2003 Dodge Ram Quad Cab - Pinnacle
The Best Ram You've Never Seen
We all remember the great TV ads when Dodge rereleased the Hemi back in '03. Two guys were busy chasing down trucks and asking, "That thing got a Hemi?" Instantly becoming a cult classic, the Hemi engine and branding virtually resurrected Dodge into the mainstream and gave Mopar fans a reason to rejoice. Norm Couturier, of Fredericton, NB, Canada, is a fan of Hemi trucks and cars, but if you labeled him simply as a fan, you'd miss his incredible passion for all things Mopar. In mid-2005, Norm made a personal challenge to build the ultimate high-end custom show truck. In his words, "I wanted a truck that could stand in the company of anything out in the West Coast." With his Visa card as his only sponsor, Norm set out to do the impossible-build the pinnacle of all custom Dodge Rams.
Starting with a '03 Ram Quad Cab, Norm began the teardown process in his two-car garage. After removing the bed, he realized the entire back half of the suspension would need to be replaced because as he described it, "It was OE ugly." After removing all of the original crossmembers, Norm C-notched the factory framerails and fabricated a triangulated four-link. AFCO springs on QA1 coilovers provide the damping. Up front, McGaughy's 2-inch drop spindles were machined to accommodate the massive 15-inch six-piston Brembo big brakes and the factory spring pockets were modified to accept a QA1 Proma Star coilover with AFCO springs. A Hotchkis sway bar keeps body roll down and polyurethane bushing were used throughout for optimum performance. The end result to all of the suspension mods was a 5-inch drop for the nose and an 8-inch drop in the rear. Wheels were key to this build as Norm tells us, "When developing the concept for the truck, I wanted to be able to put fat tires in all four corners." Keeping with his idea, Norm was able to order 22-inch Budnik Hammer billet wheels for his Ram. Ten-inch-wide wheels wrapped in 295/45R22 BFG g-Force KDW tires are mounted up front and out back, 12-inch-wide hoops are covered in 305/40R22 BFGs. With the frame reinforced with custom bracing and every hole and seam filled and smoothed, Norm went out to a 1/3-mile oval track for some high-speed testing. The end result was a 5,200-pound truck that handled like a sports car.
If you think anything but a Hemi powers this beast, you're badly mistaken. Under the SRT-10 fiberglass hood lies a 392ci beast of a Mopar engine. Fitted with the best parts available, the naturally aspirated engine makes 540 hp and 520 lb-ft of torque thanks to CNC-ported heads, custom camshaft, high-flow throttle-body, and Dynatech long-tube headers. Everything under the hood that could be polished was, including a handmade intake tube with twin inlets. Norm installed a five-speed automatic trans equipped with Suncoast clutches and a 2,500-rpm converter from APS. A polished aluminum driveshaft connects the trans to a Moser-built Dana 60 stuffed with a Detroit Locker and 4.56 gears. A B&M ratchet shifter selects the gear of choice and once the "Go" pedal is depressed, as Norm tells us, "There's as much go as show."
Speaking of show, Norm doesn't have a problem taking home "Best Of" bragging rights, as he's created an exterior that's smooth and seamless. It was at this point when the truck build began to outgrow the confines of his two-car garage. Buying an old welding building, he renovated the structure and rolled up his sleeves for the paint and body portion. Starting with the metal work, Norm told us, "I got a lot of weird looks when I first explained my concept of having a bed cover/tailgate combo that opened like a trunk with the corners radiused at the bottom of the tailgate." Doubters now fully appreciate all of the bodywork, as the rear tailgate/tonneau cover fits perfectly and looks great. Lifting up the tonneau cover/tailgate reveals a large Lexan window that is cut out of the sheetmetal bed floor and motorizes up to allow suspension access. Norm had Donny Young help him with the metal massaging that also included shaving the door handles, molding in Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6 mirrors to the A-pillars, creating a smooth wiper cowl, welding shut the taillights, and creating inner fenders for the engine bay. Each door received 1/8-inch extensions around the perimeter to close the gaps and the doorframes were chopped 3/8-inch to blend into the roof profile. The leading edge is accented by a one-piece molded fiberglass air dam and aluminum mesh grille. Out back, a fiberglass roll pan was molded into place and handmade Lexan/LED brake lights that resemble upside down units from a '70 Barracuda were flushed into the tailgate. Once the last piece was finalized, the truck was coated in DuPont Hot Hues Sinful Cinnamon. "I wanted a single color paintjob that would accentuate the smooth body lines," Norm explained to us. Mission accomplished. The frame and suspension components were sprayed in DuPont Champagne Fizz and Silva, respectively.
Inside the heavily modified doors lies an interior that combines elegance with function. Seats from an '03 Viper were covered in two-tone Ultraleather and are mounted to seven-way power bases. A matching leather headliner looks down on fortunate passengers and a custom console houses the aforementioned B&M shifter, a Clarion double-din head unit, A/C controls, and Autometer gauges. Two Clarion 10-inch subs are mounted under the rear seats and receive their juice from two Clarion 400W amps. A four-channel Clarion amp powers the Clarion components in each door.
Norm admits that his Dodge Ram turned into a "big build," but looking at the end result, we can't imagine he has any regrets. In fact, reflecting on the build, Norm tells us he spent some 9,000 man-hours over three and a half years creating his Ram and that "the entire truck was completed in-house, from concept to show floor." His creation and fabrication skills have caused such a stir amongst custom enthusiasts that he opened his own shop called Hemi House. Specializing in all things Mopar, Norm turned his passion into a day job and once you can say that, you've reached the pinnacle.