To get a project vehicle completed, you need at least two personality traits. One is patience, and the other is motivation. Michaela Gulczynski, a resident of East Troy, Wisconsin, was well-stocked in both when she set out to make her dream truck out of a 2003 Dodge Ram 2500.
Her truck, dubbed “Monty,” is her pride and joy right now. She regularly posts it to her Instagram account, which was how we found it initially. Coated in a resplendent blue shade and boasting some intense power adders, Michaela uses it both as her daily driver and contender at sled pulling events.
We reached out to Michaela to get her story on the Cummins and what it took to get it to its current state. In doing so, we learned an important lesson–what you put into a project is what you get out of it.
From an early age, Michaela was ingrained in automotive culture.”Ever since I was a kid, I was into cars and engines,” she said. “My dad was an airplane mechanic. He showed my brother and I stuff. It always intrigued me.”
After she got into high school, diesels came to the forefront of her passions. “That was when I started paying attention to diesels and how they worked,” she said.
Her first diesel eventually became the diesel featured here today. “This 2500 was my first official diesel truck,” she said. “I’ve had it ever since I left high school. I’ve been working on it since day one.”
But working on a project vehicle doesn’t always entail the fun part of installing new mods and upgrades. As Michaela learned, she had to first get the truck ready for working on. “I started with rust repair in November 2018,” she said. “The salt and oxidation did a number on the sheet metal, so I cut out and filled as much as I could.”
Some parts were beyond saving and required all new pieces. These included the hood, bumpers, and fenders. After some time, however, she decided she wanted the front to take on a whole new look. “I was a fan of the 2006-08 body style, what with the facelift Dodge Ram did on the third generation,” she said.
After Michaela fitted the new front end on the truck, she took it in to get painted. She went for a shade of blue made by Toyota (she explicitly wanted to keep it a secret) and had a worker at a local Maaco shop do the work. “It took about a week,” she said. “I had to wait for a big snowstorm to pass to come get it and drive it back! It’s gorgeous and flawless, I loved it the moment I laid eyes on it.”
After the truck returned back from paint, Michaela started the modifications in earnest. “I took care of the fueling system and engine upgrades,” she said. “I had to get it running strong and then I could upgrade the engine.”
The meat and potatoes of this build centers around its 5.9-liter Cummins engine. Michaela wanted a beast that could compete in local events, and also serve as her everyday ride. Getting the engine up to snuff was priority number one. “There were a lot of areas that needed improvement,” she said.
Nowadays, the engine receives filtered fuel from an Airdog II 4G 16. The Airdog II feeds into an Industrial Injection 85-percent-over CP3 fuel pump and then into 25-percent-over 100-horsepower Industrial Injection fuel injectors. The intake manifold is a swap from the second-generation Cummins. Hardware is courtesy of ARP, keeping all engine components bolted down nice and tight for maximum efficiency.
For power, Michaela knew compound turbos were the way to go. But she went one step further and had the entire compound turbo system made custom. “What made it really rewarding for me was that it wasn’t a kit or anything,” she explained. “I used what I had and did it step by step. The welding was done by an experienced friend of mine.” The turbos used on Monty are a 63mm Fleece Performance Cheetah and an 84mm BorgWarner.
Elsewhere, the engine uses Hamilton pushrods and valve springs, along with a Mishimoto intercooler and transmission cooler. Sinister Diesel supplied cold and hot charge pipes, as well as an intake horn.
Once the motor work was finished, Michaela took the truck to get dynoed. “It made 600 horsepower,” she said. “But I knew I was losing a lot of power from the aging transmission. I eventually got a sponsorship with Ultimate Transmission in Boise, Idaho.”
As part of her sponsorship deal, Michaela outfitted her Dodge Ram with a robust 1,000-hp-capable transmission. It uses billet input and output shafts for unmatched strength and durability.
For suspension, Monty uses Flight Fabrications ladder traction bars to keep the wheels and tires planted during pulls. And Michaela has full insight on the engine’s performance during runs thanks to Glowshift Gauges. For tuning, she uses a Smarty S06 tuner that raises the horsepower by 260. Exhaust is comprised of a custom five-inch stainless system that exits via a 12-inch axle dump.
Built For Anything
In sum, Monty is the full Monty. This early 2000s Dodge Ram has come a long way since Michaela started wrenching on it in 2015, and along the way, it’s brought her more than her fair share of smiles.
Still, there were times when she had to stay motivated to keep going. She credits her perseverance to her tenacious practices and curiosity. “My biggest motivation was setting goals and crushing them,” Michaela commented. “Most people have all these projects and they can’t decide if they want to stick with them. My dream was to have a truck that did pulls and drove me around town. Plus, it was just fun seeing it progress over time.”
And the payoff to her persistence is a truck that she’s proud of. “I’m happy with how everything came out, especially the compound turbo system,” she said. “Power and sound – the best of both worlds.”
To stay up to date on Michaela and Monty’s latest adventures, be sure to follow her on Instagram. And let us know if you or any of your friends have a badass rig ready to be featured here on Diesel Army!