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2003 Dodge Ram 1500 - Identity Crisis

7th Time is the Charm

May 10, 2016
Photographers: Phil Gordon
The act of truck ownership is a fairly simple equation. A need arises for a slightly used truck, so Craigslist gets scoured, and ownership gets passed from one person to another. But with some trucks, the experience and memories developed burrow so deep within the owner’s brain that the truck becomes more than just paint and metal, it becomes a part of their soul.
Such was the case with this ’03 Dodge Ram 1500 and owner Eli Barnes, who originally purchased it with more than 30,000 miles with the intent of using it a daily driver. Barnes immediately brought the truck to Ekstensive Metal Works, in Houston, Texas, to be bagged and body dropped, just to make it a little more fun to drive around. Then Barnes decided he had enough of the truck and sold it. Then, he bought it back some time later and redid the paint. Then, he sold it and bought it back at least five more times, giving the truck a total of seven completely different lives. By that time, it had too many memories and had too much of his soul. Every time it came back to him, he felt like he was reuniting with an old friend.
Photo 2/10   |   02 2003 Dodge Ram 1500
During one of its lifetimes, Barnes was driving the truck back from a show in Atlanta, where it had drawn a significant amount of attention. So much so, a group of unfriendly gentlemen decided they wanted to own the truck, but instead of offering cash, they tried to use a series of .45-caliber bullets. They shot holes in the tailgate, behind the passenger side rear wheel that ricocheted off the fuel cell, behind the bed lip, and one skirted the bottom edge of the passenger doorframe to lodge in the frame. Barnes got away unhurt, and although the attack happened after these photos were taken, the Ram still bears the scars of that attack to this day.
The crew over at Ekstensive Metal Works built this truck to be bullet-proof (see above) starting with building a 3/4 frame for added support, cut in a custom bridge notch, and fully boxed it for added stiffness. It’s so solid Barnes regularly cruises it at 80mph down the highway at 1-inch off the asphalt. In fact, it was so well built it was a daily, ticking off more than 130,000 miles on the odometer. It only saw a trailer about 10 times in its life, as it was driven to shows, to work, and many multi-state journeys back and forth between owners. Helping to swallow up all of the bumps in the road are Slam Specialties 2600s in the front and 2700s in the rear, which are fed through 1/2-inch lines, AccuAir valves, and Viair compressors.
Photo 3/10   |   04 2003 Dodge Ram 1500
The exterior has seen so much of the open road. It proudly wears its battle wounds alongside a 3-inch body drop, full sheet metal bed, shaved and relocated gas filler door, smoothed door handles, rearview mirrors, and cowl panel. The color scheme was developed by Mike Hathaway from Hathaway Designs in Pensacola Florida, where Eli dropped off the Ram, threw him the keys, and said, “Surprise me!”
The interior was lovingly treated to an all-red makeover, starting with naugahyde pulled over ’09 Ram front seats, hook and loop carpeting, and a custom suede and vinyl headliner, which features a menacing double row of spikes going front to back, and a trio of custom LEDs. A Billet Specialties steering wheel also received a coating of red to match just about everything else. Mr. Stiches in Mary Esther, Florida, took care of all the interior work. Tunes were owner-installed and consist of an Alpine IXAZ-W404 head unit, Kicker subs under the seat, and components in the doors, with a duo of Pro Bass amps.
Photo 4/10   |   07 2003 Dodge Ram 1500
While any vehicle can represent a collection of experiences from a certain time period, some just sink their hooks in deep. Barnes and his ’03 are forever linked, and as these words are being written, the Ram is in someone else’s hands. When asked about the truck’s future, he responded, “That truck has so much of my soul in it, I put miles on it, I brought my son home in it. I’m gonna buy it back soon.”
Inside the build
Year/Make/Model: 2003 Dodge Ram 1500
Owner and City/State: Eli Barnes; Goodlettsville, Tennessee
Club Affiliation: Acrophobia
Chassis: 3/4 frame, fully boxed, bridge notch by Ekstensive
Front Suspension: Slam 2600 ’bags, Monroe shocks, 1/2-inch airlines
Rear Suspension: Slam 2700 ’bags, Monroe shocks, two-link bag-on-bar setup
Body: 3-inch body drop by Ekstensive, smoked headlights, candied taillights, sheet metal bed, smoothed handles, mirrors, cowl panel, gas filler shaved and relocated into bed
Interior: Custom-smoothed center console, seats and carpet in red, Billet Specialties steering wheel, suede headliner
Stereo: Alpine IXA-W404 head, Kicker sub under seats, and components in door panel, Pro Bass Amps
Wheels & Tires:
Wheels: 24x9; Helo 866
Tires: 255/30R24; Nexen N3000