The Magnum-powered Dodge truck is the best combination of V-8 power and style to come out of the factory in decades. Since its introduction, many aftermarket manufacturers have jumped on the Ram/ Dakota/Durango performance bandwagon. That has helped the new powerwagons victimize more than a few Mustangs and Camaros. Staying competitive, however, means more than just producing horsepower. Looking at the entire engine-chassis combo and how it works will ensure that the dollars you spend will be cost-effective and will keep your truck in front of the pack.

Chassis Performance Recommendations

Making horsepower is one thing, but getting it to the ground is quite another. One thing is for sure, though: Attention to the chassis setup nets you lower e.t.'s at the track and better handling on the street. That's a win-win situation. Some chassis modifications are quite simple and relatively cheap. However, the more power you make, the longer you'll have to work on the chassis to get the power to the track. The following items cover every truck from mild to wild.

Cool Horsepower

Your Magnum's stock thermostat is rated at 195 degrees F. The engine controller, however, is designed to make maximum power when the engine temp is 182 degrees-a big difference. If you install a hi-perf controller but retain the 195-degree thermostat, chances are the engine will ping like crazy. Going to 94-octane gas won't cure the condition either. This is what's happening: Underloading the engine is generating higher combustion-chamber temperatures. When that happens, the coolant is air pocketing on the north side of the combustion chamber.You can easily solve these heat problems by dropping to a 180- to 185-degree thermostat. Believe it or not, lowering your engine temp 10-15 degrees will stop 90 percent of the coolant pocketing in the cylinder head. Also, you'll pick up a few horses and get slightly better gas mileage. Quite a deal for less than $10. One last thing: If you live in a place with cold winters, switch back to your stock, 195-degree thermo during that season.

Eye-Maxed

The leaf springs in your truck have hard rubber mounting bushings in the spring eyes. Hard rubber is OK if you want a soft ride. Over time, the hard rubber bushings deteriorate and don't allow the leaf springs to react suitably when they have to. This is not good in any situation. By replacing the spring mounting bushings with Energy Suspension's polyurethane spring-eye bushings, you can get your springs to function properly again. This will give you quicker reaction times, better braking, and improved handling.

Firestick

Camshafting has been a standard engine power modification since the dinosaur age. Magnums, being a relatively new breed and primarily operated on the street, have only had a few aftermarket camshafts offered. Wolverine Blue Racer provides a cam regrinding service that's a great help to performance-truck buffs. Call the company and explain what you intend to do with your truck. Then pack your cam (or a core cam) and send it in. Wolverine has tons of grinds that can be tailored to a specific truck for optimum performance. Generally, street trucks should stay in the 0.450- to 0.470-inch cam lift range, and duration should not go much more than about 12-15 degrees fatter than stock, depending on the individual cam core. Many aftermarket cams are in fact reground stock jobs. Regrinding reduces the cam's base circle (the area opposite the nose) and works well if done in moderation.

Any nonstock cam needs to have these critical clearances checked: retainer-to-guide, rocker-to-retainer, and coil-bind. Failure to do so could easily result in catastrophic engine failure. Additionally, cams other than stock may also necessitate longer-than-stock pushrods, which Wolverine can supply. A reground cam within the listed specs will not require a performance computer.