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1999 Dodge Durango Mudding - Heavy Metal Mudder Phase II

Posted in Project Vehicles on June 1, 2010 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Alan Huber

There's an old saying in motorsports that if you put the time in off the track, there's no need to be nervous come race day. While we're not exactly a racing bunch, we do strongly believe in dialing in your rig before diving into the dirt. So after nearly a year of building, tuning, and tweaking our '99 Dodge Durango we were more than ready to churn the terra.

To try out the newly completed Mighty Mopar, we cruised over to the San Gabriel Canyon OHV Area near Azusa, California. While there we dropped our massive Mudder through a series of rich and loose mud pits to evaluate the new performance platform. Admittedly, this was a bit of a testing session since we weren't certain how the snake venom would mesh with the muddy waters or if the 2 1/2-ton Rockwell axles would twist and snap under the newfound torque. Luckily, the axles proved to be as tough as their name and the V-10 growled its way through with ease.

Overall it was a great day in the dirt and a strong start to this mega-mudder's wheeling future. Though we'll be the first to admit that dropping in an 8.3L V-10 is no easy task, the crew at National Speed in Wilmington, North Carolina, did an amazing job of converting our Heavy Metal Mudder into a truly unique mudding machine. For now our Viper Durango is finally complete. And who knows? It just might be headed to a pit near you!

Phase I
Rockwell Tech: Mar. '09
TearDown: Apr. '09
Axle BuildUp: May '09
Suspension: June '09
Bump & Drive: July '09
Rock'n WrapUp: Aug. '09

Phase II
High-Performance Teardown: Sept. '09
Viper Venom: Oct. '09
Momentum & Headers: Nov. '09
Automatic Power: Dec. '09
Power & Fuel Delivery: Jan. '10
Cooling Components: Feb. '10
Wired & Exhausted: Mar. '10
Finishing Touches: Apr. '10
Durango Delivered: May '10

Street Fighter
Since the start of the build we've received a lot of questions as to how streetable the Durango is with the 2 1/2-ton Rockwells. While we've had the Durango up to highway speeds during both phases of the build, we don't think we're ready to suggest trading in your daily driver for a Rockwelled monster. It's not that we think it can't be done, but the 98-inch-wide track, fully hydraulic steering, and overall size of the vehicle can make for an intense driving experience. Overall it's completely do-able, but we're going to stick with towing it on the long hauls just to play it safe and avoid visits from Johnny Law.

Viper Bites
The 8.3L is an extremely tight fit, especially considering we had to move our firewall back over a foot to accommodate the 505 ci. With the engine putting down a touch over 540 hp and 580 lb-ft of torque at the crank, it was a night and day power difference over the original 5.9L V-8. The most notable characteristic of the engine is the low-end torque. Since the 6.72 differential gearing keeps the strain off the transmission, the four-speed Atlas makes this Durango a versatile wheeler and almost unstoppable in low range, literally!

Water Romping
This watery pit pushed the aqua limits for our V-10's intake and delicate electronics. Though we're not huge fans of deep water, if you like to take the plunge then you'll need to build accordingly. This means a well-protected intake or snorkel, sealed electronics, high-mounted breathers, and for the extreme swap runner a super-tall vehicle stance that will likely require a ladder for entry. Our Durango is relatively low for a mud truck, and although the 44-inch Boggers are no pizza cutting street slicks, we have to pick and choose just where we drop the nose of our Mudder.

View Slideshow

Sources

National Speed Inc.
Wilmington, NC
www.nationalspeedinc.com

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