The art of hot rodding takes on many forms, but it is, at its base level, still an art. The owner takes sheetmetal as raw canvas, transforming it into his or her own vision of performance and design perfection. Though trucks are utilitarian in nature, they often fare quite well when massaged by their owners.

Keith Hargis, who works as a parts counter man at Jim Cogdill Dodge in Knoxville, Tennessee, decided that he would become such an artist when he purchased this '82 Ram 150 back in 1992. The truck had been through some hard times, to say the least, but that often means you can wipe the board clean and start fresh. The fact that it was an uncommon short bed, four-speed vehicle didn't hurt. Rather than slam it or give it the Pro Street treatment, Keith decided to do the modifications in a way that would leave it fairly stock in appearance, yet surprise those who decided to take a closer look.

With those criteria, the primary function was to have something practical that nobody else had. To fund the project, Keith sold a 426 Wedge-powered '65 Belvedere hardtop he was working on to his brother, ensuring the truck was the sole object of his attentions.

First on the list was replacing the tired engine with a 318 Magnum mill found at the hot rodders' art supply center--the local junkyard. The engine was given to friend David Osborne for the rebuild, which consisted of stuffing it with some new internals, including a Mopar Performance cam and lifter outfit. The ignition has been upgraded with an MP Orange Box and a set of MP 8mm wires, while the engine is topped with an MP intake and Edelbrock 650 cfm AFB carb. Making sure everything leaves the engine as efficiently as possible are a set of Hooker Headers coupled to a Flowmaster 3-inch exhaust system. The rest of the driveline was checked and reinstalled, including the Dodge 4-speed trans (now using a Centerforce clutch), and 2.94 highway ratio gear set in the Dana rear.

Next it was time to pay some attention to the body. Knoxville Collision Center did the bodywork and laid down a coat of Sherwin Williams Automotive Finishes' Flame Red. Once back home, Keith crawled under the truck to detail the undercarriage himself. Mopar Performance was again called upon for the shocks, while Weld Wheels (15x7 in front, 15x10 in back) using wide BF Goodrich rubber touched down on all four corners. The stock interior was left in place, but a custom shifter made by Machine Products of Karns, Tennessee, now handles the gear changes.

It took a year and a half for the truck to go from the well-worn condition Keith had bought it in to where it is today. It turns heads on the street, is good and reliable, and sounds nice and healthy. While the art critics at the New York Times might not perceive it as such, we Mopar guys know better.