Big Red Ram 1500
This 2009 Ram Quad Cab was customized using all Mopar parts, suggesting one-stop shopping for a new-truck buyer looking to finance a turnkey custom. It's a great-looking, street-legal custom Ram that could easily be duplicated by a Dodge, Jeep, or Chrysler dealer willing to install Mopar Performance parts for a customer. Since the gear is all from Mopar, meaning that it passes OEM durability testing, service and warranty issues would be minimized.

Central to the design is a new four-inch lift kit that permits use of 37-inch tires, with just a little fender trimming. Mopar is expanding its line of off-road performance parts to include lift kits that will come with a limited lifetime warranty, meaning that broken parts will be replaced as long as the original buyer has the truck. In this case, the lift uses brackets to lower the original factory control arms, then adds longer springs and high-pressure, Bilstein gas shocks. The four-link rear suspension is retained, but with longer springs; spacers are not used. We had a chance to drive this Ram ourselves, and the suspension setup struck us as one that retains a surprising amount of factory steering precision, while adding more damping control for the 37-inch rubber.

Under hood resides a factory 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, but with a cold-air intake and a cat-back exhaust to enhance breathing, chances are it makes a little more than the stock 390 horsepower. This truck responded well to the throttle with 3.55 gears in stock axles, but the Ram can be ordered with 3.909 gears from the factory. Other Dodge accessories on this truck include a tonneau cover, front hood with dual scoops, a set of front tow hooks, and a transfer-case skidplate.




XJ Stroker
This looks like a plain-Jane Cherokee, but of all of the Mopar Underground creations, it might be the one you'd most want to take home. Under the hood is a prototype 4.7-liter version of the 4.0-liter straight-six, the engine that most aficionados consider the best engine ever to power a Jeep. By putting a long-stroke, torquer 4.7 into an XJ, Mopar signals its intention to make available a bolt-in motor like the powerplant that won the 4x4 SUV category at the 2008 Baja 1000 in the ATK Jeepspeed racer. Considering that there are now some 2.8 million Cherokees on the road today, plus another million Wranglers, the 4.7-liter six could become a volume item for Mopar.

We talked to engineer P.T. Muldoon, who told us the engine is still in reliability testing but looks good. "We ran the heck out of it all week at Moab. I brought it home and we're running the heck out of it right now," he said. The engine will have to survive the same powertrain test schedule as other Mopar remanufactured engines before it can be offered in September 2009. The prototype stroker engine in the XJ makes about 260 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm, with 260 pound-feet available at 2000 rpm. "We put the torque in the right place, in my opinion," Muldoon said. The final production output specs will be determined by dyno testing prior to release.

The engine was developed using roller rockers to actuate upsized valves housed in new heads. Hypereutectic pistons, which contain a percentage of silicon to harden the aluminum and prevent scuffing, are supplied by Sealed Power. The new cylinder dimensions are 3.875 by 3.906 inches, because "4.7 is about the limit," Muldoon told us. "Beyond that, you're pushing it." The engine also contains a heavy-duty timing chain and a high-volume oil pump. Also featured on the XJ Stroker test mule are a 2.5-inch suspension lift and 31-inch tires.

SOURCES

American Expedition Vehicles
www.aev-conversions.com248/926-0256

Mopar Performance
www.mopar.com