2021 RAM 3500 Tradesman | AEV Prospector | FWC Grandby


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They say pictures are worth a thousand words so let's begin with one...

Here is a list of the options I selected along with a brief explanation for each:


- My initial goal was to find a swell deal on a 2020 close to the end of the year. If I had been able to find one with the exact options I wanted and it was within a reasonable distance odds are I would be in it right now. Although the options I wanted could be found there were many other options I did not want which prevented me from closing a deal. There are not many standard cabs out there and it seems like most had the Chrome Appearance Group ($1,095) which I had no desire for. After much searching I shifted my focus to ordering a 2021 and seeing how good of a deal I would be able to find. Obviously, I found a really good deal and the rest is history.

RAM - I had been considering a new Wrangler or Gladiator for a few years but as a consumer I simply did not see the value in either of those options. Sitting in a $55-60k Rubicon left me with the feeling that I was being robbed. In contrast, while sitting in a $45-50k RAM 2500 or 3500 I felt like the deal was fair. The straw that broke my back was when a Jeep dealer would "try" to see if they could save you $500 or so dollars while the RAM dealer was willing to knock off thousands without even asking.

3500 - Originally my research led me to believe a 2500 with air bags would be perfect for my needs but there were many times where I read of 2500 owners stating they were a few hundred pounds over GVWR or they wished they had purchased a 3500. After talking with two dealers they stated that a 2500 regular cab 4x4 could not be ordered with the Automatic-Level Rear Air Suspension ($1,705). That was the fork in the road which led me to selecting a 3500. Owners of 3500s spoke of the rough ride with an empty bed but I was going to have a camper permanently installed so for my purposes the 3500 seemed like the best choice. If I do require air bags I will be happy to install Air-Lift or Firestone manual bags since my load will be constant.

Tradesman - I like to keep it simple and the Tradesman provided that in spades. If I wanted to add a few nice items that was easy enough to do but most important to me was not being forced to purchase exorbitantly priced packages with a long list of unnecessary, complex and fragile components. Yes, a 12" screen would be great but I rarely listen to the radio and like to turn a single knob to turn down the fan. There exists a great disconnect with new technology that, although it appears to be flashy, it is actually slowing us down. In this Tradesman, if I want to turn the fan higher I reach for one knob and turn it a bit, same with the temperature, radio volume, etc. The big touch screens force more interaction to accomplish the same task. Do the manufacturers perform time and motion studies and work towards simplifying tasks while driving for safety purposes or are they simply interested in selling very expensive and impossible to repair options?

Regular Cab - Now this was an easy-tough decision. It seems like most opt for a crew cab and 6.5' box and are quite happy with their choice. A close friend with that set-up removed his back seat and has quite a bit of storage space there. With a camper on the back I was left considering a 6.5' or 8' box option. Wheelbase was a key metric for my needs so a crew-cab with 8' box (169.5" WB) was not an option. It would be either regular and 8' box (140" WB) or crew and 6.5' box (149.5" WB). Since this will be a full time rig I opted for the 8' box which included a regular cab for my requirements. My thoughts centered around the fact that I do not plan to have anyone accompany me on a regular basis and I do not plan to be driving all the time. The majority of my time will be at camp and since the weather can turn nasty for a few days here and there the additional living room inside the camper would be welcome. I still believe the crew cab and 6.5' box is a very good option and ideal for most although I wanted to try something slightly different and enjoy the shortest wheelbase.

4x4 - This was possibly the easiest of all decisions. When exploring trails by default I remain in two wheel drive - this provides me with a very good measure of traction available and continuously refines my driving skills when traveling though difficult areas. If I run into problems I now have four wheel drive as an option to help correct. I have been quite surprised over the past few decades regarding the places I have been able to safely travel in two wheel drive that I never would have even considered if I had not had four wheel drive as a backup.

8' box - much of this was already covered when discussing my regular cab choice but I will say that a regular cab with an 8' box invokes an image of a classic truck. Tying that together with the base Tradesman and a selection of simple controls is a winning combination for me.

