Michael Dalton’s sweet 2012 Ram drag truck
Michael Dalton is the owner of RLC Motorsports in Cookville, Tennessee, and he successfully raced an 800hp, street-driven, fourth-generation Ram 2500 for several years. The truck was one of the first to run successfully at high power with the 68RFE transmission thanks to the experts at Suncoast and it made several low 11-second quarter-mile passes, taking home win after win in NHRDA and Outlaw drag races. But he always wanted to build a 2WD diesel drag truck—so in 2015 he sold the 4WD, purchased a 2012 Ram 2500 work truck for $8,000 and drove it while coming up with a plan for his dream race truck.
With a game plan in mind he turned to his friends at Wide Open Design in Murfreesboro, Tenn., to partner with them on building the chassis. While teaming with a chassis shop to build a race vehicle happens on a regular basis, there was a special twist with this teamup. The crew at WOD is a highly talented group of fabricators that specializes in building off-road competition vehicles, not drag racers— but this team would not let that stop them. Throughout 2016 they built the chassis, focusing on the suspension and making it as light as possible while keeping it very strong. The chassis is fabricated from chromoly tubing and meets SFI 25.3 certifications.
The build team started with the factory chassis, removing the cab, bed and drivetrain before stripping it down to bare frame rails and completely removing the suspension mounts in the front and rear of the frame. They decided to chop off most of the front and rear of the frame, leaving the section from the rear of the cab up to the front of the engine. For better weight transfer they set the heavy Cummins engine back 16 inches from the stock location.
Up front they designed the chassis to work with Strange Engineering spindles and coilover struts with custom lower control arms and a Stiletto steering rack to minimize weight and allow adjustability where it was needed. Braking up front is handled by a set of Strange 11-inch slotted rotors and 4-piston Strange calipers. The chassis also supports the factory steel fenders, a sport model bumper and the factory aluminum hood.
A fully adjustable four-link setup was implemented in the rear of the chassis to allow for maximum chassis tuning ability. A pair of QA-1 double-adjustable coilover shocks is used to tame the rear axle as the Ram launches off the line and travels down the track. Borrowing from their off-road roots, Dalton and the WOD team opted to go with a Spidertrax Pro Series fabricated axle housing with 4-inch axle tubes and Strange spindles, 11-inch slotted rotors and dual 4-piston brake calipers. The Spidertrax housing is stuffed with a Strange Engineering 9.5-inch Pro Lightweight spool and 9.5-inch Pro Gear ring and pinion set and 40-spline gun-drilled axle shafts to get the power to the massive Mickey Thompson slicks. The rear of the chassis also integrates the mounts for the factory steel sheet metal as well as the custom aluminum tonneau cover the WOD team fabricated.
Moving into the cab, the build team integrated seat mounts for Kirkey aluminum racing seats on both sides in case Dalton ever wants to take along a passenger. They also fabricated a new firewall and transmission tunnel to accommodate the Cummins engine and Dodge 48RE transmission and the extreme setback they employed when designing the truck. Of course there’s also a lot of bent, notched and welded chromoly tubing throughout the cab to ensure Dalton’s safety should things ever go wrong at speed. To allow the cab to drop down onto the fabricated chassis and roll cage they removed the floor, rear window and back wall of the cab and replaced the window with a tinted Lexan window then fabricated a bolt in rear firewall to keep
the truck safe and legal. They also fabricated aluminum floor panels to combat any urge Dalton might have to imitate Fred Flintstone.
The crew at Wide Open also integrated many sets of tabs to mount weights throughout the chassis to adjust for track conditions or to adjust the truck’s overall weight to fit within a specific race class. After the chassis was completed they had it powdercoated in silver to contrast well against the bright orange paint Dalton had planned for the body. Unweighted, the completed truck crosses the scales at around 4,000 pounds. It will be set up to race at 4,500 pounds for Pro Street events or they can drop weight below 4,400 pounds to run the truck in the Pro Mod class if they desire. And with all the steel body panels and glass windows in the truck, they could drop several
hundred more pounds by swapping to Lexan windows and fiberglass body panels if Dalton gets serious about running in the Pro Mod category.
Once the chassis was finished, Dalton and his build team turned their focus on the engine and transmission. They chose to stick with a tried-and-true 5.9L Cummins common rail engine and turned to the team at Donalson Diesel Performance to assemble it. A factory 5.9L Cummins crankshaft at the heart of the engine swings a set of Diamond pistons at the end of a set of R&R connecting rods with a Fluidamper balancer to keep it spinning smoothly. The valves are actuated by a Hamilton Cams camshaft through chromoly Hamilton pushrods and Hamilton valve springs. ARP studs and bolts are used throughout to hold everything together. Cooling is handled by an electric water pump and a Griffin aluminum radiator along with a Fleece Performance Engineering coolant bypass kit to equalize pressure and keep the freeze plugs in the engine. The engine is capped off with a Cummins valve cover that was treated to skull-themed hydro-dipped graphics by Oldskoolfab.
