They say that if you want it BIG, ya gotta go to Texas, right? In the wide open spaces of the Alamo State, "big" covers everything from the sky and ranches to the city nightlife and the blues guitar riffs of the late Stevie Ray Vaughn. It also includes Ron and Linda Merx's '99 Dakota R/T. If you're thinking that this is just another pretty Dakota face, think again. We thought that, too, until witnessing this yellow rose thunder down the 1320 on another 12.0 pass during the Second Annual Dakota R/T meet in Topeka, Kansas, last June. Curiosity got the better of us, so we had to investigate farther.
The Merxes bought their Dakota new from Dodge in April of 1999 and the progression to this level of performance has been ongoing. As with any project, going fast consists of the proper mix of parts, and the couple went right to the top of the charts with a Vortech V2SQ supercharger supplying ten pounds of boost coupled to a Nitrous Express nitrous system giving an extra 100-pony shot to the mix. Using this much boost and nitrous can wreak havoc on ordinary head gaskets, so Martin Motion in Houston took on the task of O-ringing the factory block; when assembly was done, MM incorporated a receiver groove in the original heads, which have been ported for this high-flow application.
While the rotating assembly consists of more stock components like the crank and rods, Federal Mogul 8.5:1 forged pistons were used to face the lethal environment provided by the supercharger/laughing gas cocktail. A Mopar Performance M-1 intake also houses the 42-pound injectors. To ensure adequate fuel gets to the engine, the Merxes also installed a big Summit 16-gallon fuel cell in the spare tire cavity, which in turn feeds the Aeromotive fuel pump pushing the fuel through the Paxton fuel regulator and then into the custom designed fuel rails. To remove the spent gases, a pair of Mike Leach-fabricated Tri-Y headers feed into a custom built 2 1/2-inch dual-exhaust system.
The stock transmission houses a Precision Industries 3,000 stall converter and is actuated by a B&M shifter. From there, the corralled ponies travel through the stock driveshaft into the factory rear housing, which supports a 3.92 gear set. Result: This baby spins the 28x12.50-15 M/T ET Street meats on a whim. Helping the little yellow hauler launch is a set of Cal-Trac bars that aid in planting the stickies.
The interior is basically stock with the exception of a few Autometer gauges and the Wet Okole seat skins to match the truck's other touches. As mentioned, the truck ran numerous 12.0 passes even with the suspension having a hard time planting the rubber. The Big Bird theme gives any competition a soft, fuzzy feeling of ease as they pull up to the line against this hairy canary, but that feeling diminishes quicker than the taillights disappearing as they see the Texas "Big Bird" fly.