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Trading Trails: Why a Jeep Enthusiast Switched to the RAM Power Wagon

The need for speed and space moved a Jeep owner to the Ram Power Wagon.

Some say Jeep owners will always remain Jeep owners, they simply upgrade to newer vehicles over the years. And while that may be true for many, some flip the script when their needs change. Of course, we know that once a Jeeper, always a Jeeper, even if one adds another horse to their stable. That is certainly the case with Jon Sackett. While his off-road roots are deep with Jeep, he didn’t stray too far when his needs changed. While he still owns a Jurassic Park Jeep replica, his daily driver shifted over to another vehicle in the Mopar family: a RAM Power Wagon.

“Sackett was tired of hearing his friends complain when the Jeep couldn’t keep up with the trucks on washboard trails. All signs pointed in the direction of him getting a truck.”

The Bed Rack Headache Rack gives the truck a ranch feel, but also protects the back cab window when hauling product.

Uprooting Jeep Ownership

The Jeep JL Sackett exited was a notable build. A cover feature in Tread a few years back, it was also shown off at SEMA Show in 2019 and recognized by many online. While it was able to rock crawl with ease and be nimble on tight trails, he found himself not needing those features as most of his friends were in trucks. Not to mention, the lack of space was limiting the gear he could bring. Sackett often relied on friends with more space to bring items that he couldn’t fit in his Jeep JL. As he describes it, “This sorta made my build feel inadequate for the type of adventures I love the most, which was just getting out to the middle of nowhere, to a beautiful location, and setting up camp for the weekend.” Also since the vehicle was his daily driver, the height also limited him. Finding a place to park wasn’t easy, as parking garages were usually not an option.

The Sackett Ranch Power Wagon looks at home parked next to a barbed wire fence.

After a move from California to Phoenix, Arizona, Sackett knew it was time to make a change. Keeping up with traffic driving 80+ on the freeway was tough in a squirrely Jeep, and Sackett was tired of hearing his friends complain when the Jeep couldn’t keep up with the trucks on washboard trails. All signs pointed in the direction of him getting a truck.

Mopar Family Ties

When it came time to pick a truck, that was easy for Sackett. Just like the Wrangler, the Power Wagon has roots in World War II. It was the workhorse for the U.S. Army as it was able to transport supplies and more troops to the front lines where the Willys were not able to; similar to the conundrum of what Sackett found himself in. As Sackett says, “The Power Wagon was like the Rubicon for the RAM trucks.” Just like on his Jeep Wrangler JL, the Power Wagon has a disconnecting sway bar, front and rear lockers, and more. To him, it seemed like a larger version of his Jeep with more room for people and gear. Now with a significant other and a dog, the extra room was that much more important and the decision to buy a RAM Power Wagon was an easy one.

The full-size spare is mounted on a Rig’d Ultraswing Hitch Carrier.
The AEV front bumper comes with built in recovery points.

A Thoughtful Build

As the time came to decide the direction of the Power Wagon build, Sackett decided to think it through a bit and enjoyed driving the truck stock. He enjoyed a vehicle that was smooth and easy to drive on the highway. He took it camping a few times, using a ground tent, and preferred that setup. Mostly, he was impressed with how the truck handled both on and off-road in its stock form, not to mention all the extra room he now had. Around this time, he also started his own business, from which the vision of the truck and business aligned. “I knew I wanted to build the truck out to not only be badass and get me through anything but also still feel like an OEM truck for around town and doing things for the business,” Sackett tells us. From there Sackett Ranch was formed and the truck followed suit with a ranch look.

While wider than other vehicles, the truck drives down dirt roads with ease.

While the Bed Rack headache rack may stand out in style, the rest of the truck is all off-road. Liking the AEV Prospector and Prospector XL, Sackett wanted something even more badass than a Prospector XL. He wanted a Prospector with disconnecting sway bars, lockers in front and rear, and a powerful 6.4L V8 engine. Since AEV didn’t build Power Wagons, Sackett took matters into his own hands. Themed as a ranch truck, it would be a powerful off-road beast capable of hauling gear for work, towing vehicles, and taking him out to camp and off-road on the weekends. AEV bumpers with the Brush Guard give the truck the look he desired and extra clearance for difficult trails. He mounted AEV wheels with 37-inch Toyo Tires Open Country Mud Terrains, keeping the suspension stock.

