It’s Big, It’s Bad, and It’s Done
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Yes, we heard the snide, under-the breath remarks. "I bet that thing doesn't even run." Of course, there is our personal favorite, "That thing is just a show truck." Well, we didn't gut a whole truck and spend countless nights spinning wrenches until 3 a.m., and then waking up four hours later to start the madness again just to build some damn show truck. If we were going through the trouble of building a very custom truck, then we were going to make it work, and work bitchin' at that.
Naturally we couldn't do it alone. Heck, if it was up to us editors, we couldn't even do it. While we might be able to scrape up a tube bender and welder between us, we definitely didn't have all the skills, know how, and tools to tackle a project this big. Plus, with only a month to work with, we knew we needed somebody good. That is why as soon as we took delivery of our 2000 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab we dropped it off to Maurice Rozo and the crew at Off Road Unlimited (ORU), where the work immediately began.
The first obstacle for the ORU crew to hurdle was to install the radical drivetrain that was covered in a previous installment.
Out came the stock engine, transmission, and transfer case. The amount of horsepower was then more than doubled with the installation of a 575hp, 500 cubic-inch Mopar Performance V-8. A Holley 950-cfm double-pumper carburetor drawing air through a K&N air filter feeds the thirsty beast. A full MSD ignition then destroys the whole air/fuel mix. Other nice pieces such as a Mean Green starter juiced by an Optima battery, March Performance pulleys, and a Powermaster alternator were used to help complete the engine. Cooling water is provided by a custom built Griffin Thermal Products radiator, cooled with a Flex-a-lite fan. Hot gasses are expelled through Thorley Headers coated by Gold Coast Coatings, Flowmaster mufflers, and a custom exhaust built by Morse Muffler.
All those ponies are then sent through a 727 automatic transmission beefed by Pro Trans, while a B&M Racing & Performance Products deep transmission pan keeps it cool. A 2,500-rpm converter from Continental Torque Converters was also thrown in the mix to keep things beefy. Power is then split by an Advance Adapters’ Atlas II transfer case.
With the drivetrain installed it was time for some seriously custom work. Yes, it was time for ORU to build a totally trick suspension for the Dakota that we covered in the April 2000 issue. First, ORU got a hold of a set of 39.5x18-inch Boggers from National Tire & Wheel mounted on Weld Racing wheels. These were then mounted on front and rear Dana 60s built by Dynatrac and equipped with Detroit Lockers and Precision Gears from Reider Racing. Suspending the beefy Dynatrac Dana 60s are super-trick 2-1/2-inch Bilstein race shocks equipped with Eibach coils. A four-link suspension designed by ORU was used front and rear to provide maximum articulation. Steering duties were handled by Lee Manufacturing, who built a steering box and hydraulic assist to guide the Dakota down the trail while ORU performed a crossover steering conversion.
Finally, with the majority of work done it was time for all the little details to be finished, which was also covered in a previous installment. The tube benders and TIG-welders were kept busy as custom bumpers and a Con-Ferr rack were installed. Ramsey winches and IPF lights also adorn the truck. Auto Meter gauges were then blended into the dash to give a cool and custom look to the interior. The whole truck was then plumbed with Earl's Performance Products fittings.
With the truck up and running, there was nothing left to do but take it out for a flogging. While most custom-built trucks have plenty of bugs to work out, the Dakota had none and, much to our amazement, it also worked great. Yes, it does work and yes, it is done!