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Desert Dawg 2020 Ram Rebel Build

Discussion in 'Member Trucks' started by Desert Dawg, May 6, 2020.

  1. Desert Dawg

    Desert Dawg Member Supporting Member

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    2020 Ram 1500 Rebel 4x4
    Engine:
    Hemi 5.7L
    DESERT DAWG'S 2020 RAM REBEL 4X4 BUILD

    Welcome to my build thread! I have been lurking on the forum for bit already and have started to make some modifications to my new 2020 Ram Rebel so thought I would start another build thread. To be honest, I am posting the same build thread on a couple of online forums so apologize to members who have already seen this as I know a lot of folks pop in and out of the various forums!

    Of course, this thread will be a work in progress so feel free to join in if you want share ideas or suggestions. I will also try and share some of my off-road adventures and report on what worked (and what didn't).


    By way of introduction, I have been active on the various car and truck forums since I invented the Internet (okay, maybe that wasn’t me but definitely one of the first users…lol). But I am true car enthusiast having purchased and owned over 70 cars and trucks ranging from old Broncos to modern day F-Types and loved everything in-between (even some of the junkers)! But over the years, I have become more of an off-road/expedition kind of guy more than a sports car fanatic as off-roading in the high desert and mountains of northern NM and southern CO has become one of my favorite pastimes.


    Previously, I have built up many an old classic (CJ5/CJ7, full-sized Cherokee Chiefs, early Broncos, etc.) to quite a few modern trucks (Rams, Tundras, 4Runners, F150s/F250s, Tahoes, Chevys, etc.) so hopefully this one will meet my goal of being somewhat unique while enhancing the factory features and capabilities without breaking the bank (too much). Since I actually take my rigs off-road on "moderate" trailing adventures, my goal is not to build a highly lifted "bro" truck or mall crawler (no offense to others because I have certainly built those as well) but also not trying to build an extreme desert prerunner or rock crawler either. Hopefully, sharing this build thread will help give ideas for others that are like myself looking for tasteful modifications while retaining the vehicle's original purpose as a daily driver, family hauler, or work vehicle but also serve as a weekend toy!


    [​IMG]


    I recently purchased my Rebel but ironically it was not my first choice; I was actually waffling between buying either a new 2020 Raptor or 2020 Power Wagon (yes, two different kinds of off-roading approaches but really liked both). After test driving the Power Wagon, I decided it would not quite fit all of my parameters as a daily driver/family hauler (almost too high/ too big with less comfortable ride but still an amazing machine) so I decided on the Raptor (the Ecoboost engine did not bother me as I have owned (2) other Ecoboost F150s with no issues and they were fun to drive at altitude)! But the more time I spent with the Raptor, the less enamored I became as the truck is a tad too wide for daily parking and mountain trailing (perfect for desert runs) but I eventually just got turned off by the hard plastic interior that came with a +$70K price tag (although the seats and overall performance were worth it). So I scrapped the Raptor and was going to buy another Tundra since my previous one was solid with never an issue and had a lot of fun building and beating it up on the trails. Luckily, before I went in to make a deal after several visits to the Toyota dealership, I took an extra day to visit the nearby Ram dealership and purchased my Rebel immediately after the initial test drive (great interior and the factory ride was amazing for an off-road biased vehicle)! I could have saved myself a lot of time had I considered the Rebel first...lol.


    My new Ram Rebel (stock form):


    [​IMG]





    2020 Ram Rebel 4x4 Factory Options

    Granite Crystal Metallic Monotone Paint

    5.7L Hemi MDS VVT with 8 Speed Auto

    Black Leather Interior

    Rebel 12 Package

    Rebel Level 2 Equipment Group

    Dual-Pane Panoramic Sunroof

    Trailer Brake Controller

    Blind-Spot and Cross-Path Detection System

    Rear Wheelhouse Liners

    Spray-in Bedliner​


    My modifications for this truck will be tuned more for daily driver/family use with some off-road capability but not as extreme as some of my other more off-road focused builds. Modifications currently planned include:


    +2-inch suspension system (not a spacer system as do not want to limit wheel articulation); purchased/installed but changing out

    35-inch tires (currently deciding between another set of Nitto Ridge Grapplers or trying out the General Grabber X3); pending

