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1998 Dodge Dakota - Northern Exposure

Our Neighbours The North Know To Build 'Em Too

Brandan Gillogly
May 1, 2006
Photographers: Dan Ward
Photo 2/2   |   1998 Dodge Dakota side View
Jeff Cunningham of Barrie, Ontario, wanted a cus-tom-built truck like the ones he sees in the pages of Truckin' but didn't often see them in his home province. Maybe Canadians have different tastes in vehicles or maybe they prefer a different medium to exercise their creative talent. Whatever the case, Jeff proved that our neighbors to the north definitely have the know-how to build show-quality trucks. He didn't have to look too far before he found several quality shops up to the task of building a top-quality truck.
Jeff started with a 1998 Dodge Dakota and handed his machine off to Xtreme Customs in Burlington, Ontario, for a laundry list of body mods. A Street Scene Generation II bumper cover started off the customization, followed by a shaved antenna, taillights, door handles, drip rails, tailgate handle, and gas door. With the body already much cleaner, the crew at Xtreme got to work installing IPCW headlights, Cadillac taillights, and a Watson's Street Works 15-inch LED third brake light to keep any gawkers from rear-ending Jeff's pride and joy. Next, the gas filler was relocated inside the bed, and the wheel openings were flared and moved up three inches to make room for the wheels that Jeff had in mind. Wrapping up the bodywork is a custom roll pan fabbed up by the guys at Xtreme Customs. What you can't see, and what allows this Dakota to lay so low, is the revised exhaust and the notch in the rear of the cab that allows for drivetrain clearance. With the body fully prepped by Xtreme Customs, the Dakota got a few coats of Spectra Blue Mica (a factory Toyota Celica color), the factory Dakota silver, and House of Kolor Tangelo Pearl, all applied by Ron Gibbs.
Once the truck had room for wheels, Jeff commissioned another Burlington, Ontario, shop (Underworld Customs) to bring the truck down to earth. Stock spindles combined with Firestone 2600-lb airbags allow the front to rest 9 inches lower, while the rear uses the same airbags and a custom triangulated four-link with a C-notched frame to get the same result. Now the truck finally had the right stance to fill the wheelwells up front with 18x8-inch Boze Twisted Fatal 6 wheels shod in 235/40ZR18 Kumho Ecsta Supras. The rear got 255/35ZR20s and matching Boze wheels.
Jeff built a rack to mount two 5-gallon air tanks and plumbed the airbags with 1/2-inch lines and 1/2-inch SMC valves and 1/2-inch check valves. Filling those tanks are two Viair 450 Series pumps. Jeff appropriately chose a Dakota Digital air pressure gauge to keep tabs on his pneumatics.
Inside the cab, Barkey Upholstery of Orillia, Ontario, re-covered the stock seats in navy blue leather, gray pigskin suede, and orange piping to match the exterior. The overhead console was modified to mount the Dakota Digital air pressure gauge and keep a clean, factory appearance. Speaking of factory appearance, you won't find any fiberglass in the dash, as the original pieces were sanded smooth and shot with the same paint as the exterior. In fact, the graphics that begin on the hood continue through the windshield, onto the dash, and across the tonneau cover.
With such a finely crafted interior, Jeff planned on spending plenty of time behind the wheel, so he dropped his truck off with Frank at Downtown Sounds for an audio renovation. Beginning with an Alpine IVA-D310 head unit that gives Jeff CD/DVD/MP3 capability and powered by two JBL amps, four 12-inch JBL GT subs provide enough rumble to drown out the Dakota's Flowmaster mufflers. The custom sub box is built from MDF and is sealed with fiberglass. It mounts two of the JBLs normally and two inverted (for a better look at the hardware). Mids and separates are mounted in the factory locations in the extended cab and also in the door panels.
Jeff's goal was to build a high-quality show truck in his home province of Ontario, and we've got to say, it stands out as one of the best Dakotas we've ever seen. We typically run a few Canadian-built show trucks each year, but with the sort of talent that went into this Dakota, we won't be too surprised if word travels quickly and we get a flood of great trucks from up north to fill our pages
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