6.4L V8 Heavy Duty HEMI MDS Engine - As the standard engine this would satisfy my requirements. After talking with a number of owners regarding the 6.7L I6 Cummins Diesel Turbo Diesel option it was obvious that since I was not going to be towing a 10k plus trailer full time I would be fine with the 6.4L HEMI. Also, the entire Tier IV emissions for the modern diesels represent complexity and expensive dealer only components that I simply do not wish to involve myself with. The 6.4L is a mature engine that is very common and can be easily worked on most anywhere I travel. A great example would be the naturally aspirated low-pressure port fuel injection system - this can be examined and fixed in the parking lot while the turbo high-pressure direct injection system used in the diesel is much more complex requiring diesel engine specialists. I ran the numbers and even on mileage alone the break even for the diesel being used for a light duty application such as mine is 250-500k miles. As much as I would love to say I have a Cummings diesel under the hood it simply did not make sense for my requirements.
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4.10 Axle Ratio ($145)
- This was a simple option for me. Much of my time will be spent below highway speeds and a good portion will involve off-road climbs and descents. With the factory tires it seem like 4.10 will be perfect for me although if I decide to switch to 35s or 37s I would re-gear. Over the past several decades I have re-geared several of my vehicles and consider it some of the most valuable money spent. I believe the 4500 and 5500 are available with factory 4.89 gears and I just wish that was an option for the 3500.

Electronic Shift-On-The-Fly Transfer Case ($295) - This was a low cost option that I went back and forth on a number for times. Since the transmission shifting would be done using a rotating electrical knob on the dash I felt it would be balanced and ok to push buttons to do the same with the transfer case. The controls are quite simple and can be fixed quickly and easily in the future if needed. And shifting a transfer case into four-low using a manual lever always seems like I am damaging something no matter how closely I follow the instructions in the owners manual.

Dual Alternators Rated at 380 Amps ($295) - This was another low cost option but instead was a rather simple decision. Since my camper will be using one or two 100 Ah batteries that will occasionally be charged by the vehicle I concluded that I would rather have it and need it as opposed to needing it and not having it. Maybe 380 amps is overkill for my application but a factory installed option for $295 is a very low risk expense in my opinion.

Engine Block Heater ($95) - Another very low cost option that may only be used a few times if ever but if I do need it someday and do not have it I will curse myself for not spending $95 for it. Since I enjoy camping in austere conditions this may be a nice option to have when firing up an engine that has been below freezing for several days. I have not researched this option much bit again, for $95 it was a simple decision.

Snow Chief Group ($555) - This includes a 220-Amp alternator, instrument panel mounted auxiliary switches, clearance lamps, LT275/70R18E OWL on/off road tires, and transfer case skid plate. In my opinion this is one of the best values for the RAM trucks. If you recall earlier where I felt like I was being robbed by Jeep for a $60k vehicle - this was completely the opposite. This is a package where I see logic and value and for $555 it was an easy choice. The larger alternator supports my thoughts as mentioned above the dual alternator discussion. The instrument panel auxiliary switches will support external lights, possible winch operation, etc. The clearance lamps are of little value to me since my camper will have them also. The larger tires and transfer case skid plate will be beneficial for off road excursions. This is a fair deal and if it cost much more I would not have opted for it but I consider it a well though out and logical package for a fair price.

Tradesman Level 1 Equipment Group ($995) - This includes Exterior Mirrors with Supplemental Signals, Exterior Mirrors Courtesy Lamps, Exterior Mirrors with Heating Element, Mirror Running Lights, Power Black Manual Tow Mirrors, Overhead Console, Overhead Cupholder Lamp, Power Windows with Front One-Touch-Down Feature, Remote Keyless-Entry, Speed-Sensitive Power-Locks and Upgraded Door Trim Panel. This was a tough decision since I was primarily interested in the tow mirrors and remote keyless-entry with power windows running a distant third. Could I do without all the other nice features, certainly. Maybe even order the tow mirrors separate but the keyless-entry did not appear to be an easy add-on. After dealing with keys wearing down, locks freezing up and admitting that power windows were not a mature technology that would probably last for a the next decade I decided to spend the extra money. Again, it this would have been over $1k I would not have selected it and been just fine but despite containing a number of options I could do just fine without there were just enough that I was able to select. In my opinion, if this was $695 it would have been an east choice - the current price pushed me right the edge of being able to justify the additional costs.