    18x9 wheels (with more negative offset to push out tires towards outside edge of fenders); purchased

    ARE Z-Series topper (for securing gear, bikes, etc. when traveling); purchased

    Bedrug bed mat; pending

    LED off-road lighting (both driving and spot beams); purchased and installed

    Front window tint; installed

    Aftermarket exhaust (probably Magnaflow)
     
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  2. Desert Dawg

    Desert Dawg Member Supporting Member

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    Ram Year:
    2020 Ram 1500 Rebel 4x4
    Engine:
    Hemi 5.7L
    First mod I did was to install some new LED off-road lights. For the Rebel, I really didn't want anything in the lower bumper area as I might consider a hidden winch system sometime down the road and so wanted to leave that area alone. I also wanted to have a slightly different look this time around rather than the typical LED light bars that I had used on prior builds and now seen on most trucks.


    The Rebel front bumper is unique as there is a raised area (bulge) right under the front grille and I thought that would be an ideal spot for some round lights. So I chose to install a couple sets of the Rigid 360-Series LEDs; I measured the space between the bumper and bottom of the RAM logo and determined that the 4-inch round lights would look better fitted under the logo rather than having larger (+6-inch) lights blocking the logo.


    I purchased 1-pair of the 360 Series Spot LEDs for long distance illumination and 1-pair of the 360 Series Driving LEDs for near distance illumination; I arranged the setup so that the driving lights are situated on both sides of the spot lights. The nice things about the 360 Series is you can replace the lens if needed and/or paint-to-match the lens surround for a custom look! I chose to leave mine black as it ties in nicely with my truck's paint color scheme.


    [​IMG]


    The nerve-wracking part was precisely measuring and then drilling the (4) mounting holes in my brand new bumper. I located the center line of the bumper and measured the exact location of each drill hole spaced underneath the RAM logo while also taking into account the front bumper curve (I wanted the face of each light to follow the bumper lines). I then created a template on my computer so that I can play with the spacing of all the lights and determined that 2.25-inches of clearance between each of the 4-inch LED lights was the most aesthetically pleasing while still allowing access for adjustments.


    [​IMG]


    The underside of the bumper is pretty clear and easy to get your hands/ratchets under there to mount the lights. Drilling through the steel bumper is easy as long as you use good drill bits and a variable speed drill for slow speed. However, there is a slight bend of the bumper sheet metal where it folds down under the grille so you have to make sure that you leave enough room for the mounting bolts and hardware. At same time, you don't want to have the lights extend too far out from the face of the front bumper. I measured 1-1/4 inch away from the back side of the bumper along the top of bumper as shown above and to ensure clearance within the bumper per below.


    Edit: Forgot to mention that also coated the drilled holes with black touch-up paint to prevent rust.


    [​IMG]


    After rechecking everything at least a dozen times...lol...I went for it and very pleased with how I got everything pretty much centered with the Ram logo at exactly 2.25-inches apart and exactly leveled.


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    For wiring, the Rigids come with their own wiring harnesses and 3-position LED switches (the 360-series have backlighting illumination like the Radiance series light bars). Unfortunately, they don't come with the Deutsch connectors so you have to add connectors if desired. For now, I simply used heat-shrink wire connectors and arranged the harnesses and zipped-tied everything to the body (hiding as much as possible) for a very clean install.

    The switches were more problematic as they are 3-position (on-off-on) with six connectors and therefore quite a bit deeper than the standard 2-position (on-off) round switches with three connectors. I wanted to install one switch for each pair of lights so that I could have the backlighting as "running lights" and the off-road lighting only switched on when needed. I also wanted to install the two switches in the flat face of the center console right under the 12-inch screen (right next to the USB ports) but could not determine if there was enough clear space behind the console face that extends under the center stack of the dash (definitely did not want to drill out two 3/4-inch holes only to find out the switches don't fit).