“While the Bed Rack headache rack may stand out in style, the rest of the truck is all off-road.”

For ditch lights, KC HiLites Flex Era 4s sit at the A-pillar on SDHQ mounts.
The Power Wagon is a standout in performance and looks.

The headache rack gives the Power Wagon the ranch look, but also provides needed protection when hauling around overland gear and items for work. Sackett says, “I have been able to haul giant steel bumpers in the back of the truck that I would have definitely busted out the rear window if I didn’t have the Bed Rack back there.”

Another functional key feature Sackett likes is the varied setup for the full-size spare tire. When he’s driving around town or back and forth to the office, he opts to mount the tire in the bed of the truck using the AEV vertical tire mount in the bed of the truck. This allows him to use his backup camera and keep the truck as short as possible when in the city. He also has peace of mind that his full-size spare is with him when on quick day trips to off-road and romp the dirt trails. When it comes time for a longer trip and he needs more room in the bed of the truck, he switches over to using the Rig’d Ultraswing Hitch Carrier. Not only does it carry the full-size spare, freeing up valuable bed space, but he can attach the 1Up bike rack to bring his Super 73 e-bikes. Also, he gets an added cooking space with the drop-down table on the Ultraswing.

“All MPG concerns also were diminished as the truck gets impressive results on highway miles.”

Sackett’s dog Ashoka joins him on camping adventures.
The menacing front brush guard gives the truck a tough appearance.

Balance is Key

The goal with this Power Wagon build was to be a true all-around vehicle. As Sackett shares, “Sometimes it’s best not to go too hardcore one way or another. As I have learned over the years, every time you add an advantage in one category, you sacrifice in another. So, I really wanted to build something that was a balance.”

“Just like on his Jeep Wrangler JL, the Power Wagon has a disconnecting sway bar, front and rear lockers, and more. To [Sackett], it seemed like a larger version of his Jeep with more room for people and gear.”

Sackett keeps his Dometic CFX3 fridge in the backseat for easy accessibility.
Nothing beats camping under the stars in the Arizona desert.

Opting to now sleep on the ground, no longer in a rooftop tent, he has a pretty luxurious glamping setup. He sleeps in a Gazelle T4 Hub Ground Tent and a Gazelle G6 Gazebo is his camp kitchen. Best part, he is able to fit all the gear in truck bed with ease.

The truck is also able to rock crawl surprisingly well enough to satisfy Sackett’s needs. Even with its stock suspension setup on Bilsteins, Sackett believes it performs better over rocks than a lot of non-Jeep SUVs and mid-size trucks. Since his AMP Research power side steps aren’t rock rails, they keep him from driving over too crazy of terrain. Mostly ample clearance allows the truck to avoid most obstacles anyway.

The Gazelle Gazebo is the perfect camp kitchen setup for Sackett and his girlfriend.
The Gazelle Gazebo is the perfect camp kitchen setup for Sackett and his girlfriend.

All MPG concerns also were diminished as the truck gets impressive results on highway miles. Around town, gas mileage proved similar to the JL. However, on highway miles, he can average 500 miles on a tank of gas, fully loaded with gear and it rides like a Cadillac. On the highway, his Jeep would run at high RPM, get horrible gas mileage when loaded, and would only travel about 200 miles before it needed a fill up.

Keeping Up With Jeeps

And while those items would be nice, Sackett also has peace of mind to know his full-size truck can keep up with the Jeeps, proven on a trip to KOFA wildlife refuge with his girlfriend, her dad, her brother, and friends. They all drove Jeeps and Sackett drove the RAM Power Wagon 50 miles a day for 4 days between Quartzite and Yuma. While there were some tight areas and he thought the truck would get hung up due to the overall size and longer wheelbase, the truck impressed. It did not scrape skid plates, rub fender liners, hit on approach or departure angles whatsoever. As we know, it could also be the driver. Nonetheless, he could not have picked a more beautiful location with lots of interesting places to stop along the way to test the capability and comfort of his truck.

