How a Father-Son Combo Built a SEMA Rig

Usually, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. In Pete Costanzo’s case, though, his son Bryson was the one who cultivated his Dad’s passion for diesels. Prior to that, the elder Constanzo had built up a string of go-fast cars over the last 15 years, but younger Costanzo enlightened him about the virtues of oil-burners: “Dad, diesel trucks are in today,” he told him. “You need to get with the program!”

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ON BOARD

And getting with the program is what he did. Starting with a Ford called, Project Charcoal Stroke, Pete moved on to a 2012 Dodge Ram dubbed Project Bad Influence seen here. Was it really all that negative of an influence? Well, not exactly, but Pete does admit that, “It demanded a mind-boggling amount of time.” Fortunately, this wasn’t his first trip to the customizing rodeo, and he got a lot of help from his friends in the aftermarket.

But why the switch in grille emblems from Blue Oval to Ram’s head? “My son, who’s a firefighter in San Antonio, drives a diesel Ram.” So, Pete (who has many years of experience in the automotive field, especially in vinyl body wraps and window film) leaned on his dealer connections to locate a slightly used 2012. With only 3,000 miles on the odometer, it wasn’t even broken in—for a diesel, “But I got a smokin’ deal on it,” he admits.

Street To Sand Off-Road Performance installed an eight-inch, 4-Link Long Arm System (stretched to ten inches) along with BDS adjustable track bar and traction bars.

Street To Sand Off-Road Performance installed an eight-inch, 4-Link Long Arm System (stretched to ten inches) along with BDS adjustable track bar and traction bars.

A pair of color matched Fusion Bumpers packed with Baja Designs LED lights protect the front and rear ends.

A pair of color matched Fusion Bumpers packed with Baja Designs LED lights protect the front and rear ends.

SEMA CRUNCH

With one small problem, though: he hated the factory body color, a dull two-tone gray. “It was hard to look past that—it was an old man looking truck,” he winced. And even though he’s technically “the old man” in this story, he didn’t want his truck to have that image. So he knew he’d either get a colored vinyl wrap or a custom paint job. He chose the latter, because of the intricate color scheme he had in mind. That proved to be a challenge in a couple ways, as you’ll see.

First, though, he had to get busy on the engine and suspension, since he had less than a six-month timeline to complete the rig before the 2014 SEMA show. To speed things along, he enlisted the help of the crew at Street 2 Sand Performance in Reno, Nevada. This firm has an in-house chassis dyno for performance testing, along with a wealth of experience in aftermarket mods.

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The 6.7L Cummins under the hood was treated to an S&B cold-air intake and a Diamond Eye five-inch turbo-back exhaust, as well as an H&S Mini Maxx Race Tuner.

The 6.7L Cummins under the hood was treated to an S&B cold-air intake and a Diamond Eye five-inch turbo-back exhaust, as well as an H&S Mini Maxx Race Tuner.

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PERFORMANCE

Pete prepared his rig to be more than just a show rig; he needed some “go” as well for towing a 30-foot Nordic boat to the lakes around Phoenix, Arizona. Enhancing the respiration of the 6.7L Cummins is a S&B cold-air intake and a Diamond Eye five-inch turbo-back exhaust that dumps over the rear axle. The H&S Mini Maxx Race Tuner upped the total output by as much as 300 ft.-lbs. of torque, he claims, so when he’s towing his boat to the lake, his Ram doesn’t even know what’s back there.

SUSPENSION

For lifting the chassis, Pete turned to BDS Suspension once again, as he had done before on the Ford Project Charcoal Stroke. He installed the eight-inch, 4-Link Long Arm System (stretched to ten inches), along with BDS adjustable track bar and traction bars, and dual Fox 2.0 remote-reservoir shocks.

To ensure a level ride when towing and hauling, Pete also went with a set of Firestone air bags fitted on custom mounts. The air compressor is also plumbed to supply the set of Horn Blaster air horns to trumpet his arrival (just in case the paint scheme isn’t loud enough as is). Elite Customs handled the custom white, candy red, and black paint job that gives a whole new life to that “old man look” that it had before. Even so, Pete says that trusting the painter without being there in person was an act of faith. “The concept on paper isn’t easily carried out without you actually being there,” he says. “There are unknown aspects of fabrication, and I was a 12-hour drive away from the shop and had to deal long distance with many of the details.”

Fortunately, it all turned out fine, and the suspension and drivetrain were finished to match the body color. This shining showboat rolls on 37 X 13.50 X 22 Nitto Mud Grapplers on 22 X 12 Hostile Hammered wheels fitted with a set of EBC black, drilled rotors.

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THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS

In addition to the intricate paint scheme, the exterior received a ton of body mods, including: a custom Ram air hood, Fusion bumpers, an AWC grille, Monster Hooks, EGR fender flares, and Bestop Powerboard steps. Finishing off the cargo area was a BedRug bedliner and Retrax Powertrax Pro bed cover.

Taking things even further is a meticulously designed system of lights. “Each and every one of them is carefully placed and calculated,” Pete points out. “We wanted functionality—not just a lot of bling—so they light up a country mile on a pitch-black night.” The illumination includes a plethora of LEDs from Baja Designs, plus Elite Customs/Diode Dynamic HID headlights and LED tails.

As for the cabin, the inside of Bad Influence is lavished with plush Alea Leather and ultra-suede inserts. Panels are refinished in red as well. A custom panel of switchgear operates all the lights and other accessories.

Completed in the nick of time, Bad Influence has captivated all sorts of onlookers and served as a promo vehicle (in every sense of the term) for dealerships. Pete feels that this badass treatment has a lot of value for dealers since diesel truck enthusiasts are willing to pay for the right lift and look. A stodgy old man truck just doesn’t cut it: Diesel owners demand a rig with some style and pizazz.

At the end of the day, though, what matters more to Pete than the sizzle is the solid substance of the time spent with his son Bryson. “This turned out to be a bonding experience with my son,” Pete adds with a note of pride. After all, the family that diesels together, stays together. DW

diesel trucks

Controls for all the custom LED lighting are mounted below the factory head unit and color matched dash.

Controls for all the custom LED lighting are mounted below the factory head unit and color matched dash.

diesel trucks