    So I removed all of the dash panels surrounding the steering wheel as it looked like there were a couple places up high within easy view and reach to place some switches. Unfortunately, despite the dash panel exterior appearances, there is no room behind the panels for deep switches as anything not taken up by the dash fame or control modules is taken up with additional plastic moldings on the panel themselves (and I didn't want to carve those up either). I did find enough space for (1) switch at the very bottom panel alongside the center console (see below); I did have to fab a small spacer since the switch connection tabs would not completely clear behind the panel but the pressure tabs keeps it secure for now. Since both pairs of lights have their own relays with no 12V power going to the switch, I wired both pairs of lights into the one switch but sacrificed having the backlighting until I can install two separate switches (once I figure out the center console).

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    But everything works and I love the finished result.

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. hodge-xj

    hodge-xj Senior Member

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    First off, welcome! I recognize your f150s from the ecoboost forums. I was over there a couple years ago when I had my 2013 fx4 3.5. I won't lie these trucks are a LARGE step up in both comfort and performance. Funny you mentioned the interior because people don't really believe My tradesman 1500 is better equipped and way more comfortable than my decked out F150. Granted it's not quite as fun as a boosted truck, I genuinely love this thing. I think with a few tasteful additions to an already awesome platform you will be more than satisfied. And I'm genuinely not biased, I have a fully built xj sitting home, an 08 colorado for a commuter and my 1500 is my big truck. I'll run anything you give me the keys to, but these trucks really have awesome bones.

    Your attention to detail in your older builds has me excited to see the direction you're gonna take this.

    I'm not too sure about the 5th gen models for suspension, but depending on budget I'm sure you can squeeze almost as much out of this as the raptor, and I'll stand by that 100%. I'd put these trucks with proper coilovers up against a gen 1 raptor all day. About 10" front and 13" rear travel per Carli specs.



    Sent from my SM-N920V using Tapatalk
     
  4. Desert Dawg

    Desert Dawg Member Supporting Member

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    Hemi 5.7L
    @hodge-xj; thanks for the welcome and always cool to see another forum member from the past...lol. I agree, the Eco's are pretty misunderstood and the fact that some folks don't like the sound. I had a Full Race exhaust and Fox suspension on my last FX4 and it sounded/performed amazingly. Plus, living at +5000 ft. and playing at over 12,000 ft., the turbos were great as I was never out of power!

    Funny you mentioned suspension options on the 5th Gen Rams as that was my very next post (below)!
     
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  5. Desert Dawg

    Desert Dawg Member Supporting Member

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    Hemi 5.7L
    So one of the other mods I went ahead with is my suspension. While the factory supplied Bilsteins provide an amazing street ride, I thought they were a tad too soft for an off-road biased truck although I do realize that 99.9% of Rebel owners will probably only see dirt roads, if that. But I have turned into a snob of sorts regarding my suspensions over the years and have replaced the factory "off-road" suspensions for my brand new Nissan PRO 4X (my previous truck before the Rebel), several Ford FX4s, Chevy Z71s, 4Runner Trail and Sport Editions, and so on. So definitely not picking on RAM in any way other than me just being me.

    So like other things with this build, I am looking for excuses to try something new(er). Previously, I ran various systems from Icon, King, Fox, Toytec, Bilstein, Rancho, Pro Comp, BDS, Fabtech, and others so this time I decided to try the new Teraflex Falcon 2019+ RAM 1500/Rebel Sport Tow/Haul adjustable shock system which is advertised as providing up to 2.25-inches of front lift. Considering I wanted to keep a really decent street ride and still maintain a reasonable center of gravity for handling and off-canter wheeling, I thought it might be the perfect solution to provide enough clearance for 34-35 inch tall tires that in turn would net me a tad more lift for better off-road performance.

    Teraflex has had a pretty decent name in the Jeep crowd (at least several years back) and researching the new Falcon shocks for full-sized trucks seemed to indicate a very well thought out, high quality system. The front shocks provide multiple (3) ride heights to level the front end and/or compensate for the additional weight of a winch or other accessories (which would support my hidden winch plan nicely). The rear piggyback shocks are adjustable to provide increased rear stiffness and the external reservoirs serve to increase oil and gas capacity for better heat dissipation and decreased shock degradation especially when hauling heavier loads. Teraflex also promises overall improvement of on- and off-road handling, stability, and control. The 2.25" shock bodies are made of 6061-T6 aluminum, 3/4” induction hardened chrome plated shafts, hard anodized billet pistons, and 1-piece Teflon bronze piston wear bands. Each system is tailored specifically for each vehicle to provide "race-inspired performance for increased vehicle stability" and "improved dynamic roll control and low-speed damping".

