A little more than 70 years ago, the brand name "Mopar" was trademarked for use on a line of antifreeze products. People had started using the term after Chrysler bought Dodge in 1928 and formed a parts supply company called Chrysler Motor Parts Corporation, which was shortened to MOPAR (a combination of Motor and Parts). In the 1960s and '70s, the Mopar name became closely associated with groundbreaking musclecars such as the Roadrunner, Chrysler 300, Barracuda, Super Bee, Daytona, Superbird, GTX, Charger, Challenger, and other big-block beasts that can still send a jaded modern teenager into a daydream of using Dad's commuter to lay thick black lines on the asphalt as blue haze pours out of the tailpipes.
With the recent announcement that the EPA is raising fuel economy requirements, it's likely that the current boom of new millennium musclecars will die out before they can truly invade the market (say sayonara to visions of SRT8s in every driveway)...but there is hope. The rules won't really affect the 3/4- and 1-ton diesel trucks that are being transformed into the true hot rods on American streets because manufacturers have already found ways to meet the strict new emissions rules while increasing stock power output to at least 350 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque.
The Mopar Underground Design Team
In 2002, a special group of automotive enthusiasts was chosen for the Mopar Underground Design Team, and they focused on building vehicles with the principle of "form follows function" so that every accessory that's added becomes a true upgrade. One of the first projects they worked on that made it to dealership lots, the SRT4, transformed the way people looked at the dinky Dodge Neon and immediately gave Chrysler a halo car that could be used to compete with the imports.
For the '07 SEMA show, the Mopar Underground Design Team put together a one-of-a-kind ultimate tow rig by combining the new Ram 5500 with a 1-ton chassis and 6.7L Cummins diesel engine, and then added a fifth-wheel-friendly 10-foot pickup bed. They named it the '08 Dodge Ram 5500 BFT(which stands for "Built For Towing"-of course).
5500 + 3500 + 10-Foot Bed Stretch
When heavy-duty truck customers said they needed more interior room, Dodge invented the Mega Cab, and it was an instant hit. While listening to drivers who use their Rams for hard-core towing, the designers found that many wanted more cab-to-axle space for better fifth-wheel clearance during tight trailering maneuvers. Since moving the hitch behind the rear axle would not be a stable solution, the design team stretched the bed from 8 feet out to 10 feet. To accomplish this, a 3500 Mega Cab was relieved of its cabin, and the rear doors were scavenged for use as body panels to extend the bed. A regular cab Ram 5500 cabin with chiseled fender flares replaced the four-door Mega Cab to make room for the extra-big bed without any need to hack into the factory-fresh 160-inch wheelbase frame.
22.5-inch Alcoas and 6-Inch Superlift Kit
To fill the bigger fender openings, the Mopar Underground Design Team used a 6-inch Superlift kit to get the big truck up into the air. It uses dual shocks up front, along with twin steering stabilizers and Superlift rear leaf springs, lift blocks, shocks, and Torque Max rear traction bars. The lift provides enough room for chrome 22.5-inch Alcoa 10-lug wheels that are wrapped in 37-inch Goodyear Unisteel G169 RSA 255/70R22.5 tires.
Other exterior upgrades include big BFT badges, a ram-air hood, chrome towing mirrors with built-in turn signals, chrome tubular running boards, chrome bed rails, and smoked clear running lights on top of the cab and in the dualie fenders.
6.7L Cummins Banks Upgrades
Since the 1-ton Ram already comes equipped with the 6.7L Cummins that's the cleanest and one of the strongest diesel engines ever sold, (50-state emissions legal and 350 hp/650 lb-ft of torque), the design team did not have to alter the drivetrain much to build an awesome tow rig. The Mopar crew got in touch with the diesel experts at Banks and installed everything available for the 6.7L engine, including a programmer good for up to triple-digit horsepower gains and a dual exhaust with four air-cooled tips designed to work along with the new DPF system that gets very hot during soot burn-offs. The Cummins engine is backed by the new, heavy-duty Orion 68RFE Dodge 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift modes.
Is It Just a Concept Truck?
It's true. There is only one Dodge Ram 5500 BFT in existence, but that doesn't mean that the project is a dead end. It's obvious the Mopar designers are listening to real diesel drivers who want lifted trucks that are built to work hard. It's not difficult to imagine factory lift kits and optional 22.5-inch wheels. While a 10-foot bed from the factory probably won't become a reality, we've already seen shops that build Mega Cab diesel trucks with full-length 8-foot beds welded in place [Feb. '08]. So who knows? Maybe Mega Cabs with full-length beds will become a factory option for new Dodge buyers in the near future. We can only hope so.