Thinking about investing in some performance upgrades for your truck? Then you’ll want to check out what American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) has to offer. Based out of Wixom, Michigan, AEV is a premier supplier of OEM-quality, performance-driven aftermarket parts and accessories for vehicles geared specifically for both the off-road and overland adventure markets. Through a comprehensive dealer network, AEV ships parts as well as completely-built, turn-key Jeep Wranglers, Chevy Colorados, and Ram 1500 and Ram 2500/3500 heavy-duty pickups to customers around the world. To help educate us on the company’s catalog, Matt Feldermann, AEV’s Marketing Manager, took some time to answer our questions.
TCA: Thanks, Matt, for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us about your products. But before we begin, can you tell us how AEV got its start?
Matt Feldermann: AEV was formed in the 1990s when founder and President Dave Harriton started stretching TJ Wranglers for himself and a few friends while a student at the University of Montana. He eventually won a business school award based on this Jeep project, and after graduating Dave set up shop in a one-room garage with a dirt floor in Missoula, Montana. When Dave’s modified Wranglers began winning Chrysler Design Excellence Awards at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show, he found partners in Detroit who could bring OE-quality engineering and manufacturing expertise to his innovative designs.
TCA: What exactly does AEV specialize in?
Matt Feldermann: AEV specializes in manufacturing world-class off-road parts and accessories for the Jeep Wrangler, Ram trucks and Chevy Colorado. Additionally, AEV offers complete, turn-key vehicle conversions such as the Prospector, Prospector XL and Recruit. Whether it’s our parts or our vehicles, AEV designs and engineers our products to excel in even the harshest terrain and environments. Our products are tested in both extreme “real world” situations and controlled laboratory testing, much like the OEMs do (corrosion, vibration, UV, etc.). Our products will never be the cheapest and we are okay with that. In fact, our products are often the most expensive in their respective categories, but we are putting out a product that we all truly believe in and personally use, so we are confident that they will exceed our customer’s expectations every time.
TCA: Are you saying that AEV “over-engineers” its parts?
Matt Feldermann: I like to put it this way: 90 percent our customers may rarely/never take their vehicle off-road, but we engineer, design and test each product for the 10 percent who intend on using their vehicle to its fullest potential.
TCA: Are all AEV products made in the USA?
Matt Feldermann: Yes, with the exception of our wheels. When you are dealing with cast aluminum aftermarket wheels at a non-OE production volume, off-shore manufacturing is a necessary evil.
TCA: What products do you make for Ram trucks?
Matt Feldermann: We offer both HD and 1500 suspension upgrades, snorkel systems, wheels, heavy-duty winch compatible front bumpers, heat reduction hoods as well as a variety of smaller accessory products such as nodular iron differential covers and interior switch pods.
TCA: What upgrades do you get with the Ram 1500 Recruit package and how much does it cost?
Matt Feldermann: Our Recruit package starts at $14,950, which includes the following standard equipment: AEV Premium Front Bumper, AEV Heat Reduction Hood, AEV Hood Decal, Vision X Halogen Driving Lights, AEV 4-inch DualSport Suspension, AEV Wheels, 35-inch Tires, AEV Windshield Banner, AEV Recruit Badging, AEV Instrument Cluster Badging, Black HD Grill, Black Rear Bumper, Black Fender Flares, AEV Logo Headrests, AEV Build Plaque, and AEV’s 3-year/36,000 Mile Warranty.
TCA: What upgrades do you get with the Ram 2500/3500 Prospector package and how much does it cost?
Matt Feldermann: Our Prospector package starts at $12,940, which includes the following standard equipment: AEV Premium Front Bumper, AEV Heat Reduction Hood, AEV Hood Decal, AEV 3-inch DualSport Suspension, AEV Wheels, 37-inch Tires, AEV Windshield Banner, AEV Prospector Badging, AEV Instrument Cluster Badging, Black HD Grill, Black Rear Bumper, Black Fender Flares, AEV Logo Headrests, AEV Build Plaque, and AEV’s 3-year/36,000 Mile Warranty.
TCA: What’s the difference between the Ram 2500/3500 Prospector package and the Prospector XL package?
Matt Feldermann: The biggest difference between the two packages is tire size. The standard Prospector features 37-inch tall tires, while the Prospector XL has massive 40-inch tall tires (the “XL” in Prospector XL represents the roman numeral for 40). Surprisingly, the two trucks share the same AEV 3-inch DualSport Suspension System, but the Prospector XL utilizes our HighMark Fender Flares which open up the wheel wells by approximately 3 inches all the way around, providing the additional clearance needed to fit a 40-inch tall tire. This gives the truck a very aggressive stance while also keeping the center of gravity nice and low.
TCA: Can a RAM truck outfitted with either the Prospector or Prospector XL package still safely haul a hard-side truck camper like a Cirrus 820 or Northstar Laredo?
