Tucci Hot Rods’ 1936 Dodge Truck Runs On Optima Batteries

Recently, it was our pleasure to check in with Optima Batteries ambassador Dave Tucci of Tucci Hot Rods in Marcy, New York. Borrowing words from Senator Ted Cruz, Tucci Hot Rods, and the town of Marcy, both have the best of “New York values.”

It’s kind of a unique combination and a unique little car. -Dave Tucci, Tucci Hot Rods

Dave and his wife Jill started the business in 1997, growing into the 6,000 square-foot shop that sees eight or nine hot rods built at any given time. After nearly 19 years of producing some of the top custom cars in the Northeast, “New York values” seems like an appropriate catch phrase for the shop.

When we spoke to Dave, the most recent project he had taken on was a 1936 Dodge truck. “Someone had built it as a very crude rat rod,” he explained. “The customer brought it to us because it wasn’t a very drivable car. Everything about it wasn’t comfortable for him.”

    Tucci Hot Rod's 2015 SEMA show car.

    With Tucci’s past successes, including last year’s SEMA car, a 1931 Model A sedan, Dave said, “The Model A was chopped 5 inches, has full air ride suspension in the front and rear, 20-inch wheels in the back with a 32-inch tall tire. The front air suspension that still runs the I-beam. It’s kind of a unique combination and a unique little car.”

    About The 1936 Dodge

    When it came time to fix the Dodge’s bad driving manners, “Our first thing was to build a completely new chassis and get the stance correct for the owner,” Dave stated.

    Timing is everything, and as luck would have it, the builder found the exact powerplant needed to make this custom build stand out: a 2013 Dodge 6.4-liter Hemi from Cleveland Power & Performance that features a very retro looking eight-stack EFI unit. “We had the opportunity to pick up a fresh 6.4-liter out of a Charger with a six-speed,” Dave said. “That kind of set our stage for the whole build. Borla makes an eight-stack for that particular motor. Its going to be modern fuel injected but it’s going to look like an old style injection system.”

    The shop is currently pushing hard on three other projects, trying to finish up to make room for this one-of-a-kind build. When the other projects are finished, all resources will go toward building this Dodge truck for its debut at the Syracuse Nationals.

      Artistic renderings of the latest Tucci project.

      “We typically debut our cars at the Syracuse Nationals, which is our local event. It’s our home base and we like to debut our top cars there,” Dave said. “For this debut however, the car will go to the SEMA show in Las Vegas. Despite moving on other projects, a lot of work has gone into the truck, and we have already done a lot. We added a modern feel with LED headlights and taillight treatment, an air diverter — and it now has a whole different feel than when we started as it stands by itself, not really a restored or anything like that. It will have wide cheater slicks on the back but a really underlying modern feel to it.”

      Explaining the build in detail, Dave said the valve covers are a pretty trick piece made by The Crank Shop in Vermont. “They make cast aluminum valve covers for new motors, and this particular set has ‘392 Hemi’ cast into it, that gives it that look of an older 392, but it’s all modern inside.” Adding to the modernization of the build, Dave also said the engine has variable cam timing that will make more than 500 horsepower.

      Cast aluminum valve covers from The Crank Shop.

      As exciting as 500 horsepower in a 1936 Dodge truck sounds, Dave explained that the truck’s stance was altered by kicking up the rear frame rails by 16 inches, adding a Ford 9-inch rearend, and Welder Series triangulated four-link suspension in the Tucci-designed frame. For steering, the team also added a Flaming River quick-ratio steering box to the custom frame.

      The One Constant

      “Every one of our builds is different, we don’t really follow any specific guidelines on the builds,” Dave said. “We’ll run anything from a Model A with a flathead in it, to a modern LS engine in a restomod. That’s pretty much a full spectrum – and any one of those builds will get an Optima battery as part of the build.”

      Dave went on to explain his experience with Optima Batteries and why they worked for his builds. “We’ve been in business here for over 18 yearend have always used Optima, he said. “Long before I became an ambassador for them, I was a big fan, even before I was in business. I was a drag racer and used Optima in my drag cars. When I switched over from drag racing to custom cars, I brought that technology with me.”

      Some of Tucci’s hand-fabricated bodywork.

      “For hot rodders, vibration resistance and the ability to be cycled deep and fast may be of negligible importance,” said Optima Jim, eCare manager of Optima Batteries. “Their cars may only see weekend use in warm weather and bumpy roads are generally not sought out. However, in many cases some hot rods have been built out to such a degree, that no aspect was left untouched. Many owners don’t want to cut corners when it comes to a battery. They look to Optima’s Spiralcell AGM design and know that it’s spill-proof design minimizes the chance of corrosive battery acid damaging meticulous paint jobs.”

      Its more about dependability …         – Dave Tucci

      We’ve seen batteries mounted in some pretty unique places in custom cars, in a variety of different orientations as well. This is a point Jim did not miss either. “Not everyone wants to go back to the OEM location, he said. “Some who want a clean engine compartment, or need the additional space, will relocate the battery on its side, tucked inside a frame rail. Others will want better weight distribution and will opt for a location in the rear of their car or truck.”

      Those features aside, the expense and economy of the battery is another major factor. “The versatility and safety of Optima Batteries are important features, even if it came at the expense of a shorter lifespan. Fortunately, that’s not the case as ours can last up to three times as long as their flooded counterparts,” Jim said.

      “Its more about dependability and a guy that is driving a high-end custom car, wants to be able to get in the car whenever they want and turn the key and drive it,” Dave added.

      Riding With Acid

      The biggest difference between lead acid batteries and AGM type batteries is the possibility of leakage. “The regular lead acid batteries are prone to leakage,” Dave explained. “No matter what, they are just prone to leakage. We just don’t want any of that in the custom cars. We want a nice sealed battery with all the power that the Optima Batteries give us.”

       

      Dave pointed out that people didn’t always understand the difference between wet batteries and Optima AGM-style batteries. “People did not always understand how to treat an Optima Battery back in the day, he said. “The old rules didn’t apply to the new battery technology. Optima designed its own charger to make battery maintenance easier and more complete. They have more of a deep cycle to the battery. Now that Optima has the charger out, it is a wonderful thing for the industry because it can recover deeply-discharged batteries that other chargers cannot.”

      We plan on following Dave’s build, and keeping our readers up to date, all the way to it’s SEMA debut next November, so stay tuned for updates.

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      About the author

      Bobby Kimbrough

      Bobby grew up in the heart of Illinois, becoming an avid dirt track race fan which has developed into a life long passion. Taking a break from the Midwest dirt tracks to fight evil doers in the world, he completed a full 21 year career in the Marine Corps.
      Read My Articles

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