Posted by: Steve and Bethany | March 7, 2009


date; 3/31/09

Now here’s where we start getting down to it, some of these are just preferential, but some are absolutely core requirements for our expedition vehicle.

Wheels & tires –now I had mentioned that I wanted bigger tires, to increase my clearance up to the differentials, with no lift.  I also mentioned I would need to change out the dually rear wheels to single rear wheels, the reasons are as follows; dually tires are required for extremely heavy loads, dump trucks, flatbeds, tow trucks, etc. to spread the rear axle weight over four tires, & to safely distribute this load to the road, but in my case the camper weight will only be a couple thousand pounds. In a four wheel drive scenario, dual rear wheels don’t make much sense, first, the 2” gap between the tires is a prime location for a 3” or 4” rock to get lodged while on a dirt road, only to dislodge at 60mph on the highway, & there’s too much damage that can be done by this projectile to gas tanks, brake lines, propane tanks in my case etc. I prowled on line for weeks looking up ‘dually to single rear wheel conversion’ in every rearrangement of those words imaginable, only to learn, nobody really had a good, clean way to do it. Options out there on the 4×4 threads, were changing out the axle, as the dually axle is a little shorter than the single rear wheel axle, wheel spacers, some threads just said to put single wheels on & see what happens (but keep an eye on the bearings). I began calling local tire companies to see if they’d ever had to deal with this before, (I think these guys were the one writing in the 4×4 threads) fortunately for me, I called Bob Brown tires up in Portland OR. & made an appointment to bring the truck by on my next visit up to Portland to sign papers on the bullet. Once there, I crawled around the bullet with a tape measure verifying wheelbase widths with a Bob Brown salesman named Aaron who ended up being the best help imaginable to solving this problem. Aaron listened well & understood my problem; he then made one call to a company called Rickson Wheel Manufacturing in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

To put it bluntly, Rickson custom makes exactly that, custom wheels with offsets to achieve what I needed. I was going to get five new wheels (one front spare, because the front offset will fit on the back, but not vice versa) this would get me single rear wheels, that track exactly in line with the new front wheels, plus, as a bonus, because of this custom offset, I will be able to run up to a 35” tire, as opposed to the 32” tires currently on the bullet. This gives me the ‘lift without a lift’ I was looking for!  Increased clearance below the differentials, without raising my center of gravity too much. I then checked with sterling to make sure we could alter the speedometer to accept the new tire size –no problem. I then explained that we move around the country allot when camping, & would need a tire capable of good traction on mud & snow, but also give a great quiet ride on pavement,  Aaron then steered me to some Yokahama TY303A tires

Now I haven’t installed these wheels & rims on the truck yet (they are all custom orders), but I’m confident they will fit, track-in-line & perform as expected (I’ll keep you posted).

Winch & winch mount front bumper – knowing how we like to leave people behind, I insisted on a 12,000# winch both front & rear (the rear may end up a little smaller), and to increase clearance before the front tires, I opted for a Road Armor front bumper. This bumper is designed to conceal the front winch so as not to look stuck on the front of the truck. I went with the stealth base model (cow grills bother me!) & I found a local powder coating place that can match the new body color. I also chose the Mile Marker SEC12 electric winch. I chose the electric vs. hydraulic because if I find myself nose down in water deeper than I thought, with the engine stalled, electric can still get me out. The Road Armor bumper is also designed to house PIAA 510 series lights, so I got both driving & fog lights.


At this point I don’t know how wide or deep the back bumper will be, so I’ll hold back on that setup for now.

Brush bars, or nerf bars –  The truck was already just a little too high for Bethany to comfortably hop in & out while wearing tight shorts or a mini skirt (anything I can do to help maam!), and the larger tires will only add to this, so we got some Westin nerf bar w/steps, simple but effective.

Differential locks – at this time I plan on getting a front differential locker, making both front tires engaged with the tranny, the existing rear is a no-spin differential, so this should make all four tires power tires. I’ll know more once I actually take possession of the vehicle, it’s still in Portland right now.



  1. Great project-workmanship looks top notch. I am very interested in this as I too am looking to build an XP camper for my 1 ton diesel Chevy. I like how you have secured a U Haul body for the main structure-but it seems you are harvesting little from it. Did you consider making your own flatbed and securing commercial trailer cab corners for the body?
    I am going to start my journey with a build. Looks like great fun.
    Peter Hoefler
    St Paul, MN

    • actually peter, I used just about all of the u haul box, from the floor boards, to the floor/wall extrusions, to the wall panels (granted I covered them with aluminum, to the complete roof. I did completely take apart the box piece by piece, then cut all the pieces down to my sizes, then do whatever bodywork was needed, then reassemble in the way I needed. I did have plenty of additional custom things made, like the wall cap extrusions, but for the most part, getting the u haul box with all the corners, panels, & complete cabover was a great place to start. It is heavy though, it probably weighs about 2400 lbs total

  2. Hi Steve and Bethany. Thanks for sharing your project with us. I am also building an expedition vehicle on a new Ram 5500 chassis. Question; did you find any lockers for the front axle? Is yours a Magna front end as well?


    D Hall
    San Francisco, CA

    • No, i never did get lockers, as the brake & alignment place couldn’t figure out just what the axles were, there weren’t enough distinguishing marks for them to decipher.(& they work on large rigs & 4x4s all the time)
      I did contact ARB a couple times, an asked about lockers for the bullet, & was told that there wasn’t enough demand yet, but to keep checking back.
      as far as the magna front end, that may now give me some place to start, thanks, I just might have to go crawl around the dodge dealership & see if it looks familiar! but Bethany & I will be traveling in it for the rest of the season, so I’ll have a better understanding of how well 4 wheel drive works with my weight by next spring.


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