Old School Versus New School

December 2021 Feature Gus Surdu

This article originally appeared in the October 2021 issue.

Matt Benigni was skeptical when his friend asked him to quit his comfy Ford tech job of five years. The stability of working at a Ford dealership was great, but the job came with its ups and downs. While joining a brand-new wheels, tires and truck accessory shop comes with risks in its own right, the prospect of modifying trucks all day, every day, was too good to pass up.

“Modifying trucks has always been a passion of mine so to get the chance to work with them everyday in an aftermarket industry has been a real blessing,” Matt said.

Matt has always been in the automotive game, but it wasn’t always diesels. His dad raised him on hot rods and classics, but Matt found himself interested in Japanese cars and even had a 1991 Nissan Laurel imported from Japan. It has an RB20DET engine with a large turbo, intercooler, a built rear and roll cage, as well as a few other period correct modifications.

“It’s a fun little car that I’ve been learning to drift in,” he explained. “I’m just attracted to vehicles that nobody else has or can easily find anywhere. My father was always a hot rod builder and as much as I enjoy and appreciate them, the classic Japanese car scene had always drawn me in. I’ve just always been amazed at how advanced the performance end of these Japanese cars is for their time compared to American equivalents. I’m still kind of into that scene but a couple of my buddies built some older diesels which lured me in.”

Things really took off for Matt when his friends took him to Rudy’s Diesel Power Fest in North Carolina. After that, he was hooked. His first diesel build, a 2000 7.3L Super Duty, had big injectors, a big turbo and fuel system. He’s currently on his fourth build, but this one looks a little different from the others.

A Two-Month Project

His previous diesel build showcased a giant lift and while it looked cool, Matt says the suspension caused it to ride a little rough. That’s a tough pill to swallow when you put as much money into it as Matt did.

With this current build, a 1991 Dodge D350, Matt decided to go a different direction: down, instead of up. A 2-inch drop in the rear has it riding low and clean.

Matt and his fiancée enjoy riding dirt bikes and ATVs, so Matt wanted a dual-purpose diesel. He found the Dodge on Facebook Marketplace in Tennessee, a long way from his home in Pennsylvania. He bought it bone stock because he doesn’t trust anyone else’s work.

“I wanted something I could still show but still treat like a truck so we ended up getting it out of Tennessee,” he said. “I’m not afraid to use it like a truck and load dirt bikes in the back of it. You go to a show and it’s still a hood popper.”

Having an exterior that looks like it’s been through some things since its creation 30 years ago is something Matt leaned into, as opposed to seeing it as a problem in need of a fix.

“Having built a few other trucks that were spotless on the outside, I was afraid to use them for truck purposes,” Matt recalled. “Not this one. It has an original patina look on the outside but when you pop the hood it transforms into a super clean show truck.”

Things really do start to freshen up when you give it a peek under the hood. His Pusher intake horn and intercooler piping kit, as well as his Crazy Carl’s billet intake plate and valve cover, are powder-coated in a unique super root beer color. He says people are usually shocked when he pops the hood at shows and you see a build clean enough to eat off of.

“It’s just nice going to shows and people really appreciate seeing a classic like this one while every other booth has a brand-new truck in it with shiny new wheels on it,” Matt commented. “I get a lot of guys who thank me for saving the classics and doing an old-school build.”

According to Matt, his old-style build also appeals to the younger crowd thanks to the 24-inch KG1 Forged wheels, his favorite part of his diesel. He says it’s what gives it a transition from the old school to the new school.

Matt bought it at the end of May and wanted it ready for show season, meaning he just had a couple of months to complete the build. It includes 5x.012 Ducky Fuel Injection injectors, a modified HX35 turbo 60/67/12 and a BD Diesel manifold. He also recently revamped the sound system with upgraded door speakers and 12-inch Rockford subwoofers behind the seats. This allows for his truck to keep its original look while highlighting modern sound.

Going Forward

Over the winter Matt plans to have an air ride kit built for the rear along with a custom 4-link suspension to complete the truck. Whether it’s a Japanese car or another diesel build, it’s safe to say Matt isn’t done putting his mark on the automotive industry.

Sources:

BD Diesel

800-887-5030

www.us.bddiesel.com

 

Crazy Carl’s Turbos

800-590-8995

www.crazycarlsturbos.com

 

Ducky Fuel Injection

479-431-6724

www.dfi-performance.com

 

KG1 Forged

www.kg1forged.com

 

Pusher

772-212-9290

www.pusherintakes.com

 

Rockford Fosgate

800-669-9899

www.rockfordfosgate.com

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