The table on the back of the Rig’d Ultraswing provides ample space for quick morning oatmeal prep.
The table on the back of the Rig’d Ultraswing provides ample space for quick morning oatmeal prep.

The Future

We look forward to seeing the future of this truck and possible additions to the build. Next steps are an AEV suspension upgrade for more height and durability, although the OEM Bilstein suspension is impressive. The other item Sackett wants to add is an AEV snorkel, since he lives in the desert with lots of dust and wants to pull cleaner air.

To see more from this AEV RAM Power Wagon, follow @sackett.ranch on Instagram.

Jon Sackett stands in front of his RAM Power Wagon.


2022 RAM Power Wagon

Engine: 6.4L Hemi V8

Wheels & Tires: AEV Katla 17×8.5 with +27mm offset (front and rear); Toyo Tires Open Country M/Ts size 37×13.5R17LT

Suspension: OEM Bilstein shocks

Armor: AEV Front Bumper, Rear Bumper, front Brush Guard; Bed Rack Headache Rack

Exterior Accessories: AEV Vertical Tire Mount; MOPAR Retro Vertical Slotted Grille; KC HiLites Flex Era 4 w/ Amber covers; SDHQ mounts; WARN Zeon 12-S winch; RAM Rugged Cases 95L, 52L, 105L in truck bed;

Interior Accessories: Vertx VTAC Storage Cubes; Dometic CFX3 55IM Electric Fridge, water jug, electric faucet; Rugged Radios GMRS radio; Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium battery; Ignik Growler + Firecan; Camp Chef Versatop 2x

Editor’s Note: A version of this article appeared in TREAD July/August 2023.

Dodge introduces the loudest EV ever – it might be the coolest too!

The Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Concept teases the production of electric muscle car coming in 2024 amid promises it will beat all the performance metrics Dodge has laid down to date.

Sounds Like a Hellcat?

Yes, the Dodge Charger Daytona SRT is powered by batteries and electric motors, but air still swooshes through chambers and pipes for a rumble very similar to the roar of a Hemi Hellcat V-8 in today’s Dodge Chargers and Challengers. This sports the industry’s first exhaust system for an electric vehicle, producing a similar 126-decibel sound as the one coming from today’s Hellcat engine.

Dodge calls it “Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust.” When the Daytona converts electricity to power, air flows through the exhaust system and the sound produced through an amplifier and tuning chamber at the vehicle’s rear. You can see and feel the pressure from the exhaust coming out the back!

The Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Concept is designed to impress and appease its loyal customer base, many of whom are fundamentally opposed to EVs and all they stand for.

So, Dodge created an e-muscle car that looks mean and roars as loud as the Hellcats with supercharged Hemi V-8s that it will replace. “We believe we need the sound and experience,” says Kuniskis. That is why the car has a multispeed transmission and an exhaust note, so the driver can feel and hear the crack of the exhaust while shifting.

Dodge Charger Coupe

The concept, in Greys of Thunder dark glossy paint, has a clean design right down to the flush door handles and the absence of a rear spoiler. It is muscle without being a caricature, bold yet subtle. Head of Dodge Exterior Design Scott Krugger says his team started by designing a muscle car, not an EV, with a signature face, swept profile, and turbine-style 21-inch wheels.

It is also pure EV without a melted front for aerodynamics. Instead, true to the Daytona name, it has a nose cone, a patented R-Wing that allows air to pass through the front of the hood and enhance downforce while keeping a blunt Dodge profile that all but hides the headlights. There are carbon fibre intakes on both sides of the front and rear fascias for an air curtain to further improve aerodynamics. The front end is patented, as is the sound, which means these are intended for production.

Dodge is not revealing full specs and details yet, but we do know the high-performance SRT trim will be powered by a new 800-volt Banshee propulsion system. Lower trim models will have a 400-volt system. 

The concept has standard all-wheel drive, so we know there are at least two motors, one up front and one in the back. AWD is also key to making the Daytona SRT quicker than the Hellcats that precede it, Dodge executives say. The Daytona Banshee has a multi-speed transmission with electro-mechanical shifting. Dubbed eRupt, the transmission does not deliver more power but allows the driver to feel each shift point, Kuniskis says.

