You just gotta love manufacturer's project vehicles. These no-expenses-spared trips to dreamland provide interesting lessons in thematic automotive buildups, and show us how a variety of parts from aftermarket manufacturers can be strung together to create the most awesome works on wheels imaginable.

If you managed to hit a few automotive or manufacturer shows last year, or perhaps the 2000 Mopar Nationals, chances are you got a front-page view of Borla's "Fire Rescue" Dakota Quad Cab. Mopar Muscle's resident tech-head and West Coast contributor Steve Dulcich won the staff lottery and got to drive this trick truck from southern California to Kansas City, Missouri, and then from Columbus back to SoCal. No doubt Steve put the experience under the "work" category, but the rest of us know he was enjoying a highway thrill we all envied (Steve will recap his adventures in an upcoming issue).

The Fire Rescue truck was built as part of the DaimlerChrysler launch of the new Dakota Quad Cab pickup line, with the vehicle debuting alongside a veritable fleet of aftermarket-modified Quads that were introduced at the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association show in Las Vegas in November 1999. When Dodge handed Borla the red Dakota and told the company to "go for it," the factory topcoat and the enhanced passenger seating and cargo capacity inherent to the 4x4 Quad Cab led Borla to build a truck with an emergency rescue theme.

Following that line of reasoning, Borla contacted fire chiefs across the country to get their real-world input in building the truck with aftermarket components that were available in the consumer segment, but would offer true function in emergency rescue applications. The result is one killer pickup with street looks made to turn heads, and the kind of utility needed to get the serious jobs accomplished.

With good navigational and communication ability key to implementing any emergency rescue situation, a full-range command center was needed. This order was filled in one fell stroke with Clarion's AutoPC. The Auto PC is a compact, in-dash on-board computer that also features real-time GPS capabilities, radio monitoring, e-mail, and hands-free telephone capabilities. Electronic distribution is handled with Scoshe EFX wiring harnesses and cables. To spice up the functionally-enhanced Quad Cab interior, Borla added a Superior Dash carbon-fiber dash kit. Inside the cab, rescue personnel also have control of the PIAA high-intensity quartz Halogen auxiliary lighting system and the fully-functional Tomar Electronics emergency light bar and sirens (which Borla made sure were rendered inoperable before handing the keys over to us, which was probably a wise move on their part).

Naturally, a fire rescue truck must be able to haul plenty of emergency gear in a user-friendly manner. One of the slickest functional add-ons we've seen for pickups is the Cargo Drawer by CargoPro Inc. This sliding tray is mounted on rails attached to the truck bed's floor and accommodates up to 750 pounds of gear. Rather than reaching up and over the bedsides to remove heavy equipment, all cargo-box contents can be easily accessed by dropping the tailgate and sliding out the Cargo Drawer. The bed is further protected by a tough Line-X spray-on bedliner. Finally, to keep the equipment in place in the suburbs or while on off-road rescue missions, Borla installed cargo hold-downs provided by Taco West.