"Hey, Terry, wouldn't a Shaker bubble look cool on a new Dakota?""That'd be a lotta' work.""Yeah, but it'd look cool! The lines are perfect!""Yeah, but it's a lotta' work...lotta' work. The base would have to be offset, it'd have to be scaled downI dunno'...lotta' work.""Yeah, but it'd be cool!""Too much work. I don't think it'd work."
That was the gist of the conversation I had with Terry DeLong at the '97 Sport Truck Nationals. I had talked with Terry a couple of times on the phone, and the first time I met him in person I hit him up with the Dakota Shaker hood idea. Hey, that's the cool thing about this job-I don't have to know how to do things like make primo fiberglass hoods, I just have to know the people who can.
The following morning started with a grumpy Terry complaining to me that he'd been up all night drawing sketches of Dakota front ends with Shaker hoods. "It'd have to be scaled down quite a bit. But I think I can make a workable fresh air box. Problem is, I don't have a real Shaker bubble just laying around to take a pattern off of," said Terry.
"If I get you one, can you do it?" I asked.
"Yeah, I suppose" was the reply. The following Monday, former Mopar Muscle ad salesman, now Florida Paddock General Manager Chuck West, agreed to loan us the Shaker bubble off of his restored 440-6 'Cuda, thus starting almost two years of me pestering Terry on the progress of the Shaker.
Starting with Chuck's gennie Shaker bubble, Terry took careful measurements of the entire bubble, the openings, the contours, and the length. Then he scaled them down so that the dimensions fit on the hood of a Dakota. For those who've never held a Shaker bubble in your hands, off of a 'Cuda, they're huge! Stock, they overpower the Dakota's hood, covering the area from the windshield all the way to the radiator.
The next step was to transfer the measurements to a block of foam and start whackin'. During this time, other priorities would crop up, such as fulfilling customer's orders, SEMA project trucks, and completing other hood designs that had already been on the drawing board. Even before the hood was prototyped, people found out about them and Terry was fending off orders.
Finally, Terry debuted the hood at the '99 Mopar Nationals on ProFinish employee Mike Chapman's '99 Dakota R/T. By the end of the weekend, Terry had taken over a dozen Shaker orders.
Featuring true cold-air induction, this Shaker is also mounted right to the engine, as per original '70-spec Shakers, and is sealed to the stock throttle body, allowing only cold, outside air in to feed the engine. The hood itself features Pro Finish's inner and outer skin construction, which ensures that the underside of the hood is as clean as the top, as well as enhancing strength. No Shaker hood would be complete without the legendary blurred "Shaker" decal underneath, so a repro from Year One was added.
But the Dakota Mike and his wife, Deb, own is more than just a hood. The bed is dressed with a Leer hard tonneau cover, and the back of the truck is cleaned up with a Pro Finish rear roll pan featuring reproduction stainless 'Cuda exhaust tips from Stainless Steel Extensions in Tennessee. Terry added a painted bumble bee stripe with a Bee stencil from Stencils Unlimited, while the truck's mirrors, door handles, tailgate latch handle, taillight bezels, and license plate lights were all sanded and painted Solar Yellow. Final exterior touches are the repro Bumble Bees on the front fenders from Year One and the "360 'Koda" lettering on the scoop by Fine Line Graphics in Fort Wayne. To get the truck sitting just right, a Western Chassis 2/4 lowering kit featuring dropped lower control arms was installed, and the stock wheel and tire combo was retained.
Things were left relatively simple under the bubble, with Crane supplying a set of 1.6 roller rockers, and JBA Cat4ward headers and head pipes routing spent fumes to a custom made MPRP exhaust system.
But for all the extra stuff that's been done to Mike and Deb's truck, that Shaker is still the center of attention everywhere it goes-combining the best of the old with the best of the new. What could be cooler?