American Expedition Vehicles is unique in the aftermarket, a company born from engineering and still delivering equipment of exceptional design and quality. I can remember the first AEV product I encountered over a decade ago, a long-wheelbase Wrangler being driven by Christopher Wood. My initial reaction was “so factory – so clean”- those attributes remain today. From the early days of AEV Wrangler conversions (which won a Chrysler design excellence award) to the current line-up of JK accessories, AEV’s growth and refinement has left most of their competition in the dark ages of hammars, welders and grinders.
For 2014, American Expedition Vehicles is pushing hard yet again, expanding their offerings to Ram 1500 – 5500 pickups. When AEV’s CEO Dave Harriton first mentioned the idea, I couldn’t help wander my thoughts towards crossing an Icelandic glacier with a Power Wagon on 54” tires and a fully integrated camper module. This daydream is now a possibility with AEV showcasing a 2500 Ram pickup with a stamped steel bumper, high-clearance fender flares, aluminum wheels and a three-inch high performance suspension system at the SEMA show in Las Vegas.
When we received the concept vehicle images, the first product that stood out was the AEV bumper, a stamped steel, winch-compatible unit that is unique in the industry. The stamping is 3/16-inch and can support a double-line pull from a Warn 16.5 winch (over 32,000-pounds of load), something few aftermarket bumpers are tested or rated for. The winch mount is constructed from 1/4-inch steel, reinforcing the intention of the bumper – serious use. Compatible with Ram 1500/2500/3500/4500 and 5500 trucks, the bumper includes extreme-duty recovery points, mounted in-line with the frame and designed for full GVWR pulls.
I particularly appreciate the design of the bumper, looking more CAD than “back yard”, complimenting the aggressive lines of the truck while also addressing the functional needs of overlanders. Thoughtful considerations include 6.5-inch off-road light mounting panels and a modular construction to allow changing the corners and even running no grill guard at all.
While mostly out of view in the images, the AEV designed suspension will be an important option for Ram owners, and is currently being evaluated by AEV for consumer release (based on interest, so let them know if you want to see it available!). Our experience with AEV’s Wrangler suspension has been nothing less than awe-inspiring, and while that statement might seem overly embellished, 80-mph drifts on a racetrack with a Wrangler on 35-inch tires made me a believer (Video on Youtube). There are certainly several high-performance suspension systems on the market, but the AEV will be the first to focus entirely on factory engineering considerations, spring matching and geometry optimization. Many consumers believe the size of the shock will determine performance on the street and trail, it is simply not reality. The AEV suspension addresses suspension geometry for performance and handling with a three-inch lift. This includes a high-steer kit and custom-valved shocks. As a unique approach, AEV retains the factory coils to ensure proper load and front/rear rate balance. While most aftermarket suspensions have either a gas or diesel motor spring, AEV did the research and found 37!!! factory front spring part numbers for these trucks, so it is impossible to provide the correct ride, handling and frequency tuning with only two aftermarket springs. Avoiding the “two size doesn’t fit all” approach, the AEV suspension engineering team retained the factory springs, improving performance and value to the consumer.
American Expedition Vehicles is lauded for their wheel designs, and now they will be available for Ram trucks. Sized specifically for the Ram with a 17-inch diameter and 10-inch width, the wheels will accommodate everything from a 35-inch to 40-plus inch tire. The Ram 2500 shown here is on a 40-inch BFGoodrich Mud Terrain KM/2. The wheel is shown in a dark grey powder coat and includes a cast-in hub cover. SAE J2530 and DOT certified with a 3,650-pound load rating with a 40-inch tire.
The new line-ups wraps with a conceptual “highline” fender flare kit, no doubt inspired by the expedition vehicles used to cross glaciers in Iceland and fit 44-inch tires for a push to the South Pole. I particularly like the low and aggressive stance of the AEV Ram, the 40-inch tires looking just right and without the typical massive lift and “mud bog” stance. The fenders not only look factory, they improve performance by allowing larger tires with less lift. Want 37-inch tires on your stock-height Power Wagon? It bet it will work!
The launch of these new AEV components will be a “line in the sand” for the full-size truck market, and will require everyone to improve their game. With this, everyone wins, particularly the consumer. With these new products just being released, our testing team has not had the opportunity to validate performance in the field, but detailed discussions with their engineering team and experience with their products in dozens of countries leaves us more than optimistic. It is the attention to detail, quality of construction and elegance of design that has allowed American Expedition Vehicles to stand apart in the Jeep world – now they have thrown down the hammer in the full-size truck market. AEV, you have our attention. . .
For more information:
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Note: The three-inch suspension system and fender flare products are in production prototype phase with plans for release dependent upon consumer response. Final specifications and release date are TBD.
Front Fender Set, clearing a BFGoodrich 40″ Tire