For centuries, trucks have come to mean one thing-utilitarian work vehicles. Since our trucks need to do the work we ask of them, sometimes subtle upgrades are in order. While some guys may feel the need to get into a camshaft or cylinder head change, there are others that just want to add a small amount of improvements in the form of bolt-on pieces. This is a quick and easy job. the returns are limited, but that doesn't mean they are not worthwhile.

The Gameplan
We had an afternoon with nothing to do, so we wanted to see how much horsepower we could bolt on to our '98 Ram 1500 with a 5.2-liter engine. Let's face it, the 318 Magnum in the Ram was not meant to be a powerhouse, but could it benefit from a couple performance mods? Even without the mods, we would be willing to put it up against any unmodified Ford or Chevy that is comparable in the cubic-inch department. This little 80,000-mile pickup can still hold its own with a car trailer on the back. But like any good gearhead, we can't keep our dang fingers off anything. So we got to thinking, If we get the engine to breathe better, that's gotta be a good thing, right? What about one of them hand-held programmers? The next question was who to call. For the exhaust, we decided to contact JBA Headers. While looking at their web site, we were pleasantly surprised to find they sell an almost complete exhaust system. We say almost because their exhaust systems consist of headers and everything from the catalytic converter back. (That statement will come into play later.) Not only do they have exhaust products, they also have power cables. Power cables are spark plug wires that feature 8 or 9mm diameters, low-resistance, and 100-percent silicone jackets.

With the exhaust situation handled, we had to figure out how to better get the air into the engine. Sure, the stock air filtration design is fine for an OE application, but we aren't OE. Airaid is a company that has been designing air intake systems for quite a while. Another piece of hardware available from Airaid is the PowerAid throttle body spacer. The PowerAid throttle body spacer is designed to improve the low-end torque and horsepower characteristics of your engine. This is accomplished by spacing the throttle body 1 inch from the intake and adding dyno-proven, Helix-style bores. As the air passes through the spacer, the bores create a vortex action that improves atomization, creating a more complete combustion and an efficiently burning engine.

Finally, we decided that Ma Mopar's factory initialized computer program was hiding a lot of potential. Superchips has a hand-held computer reprogrammer that enables the user to plug into the computer of their car or truck and reset some of the parameters of the stock computer. The TriTune Max Microtuner plugs into your OBDII port under the dash, retrieves the factory setting-in case you want to return it back to the truck later-and then uploads the requested programs you identify. Would these simple upgrades be worth the time to install or would we be wasting our time?

The Truth Be Told
We could have made this easy and simply bolted everything on, gone to the dyno and said, "lookey what we gained," but we wanted to know what each component was worth.