We get plenty of mail. Sometimes it's to sing our praises, sometimes it's to chastise us, and sometimes stuff shows up we really want to know more about. When Jason Hammond began telling us about his '94 Dakota, we wondered just what made this truck so great.
Jason, who hails from Beaumont, Texas, is a Mopar guy on a mission. That mission, we soon discovered, was to kick butt and take names. After meeting up with Jason at a 2001 NMCA event, we asked him to tell us more about his adventures with engines, nitrous, and about waging war in street-legal-style drag racing.
In Jason's own words...-Ed.
My Dodge truck has actually been a constant work in progress since I purchased it new in 1994. I saw this truck's potential during the initial gearshifts. The NV3500 five-speed seemed as if it were geared for stump pulling (First gear is 4.01:1) and the 318 was torquey enough to produce tire smoke. I loved the looks of amazement I received from some of the local Mustang and Camaro guys. At the stoplight, the question was always the same."What do you have in that thing?"
So, an unassuming Dodge truck soon captured the attention of many gear-grinders on the street and on the track.
The truck, with no internal engine modifications and good drive technique, yielded a best e.t. of 13.73 at 100 mph. Later, with a little 125hp Nitrous Express gas blast coming online, the pickup clocked a pleasing 12.29 e.t. at 112 mph.
Some of the modifications I made to the truck did not net major gains at the track, but were essential to adding more horsepower and going to the next performance level. For instance, I installed an MSD 6AL ignition, MSD timing control module, and a Holley coil to keep the spark hot.
There was also a problem with fuel delivery-my fuel pressure would drop 5 pounds if I put the 150hp jets in the Nitrous Express "Shark" nozzle-so I couldn't use the second stage of nitrous. I called Greg Johns at Car Tech in San Antonio and purchased everything needed to install a complete Aeromotive EFI fuel system to handle 500-plus horsepower fuel delivery. Greg also made a set of billet fuel rails so I could use #8 fittings. Elapsed times continued to fall after upgrading to an Engle cam, some mild head porting, a Superchips-tuned computer, Mopar Performance's M1 intake manifold, Crower 1.6 roller rockers, CalTrac traction bars, Hurst shifter, and minor suspension modifications. With these changes, the Dakota netted a best e.t. of 13.46 on the engine and a whopping 11.62 on a 150hp shot of nitrous.
Soon thereafter I shifted my attention beyond engine performance by adding a 3-inch Dominator Cowl induction hood from U.S. Body Source (which my friend Bobby Ettredge paint-matched). I also dropped in Autometer gauges, and lightened the front end with a carbon-fiber bumper and brackets from Ron Kleber at GATR Collision.
For a rearend upgrade I discovered that a '71 Mustang 9-inch has the exact leaf-spring spacing as a '92-'96 Dakota. I found a housing and upgraded the internals with 31-spline Moser axles, a Moser spool, and Precision 4.10:1 gears. The truck could now handle everything this engine would dish out.
Of course, power and success had their drawbacks.
I grew weary of being kicked off the local NHRA-sanctioned track every time I ran 11s, so I set the nitrous tune for low 12s and raced in the NMCA EFI class. Using nitrous to dial in for the conditions proved difficult, but after I had enough data recorded from time trials, it was fairly easy to adjust for the track, weather, and race conditions. The guys in the class are great, and usually the staging lanes become a place for folks to catch up on the "happenings" between events. Most of the guys who show up for the races follow the event circuit, so few locals know they have a car or truck that can compete in the EFI class. The rules are easy to accommodate, and it's been fun to participate in the NMCA.
The EngineEven with the great e.t.'s I'd found, I wanted more performance. It was time to look deeper into the bottom end. I was instantly inspired by the 4.00-inch stroker crank from Mopar Performance. When I saw that Diamond Racing had stepped up with pistons made specifically for this crank, I knew this combo had a home under the hood of my truck. With that decided, I developed a plan for an engine that had "street warrior" written all over it. Ingredients would include a 360 Magnum block, the 4-inch stroker crank, a set of Eagle SIR rods, and Diamond Racing's slugs. I called Ron Beaubien at Diamond and told him what I wanted to do and how I wanted to accomplish it. Ron informed me that Diamond's machine shop could ship me a balanced rotating assembly that included the crankshaft, pistons, wrist pins, connecting rods, piston rings, and main/rod bearings.
Sold!Next, I located a good donor block, which I took to my friend Randy Williams at Triangle Auto and Machine. Randy magna-fluxed the block, resurfaced and squared the deck, bored the cylinders .030-over, and honed the bores to the specified piston clearances. After Randy finished cutting the block, I called Ron with the deck height and the bore diameter.
Before the MP cranks came out, we had to resort to custom cranks that priced most of us out of the small-block stroker market. Now Mopar enthusiasts have an option to go up in cubic inches without a serious downturn in wallet thickness. For about $350 you can get a nodular cast crank from Mopar Performance with four inches of throw, available for all small-block Mopar engines. These are made to fit different variances of the Chrysler small-blocks over the years.
You'll want to determine the components you plan to use ahead of time in order to get the right crank for your application. For example, I chose to go internally balanced with 360 mains in order to utilize the stock 318 harmonic balancer and flywheel. The crankshaft is a nice piece for the money. Knife edges are cast onto the counterweights, followed by shot-peening, then radiusing the fillets during the machining process, and finally chamfering the oil holes and giving the journals a good polishing. The extra holes drilled in the rear flange are a GM pattern. In the end, Diamond's machinist added three pieces of Mallory metal to balance this crank; so plan to have it balanced.