The brand chief won’t reveal the number of gears or provide any performance figures yet. What we do know is there will be three power levels available, and customers can go to Direct Connection authorized dealers who will offer six more levels, all covered under factory warranty. All nine power levels were designed in advance, with the hardware in place for additional upgrades at the time of purchase or later.

Dodge promised it would be true to its muscle car roots when it embraced the electric car age, starting in 2024. The Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Concept, which looks production ready and has patents on its key features, appears to keep that promise.

Source: motortrend and Stellantis

’70 Super Bee | A Dodge With Serious Street Buzz

Super Bee. The name alone makes folks smile. By 1970, the muscle car wars were being fought by nearly every brand from Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. Even American Motors had gotten into the fray.  The major battles were waged at the racetracks with the sole purpose of putting “recruits to their brands” in production. It was all about cars on the streets and getting consumers to pledge their loyalties in dealer showrooms. Back then, those recruits would not even cross company lines; the Bowtie brigade did not go to Pontiac, the Ford faithful did not consider Mercury, even though at one time it had a Marauder model.

You know it’s not stock when there is no overspray on the undercarriage. Pride in craftsmanship shows with a slick exhaust system with crossover pipe. The Milodon pan plays well with the look and function of this standout Bee.

The same applied to the militant Mopar fanatics. When Plymouth created the low-option, low-cost, entry-level (yet muscular) Road Runner on the B-body chassis in 1968, the Dodge boys commissioned a similar model and simply called it a Super Bee. Both models were a brilliant marketing move; muscle in the purest form, the answer to the question of “how much?” be it an inquiry for horsepower or for purchase price. The answer made consumers smile, pull out their wallets and buy. Some called the Super Bee, with the Dodge Scat Pack image and rear bumble bee stripe and its Plymouth cartoon cousin, a Spartan performance coupe. To others it was a low-priced “strippo,” with a bench seat, very little trim and a high horsepower 383-ci engine backed by a choice of a stout manual or a bulletproof automatic transmission. Either combination could transfer massive power to the Sure-Grip rearend fitted with tiny 10-inch drum brakes. Dodge management just cleverly marketed it as entry-level performance.

’70 Super Bee

Since OEMs are more concerned about capturing profit margins, they quickly started offering countless options to increase the exterior and interior styling as well as add additional power under the hood. Soon one could check enough order boxes to make a standard 383 Super Bee as sexy and as comfortable as the upscale, deluxe-trimmed, 440-powered Coronet R/T. By 1970, the last year of this Dodge body style, the cross-pollination was so complete that either a Super Bee or an R/T could be optioned with a 440 Six-Pack and all of the aesthetic trimmings.  Yes, the 426 Street Hemi was an option for either, too, but that is a whole other story.

’70 Super Bee
Classic designed Boyd five-star wheels are wrapped with Bridgestone rubber.

Which brings us to this stunning ’70 Super Bee. The decoded data plate indicated that it was built in Chrysler’s Los Angeles production plant. It was born Bright Blue Metallic (B3) pillar coupe with a 383-engine and a manual transmission. It was one of only 3,966 produced that model year. This body style was an exclusive holdover since the 1968 origin of B-bodies, with the pillar creating the ability for the rear quarter-windows to open by hinging outward rather than rolling down for the backseat passengers.

’70 Dodge Super Bee
The Dodge and Plymouth B-Body cars were some of the sexiest shapes to come from the muscle car era. The ’70 Super Bee offered many distinctive and unique features that set it apart of its Road Runner cousin.

1970 was a year of firsts and lasts for the Super Bee. It was the last of this body style with the Coke bottle shape, the doors appear to be slightly pinched or tucked-in when looking down the horizontal shape, ending with those beautifully curved, wider quarter panels. This led to big rear wheel openings that better exposed the wider wheels and tires. It was a first in the respect that it had a distinctive one-year-only, chromed split front grille (the Dodge marketing guys referred to the dual ovoid style as shaped like bumble bee wings). It was also the last Super Bee to offer functional Ramcharger cold air intake scoops on the hood, though they looked like an afterthought. The longer, lower, almost fastback body style was set on a 117-inch wheelbase chassis (GM muscle car models were 112 inches). This was also the last year for this setup, and it was the final year that Dodge supplied horsepower ratings, because the new SAE horsepower ratings for all vehicles went into effect in 1971. This forced many OEMs to rethink and/or change the compression ratios beginning in 1971; thus, marked the beginning of the end for attractive, high-performance, desirability at the new car showrooms.

