Sport trucks have become a huge part of today's new vehicle market. While many companies offer a variety of trucks, DaimlerChrysler has positioned itself well into this market with performance-oriented products: The SRT-10, the Rumble Bee, and the Dakota R/T models. The Dakota R/T has been in production the longest, since midyear 1998, and has gained quite an enthusiast following.
One way the owners of these Magnum-powered trucks get together is through the National Dakota R/T Club. Founded in 2000, the club consists of 12 chapters nationwide. They maintain the web site, www.dakotart.com, which contains club news, info, and an Internet registry. They also host one big national event each year, as well as several regional races.
During the Mopars at the Rock event last April, over two dozen members from the National Dakota R/T Club were on hand. They came to Rockingham, North Carolina, from all walks of life, and enjoyed spending the weekend talking to each other about owning, modifying, and tuning their trucks. Through the efforts of the club and the help of the track, they organized a bracket race devoted just to Dakota R/Ts. The Port City Mopar Club, who ran the car show for the event, set aside the entire back fence behind the track for the club, where they swapped parts out, bolted up the slicks, and went racin'.
We had a chance to meet the club members at the event and have highlighted a few of the faster ones who were in attendance. With the cost of iron from the classic musclecar era climbing, and the practicality of a truck as a primary or secondary everyday vehicle, owning an R/T and catching up with these guys someplace may be a great new way to enjoy a Mopar-style weekend.
A special thanks goes out to Richard Eckstein, a Columbus, Ohio-based officer in the club, who introduced us to several of the contestants.
2003 Dakota R/T
Best Time: 13.66 at 99.3
Chris's truck cranks off mid-13s with ease. Used as a daily driver, he has done only minor modifications to it. The engine is stock except for headers, a steep gear in the rear, and a liberal amount of parts removal that lets him get it on. He came down from Maryland to spend a day racing at the Rock and hangin' with the gang.
Mods: GS Motorsports headers, BFGoodrich Comp T/A drag radials.
Quote: "It's my daily driver, with 43,000 miles and counting."
Wake Forest, North Carolina
2002 Dakota R/T
Best Time: 12.46 at 108.2
Earl has taken a fairly serious tack to his machine. the short-block is stock, but the top end sports the 1.92/1.60 R/T heads worked over by V&M Racing with a fast-ramp cam design. Add a 150 shot of nitrous to that mix, and the 4.56 cog will send the truck down the quarter in under 12.5 seconds. Street tires are 295/45-18 Nitto 555s on Billet Specialties rims. The stealth graphic metallic paint keeps the 5.0 boys wondering what hit 'em.
Mods: Mopar Performance M-1 manifold with F&B 55mm two-barrel throttle body, Comp Cams custom grind cam, NX 150 wet-shot nitrous system, GS Motorsports headers, 46RE automatic transmission with a TCI shift kit, Mopar deep trans pan, a B&M Hammer shifter, Precision Industries 2,800 stall converter, Detroit Locker w/4.56 gears, and M/T ET Streets for the track.
Quote: "Love to race, and it keeps getting faster."
2002 Dakota R/T
Best Time: 13.05 at 101.9
Jack does things the easy way. his truck is mostly stock and driven on a daily basis, so when he wants to get after it, the choice is chemical horsepower-a 100-horse shot courtesy of Nitrous Express. The only changes to the truck beyond that are Mopar Tri-Y headers, custom 3-inch exhaust, ported intake manifold, 50mm billet throttle body, and some fresh air parts. Running 13.05 with the 3.92 factory gear is as quick as some Hemi cars were back in the day.
Mods: 100-horse Nitrous Express shot, Mopar headers, 3-inch exhaust, ported intake, 50mm billet throttle body, 1.7 roller rockers, MSD ignition, and M/T Drag slicks for the track.
Quote: "Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well-preserved body, but to slide in sideways, totally worn out, shouting, holy sh*t, what a ride!"
2000 Dakota R/T
Best time: 12.49 at 107.82
Darrell is a good ol' boy with a gleam in his eye. When he gave us back the tech sheet, we noticed there were a lot of details he left blank. Cranking off the performances he did, we hazard a guess that he has got a lot more going on here than simply the Mopar Performance headers. He is using the 5.9 engine and has taken advantage of custom airflow into the injector.
Mods: Unknown, likely serious.
Quote: Just a grin.
Ringwood, New Jersey
1998 Dakota R/T
Best Time: 13.4 at 104
Mike gets the racer longevity award. He has 122,000 miles on his truck, which has put out rear-wheel dyno numbers of 292 hp and 320 pounds of torque. The secret is a custom ground Crower camshaft with .512 lift, R/T heads, GS Motorsports headers, and a 55mm throttle body by F&B. The driveline received a 2,600 Viper stall converter, and a 4.10 Auburn Gear limited-slip differential. For racing, slicks are mounted to 20x9-inch replicas of R/T rims. He is also a pretty good bracket race driver-he won the eliminator.
Mods: 1.92/1.60 heads, Crower cam, large-port injector, GS Motorsports headers, 2,600-stall converter, 4.10 gear.
Jeff Wilson Jr.
2000 Dakota R/T
Best time: 11.76 at 115.24
King of the hill performance-wise at Rockingham was Jeff Wilson Jr., the only competitor who had his truck on a trailer. The black-and-silver beast is a long-term project featuring a stroker crank, 2.02-inch valves in the R/T heads, a special Comp Cams bumpstick, a 10.3:1 compression ratio, Mopar headers, and a healthy dose of nitrous, which is still being scienced out. He has just swapped out the factory 46RE trans for a 727 Torqueflite able to handle more power, which is in turn backed by a 3.92 gear in the rear.
Mods: Nitrous, KRC-built "streetable" small-block, Comp Cams bumpstick, Mopar Tri-Y headers, KRC/J.W. 727 Torqueflite, 3.92 Sure Grip.
Quote: "Built to shut up some of the Ford boys. It will easily be a 10-second truck once we get the nitrous system set up." (Not bad for a 4,300-pound truck.)