To a car guy, a project vehicle is a release from life's everyday stresses, right? Some guys are into antique cars, others like musclecars, and more than a few build trucks. What do you do if you like more than one thing? For Mike Ayers of Watkins, Minnesota, combining two different worlds was the answer. Mike started with a '91 Dakota he purchased in 1998. He didn't want a truck that was just another pretty face; he wanted something different.
Meanwhile, he had built a 440 Super Commando filled with stock components like 10.25:1 pistons and covered the holes with a touched-up pair of -906 casting heads that have the valves slammed open and shut by a Mopar Performance hydraulic camshaft. In true musclecar fashion, the finishing touch was a six-pack induction setup. The well-spent gases were sent through factory HP manifolds and out the 211/42 pipes and Flowmaster mufflers. Transfering the power to a 3.54-geared Dana rear was a 727 transmission with a 10-inch torque converter by Mopar Performance. With the driveline done, all he needed was to get it into the body of something, and since the Dakota was just sitting there...
Mike owns his own service station, so he and his son Andy handled the installation. Once everything was trial-fitted, the Dak was taken apart again and sent to United Autobody in Cokato, Minnesota, who made sure all the metal was straight, and then applied the eye-searing shade of Sassy Grass Green in base-clear coat. The hood received a '70s-style A-Body scoop, Duster-like stripes adorning the sides, and a blackout hood with the displacement shown.
Knowing he'd be spending a lot of time inside, comfort was important. With help from Legendary Auto Interiors, Mike redid a pair of '71 Duster bucket seats that flank the Duster console with the SlapStik changing the gears in the 727. Although the sound of the big-block is music enough, a Pioneer stereo system lets Mike hear his favorite tunes on the long hauls. Rolling stock is a quad of Rallye wheels (measuring 15x7 up front and 15x10 in the back) shod with Goodyear rubber.
During this undertaking, Mike wanted to make sure he covered the details, so Andy scanned the vacuum and equipment identification stickers from the Dakota and made a few changes. All the stickers now diagram and are labeled as if the 440 was factory-installed.
All in all, there's no Mopar circle where this Dakota won't get respect. Some dilemmas cause us to have second thoughts after a decision; Mike made sure he covered both possibilities the first time when he was stuck in the middle.