If you want to express yourself in Alberta, a big, custom truck is one of the accepted methods. The love for massive 4x4s is not unique to the Alberta, but you can safely consider Edmonton the Canadian capital of the lifted truck.
I find myself at Edmonton’s Crosstown Auto Centre, Chrysler Canada’s top retail dealer for the last three years in a row. To say Crosstown is a big place is an understatement of epic proportions. It’s massive. You can see it from space. You’ll find over 1300 vehicles on the lot if you have three days to survey the place. Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Jeep, Fiat – they’re all here. The place has been around for over 55 years and is a fixture in the Edmonton automotive scene.
But it’s the custom accessory department’s work that I was here to see. This week’s autoTRADER.ca Find of the Week, aptly named The Detonator, sits, nay, lurks menacingly in the showroom. Not in a stealthy way. No, actually you can’t miss it. The Tonka truck colour scheme sees to that. But before we go into what makes this particular truck special, let’s have a quick look at what’s going on underneath.
It stated off as a relatively pedestrian 2015 Ram 3500 SLT. The SLT is the working-class trim, barely above the entry level. Of course, once you check boxes like 4x4, Crew Cab and the all-important 6.7L Cummins diesel option (with 320 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque), the price isn’t so entry-level anymore, even for an SLT – you’re looking at a bill of about $72,000. Nothing to sneeze at, but in Alberta, a nice diesel Ram 3500 4x4 really isn’t an unusual truck order at all.
But we’re not here to see a nice diesel truck, are we? No, we’re here to experience The Detonator. A mass of radiating metal, a glowering leviathan that makes its intentions clear – even while it sulks silently in the showroom. A showroom is no place for this beast.
What have the masters at Crosstown’s custom division done to this yellow-and-black Frankenstein’s monster? Visually, the biggest change comes thanks to the four-inch link-suspension lift from BDS and the massive 37-inch Toyo M/T off-road tires wrapped around two-piece 20-inch Fuel Hostage rims. Tying everything together are big, mean Bushwhacker Pocket Flares on the fenders and ICI R/T side steps. The aggressive stance that these changes bring about can’t be denied. You simply cannot ignore this truck.
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The front and rear bumpers are slick bomb-proof Honey Badgers from renowned Addictive Desert Designs. The front end is augmented with a Smittybilt 12K winch, Recon headlights, a Rigid LED light bar and corner trail lights – both will light up a dark, dangerous service road like daylight. The rear bumper has a set of integrated storage bins and Recon tail lights.
The box (and whatever you’re putting in there) is protected by a deluxe Truxedo tonneau/box cover. Crosstown left the interior relatively untouched – hey, Ram builds a pretty sweet work truck interior as it is, so why mess with it? But The Detonator does have beautiful leather Katzkin seating – a handsome touch that stands out amidst all the ruggedness.
At this point, you’re either drooling over the Detonator or you’re asking yourself, “Why?” What is the point of this truck? What is the point of all these trucks? And what was wrong with the stock SLT truck?
The answer is nothing. There was nothing wrong with it. But a particular clientele asks for more. Much more. And to find out about them, I spent some time with Crosstown’s Accessories Manager, Devin Krawchuk. I grilled this knowledgeable, soft-spoken gentleman about this truck subculture and where it comes from, what drives it and what these customers are trying to achieve. And I learned a lot.
The first point he made was that these trucks remain, almost without exception, working trucks. They don’t get all gussied up and then stay clean and terrorize urban settings. And to understand why they are still working trucks, we need to understand the clientele. They are most often oil-industry workers. They work hard, they earn a lot of money and they know what they want. They want a truck that looks bad-ass, and that can walk the walk.
Which means they want a truck that visually stands out from the crowd. Devin told me they usually deal with requests for truck customization that will set it apart from other trucks on the road – nobody wants the same custom truck as someone else! And those accessories need to make the truck more capable. Why? Because these trucks are going places where there are no roads, no street lights and where the owner will do battle with mud, logs and stumps that the chassis and tires need to clear without suffering damage or puncture wounds. And a stock truck, as fine as it might be, won’t cut it.
So yes, the lift kits and associated suspension travel, the high-clearance bumpers, the big tires and the other goodies – they’re practical necessities. Because these guys rely on these machines to get them to and from the sites they’re working at. And that is life in Alberta.
I confess, I now have a newfound respect for these monstrosities. They are part of the mechanism that drives much of Alberta, and its loved-and-hated oil industry. They are a cog in that machine.
Back to The Detonator. I’m given a day-pass – permission to release it from its showroom captivity – and so I fire it up. The stock diesel chatters confidently, waiting to be unleashed. After maneuvering it through the crowded dealership lot (and being pleasantly surprised by the truck’s agility and willingness to turn, considering its incredible size), I point the big yellow and black beast down the highway in search of a field for a photo shoot. It rides shockingly well. The hard sidewalls and raised suspension would leave me expecting nothing less than a kidney-punishing trip but it was nothing like that. Any nudge on the go-pedal results in a tidal wave of torque, even at highway speeds. There’s no need to do anything under the hood here – it’s got all it needs. On or off the beaten path, The Detonator performed admirably and happily conquered any surface I threw at it. Frankly, I didn’t challenge it at all out of respect for its future owner, and I know it will scramble over fallen logs, tree stumps and through insanely deep, sticky mud without breaking a sweat. In other words, it will do exactly what its looks promise.
I found it telling that in the short time I spent in the showroom, two young men came over and ogled the Detonator longingly. It was no surprise then that both of their outfits consisted of fire-proof Nomex overalls and well-worn, muddy work boots on – proud tell-tale hallmarks of hard-working Alberta boys. Perhaps it proves that these trucks are simply a reflection of a popular set of Albertan values – work hard, play hard.
I ask Devin about the Tonka-esque look of the Detonator and why he built it. He said he had to order the SLT trim because it’s the only one that is available in this yellow colour – yes, it’s a stock paint colour and is actually called “Detonator Yellow”. After that, it was easy to give it the right visuals with the black trim and accessories.
Okay, but why, Devin? He smiled and said because he has always dreamed of having a Tonka truck. And what boy hasn’t? Your Tonka truck is waiting at Crosstown Auto Centre. It’s The Detonator and it’s ready to play, regardless of your sandbox’s size.