Step By Step
Our first order of business was to lock up one of the ORU fabricators in the shop overnight with instructions to build a cool and unique front bumper. Upon opening the shop the next morning, we found that the results were outstanding as the new bumper completely transformed the look of the front of the truck.
The next step was to mount and wire up a Ramsey Platinum 9500 winch onto the new front bumper. We doubt that we will ever need it but it is always nice to know that it’s there.
Out back another custom-fabricated bumper was also built. It helps protect the rear, offers a little better departure angle, and looks better than the plain-Jane stocker.
Off Road Unlimited wanted to keep the interior clean and simple, yet custom at the same time. To accomplish this and to save time, it was decided to make minimal changes. The only modification was to remove the dashboard and install Auto Meter gauges into it.
After the gauges were hooked up, the dash was fitted back into place. The three gauges pictured here mount where two air-conditioning vents used to be. The other two (the speedo and the tach) are housed where the instrument panel used to be.
Wiring also presented ORU with yet another problem to solve. Modern vehicles come with miles of wire and our Dakota was no exception. The dilemma was how to have all of the electrical accessories, such as the windows and lights, function properly and cleanly run the wiring. The crew at ORU traced the wires to determine their function, removed the useless ones, and hid all the rest in the body.
To feed the monster 585hp Mopar Performance 500ci engine, we got a drum of 110-octane (also available in 100, 114, and 118 octane) 76 race gas from Lee Guenveur’s Performance Products & More. While the engine can run on 92 octane, we just love the smell of race gas. Red Line synthetic oils, also from Lee Guenveur’s, were also used in the transmission, transfer case, engine, and differentials.
To supply the juice for the brakes, a big master cylinder off a Chevy was grafted into position. It was then mated to a Hydro-Boost unit that supplied the necessary boost to the four-wheel disc brakes.
Plumbing brake and fuel lines was also another time-consuming task that had to be performed in the last days of the buildup. Getting the bends just right and having the tube be the correct length required plenty of patience and skill.
Another aspect of plumbing the Dakota was to obtain all the correct fittings for the lines. Before starting, the whole plumbing system was drawn out on paper along with what fittings would be needed. Off Road Unlimited then came up with a shopping list and a parts run was made down to Earl’s Performance Products to obtain all the fittings.
Instead of waiting around to receive shipment of a fuel cell and then making all the necessary brackets and mounts for it, ORU decided to make one themselves which perfectly fit the Dakota. A small hole was then cut through the bed to be able to fill it with fuel.
The decision was made to mount the 39.5-inch spare Bogger on the roof. Once again, out came the tube bender and TIG welder and this one-piece-tube unit was built. A Con Ferr rack was then mounted up top upon which the spare would mount.
To help support and distribute the weight of the massive spare, these brackets were made and attached to the roof of the cab. Rubber snubbers were then attached to the bottom of the rack to help prevent damage should the roof ever make contact with the rack.
Another trick piece to find its way onto the Dodge was this power steering filter from Lee Manufacturing. It mounts anywhere and then screws apart allowing for the element inside to be replaced.
Whoever said "it is all in the details" was right on the money. With our radical drivetrain installed and our completely custom suspension fabricated, it was time to turn our attention to the final items remaining on the truck. While short on time, we knew that cheating on the details could quickly transform our one-off wonder into a hack job. Besides appearance items that needed to be fabricated, such as bumpers and the like, there were also plenty of tasks that still needed to be finished so that the big Dodge would run. These included plumbing, wiring, building a gas tank, and all kinds of other little chores. Lots of time could have been saved here but plenty of people would be crawling around under the truck and we wanted them going away in awe. Once again, it's all in the details.
Luckily, we knew from hanging out with Maurice Rozo and the crew at Off Road Unlimited (ORU) for the past three weeks until the wee hours of the morning that there wouldn't be any problems. They had already proven to us that they were up to the challenge. The tube benders and TIG welders were fired up while the rest of the crew went about finishing the truck. We were as giddy as teenage girls with Backstreet Boys concert tickets as our baby neared completion, but secretly we wondered if the big Dakota would be ready for its unveiling at the SEMA show.
However, Maurice continually told us it wouldnt be a problem and hadnt been wrong in the past so we tried not to worry. The work continued at a feverish pace and, much to our delight, the Dakota was completed with a day to spare and came out absolutely awesome. Stay tuned for the next installment where we prove that this thing actually works!
Earls Performance Products
Long Beach, CA 90805
Lee Manufacturing Co.
Sun Valley, CA 91352
Lee Guenveurs Performance Products & More
South Pasadena, CA