"What if" seems to be the recurring catch phrase in motor-head circles. It never fails, you get a group of us together, and we look at the current state of automotive affairs and start dreaming up "what ifs." What if DaimlerChrysler built a new-age Barracuda, perhaps a Hemi 'Cuda, now that we have a modern iteration of the Hemi? What if the Road runner name made its way onto a lightweight, stripped, two-door platform with a Hemi/six-speed drivetrain? Keep us together long enough, and the "what ifs" will keep playing 'til the wee hours of the morning.
We attended the '03 SEMA show last September, and a "what if" was clearly answered in the form of this '03 half-ton Ram pickup. Terry DeLong of Kendallville, Indiana, proprietor of Profinish-Proglass, apparently played the "what if" game long enough to actually execute his own version of a modern Li'l Red Express truck complete with modern Hemi power. The Dodge pickup was built to show what the boys at Profinish-Proglass are capable of building. remarkably, it only took 211/42 months!
Following the Li'l Red Express truck tradition, there was much focus on the powerplant. Unlike Li'l Reds of yore, this one has the Hemi it left the production line with, but it had been bolstered with speed parts, particularly in the induction department in the form of a turbo charger. Jon Davis of Hartford City, Indiana, handled the machine work and assembly of the huffed wonder. Diamond Pistons is responsible for the custom-forged 8.5:1 slugs, while Vector Tool's (LaOtto, Indiana) Terry Kemerly was tasked with making the billet steel connecting-rods and sheetmetal intake. The heads and main caps are fastened with ARP's bulletproof studs, while the turbo, waste gate, and boost controller were produced by Innovative Turbo of Simi Valley, California. A 1,280-cfm Billet Flow throttle body originally meant for a Mustang Cobra found its way under the carbon-fiber hood. JBA supplied the headers-unassembled-at the request of Terry, as the turbocharger necessitated some significant rerouting. Once the headers assembly was finished, they were shipped off to HPC for high-temp coating. The remainder of the exhaust system consists of a 3.5-inch pipe feeding into a pair of 3-inch catalytic converters to keep the Feds at bay. Those two working pipes on the bed finish the exhaust in true Li'l Red Express fashion.
The Hemi transfers its boosted power through a 727 Torqueflite appropriately beefed and equipped with an anonymously built, custom 10.5-inch, 2,800-stall converter, while a Gear Vendors underdrive/overdrive unit was bolted to the 'Flite. Only a Dana 60 would do out back, and this one is packing 3.54 gears courtesty of Jay at Ultimate Driveline (Kendallville, Indiania). Rolling stock consists of 22x9 Weld Evos front and rear, shod with BFGoodrich 285/45/22 KDWs. That's a lot of rubber.
The exterior is where Terry's work really shines and serves as a showcase for his Profinish-Proglass crew's abilities. The custom Air Grabber hood, roll pan, and carbon-fiber wraps on the functional exhaust stacks were all produced by Terry and company, as well as the laying of the retina-burning PPG red paint. The bed is a "Ram-Side" unit from Avanti Motors of Rica Villa, Georgia, but was modified by Terry. The impeccable wooden bed-floor was the work of Bruce Horkey Wooden Parts, while the stepside steps were made by S&W Machine of Kendallville.