In the pantheon of diesels, few are held in as high regard as the first-generation Cummins Dodge Rams. Ushering in a new era in what was thought capable in diesels, the turbocharged 5.9-liter motors changed the game in the diesel world, and today, these trucks are highly prized.
Darrell Reese, however, went in a different direction. He introduced a 12-valve Cummins into a 1985 Dodge Ram W350, which would have been the same platform (those being the 1981-93 pickups) that the 12-valve debuted on, just from a previous year.
We learned of this build from (where else) the Internet, and specifically Instagram, where Darrell has kept so many of his fans apprised of what’s been going on. We spoke with Darrell to get his background and what motivated him to build his prized possession: the “WW1G,” or “World’s Widest 1st Gen.”
Background of the Build
Darrell purchased the truck several years ago for about $3,500. It was a government vehicle at one point in its life. “It rode like crap and ran like crap,” commented Darrell. He decided to give it a Magnum V8 right away so it could run and drive well.
To hear Darrell describe it, the very beginning of WW1G was chaos. “I started building this truck out of interest in simplification,” he said. “I had several broken projects, like a lot of car guys out there. Too many broken projects, and not enough money to fix any of them.”
Darrell has always been interested in trucks, but his interest in diesels didn’t start until 2004, when he began driving a semi truck. “I loved being a semi owner,” he said. “I could drive anywhere faster than anybody and if I broke down, I’d have to fix it myself.” This was also how he became acquainted with air suspension, which greatly influenced the build of WW1G.
The build began in 2012. Asked why he started building the truck, Darrell said in a serious tone: “My wife was key.”
“I had a hoarding issue,” he explained. “Vehicle projects and parts were everywhere. I had dozens of engines, tons of transmissions, piles of axles, motorcycles, a rockcrawling truck, drag cars, and all of them were broken. I didn’t fix anything unless I had to, so that meant everything was more or less abandoned.”
"I wanted a truck that did all things," said Darrell, on why he built WW1G. "A daily driver, a drag racer, and a show-n-shine-type vehicle to be proud of. Also, it had to be able to absorb driving over railroad tracks without bouncing all of us around inside!"
Darrell’s wife, however, was and is a fastidious woman. He asked her to help him get organized before he took on another project, and she did. It was in 2012 when things took a turn.
While getting a head start on parts that he might need, Darrell began looking around on Craigslist and eventually found a first-gen Cummins that had already been given a P-pump upgrade, an NV4500 gearbox, and a Dana 80 rearend. He purchased the truck for $7,000.
“It was a greasy mess, but it ran, and I ran it for about a year while I was getting my chassis ready,” commented Darrell. “I knew it was going to get disassembled eventually.”
Before starting WW1G, Darrell had several “projects” going on at his home. He decided to get them all organized before taking on his dream build.
Sure enough, that day came when the camshaft broke. Darrell took the truck to pieces and began the build.
Facets of the Build
Once Darrell was fixated on what he wanted out of the Dodge, he was like a man possessed. “I ripped the motor, the transmission, transfer case, and axles out,” he said. “I cut the frame up, cut the body up, and scrapped whatever I didn’t need.”
My truck is totally custom. There’s nothing that I did not touch. I saved the frame, the cab, and the back doors, and that’s all that remains of the original. – Darrell Reese, owner & builder of WW1G
You might think a pace like this would engender taking shortcuts, but Darrell took “longcuts.” From sandblasting to welding, the easy way out was never taken.
One way this was evident was from the fabrication of the front end. Darrell took extensive measurements of a donor Dodge Ram front end, to where he could confidently fabricate shock hoops and an over-the-engine hoop.
He then had the idea of cutting up the front axle, widening it by four inches, and then moving it forward by three inches to where the differential would fit up against a crossmember. “That was when I knew I was going to go with air suspension,” said Darrell. “It was a big turning point.”
Given the level of effort and planning that went into installing air suspension, this would explain why Darrell considers the air suspension his favorite aspect of WW1G. “It’s handcrafted, top to bottom, and it gives WW1G 14 inches of travel,” he commented.
Something to keep in mind is that Darrell is a man who loves a good deal. Online shopping was his preferred way of obtaining parts for the build. “I was Craigslisting and eBaying like crazy,” he said.
