Talkin' Torque: Flashy Versus Sleeper

May 2021 Column, Feature Brady L. Kay

This article originally appeared in the April 2021 issue.

Granted, if money wasn’t a true factor, I would dare wager that most of us would prefer a truck that not only performed well, but also looked the part too. Sure, there are plenty of sleeper truck owners who genuinely love showing up at a track in a stock-looking pickup and stunning the crowd. Or those weekend warriors who love to see the look on the hot shot Mustang driver (in their rearview mirror, that is) who had no idea what was under the hood of the otherwise grocery-getter pickup until he opened his big mouth. But in the real world where paychecks do count, life—especially when it comes to modifying your diesel truck—is all about compromise and one upgrade at a time for a lot of us.

So in this great debate, which is more important to you? This thought crossed my mind when I was traveling last summer. I stopped for a quick bite to eat and as I was heading into the restaurant I noticed a lifted RAM truck; blame it on my day job. It had a great-looking customized grille, oversized tires on 24-inch wheels and some other exterior upgrades. She was a real beauty and after a quick peek I instantly ditched my plan to eat. I just had to know more about this truck.

Like I was taught in my Stalker 101 class, I sat back and waited for the driver to return to his truck. I caught him before he was able to climb inside using his automatic deploying steps and I introduced myself as the editor of [Diesel Tech] magazine. I asked him for more details on what he had done to his truck. He rambled off an impressive list of exterior upgrades, but when I asked to see under the hood he sheepishly admitted it was still stock.

Now there is no right or wrong way to do a build, but I could still see disappointment in his eyes as if he had let me down or something like that, which was far from the case. I was still very much impressed with his truck and I wished him good luck with the rest of his build and asked him to keep me updated as he went along.

On the other side of this issue, I was recently in an old 12-valve Cummins that didn’t look like much from the outside, yet still had the power to throw me back further in my seat than I ever thought possible. This truck would blow the doors off most trucks, yet I’m guessing magazine editors don’t stalk him when he’s getting his lunch.

One of my favorite lines from the movie Liar Liar with Jim Carrey is when he’s talking with his son. The boy tells Carrey’s character that his teacher says real beauty is on the inside. His response: “That’s just something ugly people say.” That makes me laugh every time.

Do you agree? Are those with stock-looking trucks the ones going around touting that what really counts is on the inside? Because when it comes to towing and really using a truck and unlocking its true potential, you could make a strong case for starting under the hood first. For some reason the original manufacturers try so hard to limit these great diesel engines when they roll off the assembly line and we have a responsibility to change all that.

Of course the other side of the argument is if it’s all under the hood, it can be hard to explain to your wife where that money is really going. Yeah, you can show people in a quarter-mile why your kids are still wearing those old worn-out shoes to school, but sometimes you’d just like to visually be able to show people where your paycheck goes by doing a little something to the outside.

Again, no right or wrong way to tackle a build. At this point I think it would be better to take this debate to Facebook and find out what is most important to YOU! Inner beauty or exterior presence? What matters most?

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