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“I was actually having kind of a crummy day,” recalls Trenton Reynolds of Casper, Wyoming. “I was doing some yard work, picking up dirty leaves and getting rain dumped on me. I had my headphones on, and I got this call from Holley. At first, I didn’t know what was going on – did they need to talk to me about an order, or something like that? Then they asked me to confirm the vehicle that I had registered the sweepstakes with. I asked the guy what the deal was, and he tells me, ‘Oh – you’ve won the Hemi Engine Sweepstakes!’ I was in utter disbelief – I kept saying, ‘c’mon, you’re kidding me.’ Then he gave me the details, and I seriously started shaking. Honestly, I almost cried.”
Reynolds tells us that his hot-rodding obsession dates back to his high school days when his friend scored a 289ci-powered Mustang coupe and the two of them started wrenching on it together. “Chad and I were constantly working on that Mustang, and we ended up building a pretty nasty little 302 for it. Later on, he got a Challenger SRT8, and eventually, he upgraded to a Hellcat. He has let me drive that one a few times, and man that thing is a riot. I also managed to convince him to buy this turbocharged Ram SRT10 pickup, and we completely rebuilt the engine in that truck. Just being around those things is a big part of what got me into Mopars.”
These days Reynolds has several projects of his own, but the one that’s currently his main focus is a 1983 Dodge D150 Stepside. “My first truck was a 1980 Dodge Adventurer. It was basically a farm truck, but it inspired me to do some more research into those trucks. That’s when I found out about some of the cooler ones, like the Lil Red Express, which is a Stepside with stacks. I immediately fell in love with the look of the Stepside and started searching for one.”
His hunt led him to an example in Colorado with a three-speed manual gearbox and a 318-cube V8 under the hood. Although it was a bit rough around the edges, it was a solid truck overall, so Reynolds made a deal and then drove his new acquisition back to Wyoming. “From there I just started upgrading it little by little,” he says. “My son and I rebuilt the 318 with a cam, intake, headers, and a few other goodies – it runs pretty well. We also lowered it a bit to give it that stance.”
Earlier this year, Reynolds was browsing carburetors on the Holley Performance website for a project that he was helping his brother with, and a banner for the Hemi sweepstakes caught his eye. “I remember thinking, “Well, that would be cool, but it’ll never happen to me – no way. I never win anything.”
Built by Prestige Motorsports and packing more than 600 horsepower right out of the box, the naturally aspirated 6.4-liter Hemi features a 4340 forged steel crank, 4340 steel H-beam connecting rods with ARP bolts, forged pistons, a custom-grind camshaft, and CNC'd 69cc heads, along with a Melling high-performance oil pump, billet steel double-roller timing set, and Hellcat hydraulic roller lifters and guides. The fortified internals are certainly beefy enough to support forced induction, but the Hemi also offers more than enough grunt for a rowdy modernized homage to the Lil Red Express just as it sits.
“I love these trucks, but I wasn’t really sure if there were many people who felt the same way,” Reynolds says. “But it appears that there are because Holley makes engine mounts, crossmembers, headers, and oil pans to do Gen III Hemi swaps into my truck, specifically. I actually already have all of that stuff. So the transplant should be fairly easy to do.”
Knowing that the factory three-speed gearbox and rear end probably won’t stand up to the 392’s power, Reynolds says he’s been weighing his options for upgrades. The current frontrunner combination consists of a Tremec T56 six-speed manual gearbox hooked to a Ford 9-inch rear end with a four-link rear suspension setup. “And I’m sure that Chad would be down to do some bodywork on it,” he says. “It’s been a long process bringing this truck back, and the black paint still hides some bumps and bruises.”
Alongside the D150 project, Reynolds is also working on a 1972 Dodge B200 van that’s shaping up to be head turner of its own. “It’s a six-wheeler,” he explains. “It’s kind of a conversion van, and the plan with that is to turn it into a BBQ road trip van. It’s a ‘bucket list’ item for my friends and me – we want to restore it and take it around the country checking out BBQ joints and roller coasters. The van is pretty sweet – I named her Mambo. It’s going to be kind of a voodoo-meets-tiki bar theme, and I have a Hellcat motor that may go in it. The original plan was to put that engine in the Stepside, which is why I already have those swap components, but I think the 392 is the better option for that truck.”
Either way, it sounds like this Gen III Hemi has found a good home. “The shop’s full of projects right now,” he notes. “In fact, Chad still has that same Mustang, and we’re just putting the finishing touches on another rebuild of that 302. His coupe is currently sitting underneath my Ram 1500, which is up on my lift for some suspension upgrades right now. We had to push the Mustang under the truck because we needed room to do that carb swap on my brother’s truck. There’s plenty of fun stuff going on, and this 392 should make things even more interesting.”