2006 Dodge Ram Tailgate Combo Skin - Combo Pack
Devious Customs Installs a Grant Kustoms Skin on a 2006 Ram
Ask any popular vehicle designer what the number-one thing they look for in someone else's design is and 9 out of 10 times they will say refinement. Most of them will even go on to say it's their secret; the less-is-more approach to design will always trump the gaudy tasteless way some people add items or mods to their vehicle just for the sake of modification. True be told, when most factory vehicles start out on paper, most of the items that stick out were added later in the name of safety rather than to enhance the look.
The slang term for this type of modification in which an obtrusive item is removed from a vehicle to be replaced by a sheetmetal filler panel is referred to as "shaving," but you already knew that, right? Shaving really isn't anything new or groundbreaking, as car and truck customizers have been removing items off their vehicles since the beginning of the custom car movement, and while some mods are more popular than others, many have stood the test of time and repeated time and time again.
Throughout the last four decades many different treatments of shaving the different components have evolved into one major transformation. First, the roll pan replaced the bumper, which led to shaving the rear taillights, that were relocated into the roll pan, which led to welding up the tailgate to clean up the lines of the back of the truck resulting in a clean, or refined look that is extremely pleasing to the look of a vehicle that was designed to carry cargo. Over time, truck customizers began to rethink the way this transformation could be simplified as the smart guys began to use an item referred to as a "combo skin." Its namesake explains just exactly what it is, as the combo refers to a tailgate and roll pan mixed into one. Add a set of taillight fillers, plus a relocated LED stop lightbar, and you've got a solid recipe for refinement.
Metal guru Bob Grant of Grant Kustoms knows a trick or two about the tailgate combo pack, as he and his skilled crew have been making these skins for truck customizers to redesign the backside of their own truck for the past couple decades. He has made the task of replacing the factory tailgate, as well as the factory bumper as easy as possible through his combo skin designs. Each skin is handmade in his shop and can be shipped right to your door for installation.
We wanted to see exactly what it takes to perform this type of modification, and when the opportunity arose over at Devious Customs, we asked them getting the job done. Follow along as we walk you step by step of the reskinning process that will forever change the look of the back side of this Dodge Ram truck.
Does the back of your Dodge Ram need some help? Well, look no further as the crew at Devious Customs wastes no time removing all the rear hardware/brackets, and taillights to begin the transformation.
Here's a look at some of the abrasive tools that they'll need to prep the bedside corners to weld in the taillight fillers.
Grant Kustoms handmade taillight fillers match the same contour of the factory taillights, but are oversized to allow the installer to trim any excess, ensuring a proper fit.
The paint that surrounds the area around the factory taillight is ground down to bare metal to ensure that a proper ground contact between the filler panel and the bedside is achieved during the welding process. The same goes for the area around the tailgate.
Now the filler pieces are test-fit, trimmed slightly, and fit again.
One look at Grant Kustoms tailgate combo skin allows you to grasp the concept of a clean or redefined look. This makes any truck stand out from the rest as the lack of clunky bumpers or oversized taillights make for a clean and simple design. The combo stems from the fact that a tailgate skin as well as roll pan have been integrated into one component. The LED flush-mount light that Grant uses is supplied by AVS and included in the kit.
First order of business is to create a frame for the combo skin to attach to, as well as offer the bedside strength to resist flex while driving down the road.
Without this step the welded seams will eventually crack, and or the skin will buckle after time seen on the road.
The folks at Devious measure for 1x1-inch box tubing to be cut for a top support as well as a bottom, support, and are tack welded into place of the old tailgate.
Diagonal supports are added to assist the top and bottom supports from vertical flex, while offering lateral support from any movement of the bedsides.
Once the framework is checked to see if everything is "square" it is welded solid into place of the old tailgate opening.
Now begins the task of welding the combo skin, as well as the taillight fillers into place. Patience pays off here in the end, as a series of tack welds is used to fuse the items into place. Too much heat in one area will warp the sheetmetal resulting in more bodywork than what is necessary.
After the seams of both the combo skin and taillight fillers have been welded solid, the next step is to grind down the weld seams flat to match the outer perimeter of the parts.
The Devious crew uses a few different abrasive tools and grinding wheels to achieve the desired results while maintaining control of the heat generated during the grinding process.
In order to get the right look, Devious carefully shapes everything including the new bodyline from the combo skin into the factory bed corners to look as if the skin was direct from the factory.
Upon completion, the hash grinder marks left by the course abrasive wheels are sanded down with 80-grit paper and the use of a Dual Action sander commonly referred to as a DA.
At this point, the skin is as metal-finished as we're going to get and looking good.
Moving on to the filler portion of the job, here's a look at some of the tools and fillers that are required for the job.
Now some of you might be wondering why there is more than one type of body filler shown in the photos, and if you're one of those guys pat yourself on the back for paying attention because this type of modification requires a great deal of strength to resist vibrations while traveling down the road. USC's Duraglass product is a fiberglass-reinforced form of body filler. The strength of this filler material goes from the visible fiberglass strands mixed into the polymer material.
This is thick stuff, which makes spreading it across the repair a bit of a challenge. The cure for this is an additive called Plastik-Honey from Evercoat products, which is a specially formulated resin that when mixed with dense polymers allows the product to become more pliable, even creamy.
Once you've mixed the Duraglass, with the Plastik-Honey along with the proper catalyst, it's time to spread the materials over the seams and around the areas that require filler.
Once dry, a sure-form file, or "cheese grater" file is used to rough out the shapes and knock down the high spots in order to prepare for the next round of body filler.
To get things closer to the next step, 36-grit sandpaper is used once again on a DA sander, which gets things looking fairly close to the desired result.
The next round of filler is again from the Evercoat Company called Z-Grip. As one can see in the photo, the Z-Grip formula is much more pliable than the Duraglass product, which allows the user to manipulate the proper contours of the work area. Z-Grip is known for its all-around versatility as the go-to body filler with features including a no-clog formula that resists clogging your sandpaper while working the material.
The process of spreading the Z-Grip over the work area followed by sanding down the area with the help of a sanding block such as the one pictured from Dura-block help the user dial in the right shape before moving onto the first primer coat.
Pacific Lacquer Company, aka PCL, is a well-known and widely used underlayment manufacture that specializes in primers, and protective coatings. Due to the fact that this project involves most of the items lacking any rust preventive, a DTM or Direct To Metal primer is used to protect the bare metal surfaces, as well as a sealer for the polymer fillers.
The two-part component mixture is prepared to the instructions from the manufacture before being applied by an HVLP primer gun. Two to three medium coats are applied and are allowed to dry before the work is checked before making any adjustments.
One key feature to this DTM primer is the fact that more filler may be applied on top of the primed surface if the panel needs any further refinement.
After the bodywork is complete, the final steps of applying the custom paint and graphic treatment ensue creating the one-off final result, a simple clean look that never goes out of style.