Wisely, Dale replaced the old Mopar foot pump and 10-inch drum brakes with a Wildwood power booster feeding ventilated discs with multi-piston calipers.

This particular Dodge was attractive to Dale Bracken of California Supersports Auto in San Juan Capistrano. Once he saw the muscle machine for the first time, he immediately wanted it for his private collection. “I had a Buick 400 GS convertible that I liked, but I traded the Buick and a bushel of cash for this Super Bee.”  The full photo documentation of the resto-mod is a cool book to review. It had been stripped down to bare metal and all components were reworked or replaced. The blue exterior was changed to V2 Hemi Orange, a fitting and stunning color on this body style.

’70 Dodge Super Bee
Flying between the grille wings is the famous Super Bee logo. Unlike Plymouth with the Road Runner, Dodge did not have to pay a royalty to Warner Brothers for this little character; it was completely homegrown.
The Super Bee looks so right in 1970 Dodge Hemi Orange with the trademark bumblebee stripe and emblem. Owner Dale Bracken made the right call when having the classic shape color changed.

The 383 engine was jettisoned for a more impressive power package; it’s now a 1970 440 Six Pack—on the outside. Internally, the build sheet from Indio Motor Machine reads like a performance digest. The stroker crankshaft kit pushed the cubes to 505 that now has 9.8:1 compression pistons and many quality internal components, along with ceramic-coated headers (and exhaust system) and a serpentine drive pulley system. A factory Six Pack air cleaner that hides three large two-barrel carburetors tops the engine.  This large oval air cleaner can be provided with outside fresh air by a very elaborate system attached to the underside of the hood. All combine to reveal dyno sheet readings of 517 hp (at 5,000 rpm) and torque of 588 ft-lbs at 4,000. This Super Bee has some extraordinary sting! “Even at 3,700 pounds, this stick car pulls hard,” Dave exclaimed. The Dana 60 rearend with 4.10 gears fitted with 35-spline axles and a Power Lock Posi unit influence the performance equation and seat-of-the-pants sensation.

This Super Bee has some extraordinary sting!“Even at 3,700 pounds, this stick car pulls hard,” Dale exclaimed.

Dale carefully brought the dash and instrument panels back to better than new. Gotta love the toggle switches and clock inset into the tachometer.

Roadworthiness is improved with a fully rebuilt suspension, all powder coated. Huge road wheels are fitted with 225 45 R 18s in the front, with 255 40 R 18 tires in the rear. While considered a midsize by Dodge for the era, it’s a big car, so the wheel-tire combination doesn’t really look oversize, and it fits well in the wheel openings.

A little bit old hints at a whole lot new. The factory functional twin hood scoops feed the beast inside. At one time these little add-ons announced either 440 or perhaps Hemi. Now it warns of a 505-cid Elephant motor.

Looking into the interior reveals a cockpit that appears to be 1970 all over again. It’s a refreshing view; the stock steering wheel is still stylish, the stock dashboard with all of the multiple small diameter gauges looks sporting. Dodge subscribed to the Mopar attitude that went out of the way to capture attention for its manual transmission cars by featuring a tall Hurst shifter with a pistol grip handle; this one still has it.

’70 Super Bee
A fully restored interior features those famous high-back bucket seats, wood grain steering wheel and the iconic pistol grip shifter. Note the big “safety” features of 1970, the padded lower dash and horn button.
Pushing 517 hp to the rear wheels, the stroked 440 was screwed together by Indio Motor Machine. The engine compartment is ultra sanitary. Even though it looks factory-fresh at a glace, Dodge never made them this clean.

Commercials seen today for a GM brand ask: “Wouldn’t you rather have a Buick?” Dale Bracken said no, and we all should “Super Bee” glad that he did.

By Lou Leto

Photos by Guy Spangenberg

A version of this article first appeared in the January 2016 print issue of Drive Magazine.