There are diesel trucks all over the United States, but as you venture towards the south, the truck population seems to grow. A lot of these trucks are being daily driven and worked hard on farms, but some have a brighter future than that. Lebanon, Tennessee native, Keaton Samples, had to talk himself into owning a diesel truck, but wanting to follow in the footsteps of his father, Samples now owns his own diesel truck, Blueberry.
Samples has been into diesel trucks for quite some time. Growing up in a family that isn’t afraid to turn wrenches, it was inevitable that he would soon follow. “My dad owns a diesel shop, and when I was 14 years old, during the summer when I wasn’t in school, I would be there working for him,” said Samples. “My dad always told me I could buy any vehicle I wanted as long as I paid for it and obviously I was leaning towards a truck.”
Although the truck was a clear choice, Samples had a tough time justifying the ownership of a diesel truck. As the search went on for that one special truck, Samples had to see his friends around town in their diesel trucks which resulted in him giving up the gasoline idea and looking for that combustion engine power. “I had a few friends that owned second-gen ram trucks, and I just fell in love with the sound the 24-valve engines made,” said Samples. “Once I gave up the search for a gas truck, it wasn’t long after I found Blueberry that had that classic Cummins sound.”
Fast forward to 17-years of age, Samples earned enough money working for his dad to purchase a truck and that’s when the addiction began. The name Blueberry was simply a joke at first, but after a while, it just seemed to stick, according to Samples. Blueberry is a 2002 Dodge Ram 2500 with a crisp coat of Patriot Blue paint.
The original cost of the truck was $17,500, but in the beginning, when it was just a desire to own a nice truck, it quickly wasn’t enough. “I really just wanted to have a nice truck that I paid for myself. I found this truck and was completely happy with it, but I started to really get into it,” said Samples. “After tinkering here and there, I was realizing that this was turning into more of a show truck at this point.”
Now, going on five years into the development of this build, Samples favorite part isn’t just one thing. Actually, he has multiple favorite parts including the wheels, the paintwork, and some of the performance adding parts on the truck. When building a truck that will be in shows, you’re wanting to separate yourself from the others, and that’s what he’s done.
“I’m pretty partial to the Specialty Forged wheels and my paint job. It’s a show truck, so I’m really particular about my detail work and it’s a pretty good feeling to just take a step back and look at it after all that hard work,” said Samples. “I also like all the go-fast-goodies that are on here, too. They make for an enjoyable drive when I sink my foot into it.”
Looking at it now, there must be something that he could’ve changed or done differently, right? Actually, there are only a few items that Samples wishes he would’ve taken a little more time on. “There are a few odd and end pieces that I skipped doing the first time around and have since then fixed, but if I could go back, I would’ve been more patient and done things correctly the first time around,” Samples explained.
Directly after the purchase, Samples didn’t have a set itinerary for the build-up of Blueberry, but he encountered multiple different changes which eventually evolved into what it is today. For instance, the first few changes were wheel and tire changes. Samples has been through five sets of wheels and tires until he finally landed his set of Specialty’s after months of waiting.
After a lift pump failure, Samples swapped in a new FASS Diesel Fuel Systems lift pump knowing that fuel pressure and keeping that system fed is extremely important. After having a new feed system, Samples hooked up with Diesel Auto Power on a new set of 7 x 0.10 SAC fuel injectors. Being safe with this newly found power incoming, Samples also installed a South Bend Dual Disc clutch. Knowing he would be traveling to shows with this truck, the last thing he needs is a slipping clutch.
Unfortunately, some of the other stock parts weren’t enjoying the new horsepower like Samples was, but that resulted in fun upgrades. “Although it ran great and spooled lightning fast, I was overspeeding this stock turbo and wanted to upgrade,” Samples said. “Since then, I’ve replaced it with a Borg Warner S300 63mm SXE turbo which allowed me to use all of the fuel these injectors were providing.”
Excited to rip with this new turbo, Samples prior fun came at a cost. That 45-psi-plus pulls on the stock turbocharger did some damage and sacrificed the head gasket. Luckily for him, he knows a shop that he can use. “I pulled the cylinder head for a fresh deck, three-angle valve job, new valve guides, and seals and it was ready to rock and roll again,” he said. “With the head off, there was no better time to upgrade and ensure the longevity of this engine. Knee deep inside, we installed Hamilton Cams 103-pound valve springs, pushrods, and harnessed that engine down with ARP 2000 head studs.”
Among the gorgeous paint and the outstanding wheel choice, Blueberry is equipped with much more than that. To clear the wheels he’s chosen, Samples used a 2-inch Top Gun Customz leveling kit. With the truck riding higher, he needed the truck to show a presence at night even. With lighting in mind, he went with a full set of 6000K HID headlights and Recon cab lights.
Other custom bodywork includes a cowl hood, roll pan, and color matched plastic trimming all around. To help out with rock chips on this fresh coat, Samples installed a custom cut clear paint protection film along the bottom of the truck.
Samples reassure us that this build will never be finished as new parts and new ideas are always being drummed up and this truck has actually influenced him to do more in the industry including building a drag truck. “Somewhere in this build I fell in love with performance and that is a whole other world that really has me interested,” explained Samples. “I hope to build a drag truck to race someday, but it won’t be this one.”
Special thanks have been offered by Samples to multiple people and companies, but there are a few standouts. “Firstly, I want to thank my dad for teaching me how to work on these trucks. He’s always been really good about showing me how to properly do things. Although he’s not as big into the performance side as I am, he is still a few library’s full of knowledge that ultimately helped me get where I am,” said Samples. “Also, thank you to the guys over at Diesel Auto Power. Jacob Kidd and Brady Hale have been super helpful in getting me the parts I need for this build.
As we sign off from the story behind Keaton and his fresh build, he added, “I always like to tell people that when you get this big into the culture of diesel trucks, it’s more than just a truck. It’s a way to express your story, yourself, and your style.” We’re ecstatic for Keaton and his truck and can’t wait to see how it transforms over the next few years. Stay tuned to Diesel Army for more builds from our industry.