Matt Feldermann: Yes, they both can provided the camper falls within the weight ratings of the tires (especially on the XL). The Prospector XL is a great platform for slide-in campers, while the standard Prospector is more popular for tow behind applications—this seems to be more of a personal preference due to the size/height of a Prospector XL.
TCA: Can you tell us more about your DualSport Suspension system? It sounds pretty impressive.
Matt Feldermann: AEV takes a very OE-level approach to suspension design, in terms of engineering and materials. We focus heavily on the on-road performance aspect (since that is where most of us spend 99 percent of the time) in addition to off-road performance and enhanced capability. We feel that our DualSport Suspension Systems are the best option available for someone who wants to ultimate in handling, ride quality, safety and off-road performance.
TCA: What components do you get with the DualSport Suspension System for, say, a 2013 Ram 3500 4×4 with the 6.7L Cummins diesel and a 2015 Ram 2500 4×4 with a gas engine?
Matt Feldermann: Most of the content is shared between the two vehicles with the exception of the front shocks (front shocks are valved specifically for gas or diesel). Also, 2500 trucks use a 2-inch coil spring relocation mount to achieve the rear lift while the 3500 uses a 2-inch block.
TCA: How much does the DualSport Suspension System cost?
Matt Feldermann: Our 3-inch DualSport Suspension System for 2500-3500 HD Ram Trucks starts at $2,050. Our 4-inch DualSport Suspension Systems for the Ram 1500 (including Rebel and Air-Ride models) is $2,495.
TCA: Your front bumper is pretty cool looking. Can you tell us more about it?
Matt Feldermann: Our Premium Front Bumper is the ONLY heavy-duty, stamped steel front bumper available for the 2010 and newer Ram 2500/3500 and the 2009 to 2018 Ram 1500. The advantage of a stamped steel bumper as opposed to a bumper made using traditional press-break manufacturing is increased strength with decreased weight and added aesthetic appeal. Our 1500 bumper will accept a 10,000-pound Warn winch and our HD bumper will accept up to a 16,500-pound Warn winch.
TCA: We also like your HighMark Fender Flares. Can you tell us more about them?
Matt Feldermann: Our HighMark Fender Flares are designed to open up the HD Ram’s front and rear wheel well openings by approximately 3 inches while also adding an additional 4.5 inches of tire coverage. The advantage is increased clearance for larger tires without adding additional lift, which can detract from the overall ride quality and handling of the truck.
TCA: Your heat reduction hood looks pretty cool, but is it really needed?
Matt Feldermann: Is it REALLY needed? Honestly, not really—at least not for everyone. Our Heat Reduction Hood is functional both in static and dynamic situations, allowing hot under hood air to escape. This can be helpful when towing heavier loads at higher altitudes as well as low-speed crawling in hot environments. However, many customers purchase our hood for the aesthetic reasons. Our Heat Reduction Hood is also manufactured using the same stamping process as our bumpers, so fitment is always top-notch—just like the OE hood. Heavy-duty trucks with gas engines have a tendency to run a bit hotter than their diesel counterparts in warmer environments.
TCA: We love the wheels offered in your Prospector and Prospector XL packages. Can you tell us more about them and what their weight capacities are?
Matt Feldermann: All AEV wheels are tested to stringent SAE J2530 standards, often with the largest possible tire size (40-inches in most cases)—this is something that not many manufacturers do. We test our cast aluminum wheels both at the factory overseas and locally by an independent test lab to ensure accuracy and consistency. All of the wheel options available for the Prospector and Prospector XL have a 4,100-pound weight rating.
TCA: Which wheels have a 4,100-pound load rating?
Matt Feldermann: All of our heavy-duty truck wheels (Katla and Salta HD) have a 4,100-pound load rating. The Mesa (found on the Recruit) has a 2,400-pound load rating.
TCA: Do the size 37 and size 40 tires in your Prospector packages rub the wheel wells in any way?
Matt Feldermann: Not when used in conjunction with our other package components (i.e., wheels, front bumper and high clearance fender flares) to ensure the proper clearances all around. Off-road, suspension travel is limited to prevent rubbing under heavy articulation.
TCA: Are any upgrades done to the interiors?
Matt Feldermann: We don’t get too carried away with interiors. We offer two different leather interior packages (a standard, factory style leather and our premium F1 style leather) in addition to a dash mounted switch pod which provides a clear way to mount auxiliary switches for a compressor, air lockers, lights, etc. Other than that, the rest is up to the end-user.
TCA: We love the AEV branding. What branding and placards do you get when you buy one of your major packages like the Prospector?
Matt Feldermann: Every Prospector/Prospector XL comes with our AEV Branding Package, which includes: AEV Windshield Banner, front AEV Grille Emblem, rear AEV Tailgate Emblem, Prospector or Prospector XL badging, AEV embroidered headrests, AEV IP cluster badge and a serialized AEV build plaque on the door jamb. This is the same content for the Recruit as well.
