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Dodge Dakota R/T - Drawing Board - Project: Rattler

Check out Jeff Curtis, Jrs.'s Dodge Dakota R/T.

Mike Finnegan
Jul 1, 2009
Photographers: Kris
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Drawing Board
The Dodge Dakota R/T has enjoyed a cult-like following of sport truck fans since its debut. With a potent 5.9L V-8 beneath the hood, it makes an ideal platform for building a hi-po pickup. Jeff Curtis Jr. originally wanted a WS6 Trans Am, but the cost of insuring that muscle car was a deterrent. Once he saw the specs on the R/T and learned that he could order one in Solar Yellow, which is close to the color of his favorite car of all time, John Milner's '32 coupe in the movie, American Graffiti, he was hooked. A few weeks later, Jeff drove his newest project home.
Jeff grew up with a steady diet of muscle car because his dad and uncles all drove Novas, Trans Ams, and Corvettes. In fact, Jeff's first car was a '69 Firebird, which he fixed up, street raced, and pulled many a trophy with at local car shows. As a graphic designer and musician, Jeff has all the creativity needed to dream up a bitchin concept for his Dakota. His brother-in-law, Joe Horvath, and several others are slowly helping that vision come to life.
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Cars by Kris is responsible for the rendering of the Rattler, a name that comes from the infusion of Viper-like ingredients, and also, the moniker given to a group of assault helicopters that flew missions in Vietnam. The Rattler is slated to receive plenty of venom to back up the menacing theme. The original 5.9L Magnum V-8 will be tossed in favor of an R3 block, which will be bored and stroked to displace 6.7 liters, with a K1 Technologies stroker crank and Howard billet connecting rods. Edelbrock Magnum aluminum heads will be ported by Dr. Js Performance and feature 1.7 ratio roller rockers, titanium retainers, and Smith Brothers pushrods. Wilson Manifolds has been tapped to fit the extrude honed M1 intake manifold with its spray bar conversion and custom billet fuel rails. A Scott Brown custom camshaft has been slated to take advantage of either an S488 turbocharged induction system. A Fast or Big Stuff3 management system will take care of the EFI fuel system. Like the induction system, the tranny choice is still up in the air. Jeff says the engine will be backed by either an 46RE or 727 Torqueflite conversion with a Pro Torque converter to send the power to a modified Dodge 9.25-inch rear with 31-spline axles.
To date, the truck has received '08 Viper Razor wheels, powdercoated in black and shod with Yokohama Advan ST tires. A full complement of Hotchkis TVS springs and sway bars found their way onto the front and rear of the truck, with QA-1 adjustable shocks along for the ride. The chassis has been stiffened thanks to a Kenny Brown X-brace and the R/T hooks better thanks to a set of Cal Tracs traction bars and a custom made track bar. Sidewinder Customs also supplied a Viper disc brake conversion for the ultimate in stopping assurance.
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The rest of Jeff's plan calls for a serious injection of style into the outside of the Rattler. Carbon-fiber parts will replace several body panels, including the hood. The door handles and antenna will be shaved clean, and the bed will receive a Viper GTS-style roll pan with center exit exhaust cutout, and a flush-mount fuel filler door. Fender flares will help keep the massive chunks of rubber coming from the tires in check, and a rear spoiler will help plant the rearend when Jeff blasts down the road at high speeds during events like the Maxton Mile and Silver State Classic, which he plans on attending.
Jeff says his ultimate goal with this project is to embarrass sports cars in the corners and run well past mid triple-digit speeds in the straights. He'd like to thank his sponsors, Scott Brown of Competition Components, Tom Molnar of K1 Technologies, Robert Lou of Howards Cams, Dan Portera of Bullseye Power, Eric and Marc Kozelu of Twins Turbo, Matt Dean of Glendora Dodge, and friend and Dana Weisbrot. The goal is certainly attainable, and we can't wait to see firsthand how well this one turns out.


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