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Dakota

94 Dakota

I know it's a pickup truck, and not a race car. But by early 1999, it had been too long since I'd raced, I wanted to have some fun, and the Camaro was still in storage. I thought, what the heck, it's a Dakota "Sport" with a Magnum V8, and I was curious to see how it would run. The best elapsed time I got out of it was a 15.19, but it slowed down over the last few years of racing it, and has been retired from drag racing since 2007. I think it was starting to show the results of a couple hundred thousand miles on the clock, and the constant flogging at the track.

Dakota at Sears Point

The 5.2L (318 c.i.) Magnum engine is mostly stock, with the most noticeable improvement coming from a Mopar Performance PCM. It helped throttle response immensely, and shaved almost half a second off the 1/4 mile E.T. Dodge should've put these in from the factory, or at least made it an option. I cured the pinging caused by the advanced timing with a 180 degree thermostat (stock is 195) and a colder set of plugs. Breathing is improved with a K&N air filter, an F&B throttle body, a Mopar full exhaust system including headers, Y-pipe, muffler, full lenth 3" mandrel-bent tubing, and a high-flow muffler.

The F&B Throttlebodies specially machined throttle body is an excellent piece of workmanship, and the builder/designer is a true Dodge performance enthusiast, with a Dakota of his own. Before you consider any intake hardware for your Dakota, check them out. I can promise you won't be disappointed with either the product or service.

In the drivetrain department, I've installed a shift kit in the transmission to firm up the automatic slush box, but in my efforts not to go overboard on the hard shifts, I can barely tell a difference. I also replaced the tired limited-slip posi unit in the rearend with a much stronger and more reliable Powertrax No-Slip locking differential.

Trying to solve the resultant tire spin problems at the track, I installed a set of QA-1/HAL Corp. racing shocks in the front, and a set of Calvert Trac-bars and drag shocks out back. Rolling stock was a pair of 275/60 Drag Radials mounted on 15x8 Weld Racing Pro Star rims in the rear, and 235/60's on 15x7's in the front. Although these days it wears true street tires of the same size.

Switching to a Standard 5 on 4-1/2" Mopar Bolt Pattern
My Dakota, and all Gen II Dakotas from '92-'96, came from the factory with a unique 6 lug on 4-1/2" bolt pattern. Not exactly a great selection of wheels in that bolt pattern from the aftermarket. Making the switch to a standard Mopar 5 lug on 4-1/2" pattern is just too easy, and is done simply by swapping the brake hardware and axles from a 1990 Dakota. In the front, when it was time for new rotors anyway, I just got ones for a '90 Dakota, instead of a '94. No redrilling of hubs is necessary, and the calipers and pads are the same. Out back, I ordered a set of '90 Dakota axles, and bought a new set of drums, also for a '90 Dakota. All the dimensions are the same, so it was a relatively easy swap. I ordered my axles from Tom's Differentials. He offers stock type axles, but they get an extra heat treatment over the factory units, for the same price.

I also lowered it just a couple inches from stock (to get rid of that silly "up on tippy-toes" look) with shackles in the rear and spindles in the front, all from Western Chassis.

2007 - The Last Year of Racing The Dakota:
I didn't really want to run the truck in 2007, I was hoping to have the Camaro finished by then. But, life being what it is, I didn't have the Camaro ready to race yet, and the drag racing habit is hard to break.

It wasn't the best year of racing for me and the truck, and I capped off the season with the hood flying open while going down the track, smashing the windsheild, and bending itself and the roof into a wavy mess. I wish I couldn've gotten through just one more weekend successfully. The Camaro is done now and I'm racing that these days, so this was the last race in the truck for a while.

Dakota in Vegas

The above photo shows it dressed up for the 2001 Summit ET Racing Finals. I save the magnetic flames for the once a year Finals race, along with the Summit and Sears Point team stickers that I put on with magnetic material too. It would be silly to leave the stickers on all the time, but at the Finals I allow myself that bit of frivolous fun. Makes 'er feel more like a real race vehicle too.

Vegas Sunset

I did pretty well at the Division 7 Finals race in 2001, going four rounds, making it down to 19 cars, and winning more than enough to pay for gas on the way home. In 2002, I went the same number of rounds. One of these days I hope to go further.

When I started racing the Dakota in '99 it was running low 16's. With the changes I made, it improved over a full second. For more information about my truck than you could ever want to know, see the post of Scott's Dakota on Jon Steiger's DragTruk.com website.

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Last Updated January 27, 2016
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