TCA: AEV’s Raised Air Intake/Snorkel is a pretty popular upgrade with overlanders. Can you tell us more about it?
Matt Feldermann: The optional Raised Air Intake found on our Prospector/XL and Recruit trucks is designed to provide the engine with the cleanest supply of air possible, which is obviously critical to your vehicle’s performance and longevity. This product was developed with overland adventurers whose exploration includes deep water crossings and dusty dirt roads in mind. Our Raised Air Intake is manufactured from extremely durable cross-linked polyethylene for maximum durability on the trail and is sold with either a traditional Air Ram inlet or an optional, self-cleaning Pre-Filter Assembly.
TCA: AEV’s upgrade packages are very impressive, but also very expensive. Does AEV offer any options to upgrade individual components like the snorkel, skid plates, and the DualSport Suspension kit?
Matt Feldermann: Yes, our complete conversions seem expensive, until you add up the sum of the parts and factor in the professional installation. However, we recognize that not everyone is in a position to cut a check for everything all at once, so we offer all the components individually through a network of parts distributors around the world. So, if someone wants to incrementally build up their Ram themselves, they can buy and install our products in stages. We try to make our products as accessible as possible.
TCA: Aaron Wirth’s Ram 3500 Lance truck camper rig featured in last year’s SEMA show and in this year’s Overland Expo West was largely an AEV build featuring size 37 tires. What AEV products were used to outfit his rig?
Matt Feldermann: Aaron’s truck is outfitted with a bunch of AEV products, most notably our 3-inch DualSport SC Suspension System, Salta HD Wheels, Premium Front Bumper, Front and Rear Differential Covers, and our Snorkel System with Pre-Filter.
TCA: What upgrades do you offer for the Chevy Colorado?
Matt Feldermann: As of now, we have a Snorkel Kit for the 2015+ Colorado (all engines/all trims) and a really cool 17×8-inch DualSport wheel that is made specifically for the Colorado and can be run in either a non-beadlock or a true beadlock wheel, just by swapping out the outer rings on the wheel. This is technology we borrowed from our JK Wrangler Borah DualSport wheel. The Colorado is a very good platform, especially the ZR2. Keep an eye out for what we bring to SEMA this year.
TCA: Are there any plans to offer upgrade kits for Ford and Chevy trucks?
Matt Feldermann: Not at this time, but nothing is off the table.
TCA: You have an extensive catalog of upgrades for the Jeep Wrangler JK? What exactly do you offer?
Matt Feldermann: Well, we definitely do offer a bunch of products for the JK. Some of our most popular products are our Premium Front Bumper, DualSport Suspensions, Heat Reduction Hood, Snorkel Kit, Rear Bumper and Tire Carrier, Roof Rack, multiple wheels and definitely our 5.7L or 6.4L HEMI V8 conversions (DIY or we offer turn-key packages).
TCA: Are you planning to offer the same products for the new JL Wrangler as the old JK?
Matt Feldermann: Yes. It may not be exactly the same list, but it will be pretty close, plus some things we never offered on the JK.
TCA: Any plans to release upgrade products for the new Jeep Gladiator Pickup truck?
Matt Feldermann: Yes. We are excited for that!
TCA: Do you still offer the TJ and JK Brute upgrade kits?
Matt Feldermann: No, both have officially been retired.
TCA: Chevy just announced its new partnership with AEV and the Chevy Bison ZR2. Can you tell us more about that?
Matt Feldermann: The Colorado ZR2 Bison was a co-development project between GM and AEV. Essentially, the goal was to take the already capable ZR2 to the next level in off-road capability. This was a significant milestone for both GM and AEV as it’s the first time that AEV has ever partnered with an OEM on the development and design level and it’s rare for GM to collaborate with an aftermarket company. Needless to say, all of us at AEV were all humbled by the opportunity to work with GM on this product.
TCA: That’s pretty cool. What specifically is AEV contributing to the Bison ZR2?
Matt Feldermann: AEV designed and developed all of the Bison specific upgrades, including a stamped steel, winch compatible front bumper with integrated fog lights; five unique, hot stamped boron steel skid plates; a rear bumper with integrated recovery points and tubular steel side corner protection; unique AEV wheels; oversized fender flares; and an optional snorkel that is available as a GM accessory.
TCA: How does one go about ordering AEV parts and having them professionally installed?
Matt Feldermann: We have a global network of AEV authorized dealers and professional installers. You can visit www.aev-conversions.com and use our Dealer Locator to find the AEV dealer closest to you.
TCA: The SEMA show is only two weeks away. Truck Camper Adventure will be there to cover the show. Will the Outpost II be there again or will you be displaying a new rig or truck?
Matt Feldermann: No, the Outpost II will not be back this year. We will be showing three brand new builds. You’ll have to wait and see what we bring this year.