Granite Crystal Metallic Clear-Coat Exterior Paint ($200) - I had considered other colors but I decided that a subdued color looked best with the black bumper, grill, etc. Brighter colors may not show scratches as much but I will research some of the coatings that may offer additional protections. In the end, I am not that worried about it since it is a truck and I will use it as such. Sure, I am willing to make a reasonable effort to keep it looking good but I am more focused on the mechanical side versus the aesthetics.

Spray-In Bedliner ($565) - This was another option that I could easily had done without but for the price I considered it fair and worth it. The main value to me had everything to do with isolating the camper from the steel and hopefully also providing some additional friction to keep it from moving. My guess is the insulation value of the bedliner is greater when compared to steel and that alone if of some value. My camper will be permanently installed so preventing scratches and damage is not that important although if I decide to remove the camper and sell the vehicle separately some day there is some value in that. My focus is more on selecting options which value me today and not some potential buyer in the future.

Uconnect 4 with 8.4-inch Display ($795) - Another expensive option that I could easily do without but while researching this I came upon so many other owners struggling to upgrade their Uconnect 3 with 5-Inch Display maybe I was missing something. I still retained my manual controls for the heating and ventilation along with the radio and that is the only reason I even began to consider this option. Although I could not readily justify this additional expense I decided to spend the extra money since this would be such an expensive and difficult error to correct in the future. If this was a $495 option I would not have thought twice about it but after much consideration I decided that the few hundred extra was still enough when compared against a large number of owners paying even more to upgrade.

6 Speakers ($100) - This make no sense to me why they would not include six speakers in the original package but maybe RAM are just trying to squeeze a few extra dollars with this option. Again, I rarely even listen to the radio and when I do it is mostly AM stations so I do not require the best of sound reproduction but at $100 what is there to decide. Honestly, if manufacturers steered more away from expensive packages towards low cost options such as this my guess is more options would be sold and owners would be much happier.

Trailer Brake Control ($295) - Do I plan to tow a trailer? Not right now and if I were planning to tow a heavy one with brakes I would have strongly considered the 6.7L I6 Cummings but to have this safety feature available for a reasonable cost. Sign me up. If it was part of some expensive package I would be just fine without it but for the few extra hundred I can justify including it.

So, here are some numbers:

Base price with destination charges: $40,040
Added options: $4,335
Estimated Net Selling Price: $44,375

After calling and emailing a dozen plus dealers within reasonable driving distance I decided to order my truck from a nearby dealer (Quinn Motors in Gloucester, Virginia) for $40,676. With tax, tags, license and dealer fees I was $42,912 out the door. I dealt directly with Chris Quinn (804.693.2408 / chrisquinn@quinnmotors.com) and this deal was as easy as you can imagine.

For reference dealer cost (FWP) was $41,857 and hold back (HB) was $1,281. Friends and family program (FFP) was $41,513 while employee pricing (EP) was $39,964. I believe I received a fair deal from a local family owned dealer and am perfectly fine with them making a few dollars.


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Looks great! Plans for a flatdeck + camper or homemade box or wacha thinking?

Thank you. My goal is to build a full time overland vehicle as reasonable as possible and although I considered the flat-bed option I was unable to justify it for my application. I believe they look great, except for the undersized rear wheel-wells, but when you combine the huge additional cost, increased center or gravity and the shell option is no longer available, that took it off the list for my purposes. For others it may be the perfect solution and maybe I will build on someday but for now I would like to keep it simple.