A single 88mm Garrett turbocharger is employed to keep the airflow high and simple. Spent exhaust gasses from the engine are fed to the turbo via a Steed Speed exhaust manifold then channeled out of the hood through a fabricated stainless steel pipe. The compressed intake charge leaves the Garrett turbo before traveling through a custom fabricated boost tube and into a Banks Power intercooler then back out through another fabricated boost tube and into the head through a fabricated intake elbow that is painted bright orange to match the truck.
Of course, with a lot of air available the engine will also need a lot of fuel to make good power. Fuel is pumped from the fabricated WOD fuel cell in the rear of the truck by a 250gph FASS fuel pump and filter system up to a pair of Fleece Performance Engineering Powerflo stroker CP3S with one in the factory Cummins location and the other directly above it using an ATS Diesel dual CP3 mounting kit. From there, large volumes of high pressure fuel are delivered to a set of 300% over S&S Diesel Motorsport fuel injectors where it is sent into the engine. Tuning is handled by Ryan Milliken at Hardway Performance to maximize the engine’s performance. Dalton estimates that the engine
is making around 1,400 hp and 1,900 lb-ft of torque. He also uses a small shot of nitrous oxide to help spool the charger on the line.
To handle the engine’s power and transmit it safely to the rear axle Dalton turned to Ron Wolverton and his team of transmission masters at Suncoast Diesel. They worked their magic on a Dodge 48RE transmission installing performance clutches and billet shafts to handle the power and incredible shock loads the transmission will experience when Dalton launches the truck off the line. The transmission is linked to the engine with a Suncoast Sfi-certified flex plate and custom billet torque converter. Gear selection is handled by a pneumatically actuated Precision Performance Products shifter that is fed high-pressure gas directly from the nitrous oxide bottle. Power is channeled from the Suncoast transmission to the Spidertrax rear end through a custom chromoly Strange Engineering driveshaft.
Finally, to wrap up things up, the cab and body panels were handed off to the team at Cumberland Body Shop in Cookville, Tenn., where everything was slathered in House of Kolor Tangelo Pearl paint that truly makes the truck stand out in any crowd. As the truck was assembled the RLC Motorsports team installed the shell of the dash and retained the door panels and manual windows along with a Kirkey aluminum race seat and PRP five-point harnesses. They also wired the truck including a Racepak gauge package installed in the factory instrument panel location and the rest of the modules and harnessing mounted on the passenger side of the transmission tunnel.
Dalton’s 2WD diesel drag truck started as a dream and took many years to make it from his thoughts and ideas to a completed truck. But anyone who looks at it can easily see that it is a dream come true. Just before our photo shoot at the Crossville Dragway in Crossville, Tenn., Dalton and his team debuted the truck at the Diesel Thunder event in Holt, Florida, making 6.17- and 6.11-second passes at 117 mph right out of the trailer. As he gets used to his new ride we expect he will be contending for wins as the 2017 season develops. Keep an eye out for the bright orange machine—you might only see it a few seconds at a time, but with its bright Tangelo Pearl paint it will certainly be hard to miss. UDBG
Michael Dalton’s new 2012 Ram 1500 Pro Street 2WD drag truck is a head-turning, eye-popping diesel monster that is ready to make waves in the diesel drag race world. Of course the bright House of Kolor Tangelo Pearl paint makes it pop too!
The intake charge is fed into the head through a custom fabricated intake elbow that is painted to match the truck. You can also see both of the Fleece Powerflo stroker CP3 high pressure fuel pumps that dominate the driver side of the Cummins engine.
Lifting the factory aluminum hood reveals the single-turbo 5.9L Cummins with its serious 16inch setback that helps to provide a drag race-friendly weight bias for the truck. Also notice that the tube portion of the chassis supports the Strange struts as w
TOP: Removing the factory bumper skin reveals the custom lightweight mounts and also allows you to see the Stiletto steering rack tucked up underneath the chassis. The entire chassis is powdercoated in a bright silver finish to protect it from the element
TOP: The color-changing aspects of the Tangelo Pearl House of Kolor paint are easily seen in bright sun. Note the perfect rake Dalton and his team built into the truck, making it look like it’s going fast even when it’s sitting still.
RIGHT: A Racepak digital display replaces the factory gauges in the factory dash that still resides in the race truck.
FAR RIGHT: Dalton is cradled in an aluminum Kirkey race seat and held firmly in place with a set of PRP five-point harnesses. BELOW: When running the eighth-mile in less than 6 seconds at well over 100 mph safety is a major concern, so the team at Wide Open Design built the chassis to meet SFI 25.3 specifications including the funny car-style driver protection cage around the seat. You can also see the clean electronics and wiring on the transmission tunnel as well as the Nitrous Express bottle that’s used to help spool the big charger and also used as the pressure source for the pneumatically controlled Precision Performance Products shifter. Dalton can also remove the bottle and install another race seat for times that a brave passenger is willing to go along for the ride. Looking through the driver’s door you can see all the cage work that is required to keep Dalton safe as he blasts down the track.