The Dark Horse: Bodie Armstrong’s Self-Built Shorty RAM From Texas

For some people, a vehicle is simply a vehicle. For others, myself included, there is an emotional connection between you and the vehicle. Something the diesel truck industry has to offer are enthusiasts that take so much pride in what they own or what they have created out of their trucks. One of the cool perks of this job is to be able to go out to events and see this heart and dedication first hand.

We made the long trip down to Emerald Coast Dragway for the Outlaw Diesel Super Series season opener, SunCoast Spring Shakedown. The Outlaw series pushed to start the season earlier and added this stop to mix in the offseason. For guys like Bodie Armstrong, that was quite alright. Armstrong has been chomping at the bit this offseason to get his newest creation on the racing surface.

This 2005 shorty Ram 2500 is Armstrong’s newest racing candidate that he picked up for a measly $2,500. “I found this truck and I knew I had to have it. It was going to be mine without a transmission but that was okay with me,” said Armstrong. “The key to this build was to be as light as humanly possible because I was tired of breaking every time I took my 1,300-horsepower street/strip truck out.”

That’s right, Armstrong has another truck that’s pretty stout but due to its weight, 6,500-pounds, it was really hard on parts at that power level. Someone can only take wrenching on broken stuff for so long until a serious change is made. Insert cheap, lighter truck here. As you can see, it wasn’t pretty but clearly he’s made some changes.

When this truck arrived, Armstrong eagerly dug into it doing everything he could to strip the weight. After all less weight means more speed. What kind of speeds is Armstrong looking for? Considering the powerplant and setup, he is limited to the 6.70 Index class. Not that this class isn’t anything to be ashamed of Armstrong will just feel more comfortable in the 5.90 Index class, which is his goal, with a completely built race-ready engine.

Armstrong explained he’s been into diesel trucks since the early 2000s. When asked, he explained, “I have been involved with the performance side of things since 2003, I believe. My dad let me put an Edge Products Comp Box and a set of 275RV injectors in his 2000 Ram 2500.” Armstrong continued, “His Vp44-equipped Cummins sure woke up after that. Not long after that, I purchased my first diesel which I still have. It was a 2005 Ram 3500 dually with a manual trans.”

For a teenager that just wanted to hop up dad’s truck, Armstrong really went off the deep end after this. Now, multiple diesel trucks in, enough power to break all the things, enclosed trailers and traveling with friends across the country to drag racing diesel trucks, I’d say he’s found a passion. Luckily for him, he’s got the support system needed to make all of this happen.

What’s Inside

The engine that lives between these frame rails is a 2003-model 5.9-Liter Cummins. Inside this engine that Armstrong assembled completely by himself is a set of OEM 12-Valve Cummins connecting rods, a Hamilton Cams 188/220 camshaft, and Hamilton 110# valve springs. This is a stock bottom end truck but keep in mind it doesn’t take near the power it used previously to be competitive.

On top of this 5.9 is a ported cylinder head with D & J Precision Machine‘s beaut of an intake manifold on one side and a BD Diesel Performance T6 exhaust manifold on the other. A 5.9 with a T6 manifold must need some serious fuel, right? Actually, no it’s not that extreme. Armstrong relies on a set of Dynomite Diesel Products 135-percent nozzles, a PPE Dual CP3 Kit that powers it’s stock and 10.6-MM stroker CP3’s, and all of this keep his Forced Inductions S476/96/1.32 turbo lit down track.

Business in the front, party in the back.

On the outside, Armstrong simply primered the panels on the truck. Although he didn’t think it looked perfect, I thought the truck looked really tough. The glass windows have been replaced with Lexan to continue this weight loss journey and the grille and bumper were exchanged for sport units to color match.

This self-built 47RE transmission is filled with the industry’s best. 23 spline TCS billet input shaft, 300M TCS intermediate, TCS 29 spline output, Goerend Transmission valve body, TCS servos, GPZ clutches, Diesel Performance Converter’s 2800 stall torque converter, billet flexplate, and it is all controlled by a Firepunk Anteater Transmission controller.

