In Bold Contrast:
While most automotive companies unveil new models and accessories in climate controlled event halls, paired with extravagant displays, American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) chooses to take the path less traveled. From the Arctic Circle, to Iceland, to Moab, AEV seeks out the toughest terrain and conditions for rolling out their purpose-built vehicles and parts. For 20 years, AEV has lead the pack providing Jeep Wrangler aftermarket support and turn-key vehicle conversions. During the spring of 2015 and in advance of AEV’s RAM Trucks parts and Prospector release, New Mexico Backroads led American Expedition Vehicles the Gila Legends Expedition (or GLE). The six day (400-mile) GLE traverses New Mexico’s roughest and most remote backcountry, and includes diverse range landscapes, 4WD trails, and backroads that prove challenging for even the most seasoned overlanders and their vehicles alike. While the majority of the American Expedition Vehicles team, including myself, drove AEV equipped Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon models, an orange giant stood out in bold contrast; AEV’s all new Prospector. Prospective Challenge:
It’s only fair to mention that during the initial planning stages of American Expedition Vehicles’ run of the Gila Legends Expedition, I was a bit hesitant to have the Prospector included in the fold. The full-sized truck would be the biggest I had guided along the tight and technical overland traverse—a route that even proved difficult for Wrangler, 4Runner, and Tacoma drivers. The prospect (no pun intended) of the RAM 2500 Power Wagon’s wheel-base, width, height, and overall [sheer] size could equate to babysitting sheet metal, Austin Powers-like multi-point turns, copious brush trimming, and painful pin-striping. Needless to say, AEV’s Chris Wood, a seasoned 4WD professional himself, was eager to prove the capability of the Prospector. Having confidence in Chris’ solid opinions and expertise, I accepted the challenge. Package Overview:
A pre-trip departure walkaround and inspection of the Prospector revealed an impressive package. Sitting atop 37-inch tires, The American Expedition Vehicles built RAM 2500 Power Wagon was highlighted by AEV’s 3-inch DualSport suspension, raised air intake, Salta HD wheels, and stamped steel winch bumper (amongst other goodies). The DualSport suspension system, the fundamental componentry of the Prospector, is designed to maximize on and off road performance through geometry optimization and shock tuning. The suspension system retains the stock springs to help maintain the factory specified payload and towing capacity by utilizing 3” cast aluminum coil spring relocation spacers for lift. These coil spacers, paired with AEV’s other essential suspension kit pieces, offer a comprehensive lift solution without compromising the benefits of having a heavy-duty RAM Truck. The Prospector’s build platform, a RAM 2500 Power Wagon, was impressive in itself coming straight out of the box with a 6.4-liter HEMI, front and rear lockers, 4:10 geared axles, and a push-button front sway-bar disconnect. To complement the RAM’s OEM engineering, safety, and appeal, all of the AEV Prospector parts were well thought out and featured subtle yet handsome design details, high-quality materials, and first-class finishes. The finished Prospector parts and build, that would soon be available to enthusiasts, were as striking as AEV’s flagship and famed 40-inch tire and Cummins Diesel equipped, flatbed 2500 in 2013. While many companies hook consumers with attention grabbing prototypes, only to offer the public a watered down or diminished product, AEV bred a true beast with the bison badged Prospector. Impressive Display:
To make a long (400-mile) epic of precarious shelf roads, gun toting ranchers, howling wolves, washed out roads, and water-filled canyon narrows a short one, the AEV Prospector performed flawlessly on the Gila Legends Expedition. If you want to read the long version of the adventure, pick up the Summer 2016 Issue of Overland Journal—I wrote a full feature of the AEV/NMBR GLE experience. Sure, the truck’s driver, AEV’s Kent Klein, had to remain focused through boulder fields and between countless tight trees, but the Prospector was incredibly capable and surprisingly nimble. Ground clearance, traction and articulation were plentiful over rocky, off-camber and even the most technical trail sections. The truck’s payload and cargo capacity (evident by the amount of gear the truck was carrying) had everyone envious. The rest of the group played a glorified version of Tetris packing up camp each morning; making the most of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited’s modest storage space.
During the Gila Legends Expedition, I had the opportunity to drive the AEV Prospector. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been drawn to big trucks. Who in their right mind isn’t? The plush ride, precise handling, quiet cab, and plentiful power of the Prospector left me wanting more—more time behind the wheel that is. The drive was a far cry from the kidney punishing rattle trap service trucks I’ve been accustomed to for years. In the months after the Gila Legends Expedition I couldn’t help revisit the GLE experience and the Prospector test drive while asking myself: “could a full-sized truck serve as NMBR’s next overland rig?” As NMBR’s field work and guiding has evolved over the years, the need for increased cargo space, payload capacity, towing capability has presented itself more and more. With prospective field work assignments requiring heavy equipment and cargo to be transported over rough backroads, payload and capability would play equal roles. With the addition of the NMBR F-Toy (a propane propelled rock crawler buggy), the means to safely and effectively pull a trailer has put a spotlight on full-sized options. As New Mexico Backroads has started offering meal service on some expeditions and overland-based trips, the NMBR Rubicon has become a bit cramped with provisions. On the home front, camping with the wife, kid and dogs was likely going to lead to a divorce with the current setup. While a full-sized truck was being pondered before the Gila Legends Expedition, it took seeing the AEV Prospector earn its keep (un-phased) along the backroads in a demanding setting to make me a true believer. American Expedition Vehicles has built one of the most capable full-sized trucks available—as proven in New Mexico.
Rough Roads Ahead:
Stay tuned as New Mexico Backroads documents the decision and process that went into the NMBR Prospector build. As the adventures unfold and New Mexico Backroads logs thousands of miles across Southwest in the American Expedition Vehicles built NMBR Prospector, comprehensive feedback, real-world experiences and updates will be featured. Pictured above: The new NMBR Prospector - American Expedition Vehicles - AEV built 2016 RAM Power Wagon Tradesman equipped with 3" AEV DualSport SC Suspension, AEV Front/Rear Differential Covers, AEV Splash Guards, AEV Front Bumper, AEV Raised Air Intake w/ Pre-Filter Assembly, AEV Heat Reduction Hood, 17x8.5" AEV Salta HD Wheels, BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2 tires, and AEV Leather Seating. For more information about American Expedition Vehicles's purpose built parts and turn-key vehicles, visit the AEV website HERE.