Barber's Big Rig (2017 RAM 1500)

Welcome to my build thread! I hope you find it interesting and helpful. There’s a lot borrowed from many of you, and some things I haven’t seen before. Perhaps it might help somebody or at least provide a bit of entertainment! First, some tall tales, perhaps unnecessary, but hopefully useful in understanding my priorities and approach.

Story time: I grew up tent camping, we took trips all over the States, camping almost always in campgrounds, saw some epic places, hiked Angel’s landing before there was a lottery, etc. Learned to love the peace and beauty of natural places. Upon starting my own family I followed that same path, I think my kids had all been in their first camping trip by 6 months old, certainly by 1 year old. Always found time in the woods some of the most relaxing, disconnected from work, and built in entertainment for the kids (3 boys) meant less demands on the parents!

Off-road driving was never much a part of the equation, but as campgrounds got busier I felt the desire to get more remote, to find spots that were less crowded (and didn’t require a reservation a year in advance). That led my to discovering expedition portal 10-15 years ago and using it as a resource in many ways. It also led to me getting stuck a handful of times in the fwd family hauler trying to make it to the more remote spots. So for the past 4 years or so I’ve been on the lookout for something with power to all the wheels.

In that period, my boys and I experienced the loss of my wife, their mom, to breast cancer, around two and a half years ago. Such a devastating loss brings a lot of focus on the most important things, and adventure is a part of that for me. Over the past year, I’ve thought much on how short the time is before my boys move on to college and other new life stages (the oldest is entering high school) and I’ve felt the strong pull to make the most of the moments we have together. And for me, a key element of that is exploring and adventuring together.

So, the search was on for a vehicle to facilitate that adventure! I needed something that made setup and tear down easy for me, as a solo parent with 3 youngish kiddos, was comfortable for long road trips with our family of 4, and would take us to the more remote and unique places I want to visit. I narrowed down to midsize suv (probably a GX470) and a trailer with a big rtt, or a full size truck and a GFC or similar camper. I came across a deal on a RAM 1500 and GFC that was too good to ignore! Slight downside, the truck was in California, and I’m in Florida, but I decided to make that an adventure too, and the week of my 40th birthday I flew to Sacramento with my oldest son and bought a truck I’d only seen in pictures, and drove it 3000 miles home.

I’m happy to report that I’m thoroughly satisfied with the purchase, and I’m enjoying zero buyers remorse!


Heck ya! Ram love brother! Great lookin’ rig!

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Cheers, brother. I appreciated the backstory. Great looking truck. Looking forward to more posts covering your build and future trips.

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Now for a bit of the building part. Truck was purchased with a decked system, but ultimately I decided that wasn’t ideal for what I wanted.

I wanted to be able to sleep 2 people in the bed and 2 upstairs. I also planned to transfer my fridge, battery, charger, and solar setup from my previous vehicle. Ultimately I decided the best approach to accomplish this was a platform at the same height as the fridge. I didn’t want to mess with a slide, because I knew it would eat into my storage, and I’m tall so I can reach over stuff!

Important to me was something that would be pretty simple to construct, bit I also like things that are modular and flexible. I debated for a while whether I wanted to go with a partial platform with a removable section to better facilitate standing/sitting but eventually decided on a platform across the bed without a removable section. Mostly because I thought this would be easier to build. I started by mounting the battery. I wanted to accomplish this in a way that was secure, while also minding the charging hardware nearby and in a way that was accessible. This was what I came up with.

The battery is well secured. The charging hardware is adjacent and all will be accessible and serviceable after the platform install.

I needed to power the fridge and wanted to be able to charge devices, plus have potential charging for starlink, laptop, and other stuff. I installed a blue sea fuse box and powerwerx connections (transferred from the old vehicle).

It seems like the wiring and planning install of the electrical components was the most time consuming part of all this!

Also installed solar via custom mounts on the roof. 200 watts, but I plan to expand to 400 watts soon and the wiring is setup to accommodate.

Once wiring was done, it was time to install the fridge and associated framing.

Last step: finalize the platform. I used 3/4 ply on top of the 2x4 framing and provided cutouts for access.


On the to-do list, in the near term, in no particular order:

  1. Install another 200w solar.
  2. Screens for the side openings so sleeping in the bed is bearable.
  3. DC power for starlink (I’ve got all the pieces, just need to wire it up). My plan is to have this as a standalone unit with router, poe injector, etc in a box that will connect to truck power via Anderson connector.
  4. Chase lights. I’ve got lights and wiring. Previous owner had these wired but I didn’t like the setup so I pulled it all out.
  5. Wolfbox rear view mirror/camera.
  6. Cargo net for bedding storage.
  7. Maintenance things: Redline for differentials and transfer case. Mopar for transmission and coolant.
  8. Midland radio install.

Also: epic western road trip with the boys. Great sand dunes, Silverton, Telluride, Canyonlands, Capitol reef, grand escalante, Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon, etc.


That truly sounds like an epic road trip! That list includes many of my favorite places living in the southwest!

One of my favorite authors, Mike Ferrentino, says about the desert “Deserts - I fell in love with the astringent emptiness, the songs of the wind, the unforgiving precision with which a desert punishes the foolish

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hell yeah! another ram 1500 with GFC!

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I’ve been to the Grand Canyon and to Zion (around 20 years ago) and taken trips to Colorado and other spots in the Rockies, but never anything more in Southern Utah. I’m very excited to explore, and I think those will be lifelong memories for my boys!

Minor update. Up to 400w solar now. Also half way through installing screens but that’ll have to wait until later for pictures. Getting ready to head to the Rockies for a couple weeks! Lotsa pudding incoming soon!

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The build is looking great. I notice that you are in Miami. Stop by the GFC Southeast region and say hello to the rest of the group. I am always excite to see fellow Ram owners build on a similar platform. Keep up the good work!

Very cool - which panels are those?

HQST China specials. Two of them I’ve had for 4-5 years used in a couple different applications. Two are newer models and slightly different dimensions. Old ones might be polycrystalline vs monocrystalline for the newer ones, but I’m not entirely sure.

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Did Cinnamon pass from Lake City to Silverton. First legit trail and first shelf road for both the truck and this guy behind the wheel. Wasn’t sure what a “moderate” trail would look like coming from experience on forest service roads. Not too bad and a lot of fun! Definitely some pucker on the narrowish shelves, although I picked this route because it was supposed to be one of the milder options, I think it was a good choice given my experience and the fact the truck is about a mile long with the bikes hanging off the back!