Dowagiac man featured in Mopar magazine
Published 9:25 am Friday, October 30, 2015
With its giant 38-inch tires, custom built rollcage and vibrant orange paintjob, Jim Kazlauskas’ “restomodded” 1978 Dodge Ramcharger has certainly been turning heads while barreling down the streets of Dowagiac or tearing up the sand dunes near Lake Michigan.
The Dowagiac man’s creation also happened to catch the eye of a national automotive collector’s magazine.
Kazlauskas and his custom modded Ramcharger were recently featured in an article published in the November 2015 edition of Mopar Collector’s Guide magazine, which was released in late August. The article detailed the extensive amount of work that Kazlauskas poured into restoring and updating the classic Dodge sports utility vehicle, which he transformed from mere basket case into a souped-up off road machine.
“It’s a nice pat on the back, to be recognized like this,” Kazlauskas said about the article.
Kazlauskas, who co-owns Dowagiac’s Jim D’s Body Shop with his father Ed, has been into automotive restoration since hischildhood, helping his dad fix up cars since he was around 6 or 7, he said.
“I didn’t go to school for this kind of stuff,” he said. “I just picked up a hammer and wrench and started doing it.”
A “Dodge guy at heart,” Kazlauskas has done some minor restoration projects with vehicles made by the popular American manufacturer over the years — his quest to restore the near-empty chassis of a 1974 Ramcharger he bought in 2013 quickly became his most time consuming challenge yet, he said.
What originally began as a simple restoration job became a full on modification project, with Kazlauskas looking to create a truck that was capable of tackling the terrain at Mears’ Silver Lake, where he and his friends often go, he said. Since aftermarket vendors don’t supply custom parts for Ramchargers, Kazlauskas fabricated a majority of the components for the machine himself, he said.
“The only parts installed that originally came with the vehicle are the bolts,” he said.
While Kazlauskas has shown his creation at auto shows and exhibitions, the Ramcharger doesn’t spend most of the time sitting in garage collecting dust.
“It’s not a trailer queen — I actually drive it,” he said. “I’ve racked up some miles on it already.”