Exclusive: Performance West Dodge Dakota T/A

Muscle car, meet muscle truck: A Dakota that will make you plum purple with envy

Rich TruesdellJul 28, 2005
What do you get when you combine Dodge's midsize Dakota with a heaping helping of Plum Crazy muscle-car heritage? The 2005 Dodge Dakota T/A, a truck with a real attitude, courtesy of a tweaked 4.7-liter Magnum V-8 engine, a limited-slip differential, bucket seats, and a console that is pure musclecar--or should we say muscle truck? It's the Dodge for those who lusted after a Dodge Challenger 35 years ago, but missed the boat. Yet this truck handles better than any musclecar ever did, and has the added practicality of a versatile pickup bed.
Inspired by the legendary 1970 Challenger T/A, this truck offers all of the performance and excitement of its classic counterpart, but in a thoroughly contemporary package. It starts with the color, an updated version of Plum Crazy, the quintessential Challenger color used on some of Dodge's most memorable advertisements. The white T/A body-side accent adapts the Challenger T/A style to this modern truck. If you're an introvert, look elsewhere--you're sure to be noticed behind the wheel of the Dakota T/A.
Photo 2/4
Heritage Design
Larry Weiner's Performance West Group's vehicles are the mainstays of venues like the annual SEMA Show, where this Dakota was first spied. Using a variety of aftermarket components, some tooled specifically for this project, Performance West took personalization to a new level. Inspired by its namesake Challenger T/A, these modifications give the truck an even more "in your face" personality, now a hallmark of the entire line of Dodge trucks.
The crosshair grille, part of the Dodge DNA, is enhanced with the addition of a black anodized diamond wire mesh insert, the background accent for the chrome grille shell. The fascia was given an aerodynamic airdam for a unique front-end look that also reduces drag. Completing the modifications forward of the A-pillar, the Dakota T/A is equipped with a Six Pak hood manufactured by RK Sport, inspired by the ones found on classic Mopar muscle cars. For that period-correct look, the hood is secured with chromed pins supplied by Classic Design Concepts. All these goodies would be wasted if not for the flawless application of the House of Kolor Plum Crazy mix, done by Mike Face Custom Paint.
Filling the wheel openings are 22x9-inch modular alloy wheels supplied by Oasis, shod with Toyo Proxes S/T directional radials; P265/40R22 up front, P305/45R22 in the rear. The lowering kit from Tec One by Advantage (which drops the truck 3.5 inches up front and 4.5 in the rear) and the deep tinted glass give the truck a sinister, almost menacing look. The elliptical wheel design, mimicking that found on the Challenger T/A's original Dodge rally wheels, is just right to show off the big brake upgrade that comes courtesy of the Stainless Steel Brakes.
The result of this combination of wheel, tire, and suspension upgrades is a vehicle that doesn't handle like a truck. On our short drive on twisty two-lane roads in north San Diego County, the Dakota T/A handled more like a contemporary sports car than a musclecar from the Sixties. It certainly has more in common with a NASCAR Craftsman pickup than any of its Hemi-powered ancestors.
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Although we hold these icons in high esteem, the truth is classic Mopar musclecars like the Challenger T/A were designed to go fast in a straight line; the Dakota T/A, in spite of being a truck, aspires to a much higher level of handling prowess. While the tail end of the Dakota T/A is light, the wide Toyo Proxes tires do their part in keeping the rear end connected to the pavement. Don't get us wrong--with the proper application of your right foot, it's possible to get the Dakota T/A loose, but you really have to work at it, thanks to the combination of sticky rubber and a lower center of gravity.
Weiner didn't neglect the interior when it came time to extend the truck's personality. Working with long-time collaborator Katzkin, the bucket seats are trimmed in glove-soft leather that integrates the exterior colors, complemented by embroidered matching floor coverings. Further extending its links to the past, the updated instrument panel is outfitted with a giant Mopar Monster Tach and shift light on the dashboard. Like the exterior, it won't be appreciated by the stodgy or stuffy types.
