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Dodge Dakota Quad Cab - Project 4xQuad, Part 1

Rear Side Low
Craig Perronne
| Brand Manager, Dirt Sports & Off Road
Posted March 1, 2000
Photographers: Cole Quinnell

Let the Games Begin!

Step By Step

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  • The first step was to yank out whatever we didn’t need, so out came the stock 4.7L V-8. While a decent motor, it just didn’t supply the big horsepower and torque numbers we were looking for to turn the 39.5-inch Boggers.

  • Next to get ditched was the stock transmission and transfer case. Yanking parts out is fun when you don’t have to use them again. Anything that gets in your way can simply be hit with the gas axe.

  • With everything removed that we didn’t need, we were ready to start the real work. Unfortunately, our Mopar Performance engine had not arrived. This meant we had to scramble and find a mock-up motor. Luckily, Dave Smith from Pro Trans happened to have a 440 block and even a spare 727 transmission laying around that he was kind enough to let us borrow. Now, ORU had all the dimensions needed to start making motor mounts, crossmembers, and the like.

  • Our 500 cubic inch Mopar Performance engine (PN P4876692) arrived just in the nick of time. While a bit pricey, it does put out 575 reliable horsepower and is equipped with all the goodies such as aluminum heads, a roller cam, and a heavy-duty block. We also liked the 625 lb-ft. of torque it puts out!

  • To feed the beast, we chose a Holley 950cfm double-pumper carburetor. It was equipped with off-road needles, seats, and vent screens to keep it from bogging while traversing uneven terrain.

  • Here is our engine a little closer to completion. We ordered a set of Mopar Performance pulleys and March Performance brackets. A Powermaster alternator was then used to supply the juice to the Optima batteries while a complete MSD ignition was chosen to fire the mixture. A Mean Green mini-starter turns over the beast.

  • Keeping the big 500 cool was a priority, so we knew the stock radiator wouldn’t do. We quickly got in contact with Griffin Thermal Products, who built us a beautiful custom unit. Fabricating a custom shroud would have taken too much time, so we located a unit out of an 1989 Ford Aerostar that fit. A Flex-a-lite mechanical fan was then used to pull air.

  • Headers presented us with another problem. We figured on having to build a full-custom set. That takes time, which was in short supply. However, we actually found a set of Thorley Headers that were close to fitting. Since those particular headers were out of stock, Thorley supplied us with the flanges and tubes instead. A half-built set of headers allowed Tim Morse from Morse Muffler to make the final bends and welds for a perfect fit.

  • Our next step was to take the custom Thorley Headers down to Gold Coast Coatings to have them coated. Besides just making them look better, the coating helps to protect them and also transfers heat better, leading to increased performance. At the same time, we dug up a rear-sump oil pan to replace the center-sump unit the 500 came with, which wasn’t going to clear the front differential

  • Good Dodge transmission builders are not as prevalent as the Ford or Chevy boys, but we were lucky to come across Pro Trans who built us a 727 tranny. Dave Smith from Pro Trans equipped it with all the goodies such as a reverse manual valve body to withstand a beating. It was then equipped with a 2,500-rpm stall converter from Continental Torque Converters and a B&M deep pan that had to be modified to clear the front driveshaft.

  • For transfer case duty, we enlisted an Advance Adapters Atlas II. Besides giving us the benefit of a 3.8:1 low range (a 4.3:1 low range is also available), it also offered the ultimate in swappability because the Atlas II can be clocked. This actually came in handy because we were able to tilt the Atlas II to help with driveshaft angles and to clear the front suspension links.

  • Once the Atlas II was hooked up to the back of the Pro Trans-built 727, we discovered that there was simply no room for a front driveshaft. It would have been too short for the amount of lift and wheel travel we had. Advance Adapters once again came to the rescue and overnighted us this adapter that we used as a spacer. It pushed back the transfer case about a foot, which solved our problem.

  • Of course, ORU had to build a custom crossmember to mount the transfer case and the rest of the drivetrain. The tube on the top with the U-bolt tack welded to it was our temporary mount. The lower one is the real unit and can be seen being TIG-welded together.

  • We wanted the truck’s exhaust note to match its appearance so we utilized two Flowmaster mufflers. Morse then fabbed up the rest of the exhaust.

  • N air filter to protect our engine’s internals. The crossover tube and remote reservoirs give a hint at what is in store for the next installment. Stay tuned!

Hello and welcome to the land of endless coffee, major stress, midnight part runs, and 80-hour work weeks. What's all the fuss? Well, it all started out innocently enough. We had a hankering to build one heck of a project truck and lusted after Dodge's new Dakota Quad Cab as the foundation. Once Dodge saw what we had in mind, they quickly agreed to our scheme but, unfortunately, a truck wouldn't be available until a month before our set-in-stone deadline for completion!

Sure we could have changed our minds and gone the easy route. You know, bolt on a lift, add some 33-inch tires, and call it a day--but that wasn't part of our plan. We wanted to build one of the most radical and custom project trucks ever seen. Adding to the difficulty was that, besides looking awesome, our truck also needed to be functional--actually it needed to work well. The truck would have to be able to throw mud, blast over sand dunes, and crawl over rocks with the best of them.

Big plans and big dreams are what we had in mind for the Dakota Quad Cab. The only stock components we planned to keep were the frame and the body. A live-axle conversion, front and rear Dana 60s, a mega-horsepower engine, and super-stout running gear were all in the works. Also floating around in our scheming brains was a seriously custom suspension that would have lots of wheel travel and be able to accommodate massive tires.

Our concept definitely involved lots of skilled labor and custom fabrication, so we needed a shop that we could trust to meet our deadline without sacrificing our high expectations. No small task but without hesitation we contacted Maurice Rozo at Off Road Unlimited (ORU). We had seen Maurice's work before and knew it was of the highest quality. The crew at ORU was eager to join in the madness and as soon as we took possession of our Dakota Quad Cab, it was dropped off at ORU and the cutting began.

In this month’s installment, we will cover the driveline of the truck. It might seem simple, but as with anything custom, there were a few dilemmas. However, there was nothing the ORU crew couldn’t solve. Stay tuned for the next installment, which will cover the radical suspension build-up.


K&N Engineering
Riverside, CA 92507
March Performance
Naples, FL 34110
Flex-a-Lite Consolidated
Milton, WA 98354
Advance Adapters
Paso Robles, CA 93446
B&M Racing & Performance Products
Chatsworth, CA 91311
Thorley Headers
Corona, CA 92880
(909) 735-7280
Off Road Unlimited (ORU)
Burbank, CA CA
Morse Muffler
Burbank,, CA 91506
(818) 848-1058
Continental Torque Converters Inc.
Inglewood, CA 90302
Gold Coast Coatings
Camarillo, CA 93010
(805) 987-9060
Mean Green
Laughlintown, PA 15655
(724) 238-7319
Pro Trans
Lancaster, CA 93534
(661) 940-7400