Part 1: How to Turn a Ram 1500 into a Ram Runner


If you’ve considered buying a turnkey Ford F-150 SVT Raptor prerunner but can’t afford its $41,000 starting price, or if you want to hammer something different through the dirt and air, Chrysler’s Mopar parts division has a solution. The hardcore Ram Runner kit is now available to turn almost any 2009-2012 Ram 1500 4×4 into a hardened off-road racer all at once or piece-by-piece, at your own pace and budget. Either way, here’s how it’s done.

Veteran Baja racer and suspension development guru Kent Kroeker engineered the Ram Runner conversion package, which was inspired by his own race experience. Kroeker worked on the kit for over three years with his staff at Kroeker Off Road Engineering, aka KORE, outside San Diego.

With the Ram Runner conversion kit landing at Mopar-authorized Chrysler dealers, Kroeker has completed the detailed instruction guide they’ll use. In this case, it’s for the Stage 2 kit (Part No. P5155662, $13,270). It comes with custom-tuned three-inch Fox internal bypass shocks with remote reservoirs front and rear, custom shock mounting brackets, custom 4130 chromoly upper and lower control arms, rebuildable high-angle ball joints, special high-angle “930” Porsche-style CV axles, and forged-steel high-angle tie rods for the steering. The Stage 2 kit provides 14-inches of front and rear suspension travel and up to four-inches of lift over a stock Ram 1500.

The Ram Runner kit can transform almost any 2009-2012 Ram 1500 to help meet your budget.

Kroeker showed us how the kit is installed on a used 2009 Ram 1500 Quad Cab 4×4 that KORE purchased with only 10,000 miles on the odometer. The truck was a base model in good shape and came with a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. It cost only $21,000 from a dealer in Las Vegas, saving the expense of buying an all-new pickup.

Here’s the first part of the build, which we’ve simplified for the purposes of this overview.

Step 1: Remove Front Wheels, Tires and Brakes

Removing the Ram's original CV axle end nut

After this step shouldn’t be any doubt about how deep the Ram Runner makeover is. It requires removing the front wheels and tires and disconnecting the brakes from the Ram’s steering setup and front suspension.

Step 2: Disconnect Front Suspension and Factory Steering

Sliding the outer CV joint out of the bearing hub on the spindle. The upper control arm has been removed and the lower factory arm is pictured.

The factory shocks are removed along with the upper and lower control arms and steering system tie rods and CV joints leaving the truck lacking front controls, suspension and rolling stock.

Step 3: Replace Front Shock Towers

After cutting off the tops of the front stock shock towers, a new bucket cut template will be welded onto the backside of the coilover bucket.

The factory front shock towers, where the tops of the original dampers were bolted to the frame, are cut with a plasma torch or cut-off-wheel and new, taller, stronger shock towers are welded in place to provide room for the massive Fox Shocks and coilover springs. The job is made easy because the kit includes a steel template to indicate exactly where to cut the stock shock tower.

A large, removable strut tower brace is installed that connects and reinforces the new shock towers through the engine compartment. This unit ties both sides of the frame together, eliminating independent flexing of the shock mounts, increasing strength 300%, according to Kroeker.

The strut tower brace is installed through the top of the engine bay to provide suspension and frame reinforcement for off-roading.

Step 4: Install New Front Suspension and Steering Hardware

Newly installed front Fox three-inch internal bypass reservoir coilover shock. You can also see the new CV joint (lower right), tie rod and lower control arm.

All new upper and lower control arms, new steering tie rods and CV joints and Fox coilovers are bolted in place. The Trophy Truck style arms use factory-style bushings to provide articulation and long service-life. They’re also hardened against road chemicals and corrosion.

Bulletproof steering is one of Kroeker’s primary goals when designing race trucks. The unique tie rods are tensile tested (pull tested) and said to be 200 percent stronger than stock. Compression testing revealed them to be over 500% stronger than stock, according to Kroeker.

The Fox coilovers scream custom gear. The first of their kind, these monsters were specifically designed for the Ram Runner application. In fact every steering and suspension components is much more robust than the factory parts, especially when you lay them side-by-side with the original equipment for comparison.

Step 5: New Front Wheels and Tires Installed

Once you install the Stage 2 kit, you’re also committed to adding all new wheels and tires that aren’t included.

New wheels and tires are mandatory because the smaller stock wheels and tires will rub on the Ram Runner’s control arms and other components.

The new tires should be 33 to 35 inches tall by 11.5 to 12.5 inches wide. The recommended wheel size is 17 inches by 8 to 8.5 inches. Both are common sizes for the aftermarket. For proper clearance and scrub radius, a wheel spacing of 5 to 5.5 inches is critical.

For this build, Kroeker went with 35 by 12.5 by 17 inch General Grabber tires.

A critical functional benefit of the new wheels and tires (and control arms) increase track width for improved stability off-road. The suspension, tires, and Fiberglass fenders make the Ram Runner much wider than stock. Track, measured from the center point of the tire, is 76.5 inches at the front and 74.5 inches at the rear, compared with 73.6 inches on a Raptor, which is in turn more than 6 inches wider than a standard F-150. That extra width translates into stability in corners and high-speed turns.

For this build, Kroeker went with 35 by 12.5 by 17 inch General Grabber tires. It’s the DOT-legal version of the General Grabber Competition race tire Kroeker has won many Baja races on.

“We used this tire on a black, 17 by 8 inch Procomp wheel with 5.5 inch backspace. The fit was perfect and the General Grabber tires, though quiet, added an even more aggressive “murder” look to the truck,” Kroeker said.

Next Week: Rear Suspension Disassembly and Final Build-up


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