There is nothing like the feeling of owning your first vehicle. The sense of pride and independence can be overwhelming. This newfound emotion brings most people to clean and scrub some of the unsightly hoopties known to man. This was the case with Ray Rodriguez of Jourdanton, Texas, and his '88 Chevy 3/4-ton ranch truck. Ray's father had a friend that used the truck to work his ranch. The 3/4-ton hay hauler was given to Ray for his first truck, before the age of 16. Ray ran the truck through high school and college, before he decided to build the raunchy ranch wreck. The truck was in rough shape. The bed was rusted out, and the interior was shot. The first order of business was to make the truck reliable with a new motor. Ray's newfound enthusiasm got him to go scavenging local junkyard to find what he needed to turn his truck from hoopty to hell-raiser.

On Ray's parts hunts, he found a wrecked Camaro that still had the drivetrain intact. He used the donor parts from the Camaro to transplant the "Heart Beat of America" into his 3/4-ton truck. Ray's father Ellis went through the LT1 powerplant to ensure the little hauler was going to have plenty of balls for spinning the rolling stock. The 5.7L engine's rotating assembly was internally balanced to help get the most out of the stock bottom end. The cam was replaced with a Hydraulic roller by Comp Cams. The 495 lift and 269 duration was enhanced by Crane Cams 1.6 roller rockers. The induction is flowed into a K&N filter, then through a BBK throttle body. Expelling the spent fuel is handled by a set of Hooker Super Comp headers and 2.5-inch aluminized exhaust. The combination makes 350 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque.

With this many mods, the suspension couldn't be left stock, so Belltech knuckles were added to the front suspension, along with Firestone airbags. Out back, a custom C-notch allows a set of Firestone 'bags to drop the frame to ground level. The wheelwells were fitted with KMC SS 20-inch rims with Kumho hides. From there, the bed was thrown away and the framerails were trimmed to accept a short bed. A couple more trips to the automotive graveyard rendered a short bed that was rushed home to be installed on the freshly trimmed frame. While cleaning up the body, Ray decided to weld up some holes, so the door handles, taillights, and stake holes helped smooth the cab lines. The final touch to the body mods was a shave off the cab seam, a molded roll pan, and flush-mounted LEDs out back. The front clip was also upgraded to a '98 Chevy.

With all these exterior mods, the inside wasn't going to be left stock, so a '98 interior now updates the '88 truck cab. An aftermarket bench seat was re-covered in the stock skin. This all didn't take place at once. Ray drove the truck through high school and to college first. It's not often you get a second chance at feeling excited about your first vehicle, but we are certain Ray has once again found that excitement for his '88 Chevy truck.