The Black Knight

Travis Bau­man’s ’14 Dodge Ram 1500 fam­ily cruiser


For any­one not fa­mil­iar with the chaos that comes with build­ing a cus­tom truck for SEMA, to make a long story short: It con­sumes you. Day and night, week­days and week­ends, the process and task of build­ing a SEMA truck in less than a year re­ally takes over your life from be­gin­ning to end. For Travis Bau­man (known to his friends as Twigg), it seems his mind was too busy to fo­cus purely on the twin-turbo ’11 Ta­hoe on 28s he had in the works for SEMA 2016 (known as Check M8). In the midst of it all, he yearned to have a ve­hi­cle that would be suit­able and trust­wor­thy to take his fam­ily on trips yet stylish enough to pull straight into a car show upon ar­rival. Shortly af­ter these thoughts be­gan, Travis’ friend Jeremy Smith was con­sid­er­ing sell­ing his ’14 Dodge Ram—and that was all it took. Travis hopped on a plane to Florida, grabbed lunch with his friend, then drove the Dodge back to his home in Illi­nois 18 hours away. The rest is his­tory, and here is how it played out.

Be­ing the guy he is, Travis needed some­thing he could roll down U.S. high­ways in, with fam­ily and friends in the cab, break­ing necks along the way. For that, a cus­tom sus­pen­sion setup was in­stalled on the Ram by Jimmy’s Rod & Cus­toms. Us­ing a set of cus­tom A-arms as well as a one-off cross­mem­ber, Jimmy’s made sure this Ram would lay out hard on the frame with it’s air setup and six-link sus­pen­sion. The com­bi­na­tion of the newly placed body mounts with the Air Lift bags run­ning on four Viair com­pres­sors made sure this truck was road-ready for the long hauls—in­stead of on and off trail­ers at shows. The 5.7L Hemi V-8 made sure the pickup had plenty of power straight from the fac­tory, and Travis has no urge to change how re­li­able that mo­tor is by mod­ding it (aside from an ex­tra boost of power via a cus­tom air in­take). A set of 26-inch Race­line Com­man­ders was set on top of the cus­tom brakes that were built as the first of their kind for a fourth-gen­er­a­tion Dodge truck. Eric from Lit­tle Shop MFG cre­ated the one-off set of Wil­wood 16-inch ro­tors with six-pis­ton calipers for all four cor­ners of the truck. They are not sub­tle in the best way; these big brakes re­ally set the truck off. “I can’t thank him enough. I loved work­ing with him on that fea­ture,” Travis says.

While Travis found the Ram’s ex­te­rior to be pretty ap­peal­ing over­all, there were some mi­nor changes he wanted to make. With no urge to have a high-main­te­nance, high-dollar paintjob on a fam­ily driver, he con­tacted his good friends at Mykals Cus­tom Au­to­body to carry out those tasks. They started by shav­ing off a few eye­sores, such as the bulky an­tenna mount, and then moved onto shav­ing the body lines so they would be flush. Af­ter that was com­plete, Mykals rounded the stock weld into the front fender lip for con­sid­er­ably more strength. Be­fore the Dodge would leave the shop, the crew took the time to paint-cor­rect the en­tire body of truck from front to rear, re­mov­ing any im­per­fec­tions, be­cause we all know how black paint can be. The raised bed floor was then coated with Line-X to keep it durable for any lug­gage stor­age or haul­ing it may need to do.

As a classy fella, Travis had no urge to drive a truck with a cloth in­te­rior, but due to the theme of the project, there was no need to go over­board with how he re­placed it. Switch­ing the stan­dard cloth seats over to the Ram Sport black leather pack­age was ex­actly the right amount of com­fort and dura­bil­ity the cab’s in­te­rior needed. With that, the Ram was ready to hit the road. Travis wants to take a sec­ond to give thanks to his fam­ily and friends for al­ways put­ting up with the con­stant projects he gets him­self into. Also, a spe­cial thanks to Eric at Lit­tle Shop MFG for the amaz­ing work on the cus­tom brakes and Mykals Cus­tom Au­to­body for their hard work. Now we’re just wait­ing for Twigg to get back on that Ta­hoe!

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