exhaust gases exit the turbine housing and proceed to the rear of the truck through a stainless steel 4-inch diameter turbo-back exhaust system that Davis reconfigured to fire downwards through a 7-inch diameter polished stainless steel Pypes exhaust tip after passing over the rear axle.
To help set the truck apart from the rest of the competition when Davis enters it in truck shows he installed a 3-inch Rough Country lift kit after having most of the suspension components powder coated bright orange by Mills Custom Powder Coating in Winslow, IN to really pop against the white body and black chassis. The truck rolls on a set of 33X12.50R22 AMP Terrain Attack tires that wrap around XD Diesel 22×14-inch chrome 8-spoke wheels. He also installed a set of custom fabricated traction bars from Ernie’s Welding in Saint Anthony, IN that are also powder coated orange along with the rear brake drums and the front brake calipers. To round out the suspension upgrade Davis installed Fox Racing shocks all around but not before hand polishing the shock bodies.
Rather than stick with the original upholstery he opted to give the cab more style and comfort by having the team at Holtsclaw Upholstery in Francisco, IN recover the seats with tan leather and black suede inserts. The tan and black theme carries to the door panels with suede inserts used to match the seats. To make cruising to and from shows and events more entertaining he installed a Pioneer AV receiver in the stock dash location to blast out some great driving tunes. He also installed a Geno’s Garage A-pillar pod with a pair of AutoMeter gauges to monitor the Cummins’ boost and EGT levels. A black headliner and dark tinted windows round out the upgrades.
The simple elegance and unrivaled attention to detail have earned Davis awards and recognition for his hard-fought crusade for the Holy Grail of Dodge Cummins trucks. Thankfully, he worked on the truck, improved it, and still drives and enjoys his favorite ride rather than locking it away never to be seen again. The truck now has about 160,000 miles on the odometer, and if you happen to be in Indiana and there is a truck show around, you’ll likely see Davis with his Dodge Ram on display, if you do be sure to take the time to give it a good look as his truck is a fine example of what can be done to build a show truck on a reasonable budget with a lot of hard work and determination!