Another member of the Performance West team of suppliers is engine maestro Kenne Bell, whose engine-management tweaks breathe additional life into the flexible 4.7-liter SOHC V-8. Enhancements include a low-restriction cat-back dual exhaust system from Magnaflow that not only adds horsepower, but produces a sound that is music to the ears of any performance enthusiast who remembers when powerful V-8s ruled the streets. For better breathing characteristics, the 4.7 is equipped with a cool-air intake that increases ram effect, while Denso Iridium spark plugs provide optimum combustion.
The bottom line is this: The aftermarket already has embraced the new Dakota, and if last year's SEMA Show was any indication, is gearing up for the new-generation pickup to be even more popular than its predecessor. The availability of V-8 power makes it unique in its class, something that its closest competitor, the Toyota Tacoma, doesn't offer. Combine that with its good looks, and it could be a winner. With a base price of under $20,000 for the V-8-equipped Club Cab four-door, it's a value-packed package that's sure to find favor with value-conscious buyers. And its low initial cost means you'll have money left over to personalize your truck.
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Now, if we could just convince Dodge to put Plum Crazy on the factory color palette, we could all save the expense of a costly respray. And, while they're at it, the guys at Dodge should consider an updated, modern itineration of Hemi Orange as well.
Although there are no immediate plans to put the Dakota T/A in production, don't be surprised to see something similar, possibly offered on a dealer-installed basis in the next 12 months. Until then, look no further than the local paint and styling shops to put your own stamp of individuality on your new Dakota. With the help of the aftermarket, you're limited only by imagination and the size of the credit card.
COMPONENT/SUPPLIER LISTING
DAKOTA T/A SIX PACK CUSTOM HOOD DIAMOND WIRE GRILLE
RK Sport
26900 Jefferson Ave.
Murrieta, CA 92562
909/894-7883
rksport.com
CUSTOM PAINT
House of Kolor
210 Crosby St.
Picayune, MS 39466
801/749-5108
houseofkolor.com
CUSTOM PAINT APPLICATION
Mike Face Custom Paint
834 N. Waterman Ave.
San Bernardino, CA 92410
Service: Custom Painting
909/381-3738
BED COVER/ UPHOLSTERED BED LINER
Gaylord's Truck Lids
13538 Excelsior Dr.
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
562/529-7543
gaylordslids.com
HOOD PINS
Classic Design Concepts
1880 W. Maple Rd.
Walled Lake, MI 48390
248/624-7997
classicdesignconcepts.com
VEHICLE COVER
Covercraft Industries
100 Enterprise Blvd.
Pauls Valley, OK 73075
405/238-9651
covercraft.com
BILLET FUEL DOOR
AMP Research
2552 McGaw Ave.
Ivine, CA 92614
949/221-0023
amp-research.com
CUSTOM LEATHER INTERIOR
Katzkin Leather
6868 Arco Ave.
Montebello, CA 90640
323/725-1243
katzkin.com
TACH & SHIFT LIGHT
Mopar
1000 Chrysler Dr.
Auburn Hills, MI 48326
mopar.com
MONOGRAMMED CARPET MATS
Designer Mat, Intromarketing
2115 E. Via Burton
Anaheim, CA 92806
714/635-3007
WINDOW TINT
Johnson Window Film
20655 Analee Ave.
Carson, CA 90746
800/448-8468
johnsonwindowfilms.com
WHEELS
Oasis Alloy Wheels
400 S. Lemon St.
Anaheim, CA 92805
714/533-3286
oasiswheels.com
TIRES
Toyo Tires
6261 Katella Ave.
Cypress, CA 90630
714/236-2080
toyo.com
DISC-BRAKE UPGRADES
Stainless Steel Brakes Corp
11470 Main Rd.
Clarence, NY 14031
716/759-8666
ssbrakes.com
ENGINE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Kenne Bell Inc.
10743 Bell Ct.
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730
909/941-6646
kennebell.net
CAT BACK DUAL EXHAUST SYSTEM
Magnaflow Performance Exhaust
22961 Arroyo Vista
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688
949/858-5900
magnaflow.com
SUSPENSION ENHANCEMENTS
Tec One By Advantage
1253 W. LaCadena
Riverside, CA 92501
909/684-8483
SPARK PLUGS
Denso Sales USA
3900 Via Oro Ave.
Long Beach, CA 90810
310/952-7417
PROJECT COORDINATION
Performance West Group
5256 S. Mission Road # 703-214
Bonsall, CA 92003
760/630-0547
performancewestgroup.com

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