Swerving through a line of cones, hammering on the throttle and brakes, accelerating hard into the corners, and letting it all hang out in the straightaways. Performance drivers put their vehicles through these types of paces every time they climb behind the wheel and spin the ignition to spark the rumbling mill under the hood. There is no doubt that speed and performance have been at the forefront of the custom automotive movement since the early days of wrench-turning and bench-racing.
Today, speed is more refined, as enthusiasts have become just as concerned about how well their vehicle takes a corner and stops as they are with how well it accelerates in a straight line. Truck enthusiasts today who actually put their trucks to use want it to do everything well, and that includes acceleration, braking, and cornering capability. Stainless Steel Brake Corporation (SSBC) out of Clarence, New York, is a manufacturer of high-performance aftermarket brake systems and engineers its products for the performance-minded driver. In addition to the driver who puts excessive demands on their vehicle's braking system are truck owners who use their rides for towing. Towing heavy loads puts extra strain on factory brake systems and can increase stopping distance and decrease stopping power. Oversized aftermarket rims and tires will also affect the performance of a truck's stock braking system.
The folks at Stainless Steel recognized this need for a powerful custom brake system for trucks and SUVs, and answered the demand with the company's Force 10 kit. The owner of SSBC, Michael Jonas, figured that building a custom truck to showcase the Force 10 system would be a good way to get the product some exposure and show it in use. Starting with an '02 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab equipped with a stout 4.7L V-8, Michael and the team at SSBC got busy bringing the truck up to custom par.
In order to give the project the right attitude, the altitude had to be first altered. Since the truck was originally an SLT Plus all-wheel-drive model, the torsion bars had to be removed and custom upper A-arms made to accept the front adjustable suspension intentions. The stance was enhanced by Progressive Automotive in Baltimore, Ohio, using airbags from Air Ride Technologies, both forward and aft. Up front, the PA suspension experts installed Air Ride Technologies ShockWaves to plant the nose. Handling and suspension geometry is maintained in the rear with an Air Ride Technologies four-link setup, keeping the rearend centered when Michael lays into the throttle. In order to plumb the system, the Progressive Automotive crew used 1/2-inch air line and Air Ride Technologies Ride Pro valves. Suspension pressure information is handled by an Air Ride Technologies digital gauge panel.
Of course, the next logical step, after the suspension was buttoned up, was to install a performance brake system straight from the shelves at SSBC. With a top speed of 127 mph, Michael felt an SSBC Force 10 performance brake kit would do quite nicely on the front and rear of the Dakota. For decreased stopping distance and excellent brake pedal hammering performance, an SSBC 14-inch slotted and plated rotor is brought to a halt via an SSBC Force 10 four-piston caliper using Hawk pads. A set of 20x9-inch Center Line wheels wrapped by Goodyear P275/50R20s run-flat tires now reside in the fenderwells and feature an open design to really show off the SSBC brake system. After the hurdles of completing the chassis modifications were overcome, the factory drivetrain was given a performance once-over to see if Michael could pull a few more Gs on the skidpad.
Rumbling under the hood of SSBC's decadent Dakota is the factory 4.7L V-8 with a performance kick from a Vortech supercharger, operating at 5 pounds of boost pressure. The polished huffer lights up the rear skins without fail every time the throttle is nudged toward the floorboard. A custom Cervini's 2.5-inch side-exit exhaust system allows the powerhouse ample breathing room and helps the motor sing the same harmonies an rpm-climbing big-block would. Once the powertrain was in check, and Michael had plenty of get up and go under his right foot, the custom focus was shifted to the body and what could be done to create a looker.
Bringing an eye-scorching look to the envelope was none other than Air Tight Graphics (ATG) of Columbus, Ohio. The pros at ATG installed a Cervini's Sniper body kit, including ground effects, a front bumper, fender flares, a roll pan, and a custom hood and rear wing. A Pace-Edwards power tonneau was used to top the bed, while Dodge badging from a Ram pickup was fitted to the tailgate. APC taillights add some extra style to the rear view. After the mild body enhancements were in place, ATG sprayed a unique set of bright-blue flames over the factory basecoat using PPG liquid. To ensure a finished look, the crew at ATG even ran the flames through the doorjambs. Since this truck was destined to be driven several thousand miles on the HOT ROD Magazine Power Tour, an extensive audio system was definitely in order.
Filling the cab of the quick-stoppin' stunner is a complete Sony audio system, installed at Trent's Trick Upholstery in Columbus. A Sony head unit with an in-dash TV monitor supplies jams to four Sony Xplod midrange speakers and four Sony Xplod separates. Four 6-inch three-way Sony component speakers kick the sound up a notch, while two 10-inch Sony Xplod subwoofers, mounted in custom enclosures between the back seats, throw more than enough bass at occupants. A Powermaster 200-amp alternator and two Scosche batteries were used to supply the juice necessary for this rocking system, which does not stop with the audio gear.
For viewing pleasure, a total of five Sony TV monitors fill the cab, with one in each seat headrest, one in the dash, and two coming up out of the floor, which are quick-disconnect units. A Sony DVD player and a PlayStation 2 unit round out the inside entertainment. To update the factory interior, a pair of Dodge Durango bucket seats were used in the rear, and the front and rear seating surfaces were covered with Katzkin charcoal-gray and light-blue vinyl seat covers. The door panels were trimmed with a combination of charcoal-gray with blue-vinyl flame patterns to mimic the exterior graphics. Trent's Trick Upholstery executed the simple and eye-appealing interior refinements. For an extra touch, pieces of the factory dash were removed, scuffed, and painted for a bold, contrasting effect.
All that was left to do after the truck was completed was get in and drive it. This low-slung Dodge is definitely not hurting for road time. Since its completion, the truck has been seen at a number of industry and enthusiast events and has snagged a few awards including Best In Class, Best Interior, and Best Paint. The truck has served as a great promotional tool for SSBC's superb binders and stops onlookers dead in their tracks. There is definitely something to be said for a truck that does everything well.