A RESTORED AND REBORN 550HP ’01 DODGE
You can’t buy trucks like this anymore, but if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool second-gen fan, you can certainly do your best to preserve one, restore it, or even transform it into the ride of your dreams. With a preference for the ’94-’02 body style, a love of the VP44, and a background in truck pulling, Michael Asher recently treated his garage-kept ’01 quad cab to a cab-on resto and enough go-fast parts to make a cool 550 rwhp. His reason for breathing new life into the near-300,000-mile Dodge was both simple and honest.
“I’ve always thought the 24-valve second-gens looked and sounded the best,” he told us. “Plus, I’ve always been a fan of the underdog—and a VP44 truck is definitely the dark horse there.”
Not that the truck was dilapidating, but after 18 years and more than a quarter-million miles, several areas of the Dodge’s sheet metal required attention on account of rust. The fenders, cab corners, rockers, both bed sides, and the suicide doors all needed work. When Michael dropped his pride and joy off at Pop’s Garage and Restoration in Camden, Ohio, for all of the above, he had one additional demand: “if it’s going to become a problem in the future, fix it now.” Just nine weeks later, all the work was complete, and the fresh PB3 Chrysler Intense Blue Pearl paint job— a factory color—turned out perfect.
PEACE OF MIND MODS
While the factory 5.9L Cummins’ bottom end would rightfully be left alone during Michael’s pursuit of more power, things were different up top. Turning to Erik Hucke, friend and owner of E&M Repair and Fabrication in nearby Somerville, Ohio, the factory head was pulled, decked, and prepped for added boost and horsepower. The upgrades included 90-pound valve springs, new keepers and retainers, H11 head studs, and even a set of heavy-duty pushrods, sourced through Haisley Machine. During a recent repair made to the truck’s NV4500 transmission (where the infamous fifth gear nut backed off), E&M Repair and Fabrication also replaced the rear main seal.
SO VP44, 7X12s, AND AN S363
To keep the standard output VP44 alive, Michael turned to the folks at AirDog for the 165-gph version of its 4G system. As a precautionary measure, he also opted to install AirDog’s low pressure indicator light kit, should fuel supply ever fall to 10 psi or lower. On the other side of the VP44 lies a set of injectors from Ducky Fuel Injection. Fitted with SAC-style, 7×12-hole nozzles and set to pop-off at 290 bar, they were chosen for their efficient burn and 200hp rating. Matching the healthy fueling that the injectors provide— and that an Edge Competition Juice with Attitude CS2 commands—is a billet S363 turbo from Engineered Diesel. It bolts to a T3 flange Steed Speed exhaust manifold.
BIGGER INPUT AND DUAL DISC CLUTCH
Between his time involved with truck pulling and seeing more than his fair share of hot-running street trucks, Michael knew the NV4500 would be a safer long-term bet than the NV5600 (remember, in ’01 both transmissions were available, albeit with S.O. vs. H.O. engines). “When I bought the truck, I wanted a five-speed because the NV5600s are known to break counter shafts,” he reasoned. However, while the durability of the NV4500’s gearbox is hard to beat, the stock input shaft is a known weak link with big torque and higher horsepower in the mix. Being proactive, Michael had E&M Repair and Fabrication upsize the input shaft to 1-3/8-inch (vs. 1-1/4-inch). For optimum power transfer to the larger input shaft, a 3250 street dual disc clutch from South Bend was added to get the job done.
LESS IS MORE
For appearance and stance, Michael kept things both simple and functional. The truck’s only means of lift entails a Rough Country 2.5-inch leveling kit, accommodated by Top Gun Customz’ upper and lower control arms that were powder coated by AE Concepts. Bilstein 5100 series shocks aid ride quality, and E&M Repair and Fabrication built the traction bars that quell rear axle wrap. Four 20×10 Cheyenne wheels from Weld Racing, wrapped in 305x55R20 BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tread, complete the truck’s ultra-clean look.
With a solid, 550hp parts combination and the looks of a truck that’s been trapped in time, everything Michael loves about the second-gen body style and the VP44’s oftenoverlooked performance potential has been realized in his build. As for the future, he may ditch the S300 for an S400 or add compounds and push beyond 600 hp. In the meantime, he’ll be spending fair-weather weekends behind the wheel, store the truck each winter, and probably pick up an occasional trophy or two at the Show ‘n’ Shine.