It has been said that the true strength of one’s character is revealed once faced with a difficult situation. The standard, visceral response would be to flee from harm’s way, take cover, and wait until things blow over, right? Whether rushing headstrong into a natural disaster area or working tirelessly on a RAM diesel build during free time, playing it safe has never been Joseph Chiappa’s style.
Born in South Dakota and raised in New Jersey, Chiappa made his way to the Sunshine State in 2004. As a sergeant of a search and rescue K9 unit covering a massive swath of Central Florida, from Ocala to Cocoa Beach, Chiappa certainly sees his share of challenges. Unlike most of us, his gut reaction behooves him to run headfirst into situations that cause most people to scatter. “We’re the ones that go towards the fun, not away from it,” he chuckles, downplaying the severity he confronts daily.
Chiappa exudes a visible passion that is positively infectious, and uniquely American. His approach to project builds is similar.
Knowledgeable and resourceful, Chiappa enjoys a good challenge and has a history of transforming his daily drivers into performance vehicles.
In the past, he has bagged and body-dropped a Ford Ranger, and was once able to coax an impressive 440 horsepower out of a stock 4-cylinder Subaru WRX. He loves doing all of his own auto work right at home in his own driveway, which, we’ll tell ya, his community HOA just loves…
Though he knows his way around a car, until recently, he never came face-to-face with a diesel project. You might suspect that’s because he was simply hesitant to try. A diesel build is a whole different ball game, after all, and with little experience in that field, he would simply be out of his element. But anyone who believes that as true, quite frankly, does not know Chiappa very well. After learning about his background, and taking just one look at a menacing 2014 RAM 2500 Laramie Cummins Turbo Diesel Mega Cab creation built with his own two hands, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that this is a man who approaches everything in his path head on, both at work and play.
Keep Calm and Diesel On
He bought the RAM in stock condition with a little over 18,000 miles on the odometer about four years ago and immediately began customizing.
“I’m definitely hooked. I absolutely love the power and torque of a diesel,” Chiappa confesses. The fact that he had no prior experience with a diesel build wasn’t reason enough to stand in his way, especially since he’s used to conquering far more complicated tasks on a near-daily basis.
“Did I bite off more than I could chew initially? I would say ‘absolutely’,” he muses. But always a fast student, he quickly learned the ropes of his 2014 RAM 2500. “Research, research, research. Diesel is a whole different animal, and believe me, I’m learning allll about it.
The first modification was an upgraded 6.5” lift kit. Soon after, the Black Widow—as some writers around the office have taken to calling this deadly-looking rig—was sitting on a brand new set of Anthem Equalizer Wheels, wrapped in 37″ mud terrain tires.
The suspension is another area that received plenty of attention. Fox 2.0 Reservoir Shocks were installed all around, as well as a Fox 2.0 Dual-steering Stabilizer, and an even more detailed overhaul of the front end is currently in the works.
The winning transmission is a fully rebuilt 48RE. The original intention was to go with a custom 68RE, but the power from the Stainless Diesel 2nd generation swap S468 turbo proved to simply be too much for the 68REs to handle. It took three burned-out transmissions to finally arrive at the 48RE as the correct solution. But like Chiappa told us, research, research, research.
The parts list that turned Chiappa’s dream RAM diesel build into a reality is nearly endless. Pusher Intakes help the Cummins live up to its fullest potential, and Goerend Transmission supplied the valve body. He sought out Firepunk Diesel for the controllers, and the tuning is controlled by EZLYNK and HPP Tunes.
An Eye For Detail
Obviously, the magnificence isn’t merely under the hood. Its striking grille is custom, and there are 4″ Rigid Industries cube lights in the front and rear. The aggressive front bumper is courtesy of DV8 Offroad, with Go Rhino supplying the rear bumper and sporty chase rack. Additionally, the exhaust is a 5″ FLO-PRO from Turbo Back, which is routed to an 8″ octagonal stack that’s protruding from the truck bed.
Climb inside—and I mean climb because this bad boy is sans side steps—and the interior is as impressionable as the exterior itself. Skar Audio equipment is prevalent throughout the interior, including sound in all four doors, the dashboard, and two neighbor-waking subs in the back, with amps from Audio Pipe doing their part as well. And four XSPower D3400 batteries, located in the engine bay as well as along the frame, keep all the juice flowing.
It is, without question, an amazing diesel build. And to think Chiappa nailed every detail on his first try—simply amazing. The bigger question remains, was it worth it? Was it a success?
Chiappa admits that he has likely poured more than $50K into the rig, in addition to the truck’s sticker price, and countless hours in the garage. Stock horsepower was sitting between 385-400. The Black Widow? SIX HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN HORSES and somewhere between 1600-1800 lb-ft of torque. Ask any dude if those results are worth it, regardless of cost and time, and he’s sure to tell you, “Hell yeah!”
So, what’s next for this Central Florida Cummins? Plenty. We all know a project vehicle is never really done—that goes double for a diesel. “Any time I get a chance, I’m working on the truck.” A new grille, hood, tailgate, and fenders are all in the pipeline, as is a new fuel system, rods, and injectors.
Such work reaffirms that this ride is going to be around for decades to come. “It’s my dream truck, so it’s not going anywhere. In fact, it’ll be handed down to my son. He’s ten, so I’ve still got a few years to ride it out,” he laughs.
For another half-decade, give-or-take, Chiappa will enjoy his successful first crack at a diesel build until that bittersweet day he hands the keys over to his boy. That’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it? A hardworking gearhead’s American Dream—to pass down the fruits of his efforts.
Will he hang it up afterward? “No way, I am absolutely getting another diesel,” Chiappa admits.
I’m certain that I could hear him grinning as he said it.