Sometimes it's the best of intentions that gets us in the worst kind of trouble. When Jimmy Moore of Lenoir City, Tennessee, purchased a new '03 Ram for a shop truck, in no way did he expect this daily driver to evolve into what it is today. Jimmy used his '96 Ram for utility work until his itch to modify spread to his brand-new Dodge, rendering it too nice to haul loads and scratch up. The new truck was supposed to be dedicated to hard labor and long hours, which it did masterfully for six weeks before the modifications started.
Standard from the factory with 345 horses, the 5.7 Hemi is no slouch, yet with the additio
Unhappy with the stance of the stock 1500, Jimmy ordered a mild lowering kit that brought the rear down and swapped out the standard steel rims with large 20-inch rollers. The original grille was changed out and replaced with a body-color-matched Sport grille with Street Scene upper-and-lower grille inserts. A polished chrome gas door and fog lights replaced the stock pieces, courtesy of Mopar Performance's catalog. The slight modifications weren't enough to cancel any dealer or factory warranty, and so the slight itch became a rash, with Jimmy continuing down the path of high-performance Mopar modification.
Deciding the stance still wasn't low enough for his tastes, Jimmy dropped the truck again an additional 4 inches in front with McGaughy 2-inch drop spindles, 2-inch drop coils, and a Hotchkis 11/2-inch hollow front sway bar. The rear received the same treatment, only with McGaughy's 6-inch flip kit with C-notches and Air Lift's load leveling air-bag system with an onboard compressor system and a Hotchkis rear sway, eliminating the factory raked stance permanently. Giant 22-inch polished aluminum Centerline Stingray III's with BFGoodrich G-Force T/A 285/35/22s replaced the previously added wheels and tires.
With such a tight stance and drastically improved handling characteristics, Jimmy opted to boost the truck's powerplant ever so slightly. One of the most rampant alterations that people seem to be making with their new 5.7L Hemis is the removal of the bulky air box, feeder tube, and silencer box and bolting in a cold air kit. The swap is amazingly simple and requires less than a half hour in most applications. Jimmy opted for the AEM Brute Force intake kit and the Superchips 2003 Hemi programmer box, recalibrating the computer program to allow for higher shift points, removal of the electronically controlled top speed limiter, and adjusting the speedo to compensate for the change in tire and wheel size.
The cosmetic changes continued with the addition of body-color-matching Bushwhacker Street wheel flares and an Extang Tuff Tonno tonneau cover along with Street Scene color-matching mirrors and a Mopar Performance SRT-10 Viper truck hood. To match the grille inserts, Jimmy fabricated his own hoodscoop insert out of the same mesh for a uniformed appearance. From the same MP catalog, Jimmy installed an SRT-10 Viper truck gauge pod for the A-pillar with an Auto meter air-pressure gauge wired to monitor the rear air bags, Autovation brushed billet aluminum pedals, and MP floor mats with pewter Ram heads. Racy Corbeau TRS racing seats took the place of the original bench seat, with dark slate gray and black buckets wrapping around the driver and passenger's body. Ervins Body Shop in Lenior City, Tennessee, was contracted to paint the mirrors and hood to match the Ram perfectly, as different curing processes usually make for mismatched paint.
Finishing up this grocery list of parts and add-ons, Jimmy swapped out the original 3.55 gears for a slightly more aggressive set of 3.91s with a locking differential and a chromed differential cover to mark the modification. JBA stainless-steel headers bolted up to a Magnaflow cat-back exhaust system replaced the factory manifolds and tubes, blasting the fumes through a full 3-inch system out of a highly polished single-exit 4-inch tip.
Jimmy admits the truck ran a conservative high-14-second quarter-mile at 89 mph, but that was before the installation of the exhaust system. Now with the truck complete (at least for the time being), Jimmy is eager to take his once mild-mannered work truck out to the 1320 once again to see what it will do.