To say that Darrell has invested a lot into his truck is an understatement. We won't share the exact figure, but as Darrell said: "I easily could have bought a brand new diesel for what I've spent on WW1G."
Essentially, this took a lot of the stress out of building for Darrell. As he built the truck up, the parts he needed were right there within reach, not waiting to be ordered on the internet and then taking time to get shipped and arrive at the man’s doorstep.
Highlights of the Build
As regards the exterior of WW1G, there is a lot to pick out. Starting from the front, the grille shell and front clip are modeled after a 1993 Dodge Ram. Darrell made his own grille inserts, and now offers them through the Far From Stock (FFS) shop.
The bumpers were handmade from “rusty steel laying in a field,” according to Darrell. They feature custom mounts for Rigid Industries, with two SR30s and two D2 pod lights up front, and two reverse-light D2s in the rear.
The body was painted one piece at a time by Darrell’s friend and business partner, Kaleb Shumaker.
To fit the Hostile 22×14 wheels and 35-inch Interco Trxus M/Ts, the wheel openings are significantly modified. “The front wheel well openings are a couple of inches longer than normal,” said Darrell.
The paint is Chrysler Inferno Red and black. The color scheme gives WW1G the appearance of a “Mopar muscle car blackout package,” according to Darrell. Kaleb Shumaker did all of the work in this aspect, and being the first ever vehicle he painted, he did a damn good job. Other custom bodywork of note are the hood (from a 1972 Dodge Ram) and a custom hole in the bed (for access to a spare Optima battery and the entire air management system).
The hood is from a 1972 Dodge Ram.
The drivetrain starts with a 5.9-liter Cummins, which has been freshened up in its top end. Mechanical tuning – in the form of an Attitude Performance Adjuster fuel controller and AFC Live fuel controller – allows the truck to swap between clean exhaust and coal-rolling.
From there, it connects to an NV4500, but not for much longer. “It sounds like it’s full of gravel these days,” commented Darrell. “So I’m going to swap it for a Power Driven Diesel 47RE with a manual valve body.”
The driveshafts are comprised of a one-piece 1410 rear (soon to be replaced with a one-piece 1480 unit) and a heavy-duty modified CV front. These connect to a Dana 80 rear axle, and a kingpin Dana 60 front (the front was widened by four inches), both with powdercoating for longevity. Gear ratios are 3.55:1, with Yukon Gear limited-slip differentials fore and aft.
For the frame, Darrell had it boxed between the bed and cab to reinforce rigidity. A custom hitch was built into, as were mounts for a fuel pump and crossmember.
The suspension was put together from a RuffStuff Specialties kit and is comprised of Firestone air bags and 14-inch Bilstein 5100 shock absorbers. This allows WW1G to go from +10 to -4 inches height, compared to stock. Just like the axle housings, Darrell gave a powdercoat to his suspension components, too.
With its Firestone air bag suspension, the WW1G can go from +10 to -4 inches in height compared to stock.
Steering is operated by an FFS fast-ratio firm feel steering box, the first one ever built by Darrell’s company, and now a popular seller on the website. “We knew a steering guy, and he combined old and new parts,” said Darrell. “It feels very modern while still being traditional.”
Lastly, the interior has front seats from a 1998.5-2001 Quad Cab. These were given seat covers from LeatherSeats.com, which also added touches to the steering wheel and grab handles. The rear bench, meanwhile, is from a 2006 Mega Cab.
A double-DIN Pioneer head unit connects to Kicker amps behind the back seat and a pair of Kicker compact subwoofers under the front seats. These boost the sound coming from four Kicker speakers, one in each door. All in all, a very swell interior.
From how it started to where it’s at today, the WW1G has shown a tremendous change – for the better!
Darrell’s next plan of action for WW1G is to get the transmission taken care of. At the point of our conversation, it had left the Dodge practically immobile until it could be addressed.
Nonetheless, WW1G is one hell of a build, and one we wish we could see in person. Until then, we’re happy to simply gawk at it through Instagram.
Darrell’s acknowledgements: “Optima Batteries and Lucas Oil were very important to me early on, when I didn’t have much but wanted a lot. Steve Cole of TTS was also key. He helped guide me on the dos and don’ts of building a diesel. My wife, she understood what I was trying to accomplish, and she helped me greatly with getting the truck to where it is today.