    [​IMG]

    All sounds and looks great!

    There are several folks on the forum that also have installed the Falcon system on their new Rams and seem quite happy. Also, there are some slick videos like the ones from Kid Richmond put out on YouTube (including TFL with their "Rebel Rouser"...lol) that also testified to their performance so I decided to try it out!


    However, before I purchased the Falcon system, I had my shop (Desert Rat Off-road Center) contact Teraflex to make sure that the 2020 Rebel would net out about 2-inches of actual lift above the factory ride height (since the Rebel already has about a 1-inch lift from the factory). The response was in the affirmative so I purchased the system and had Desert Rat complete the installation and alignment:


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    As some forum folks might already know (I had posted my experience with the Falcon system in a couple of other threads), I wasn't happy with the system initially as the ride was way too stiff and I thought I had seriously ruined my truck (the factory Ram-Bilstein system really does set a very high bar in terms of ride quality). It seemed like the Falcon valving was just way too digressive as I felt every minor road imperfection (speed bumps rattled my bones). But after a couple of days of driving, the shocks really settled in as the valve stack figured itself out and the ride is now really quite smooth (not quite as cushy as the factory but very good nonetheless). What did improve significantly was the handling and control along with immediate rebound performance; turn in feel is great and now I don't float over the speed bumps, I can attack them at any speed without drama.

    Ram Rebel with Teraflex-Falcon Adjustable Sport Shock system with just over 1-inch of front lift and factory spec'd 33-inch Duratrac tires on stock 18x8 Rebel wheels (apologies for crappy cell phone pics but didn't have my camera when I decided to shoot these):


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Falcon did a great job dialing these things in!

    So much for the good news and onto to the not so good. Of course I measured my truck both pre- and post-lift; unfortunately, my truck only netted out 1-1/8" of front lift on top of the factory ride height. It seems that the system was designed with 2019 Ram test trucks but FCA made some additional tweaks to the 2020 model year that Falcon (and others I am finding out) were not quite privy too. In addition to variances in actual truck fitments coming off the production line, mine was not going to net out anything near the 2-inches of additional lift that Teraflex had advertised (and despite my attempt of vetting out before the purchase). Some folks here with 2019 Rebels have gotten close, and others here with 2020 Rebels have gotten at least 1.5-inches but none have reported (actual measurements anyway) of achieving a fully leveled stance using the "Level" shock setting. However, non-Rebel 1500s seem to fair better for close to 2-inches of front lift. And all seem to be pretty happy with their Falcon systems even if they didn't quite get the advertised lift height.

    Back to the good news; Teraflex is a stand up company and admitted that their advertising might be misleading (and fact they didn't actually have a 2020 model test fitted) so they are going to reimburse me for the cost of the Falcon system once I select a replacement system (more on that later). Desert Rat is also a very stand up company (and fact that I have been doing business there for past 30-years helps as well) and will not charge me to install my next suspension. In the end, a lot of folks only want/need a small front lift but really want improved handling and control, as well as keeping a very comfortable ride, so in that vein I strongly recommend Falcon for your consideration especially if you haul and/or tow.
     
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  6. Desert Dawg

    Desert Dawg Member Supporting Member

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    Hemi 5.7L
    In the meantime, I went ahead and ordered a 3-inch Dirt Logic lift system from Fabtech that comes with front Dirt Logic 2.5 coilovers, new heavy duty upper control arms, and rear Dirt Logic extended length shocks.


    [​IMG]

    The Fabtech-Dirt Logic system will cost almost twice what I paid for the Teraflex-Falcon system but also will be getting a more robust off-road system with very good on-road ride quality as well (hopefully near the Falcon level of quality). The Dirt Logic shocks are now constructed with a stainless steel body and patented piston rod for improved durability and corrosion resistance (which has been an issue on older systems in the past).



    Proof is in the pudding so will be very curious on how the system actually performs (and if I net out the full 3-inches of lift). The system is on back order due to the COVID-19 situation but hopefully will have it in about another month. So more to come...
     
