2001 Dodge Dakota R/T - Street Sleeper

A Dakota R/T With Plenty Of Surprises

Joe Daniels
Jul 1, 2004
Photographers: The Sport Truck Staff
Photo 2/14   |   2001 Dodge Dakota Rt custom Dodge Dakota
Nothing beats a surprise. And getting more than you bargained for is even better. Take Tony Natale's '01 Dodge Dakota R/T for example. While it may not be the flashiest Dodge that's ever graced the pages of Sport Truck magazine, it does have its share of surprises inside. Sure it's one of a handful of Dakota R/Ts rolling 22s, but there's more than meets the eye with this Dodge.
As most Mopar enthusiasts know, the Dakota R/Ts pack a 5.9L V-8 under the hood to give even the strongest fullsize truck a run for its money in a stoplight-to-stoplight street battle. So Tony thought, "Why not build on a good thing?" and modify the Magnum V-8 with such performance goodies as a Magnaflow 3-inch after-cat exhaust, a K&N FIPK air intake system, a JET chip, performance underdrive pulleys, and a cooler 180-degree thermostat. For that extra boost of sound and horsepower, Tony also added an electronically controlled straight-pipe cutout under the truck. To add something in the aesthetics department, the engine compartment was treated to a full complement of steel braided lines.
A street-smart stance was the next order of business, but running 22-inch wheels and tires on a midsize truck presents its own set of problems. To keep the combo from hitting or rubbing, Tony took the truck to HW Motorsports in Orange, California, who recommended a moderate 3-inch drop up front using Belltech springs and shocks. Larger bumpstops were also added, which allows full articulation of the suspension, even with the 22-inch rolling stock. In addition, HW added a 5-inch drop with Belltech spring hangers and shackles to lower the rear. Larger bumpstops were also added out back to clear the truck's 285/35ZR22 Nitto NT555s wrapped around 22x9.50-inch Tezzan wheels.
Since first impressions are important, but don't need to be overstated, Tony opted to take a moderate approach to the truck's body mods. Up front is a custom mesh grille housed in a Dakota Sport shell that complements the truck's Keystone lower front fascia complete with driving lights. At the rear is a Keystone french-cut roll pan and chrome R/T emblem lifted from a Dodge Stratus R/T. The bed is topped with a GemTop flush-mounted tonneau, which hides a gray Bedrug. One subtle touch on the tonneau is the gray-suede liner to match the suede in the interior. Other subtle touches include color-matched door handles and taillights, and black B&C pillars to simulate a chop-top effect. Tony hooked up with Sunset Auto Body and TDI Signs, both of Long Beach, California, for the truck's bodywork and gray- and black-vinyl flame graphics.
On the inside, the stock seating was replaced with Cobra Daytona racing-style buckets up front upholstered in black suede. The door panels were given the carbon fiber treatment, as was the center console. A carbon-fiber insert accents the gauge cluster, while a suede headliner completes the color-matching. A rockin' sound system can literally raise the roof in the Dakota as well.
When asked what is the most unique features of the truck, Tony responded, "It's a Dodge" and that he wanted to build one of the cleanest Mopar customs around. And despite it's relatively subtle appearance, we have to agree that Tony has succeeded.
Rockin' The House
Tony's Dakota R/T has enough sound equipment inside to open up his own disco. An Eclipse head unit and CD changer feeds a trio of Harman/Kardon amplifiers. The amps power a myriad of speakers, including monster twin 18-inch JBL subwoofers mounted in a custom enclosure behind the seats. Twin 8-inch JBL mid-bass speakers provide even more punch, while a pair of 3-inch JBL titanium midrange speakers and twin 1-inch titanium tweeters provide the highs. Tony claims that even though the stereo equipment is at least 10 years old, it has earned his truck Top 3 honors in just about every audio competition he has entered.



Subscribe Today and Save up to 83%!

Subscribe Truck Trend Magazine

Subscribe to:

Truck Trend

Subscribe Diesel Power Magazine

Subscribe to:

Diesel Power

Subscribe Truckin Magazine

Subscribe to: