Many automakers offer their pickup trucks in off-road expedition spec. Chevrolet has the Colorado ZR2 and ZR2 Bison, for instance. And Ram has the light-duty Rebel (and upcoming Rebel TRX) and heavy-duty Power Wagon. But for some owners, the factory offerings don’t go far enough. For instance, the Power Wagon only comes with a gasoline V8; a diesel engine won’t fit. That’s why a company like American Expedition Vehicles offers the Prospector line for the heavy-duty Ram 2500. But not everyone wants to off-road a heavy-duty truck, even one as capable as the Prospector XL Tray Bed. However, AEV does have a solution for Ram 1500 owners. It’s called the Recruit.
AEV Ram 1500 Recruit: What’s New
Like every good off-roader, AEV start with the suspension. The company actually brands their changes to the stock Ram 1500’s suspension less as modifications and more like ‘expansions’. The company fits the Ram with DualSport suspension, which also lifts the truck by 4”. Not only does this improve ground clearance, it also allows AEV to fit larger wheels and tires. The suspension work also includes specially-tuned Bilstein 5100 shocks and struts. However, AEV make sure the truck’s steering geometry isn’t screwed up in the process. That’s why the company also adds aluminum steering knuckles.
AEV consider the Recruit to be something owners can and want to daily-drive. Hence, the need to balance on-road and off-road driving behavior. A truck that’s great off-road but is fatiguing to drive isn’t going to see much use.
AEV’s modifications aren’t just limited to the suspension, though. The stock front bumper is swapped out for a winch-ready, powder-coated steel version. The bumper also has aluminum tow loops that double as wear plates when the Recruit scrapes up steep rocks. There’s also a 4mm-thick steel skid plate at the front for the same reason. The hood is also an AEV design, with vents to keep the engine cool whether towing or off-roading.
AEV also upgrade the wheels and tires. The 20” wheels are AEV’s own design and include built-in protection for the wheel itself and the tires. The tires are 35” BFGoodrich A/T tires, balancing on-road and off-road performance.
Finally, to help owners see the road and trails better, AEV upgrades the Ram’s headlights. The Recruit runs Vision X halogen lights. Control of these lights runs through an AEV-installed switch bezel. And, if owners fit accessories like onboard air compressors or differential lockers, these switches can operate those, too.
Owners can customize the Recruit even further. AEV offers the Recruit with the 10,000-lb Warn Zeon 10-S winch that can be installed directly on the bumper, to start. Getting into a raised pickup may be difficult for some—side steps are one solution. And if the halogen lights aren’t enough, AEV can install a 30” LED light bar and additional LED auxiliary lights. Allegedly, the US Border Patrol uses the same light bar.
Owners can also order a steel bed rack allegedly strong enough to support a camper. If the expedition really wanders into the bush, or into a river, AEV also offers a raised air intake. And because the Recruit is meant to balance the daily commute with off-road needs, owners can even get a leather interior and a rear backup camera.
Recruit Pricing and Availability
Unfortunately, not every Ram 1500 can be turned into a Recruit. AEV limits the full Recruit build to 2013-2017 Ram 1500s. The company claims the 2019 and newer body style is incompatible with the modifications. However, based on dealer information in the AEV forums, it appears that the Ram 1500 Classic can become a Recruit.
However, many of the Recruit’s individual components can be installed on Ram 1500s built before 2013. In fact, there’s a version of the DualSport suspension kit that can fit the Rebel and any air suspension-equipped Ram.
Not including the cost of the Ram 1500, the Recruit build costs $14,950 before options. Considering a new Ram 1500 Classic with all-wheel drive starts at $32,245—and used models likely appreciably cheaper—the Recruit represents a significant savings over both the smaller ZR2 Bison and even the heavy-duty Power Wagon. Sign us up.