Take a good look at Steven Bender's '96 Ram. What stands out? Is it the shaker hood? Maybe the front fenders? Look above the fender. Look closer. If you don't see it at first, don't worry, neither did we.Steven tells us that most people who check out his Ram have to look at it a minute or two before they find his most outrageous modification-the buried headlights. Steven says he got the idea from the folks at Pro Glass who showed him the fenders after he installed the shaker hood. "If you really want to be radical," the manufacturer told him, "put the fenders on." So Steven did.
The fender eliminates the need for the standard headlights that normally ride on the front fender, and relocates them for better looks. Steven says he uses the lamps on the outside edges of the bumper as foglights, while the hidden lights serve for nighttime cruising. If you haven't found them yet, they're tucked away in the corners behind the bumper grilles. Just imagine seeing that rolling down the road late at night.
As for the other light sources on the Ram, Steven was slightly more conservative, but only slightly. The taillights remain in the factory-installed location, although Steven used a clear lens with red inserts. The Ram has purple neon ground effects, giving that ghostly look on the highway at night. He recently put purple bulbs in the cockpit to complete the look.
While the lights may catch the most attention, Steven says the idea for the project actually started with the paint. The white on purple pearl PPG 2002 topcoat applied by Geno and Rusty from Fine Line Body Shop in Columbus, Ohio, was put on in a matter of 48 hours to get it ready for a show. At first, Steven intended that to be the only modification on the truck.
That notion didn't last long.
"I realized that there was just so much you could do with the Ram," he says. "It turned into a snowball effect. I started throwing on stuff just to make it different."
Among the things he "threw on" were a load of fiberglass items, including the roll pan, a tonneau cover complete with a specially made wing, front fenders, bumper cover, and, of course, that sharp-looking shaker hood by Pro Glass.
Next, Steven brought the springs down four inches up front and two in the back with some help from Bell Tech. To hold things up, Steven acquired a set of Weld Racing wheels and placed 275/60-17 tires on the outboard corners.
On the inside, Steven tapped a little help from his friend Mike Tharp, and the two completely reupholstered the seats and recarpeted the cockpit. Some of the factory gray carpet remains, but charcoal gray and purple tweed were added to the mix as well. Despite their glaring looks, the white-faced gauges are not a modification; they're direct from Dodge. Rounding out the modifications in the cabin is a Panasonic CD changer.
To propel the Ram, Steven decided-for now, at least-to leave well enough alone with the dependable factory 318. The only modification to the performance of the Ram is the Flowmaster mufflers with 2.5-inch dual pipes ending with 3-inch tips.
The Ram consistently places First in its division wherever Steven takes it. Despite its show-stealing good looks, though, Steven doesn't pamper his baby.
"It's never been trailered," he says. "I drive it everywhere it goes."
For the Ram's future, Steven tells us the modifications are going to keep on coming, but what comes next is anyone's guess. He did say that he'd like to get a start on the inside modifications, but other concerns have gotten in the way.
"I'd like to upgrade the engine," he says. "I just don't know how far to take it. It's an economic issue at this point."
With all the modifications already on the Ram, even the richest Mopar enthusiast might need to give his wallet a break. But at least Steven can say his money has been well spent-if for no other reason than he made us do a double-take.