Step inside the office of a diesel drag racer. There isn't much that's familiar to a normal everyday truck except a steering wheel and racing seat. All you see are components that are important to a successful pass.

The setup really isn’t that extreme but that is the beauty of making these tanks light. After seeing it perform all weekend in Florida, it’s certainly a contender in 6.70 Index. Imagine what this truck would be capable of with that original truck’s 1,300-horsepower. Well, we’re more than likely going to find out live next year.

“This is only a stock bottom end truck but you’re right, it’s light so we can play and know it will live. We’re just wanting to get things dialed in, get a feel for the truck, understand what we’re up against,” said Armstrong. “The plan is to hit the 5.90 Index class in 2021 and come out swinging.” I encourage Armstrong and anyone else interested in racing to come out and get involved. The Outlaw series offers a class for every person on the property. Above the age of 16.

History of Buildup

Taking on a build like this, you wouldn’t expect it to be smooth sailing, right? “There wasn’t anything really interesting that happened throughout this process, to be honest. If I had to mention anything here, I would say that it’s just a ton of work. It’s really easy to underestimate a build like this. My favorite part of this whole truck is probably the suspension. With all of the adjustments available with this four-link and adjustable shocks, it will be a great learning experience for me.”

Looking back at this process, although Armstrong is happy with the outcome, he would change a few things. “It’s a fresh build right now but I am already planning on building a stronger 6.7-Liter Cummins short block for it.” When you’re set up with a platform like this and it’s ready for the power, I can understand the want for more. You’ve got all the pieces for a really fun truck.

As we continued our discussion about this truck I found it very interesting that Mr. Armstrong knew exactly what he had and how it was put together. That is because he literally did all of the work himself. “I don’t have a big shop or a crew of employees to get everything done so I had to do it all myself in my two car garage after work and on the weekends for a year and a half,” Armstrong said. “Balancing all of my other at-home responsibilities, it was tough but here we are.”

This four-link setup in the rear offers multiple adjustment points for different racing surfaces. Armstrong can log what configurations work the best for which surface and make adjustments prior to events.

He did all of the fabrication work, body, and painting, engine build, transmission assembly, and even built his own standalone harness for the engine and transmission. I think it goes without saying that we’re all impressed by his work for just doing this in a garage. When you see it in person, you can really appreciate what he has here.

“Funny story, when I bought this truck, I was planning on making it streetable with air conditioning.” Well, you can see how far that idea made it.

“I’m not really sure about what the cost to build this truck is but I’m going to say I’ve got around $6,000 in the chassis and $10,000 in the engine and transmission. It’ taken me about a year and a half to get it to this point but honestly, who knows if it’ll ever really be done.”

“First and foremost, I want to thank my wife. She tolerates me with all of my madness and when I’m busy wrenching on the truck or anything involved with it, she picks up the slack. Secondly, thanks to Longs Machine in San Antonio, Texas for all of the machine work needed on this engine and getting us to race-ready,” he said.

“Next, I’d like to thank BD Diesel Performance. BD’s race program is something we just made it on this year and we’re excited about this partnership. Last, but not least, Dominic Canonico with Tenacity Tuning. Thank’s to Dom for all of his help on the tuning side of things.”

“Motivation is key. By nature I am a 90-percenter. I will build something 90-percent of the way and lose interest. It’s always that last 10-percent that is the hardest. During a big build like this, I had to stop several times and just wipe the slate clean, get organized, make lists, set goals, and work efficiently.”

It was a pleasure meeting Bodie and his family and seeing his work of art put to the test down there in Florida. I am excited to see where this truck ends up in the near future and we will be cheering him on. For more information about drag racing and sled pulling events, truck features, and new part installs, stay tuned right here at Diesel Army.

 

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About the author

Artie Maupin

Artie Maupin is from Southeast Missouri and has an extreme passion for anything diesel. He loves drag racing of all kinds, as well as sled pulling competitions.
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