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  7. Desert Dawg

    Desert Dawg Member Supporting Member

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    Wheel Selection


    So while I am waiting for the suspension to come in, I have been thinking a lot about the best wheel and tire combo that I want to run. I am going to post my thoughts on tire selection later as I am still evaluating that, but thought I would walk through my wheel selection process first.


    I decided to keep my wheel diameter to 18-inches in order to provide enough sidewall for airing down when needed. In full disclosure, I have built rigs with 20-inch wheels and 35+ inch tall tires and have taken them off-road without any real drama, but having a slightly smaller wheel is a better decision as I have become more experienced and emboldened to take on tougher trails. I also don’t want a wheel that is too wide and stretches the tires out too much; to that end, I limited my wheel choices to no more than 9.5-inches of width.


    I also decided not to retain the factory 18x8 wheels as they would be on the lower limit of acceptable mounting widths for 34-35 inch tires. I calculated that I could increase the wheel offset from stock at +19MM to a more aggressive offset between +10MM to -12MM for the wheels to fit (-12MM offset was my own limit for extending the tires too far out from the fender and allowing the tires to throw road/trail debris along the side of the truck and potentially damage the paint). A -6MM wheel would be the limit if I wanted to ensure that most of the 35-inch tire carcass would not exceed ¾ -inch past the fenders. Since my selected suspension limits wheels with 5.0-inches of backspacing, my ideal setup would be a 34.5-34.8 inch tall tire at 11.5-12 inches maximum width on an 18x8.5/9.0 wheel with +0MM offset in order to keep my wider tires within a ½-inch of the fender coverage.


    Selecting a wheel I liked was more of a chore than I hoped. First, I didn’t want to default to the same typical black wheels that you find on every Dodge/Ram, Ford, Chevy, Nissan, and Toyota driving around the neighborhood and/or wheels with more exposed metal than my kid’s braces (which I have used in the past…wheels, not my kid’s braces). Secondly, I did not want high gloss wheels and/or extensive milling as that gives a vehicle more of a street/show look; I wanted more of the off-road vibe to match the Rebel's but also not something too aggressive that actually fits/looks better with a highly lifted rig. So my preference was a wheel with black and grey/titanium/anthracite finishing that might tie in better with the Granite Metallic and matte black color scheme of my Rebel.


    Finding something that would be functional and meet my needs was getting limited. In the past, I have gone with Fuel, TIS, Moto Metal, American Eagle, American Racing, KMC-XD Series, Diablo, Ultra, OEM, and others but I also considered various designs and sizes offered by Grid, Dirty Life, Black Rhino, LRG, 2 Crave, Centerline, Gear, Raceline, and probably a dozen more manufacturers of off-road wheels. Filtering down to my preferred range of wheel size and offsets, and finally wheel finishing/color scheme, I was able to shortlist my selections down to the following (3) wheels:


    [​IMG]


    And the winner is...
     
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  8. Desert Dawg

    Desert Dawg Member Supporting Member

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    Deleted (Double Post)
     
  9. hodge-xj

    hodge-xj Senior Member

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    Any of those choices will look awesome. I can't help much with any fitment input or the such, 4th vs 5th gen is a bit different, but I can surely instigate the purchases! Gonna be a very well spec'd build. The only thing I can say on the wheels is the fuels will be hub centric, not sure about the other 2. If they use hub adaptor rings that would kill the deal for me. As for aesthetics, I vote the black rhino, the rock rings with a color match contrast would look awesome. Id even go as far to say color match the centers, but that's pricey! I don't know much about the hub rings to make an educated opinion, I have always been lucky enough to find hub centric.

    Really curious to see some fabtech stuff get run, don't hear much about them anymore.
     
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  10. Desert Dawg

    Desert Dawg Member Supporting Member

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    So I ordered the Black Rhino Duggers in the 18x8.5 +0MM offset which are hub centric!

    I just thought the Duggers were the most off-road focused wheel of the group both in design and functionality with its recessed profile and removable rock ring. Plus, you don't see too many of these around.




    Once the wheels arrive, I may take the rock rings and have them painted Granite Metallic to tie in with the truck a little more.


    [​IMG]



    I am hoping the wheels arrive sometime next week but still a few weeks out for the suspension. upload_2020-5-8_21-10-6.gif
     

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