2000 Dodge Dakota RT - Revitalized R/T

A Dakota Brought Back From The Dead

Don Emmons
Jul 1, 2004
Photographers: Don Emmons
Photo 2/2   |   You would never know from looking at Nigel and Jill Robins' '00 Dakota R/T Club Cab that barely three months before it was sitting in a salvage yard declared a total loss by the insurance company. Nigel did the installation of the drop kit and body changes, while his brother-in-law, Bob Thomson, did the bodywork.
Nigel Robins' family has always been into the car hobby, and Nigel has always helped with projects. His first project car was a '64 Chevy 409ci convertible. Driving a big-block ragtop tends to pattern your entire adult life as far as vehicles are concerned. His list of projects included a '55 Chevy two-door equipped with a 389ci engine and a fiberglass front end, a '64 Cutlass with a 455ci engine, a '67 396ci SS Chevelle, a '39 Chevy with a big-block, and many more. He installed a small-block Chevy in his first truck, a '48 Studebaker, before his family life curtailed the car craze.
When the kids were out of the house, he began to look for a project that would be more pleasurable to drive than his everyday wheels. He mentioned to a few friends he was looking for a truck. He heard about a Dodge Dakota R/T that was sitting in an insurance salvage yard and went to check it out. He found a badly wrecked truck. Previously, the truck had been fixed up and had a Dakota R/T Club decal on the back glass, but it was definitely in bad shape. Obviously, it had taken a nosedive into the dirt that bent the frame between the cab and the bed and crumpled the entire front end. The price was right if it could be rebuilt, but he was not sure he could bring the truck back to its former glory. Nigel took his brother-in-law, Bob Thomson, an accomplished bodyshop man, to examine the truck. Bob agreed that it was bad, but between the two of them, the truck could be salvaged.
Bob did most of the bodywork, and the framework was turned over to Paul Smith to straighten and pull everything back into proper alignment. After all the body and prep work was done, Tom Portz at Carl Cleve & Sons applied the DuPont Bright White paint and flames.
Interested in the Dakota R/T Club decal, Nigel decided to see what the club was all about, and soon he and wife Jill became members. Nigel learned that the club was holding its national meet for 2002 in Tucson, Arizona. It seemed like a good place to take a new step into the hobby he had enjoyed years earlier. A big push was made to finish the truck and drive it from his home in Illinois to Tucson. The push went right to the wire with the truck going on Paul Smith's alignment rack the morning they left for Arizona. The Boze wheels were not going to be there in time for the trip, so Nigel arranged to have them drop-shipped in Arizona, and he had the BFGoodrich g-Force tires mounted out there before show time.
Topping off the fun weekend were the trophies Nigel and Jill's truck took for Best Paintjob and First in Modified Club Cab. At the 2003 Nationals, the truck was awarded First in Lowered Club Cab and Second in Best Graphics. Not bad for a wreck from a junkyard. Another pleasant moment at the 2002 Nats was when the former owner introduced himself and said it was a miracle that his old truck was brought back to life. He had not realized that there was any life left after the wreck.
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