How do you get an old first gen noticed? Paint it bright candy blue metallic and put a sticker on the windshield that says “Papa Smurf.” That’s the approach Michael Champion of Quitman, Texas, took when restoring his ’91 Dodge D-350 standard cab dually.
His self-proclaimed passion for first-gen Dodge diesels, along with experience as a Ford service tech, helped him create a stylish daily driver on a budget that can lay down 500 horsepower on the dyno. He started with a $700 beater and after investing $5,000 over the course of a year, he has a cool-looking truck that runs like a champ and turns a lot of heads.
Obviously, the truck needed a lot of rehab from the start. The front end and steering were brought up to safety standards along with the brakes on the two-wheel-drive dually. The wheels were lifted from a 2011 Dodge and are wrapped with 265/17R17 Nitto Dura Grapplers. A set of 3:73 gears in the 1-ton rear axles provides plenty of grunt when matched with the truck’s ’91 Getrag five-speed manual fitted with a South Bend clutch.
What makes every first-gen Dodge desirable is the 12-valve Cummins under the hood and Michael’s creation was fitted with a ’98 P-pumped 12-valve for go power. After adding a new water pump and upgrading the cooling system with a 24-valve radiator, his attention moved on to making more power.
The donor 24-valve also contributed an intercooler to his project. The stock turbo was replaced by a Hybrid HX40 while the original injectors were replaced with 120-horsepower XTP units. And for kicks, and immediate push-button power, Michael added a 75-shot NX nitrous oxide kit. The air intake features a huge 18-wheel style paper filter, which moves copious amounts of air and keeps out all the dirt. On the other end, the truck rolls with a 4-inch Diamond Eye turbo-back exhaust which is capped with an 8-inch MBRP tip.
Next up was the body rehab with a new grille shell from CheapParts.com. Custom rear dually fenders were fabricated and molded into the side of the bed. A set of LED lights was also added as a custom touch. The tailgate was courtesy of an ’83 Dodge D-100. Below the airbrushed tailgate is a custom roll pan that replaces the bumper and gives the truck a smooth look. Justin Hood of Quitman, Texas, is credited for applying the candy blue metallic paint and doing the custom airbrush work on the tailgate. The inside remains relatively stock with the exception of a B&M T-handle shifter, Auto Meter gauges, aftermarket stereo system and upgraded power windows.
We ran into Michael and Papa Smurf at the Diesel Motorsports season opener in Denton, Texas. After the photo shoot, Michael loaded the truck up on the dyno where it put down 500 horsepower and 1,100 lb/ft of torque. Being a light standard cab dually, we have to believe he needs all four rear tires to keep the truck moving straight. DW