Here is my solution for my application: 2021 Four Wheel Pop-Up Camper Grandby Shell - full time overland build


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Nice truck! I considered a reg cab too but wanted a bit more space. I went from a ram to a Ford just because the truck was not available with an 8' bed and extended cab configuration. ****** Ram?


Oil eater.
I special ordered my '07 2500 SLT 4wd G-56 regcab from Dave Smith Motors in October of '06 after finding there was no such truck in the entire southwest with California certification. You had to have that despite 50 state emissions. When ordering the salesguy couldn't believe I didn't want electronic transfer case shifting? I love the convenience but I couldn't trust the system back then. 4lo's the one you have to shift on the fly at low speeds and it goes in fine.
You're going to have a super rig. Well thought out. I love the color.


Nice truck. I like your choice of regular cab, 1 Ton, long bed 4X4, stripper (low tech) with the tall gears. As an aside, I watched a YT video of a RAM off-roading and he was overheating/slipping while on a trail unloaded. There was something about the shift-on-th-fly being different in that it has clutches that go in/out. I was amazed RAM would build such a thing. Might want to prove that as incorrect info if you haven't ordered the truck already.


Nice truck. I like your choice of regular cab, 1 Ton, long bed 4X4, stripper (low tech) with the tall gears. As an aside, I watched a YT video of a RAM off-roading and he was overheating/slipping while on a trail unloaded. There was something about the shift-on-th-fly being different in that it has clutches that go in/out. I was amazed RAM would build such a thing. Might want to prove that as incorrect info if you haven't ordered the truck already.
That’s for a half ton with a certain transfer case I believe, not the 3/4 and 1 tons.


Nice truck. I like your choice of regular cab, 1 Ton, long bed 4X4, stripper (low tech) with the tall gears. As an aside, I watched a YT video of a RAM off-roading and he was overheating/slipping while on a trail unloaded. There was something about the shift-on-th-fly being different in that it has clutches that go in/out. I was amazed RAM would build such a thing. Might want to prove that as incorrect info if you haven't ordered the truck already.

Doesn’t apply here. Nor to 1500 Tradesman for that matter. It’s the 4WD-Auto “feature”. Supposed to mimic AWD so you can run it on the road. I’ve never liked it.


Add the Dynatrac (or other brand) free-spin kit with manual locking hubs to the front axle, so that NOTHING turns in that front drivetrain unless YOU want it to, and this truck will be perfect! That will also give you stouter user-serviceable bearings in the front end versus the unit bearings.


Looks like a well-spec'ed truck, OP. Looking forward to your build updates. I was close on an F-350 regular cab 8' box, but ended up going with a crew cab and the 6.75' box... but I do love the way a built-up regular cab looks! I think the options you ordered are perfect.


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Thank you all for all your kind words, stories and suggestions. Of course I am building this overland truck while attempting to remain focused on the fact that the experience is more about where you travel and who you meet more than the vehicle that you travel in. With that in mind, my goal is to keep most things as simple as possible but still not being afraid to make what I consider to be valuable modifications when I deem them to be necessary.

For this build the factory limited slip in the rear will be paired with a selectable locker up front - most likely an ARB. Over the years in other vehicles I have run ARBs, full Detroits, Aussie lockers, etc. Does anyone know if there are ARBs for this particular AAM 9.25-in. front axle? I have heard that the 2019-2021 axles have different internals and there are currently no optional gearing or lockers available.


Got any pics or updates to your build? Im just starting mine with a 2020 Ram 2500 diesel crew cab with a 2017 Hawk FWC in the bed. I’m excited to see how yours is progressing:)

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No updates so far since my truck should arrive in late March and my camper will be ready in January 2022. I have been spending much time researching exactly how I am going to lay out my interior and which components I will use. I have a National Luna 80L refrigerator and BattleBorn 100 Ah battery that I have used in another vehicle for the past few years that will go into this.

What are your plans?
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