Now a word about the pistons. Diamond offers a lightweight forged piston to use with the 4-inch stroker crank in either 360 or 340 blocks. Your choices vary between a dished (9.5-9.75:1) and flat-top (11.5:1) version for the stroker motors, with both versions carrying deep valve reliefs. I chose the dished version since I planned on using the cast iron heads from my 318. The deck of the piston is still thick, even with the deep valve reliefs. The ring grooves are cut at 11/416-inch, and you can get them with smaller wrist pins. The pistons are a full-floater design, so there will be some upgrades involved in the connecting rod area. These pistons require only .004 inches of clearance to the cylinder bore. The only tricky part is orienting the valve reliefs when you assemble the engine. Since I am using nitrous, I fully massaged the machined edges from around the dish and valve relief areas and filed the piston rings to the gaps specified by the ring manufacturer.
The connecting rods are key to ease of assembly. I chose the Eagle "SIR" rods for a few reasons. Stock rods need to be resized, and require ARP rod bolts, balancing, bushings for full-floater pistons, plus grinding on the bottom of the cylinder bores to clear the rods and rod bolts. So, for about the same money you'll spend upgrading the stock rods for the job, the Eagle SIR rods are an excellent alternative. The SIR rods have all the requirements for this application, are chamfered for the sides of the journals, and do not require any grinding on the block for clearance. I was amazed that we didn't have to grind anywhere to make this crank fit with these rods. In my opinion, go for the Eagle SIR rods unless you're building a rod-breaker of an engine.
I had no plans to push this motor that hard, so the Eagle SIR was enough connecting rod to handle the horsepower-basically a wash with regards to the cost over up-fitting the stock rods, and it relieved us of the task of clearance-grinding the block. That was almost as neat as investigating a classified ad for a '69 Plymouth for $500 and finding that the valve covers have spark plug holes through them! OK, not really that neat, but what a cool surprise after we had all the cutting tools ready. In fact, Randy grabbed an Eagle H beam and found that we still would have to grind about as much to fit the stock rods to the block as we would the Eagle H-beam rod.
I used Clevite bearings that have been chamfered on the sides to clear the radiused fillets on the sides of the crankshaft journal. DO NOT attempt to use unchamfered bearings with this crankshaft, as it will be somewhat tight when you assemble it, and it will ruin the crank if you try to run it that way. During assembly, the connecting rod bearings require careful orientation. It's always a good idea to spin the crankshaft after you install every piston to verify you installed it correctly.
In sum, the guys at Diamond Racing put together a wonderful package. All the tolerances were perfect, and this stroker went together as easily as any nonstroker version. If you install an MP windage tray, there is some manipulating required to clearance the inside of the windage tray. The only upgrade I made for the installation of this engine was adding 36-pound injectors to handle the extra cubes. I installed a completely stock throttle-body to display what could be gained from only a short block. I also used the stock oil pan from the 318 with no problems.
Finally, don't forget to order yourself another Woodruff key for the crankshaft. The crankshaft is drilled for a pilot bearing, so stick-shift guys will need to get a new pilot bearing.
The ResultsOnce preparations were made to fire up this beast, we hit the key and immediately noticed the difference. When I put it in reverse, the torque at idle pulled the truck out of the garage. The 318 could not have handled that on its best day.
After the break-in process was complete, I put a G-Tech in the cab and ran severely traction-limited mid-12s. Then it was time to head to the track. I made two terrible launches in Second, missing Third gear in both passes, yet still netting a decent 12.84 and 12.89 at 113 mph. I attempted to leave in First gear on the third pass, and that proved costly. I tore the pinion support from the carrier and bent the driveshaft. The 408 and 4.01 First gear ratio produces a lot more torque than the stock Ford 9-inch carrier can take. This is with the mildly worked 318 heads.
So, I pulled the engine and dropped it into a friend's Dakota, which was equipped with an automatic, and we bolted up a 650 Demon double-pumper carb. This is a '97 Dakota, which weighs about 500 pounds more than mine. The truck boasts a mild converter, a 3.91 rear gear, and sees street/strip action. The result was an impressive 12.17 e.t. with tire spin (a 1.84 60-foot time), and a top-end charge of 115 mph.
Yes, a better throttle-body, R/T heads, and a fully programmable EFI will help the 408 even more, but the 408 alone will give instant results in your search for horsepower. If you really want to see results from those modifications, start with the 408, add the bolt-ons, then watch your e.t.'s plummet!
|ELAPSED TIME CHART&MDASH;JASON HAMMOND&'S 1994 DODGE DAKOTA |
|Equipment ||Performance ||w/nitrous |
|Stock, no modifications ||15.23 e.t./89 mph || |
|Electric fan, underdrive pulleys, 2-inch lower rear, K&N air filter ||14.93 e.t./91 mph || |
|Sure Grip posi unit, 295/50 rear tires, MP performance computer, after-cat exhaust ||14.42 e.t./93 mph |
|Hooker headers, 305/50 M&H DOTs, relocated battery ||13.89 e.t./97 mph || |
|4.10 gears, 90/10 drag shocks, Nitrous Express, Mickey Thompson e.t. Street ||13.73 e.t./98 mph ||125 hp |
|28x12.50 rear tires || ||12.29 e.t./109 mph |
|Ported heads, Engle 225/233 dur. @.050 cam, Crower rocker arms, Centerforce clutch, ||13.58 e.t./100 mph || |
|MSD Ignition |
|CalTrac bars, fabricated vertical mounts for rear shocks ||13.46 e.t./100 mph ||125 hp |
| || ||11.73 e.t./114 mph |
|M1 intake, Cartech fuel system ||13.49 e.t./103 mph ||150 hp |
| || ||11.62 e.t./117 mph |
|408 short block, Nitrous Express Quad Gemini dual-stage plate system, Hurst shifter ||12.50 e.t./113 mph |