Worth its Weight: A Ram 3500 Tow-Rig

Small-town America and big diesel trucks: The two go hand-in-hand. And in some cases, they bring people together.

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Take Andrea Deranek and Shawn Earixson for example. After growing up in the same small town, moving away, and then coming back, they found each other. And as luck would have it, this ’11 Ram 3500 was the bridge that brought them together. “I always liked seeing the truck pass by but it took a while to put two and two together that it was Shawn,” Deranek told us.

“A POWERFUEL TOW-RIG THAT’S READY FOR ANY OCCASION.”

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“THE FOURTH-GEN CUMMINS PACKS ROUGHLY 650 HP, SPORTS 8 INCHES OF LIFT, 38-INCH MUD TERRAINS.”

We can’t argue with her attraction. After all, the fourth-gen Cummins packs roughly 650 hp, sports 8 inches of lift, 38-inch mud terrains, spends most of its days grossing 26,000 pounds or more, and looks good doing it. As for Earixson, it was love at first sight (with the truck, we mean). While on the hunt for a lightly-used ’08, he stumbled upon the ’11 and couldn’t resist the hunter green/pewter two-tone combo. Just 1,800 miles later, his new truck was fitted with a 5-inch Flo-Pro exhaust system and a programmer. And that was just the beginning.

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When the notorious sticking issues associated with the factory variable geometry Holset HE351VE began to surface, Earixson wasted no time scrapping it in favor of a Super B Special from BD Diesel Performance. The S300-based turbo sports a 64.5mm compressor wheel, 73/80mm turbine wheel, a 360-degree thrust bearing assembly, and builds 50 psi of boost under load.

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After racking up 180,000 miles in just six years’ time, one thing is for sure: This ’11 Ram gets driven everywhere. And believe it or not, most of the truck’s modifications were performed early on (primarily for reliability purposes). With the 6.7L Cummins known for having head gasket issues, owner Shawn Earixson took it upon himself to pull the head, have it resurfaced by Noland’s Cylinder Head Service in Kansas City, Missouri, and reinstall it with ARP Custom Age 625+ head studs.

EARLY MODS

With blown head gaskets being a well-documented occurrence on the 6.7L Cummins, Earixson took it upon himself to install head studs before he pushed the factory bolts too far. He pulled the head himself, had nearby Noland’s Cylinder Head Service resurface it, and installed a factory MLS head gasket, followed by ARP Custom Age 625+ head studs. Other than the head studs, no other hard-part upgrades were performed on the Cummins.

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While the stock turbo was being ditched, the factory exhaust manifold took a hike as well. A T3 flange, silicon ductile iron, two-piece Pulse manifold from BD is now bolted to the head. Post turbo, a 5-inch stainless steel Flo-Pro exhaust system routes exhaust out an 8-inch tip.

BIG AIR

After experiencing the common sticking issues for which the factory variable geometry Holset turbocharger is notorious, it quickly went by the wayside. Its replacement would be the popular Super B Special from BD Diesel—a 64.5mm version of BorgWarner’s S300. A freer flowing, two-piece exhaust manifold (also from BD) would be added at the same time. Other airflow enhancements came in the form of an S&B cold-air intake, H&S high flow intake elbow, and a 4-inch cold-side intercooler tube.

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Opening up airflow into the head is a high flow, gloss black intake manifold and 4-inch cold side pipe (“boost tube”) from H&S Motorsports. H&S MCC (Maxx Calibration Control) software is used to fine-tune the truck’s ECM.

BIG FUEL

A set of 100hp injectors from Industrial Injection help bring the 6.7L to life in the fuel department, while a 33% over CP3 keeps the rail full of diesel. Steady low-pressure fuel supply makes its way to the modified CP3 courtesy of a 165gph AirDog II system. The truck remains tow-friendly, exceptionally drivable, and makes 50 psi of boost thanks to H&S MCC software being used to tie all the modifications together.

“SPENDS MOST OF ITS DAYS GROSSING 26,000 POUNDS OR MORE, AND LOOKS GOOD DOING IT.”

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Installed in the factory location is a 33% over modified CP3 from Industrial Injection. The high-pressure pump supplies ample rail pressure for a set of Industrial’s R1 100hp injectors.

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An AirDog II system protects Earixson’s investment in the larger injectors and CP3 by ensuring plenty of low pressure, air-free fuel is always on tap for them to use. The second-generation lift pump system is capable of flowing 165 gph and supporting up to 800 hp.

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ISSPRO EV2 series (OEM) gauges mounted along the A-pillar allow the owners to keep an eye on key vitals, and the truck looks like it left the factory with them. Among the 2-1/16-inch analog units are a 1,600-degree pyrometer, 60- psi boost gauge, and rail pressure gauge.

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Gear selections are made by hand via a G56 manual, and the notorious six-speed gearbox hasn’t skipped a beat in 180,000 miles. Almost immediately after purchasing the truck, Earixson ditched the factory clutch in favor of a Valair dual disc with a 3,600-pound pressure plate load rating. To date, it’s had zero issues harnessing twice the factory torque rating and living much of its life at 26,000 gross.

To say Earixson was proactive with this truck would be an understatement. Knowing that the 6.7L Cummins was known for head gasket failure, he promptly anchored the head to the block with the best head studs in the business. Then when the variable geometry Holset turbo began to gum up, he ditched it in favor of a proven, fixed geometry S300-based charger. And before the stock clutch ever had a chance to slip, he had a dual disc unit from Valair sitting in its place. Aside from the custom-built driveshafts and resurfacing of the head, Earixson performed all the work himself—effectively transforming his Ram into a powerfuel tow-rig that’s ready for any occasion. DW