THE LOBSTER WAGON
Chris Begley’s Family-friendly Crew Cab Dodge
CHRIS BEGLEY OF RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA, HAS BEEN BUILDING CUSTOM OFF-ROAD MACHINES FOR MORE THAN TWO DECADES, AND ONCE AGAIN, HE’S CREATED A STUNNER. A welder by trade, his fab shop, Luxury Prerunners, builds high-end off-road rigs that meld form with function. From roll cages and suspensions to full vehicle overhauls, Chris and his team of fabricators build long-travel race trucks, tube-chassis buggies and even the occasional VW Baja Bug.
A few years back, Chris was in the market for a new daily commuter to go to and from the shop and haul his family around. While most would expect him to build a late-model prerunner stuffed full of modern creature comforts and the latest technology, Chris went retro, overhauling a ’90 Dodge Ram W250 Cummins-powered 4x4 from the ground up. The truck was passed down from his father, and 350,000 miles had been tallied on the motor. When Chris first got it, the truck was collecting dust in his driveway, so he decided to breathe new life into the family heirloom.
There were a few problems, though. First, the truck was a single cab, so hauling his family of five around would be a tight squeeze on the factory bench. Chris started hunting local online trading posts for a Ramcharger body in decent shape before coming across a crew cab ’84 Dodge Ram dually 2WD pickup that was being parted out. Five hundred dollars later, he was towing the cab and chassis back to his shop where they got to work turning it into a custom crew cab with a Cummins that was capable of handling all of his day-to-day needs.
Dodge never offered a first gen crew cab Cummins truck. The crew cabs were phased out in 1985 and the 5.9L Cummins wasn’t introduced until 1989. While there were a few ways to go about the conversion, as a fabricator, Chris wanted to use the best parts from both trucks. After stripping both down to rolling chassis, careful measurements were taken and the frames were cut. The front chassis belonged to his 1990 to use the 5.9L Cummins and 4WD. The rear came from the 1984 and used the longer frame section to accommodate the crew cab and long bed. The two frames were overlapped and welded inside and out before being boxed in for extra rigidity.
With the crew cab fitted and the bed reinstalled, the next step was cleaning up the body panels that were plagued with waves and ripples. With help from Shawn Henstebeck and Matt Hutcheson Designs, the body panels were straightened out and prepped for paint.
The front fenders were opened 3 inches for extra tire clearance. To accomplish this,
1 ½ inches were sectioned out of the front and back of the fenders and then reattached to retain the factory fender contour.
For primer and paint, Matt Hutcheson Designs laid down the Lobster Red color, a factory Mopar option on late-model Jeeps. The chrome bumpers, grille, mirrors and trim were refinished in gloss black. Inside, the interior was kept clean and simple. With roll-up windows and a manual transmission, this truck is full of old-school cool,
WITH ROLL-UP WINDOWS AND A MANUAL TRANSMISSION, THIS TRUCK IS FULL OF OLD-SCHOOL COOL, WITHOUT ALL OF THE LATEMODEL FLUFF.”
without all of the late-model fluff. The front and rear benches were reupholstered in black to match the fresh black paint on the dash and door panels. A layer of Dynamat coats the floorboards underneath the new black carpeting to finish the interior for a factory showroom look. In the bed, a DIY spray-on bedliner kit was laid down for extra scuff protection when he’s hauling parts and gear around.
RAISING THE BAR
The stock leaf springs served this truck well throughout the years, but with plans for 37s, Chris needed extra altitude. Front and rear BDS 5-inch leaf springs were installed along with custom-built shackles to net a total of 6 inches of lift. Up front, a pair of shock hoops was built from 4130 tubing to mount a set of FOX 2.5 triple bypass shocks. In the rear, a pair of FOX 2.0 IFP shocks was added to control the rear suspension. For steering, Chris upgraded to Off Road Design’s crossover steering kit to improve steering angles and strength. With the suspension complete, a set of 37x12.50x20 Nitto Ridge Grappler tires were fitted and mounted up on 20x10 KMC XD Rockstar III wheels. The setup is comfortable for Chris to drive around town and reliable for any on- or off-road trips he takes with his family.
FIRST GEN FIVE NINE
Under the classic sheet metal, the original 5.9L Cummins diesel is alive and kicking. With roughly 350,000 miles on the odometer, this first gen 5.9L is just getting broken in. The Begley family logged most of the miles, so the truck has seen its fair share of memories, backcountry adventures and daily commutes. Chris kept the Cummins relatively stock. The 6BT has the stock Bosch VE44 rotary-injection pump and Holset turbo. Chris built
his own killer dowel pin (KDP) kit to prevent any issues down the road with the 12V Cummins. Exhaust comes from RBP with a modified 4-inch side-exiting system that dumps just in front of the passenger rear tire. Power is sent back through the Getrag five-speed manual transmission to the NP205 transfer case. JE Reel driveshafts transfer power to the front kingpin Dana 60 and rear Dana 70. Both axles were fitted with 4.11 gears and Nitro X-treme diff covers.
Chris Begley has outdone himself with this build. This super-clean crew cab Dodge has tons of cool factor and room for the whole family. We dig the Lobster Wagon.
THE OPENINGS ON THE FRONT FENDERS WERE WIDENED 3 INCHES TO FIT THESE HUGE 37-INCH TIRES.
LEFT. FOR BETTER STYLING, THE BUMPERS WERE REPLACED BY A SET FROM A 1984 RAMCHARGER. THE REAR BUMPER WAS RECESSED FOR A CLEANER LOOK.
CHRIS’ CREW CAB ’90 DODGE SITS ON TOP OF A SET OF 20X10 KMC XD ROCKSTAR III WHEELS WRAPPED IN NITTO RIDGE GRAPPLER TIRES, WHICH ARE RUGGED, YET QUIET ON HIGHWAYS.
THIS 1990 5.9L CUMMINS HAS RACKED UP 350,000 MILES, BUT CHRIS SAYS IT RUNS LIKE A CHAMP. IT WAS FRESHENED WITH A TUNE-UP AND REPAINTED.