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1996 Dodge Ram 4x4 - Mud Monsters Of Florida

Posted in Project Vehicles on April 1, 2002
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Gene Kerr's Dodge
Built To Take A Beating
Look up the word "extreme" in your handy Funk and Wagnall's and you might just discover a photo and description of Gene Kerr's '96 Dodge Ram pickup. This truck defines extreme in every sense of the word, and it was purpose-built for one thing: abuse. However, Gene has zero tolerance for breakage, so a tremendous amount of time and energy was devoted to building a truck that could withstand the thrashing to which he was going to subject it. The result is a truck that contains a variety of heavy-duty components as well as a number of surprising and interesting mods.

A 525ci engine resides under the Dodge's hood. It generates a whopping 804 hp. But give it a shot of nitrous and that number jumps to a stunning 1,029 hp. A TCI manual-valvebody transmission hands the power off to a heavy-duty NP200 transfer case.

The first surprise greets you when you peer under the Dodge's hood and see a nitrous-fed Chevy big-block engine that's been heavily modified with a boatload of go-fast parts including J&E Pistons, Competition Cams camshaft, valve springs, and roller rockers, Canfield heads, Ferrera valves, Edelbrock Victor intake manifold, 1,150cfm Holley Dominator carburetor, Melling oil pump, Moroso oil pan, MSD Blaster coil and billet distributor, Hooker Headers, and Dyno Max mufflers. Gene is a technician at Central Florida Machine and Speed in Orlando, Florida, and he integrated his many years of experience building high-performance engines into this powerhouse. Gene's completed 525ci engine boasts a compression ratio of 13:1 and spews out a mind-boggling 804 horsepower at 6,250 rpm (or 1,029 horsepower with nitrous), and 714 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm.

Obviously, significant driveline mods were required to handle the power generated by this potent engine. They begin with a manual-valvebody TCI transmission that features machined drums to allow for use of more clutch packs (thus eliminating slippage), a GM extra-capacity oil pan, and a TCI oil cooler. The power is then handed off to a divorced heavy-duty NP200 transfer case salvaged from an M38. From there, custom driveshafts (by Advanced Drivelines in Orlando, Florida) connect to massive Rockwell 2 1/2-ton military axles that were sourced from Chuck's Trucks in Orlando. The axles, narrowed to fit the Dodge frame, are stuffed with Detroit Lockers, and the front diff features Chuck's Trucks custom front disc brakes.

Custom hydraulic-assist steering helps control the 44-inch Boggers, and a custom Chuck's Trucks disc-brake kit stops the big Dodge on a dime.

Significant frame and suspension mods reside under the Dodge, and include reinforcing 1/4-inch steel plate on the frame from the cab forward, while from the cab rearward, the stock frame was replaced by 3x5-inch square tubing. The big-block engine was relocated rearward and the transfer case was reoriented to alleviate extreme driveline angles. A custom four-link suspension system includes 1 1/4- and 3/4-inch rod ends, custom laser-cut brackets (cut by Superior Laser, Orlando, Florida) and 2 1/4-inch seamless tubing. The whole works is kept in check by 18-inch-travel Race Runner coilover shocks with dual-spring kit, and custom front and rear antiroll bars. The truck sits on massive 44x19.5-15 Boggers which are mounted on powdercoated steel 15x18 Option wheels. Steering is enhanced via hydraulic-assist. Other chassis mods include a 26-gallon fuel cell, front and rear pintle hitches, and a 3-inch body lift.

The interior of the Dodge remains mostly stock with the exception of a JVC stereo system and an array of Auto Meter gauges, including tachometer, water temp, and oil pressure.

While building the truck, Gene had help from a number of friends in the Orlando area, including Mike Gardner, Jeff Ross, Matt Doctor, and Jon Adams, as well as Marc Patterson in Clermont, Florida. Gene uses the bulletproof Dodge for a number of off-road activities, including competition truck pulls, trail rides, and mud racing, but it's also street legal so he can run to the store for a loaf of bread-very, very quickly.


Owner Gene Kerr, Apopka, Florida
1996 Dodge Ram
Estimated value $40,000
Type Chevrolet 454
Displacement (ci) 525
Aspiration 1,150cfm Holley Dominator carburetor, Edelbrock Victor intake manifold, Hooker headers, Dyno Max mufflers
Transmission TCI with manual valvebody
Transfer case NP200
Front Custom four-link with Race Runner coilover shocks and dual springs
RearCustom four-link with Race Runner coilover shocks and dual springs
Front Rockwell 2 1/2-ton military axles, Detroit Locker
Rear Rockwell 2 1/2-ton military axles, Detroit Locker
Ring-and-pinion 6.72:1
Wheels (in.) Option 15x18
Tires 44x19.5-15 Boggers

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