A while back we expressed some interest in building a '97-and-up Dakota. Our thinking was: prices are dropping, midsize truck, available V-8, good looks, a natural for a solid-axle swap. Unfortunately wesometimes plan beyond our available bank account, and getting another project in the garage would only take away from our countless other projects right now. But we weren't the only ones that saw the potential in the Dakota. Jaime Keating had similar big Dak dreams, and with the help of WFO Concepts he finished a Dakota that we'd be proud to have called one of our own. Now instead, we're just jealous.
We were able to catch up for one of the Dakota's maiden runs up in Fordyce, California. Unfortunately, a rare case of defective ring gear plagued the Dakota and two teeth were lost before any real body damage could be done. Too bad. We bet a 3-foot-long fender crease would've looked good on the passenger side.
A Dana 60 from a '99 E-350 van was used in the rear for its width, factory disc brakes, and drum-style parking brake. It was outfitted with an ARB Air Locker and 4.56 gears to turn the 30-spline axles. It's slung from the factory Dakota leaves, but done with a spring-over conversion, 3-inch blocks, and King remote reservoir shocks. Since the rear suspension was now more prone to wrapup (being changed from spring-under to spring-over) WFO Concepts laid on a custom torque arm with a Johnny Joint and shackle up front so as not to inhibit suspension flex. If you look closely you can see the 35-inch tire shoved up into the factory spare's location under the bed with a little massaging of the metal.
That's a high-pinion Dana 44 ring gear you're looking at packed with an ARB Air Locker, Yukon alloy shafts, and OX joints. The 3/4-ton Ford disc brakes stop the front, while tone rings that WFO outfitted for the factory ABS keep them from locking up. It's a rare happenstance, but every now and then ring-gear materials can be defective. This Dakota's new set lost two teeth in just a few short miles which ended its trip for the day. Moving a custom crossover steering is a '79 Ford power-steering box custom-mounted to the frame. WFO Concepts built the Dakota to perform primarily on the trail, but didn't want it to lose its street cred. A parallel four-link with a Panhard rod was used up front to hold the axle in place under 14-inch-travel King coilovers, while a Speedway Engineering antisway bar with DOM links keeps roll to a minimum. Behind the four-link sits WFO Concepts' heavy-duty Belly skid that protects the fixed-yoke NP231HD and Klune-V 4.3 underdrive behind the four-speed automatic tranny. The Belly skidplate has become a sort-of signature piece for WFO Concepts, with most of their projects leaving the shop wearing serious protection under the frame and in between the axles.
Vehicle: '00 Dakota
Engine: 5.9L Magnum V-8
Tranny: Four-speed automatic
Transfer Case: NP231HD with a Klune-V 4.3 Underdrive
Front Axle: High-pinion Dana 44 with ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: Dana 60 with disc brakes and ARB Air Locker
Tires & Wheels: 36x13.50x17 Iroks on Allied bead locks
Suspension: Four-link with Panhard rod and King coilovers in front, spring-over conversion in rear
Bumper/Winch: Hanson front bumper/Warn 9,000