VP FEVER

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.

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“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.”

CAB-ON RESTO

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.

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Despite the 24-valve Cummins in Michael Asher’s ’01 Dodge being pulled and resealed by the truck’s previous owner, all the performance-related work on the engine has been done in recent years. Thanks to the help of nearby E&M Repair and Fabrication, the cylinder head was pulled, decked, and fitted with Haisley Machine 90-pound valve springs prior to being reinstalled using H11 head studs. To date, the 285,000-mile factory bottom end has gone untouched. AE Concepts did all of the under hood powder coating, along with the control arms, traction bars, coil springs, and shift stalk.

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Sitting in place of the Holset HX35 and stock exhaust manifold is a BorgWarner S300 from Engineered Diesel and a Steed Speed manifold. Concealed in its compressor housing (powder coated to match the truck’s Intense Blue Pearl paint), you’ll find a billet compressor wheel with a 63mm inducer. The T3 charger also makes use of a 68mm turbine wheel, 14cm2 exhaust housing, and its wastegate is set to open at 50 psi of boost. The 63/68/14cm2 turbo sends compressed air through a BD intercooler that Michael says dropped peak EGT by 150 degrees.

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No P-pump here! A stock Bosch VP44 still resides under the factory throttle bellcrank. The SO pump supplies fuel to a set of 200hp injectors from Ducky Fuel Injection, which employ 7×12 SAC-style nozzles. For improved cold-side airflow, a Banks High-Ram intake elbow was installed, along with one of the company’s billet grid heater deletes.

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As for the rear axle, the stock Dana 80 remains untouched and still sports the 3.55:1 ring and pinion it left the factory with. Like the frame, leaf springs, lift blocks, U-bolts, and front axle, Michael treated the Dana 80 to rubberized under coating. Also notice the fresh brake lines, the new 5-inch Flo-Pro exhaust, and the 5100 series Bilstein shocks he had clear coated.

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Using 1.75-inch of tubing and heavy-duty, greasable joints from Ballistic Fabrication, E&M Repair and Fabrication built Michael a stout set of traction bars. The bars attach to the frame via bolt-on brackets, but because of the flex that sometimes occurs with U-bolts, the axle mounts are welded to the tubes.

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To level the truck off, a set of Rough Country 2.5-inch coil spring spacers were added up front. The coil springs themselves are stock, but were powder coated to match the rest of the truck, as were the 0-to-1-inch Stock Short tubular upper and lower control arms from Top Gun Customz.

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Keeping the VP44 healthy is an AirDog II-4G 165-gph fuel system. Michael keeps supply pressure set to 18 psi and also opted for AirDog’s low pressure indicator light kit, which illuminates when fuel pressure drops to 10 psi or lower.

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To handle the added grunt produced by the 24-valve Cummins, the venerable NV4500 five-speed has been treated to a 3250 street dual disc from South Bend. Further reinforcements included South Bend’s larger, 1-3/8-inch diameter input shaft and upgraded hydraulics.

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Tuning comes by way of an Edge Competition Juice with Attitude CS2, which, with its infamous power level 7, allows full fueling of the VP44 up to 3,600 rpm. While Michael uses the CS2 to monitor EGT, two Isspro gauges mounted along the A-pillar keep him apprised of boost pressure and fuel pressure.

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Pretty clean for an interior in its nineteenth year and approaching 300,000 miles, huh? Though Michael has several renovations planned, the only signs of wear and tear inside the cab have to be pointed out to you.

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Michael’s wheel-and-tire combo might be old-school, but the 20×10 Weld Cheyennes make his second-gen look darn good. And you can never go wrong with BFGoodrich All-Terrains. Having been heavily involved in the truck-pulling world over the past 15 years and having seen what BFG A/T’s are capable of might have been all the convincing Michael needed to put this popular tread on his Ram.