Dak owner gets “clubbed,” wakes up at the track.
By Al Dente Photos by TheBruntBros
Mopar clubs are great. You have fun times as a group, exchange ideas and help each other out. But there’s a more sinister side to joining a club. It’s called peer pressure. Not everyone is infected. If you’re the type that is satisfied with your ride regardless of what’s going on around you, fine. But if seeing Joe Schmoe showing up with a new set of custom wheels makes you suddenly feel inadequate, you got the bug. The treatment can be expensive—continually adding stuff to your Mope to keep it competitive in the attention-getting dept.
That’s sorta what happened to Brian Akers. Truckin’ down to the local Dodge dealership with his dad who was picking up a used Dakota, Brian saw a blue Dak R/T that was calling to him “Buy Me.” Whether the dealer had a sneaky speaker hidden in the truck that played that phrase to prospective customers or it was just in Brian’s head, we don’t know. What matters is that he ended up buying the truck, and he loved it—stock.
Then Brian joined the Dakota R/T Club.
Man, there were some cool trucks with all kinds of tricks. Suddenly “stock” just seemed old. OK, let’s pick up the performance a bit to step ahead of other stock trucks in the club. A cold air intake and shorty headers were the first items to be rung up on Brian’s Gold Card. Not a bad start, and he still had some bucks left for an occasional lunch at Mickey D’s.
But the peer-pressure bug was gnawing at him. The Dak was peppier but it really didn’t stand out from the pack. OK, let’s lower the sucker, and upgrade the handling in the process so Brian would have a good shot at beating the competition to the prime showfield spots. A DJM kit dropped him 2” and Hotchkis came through with springs and swaybars. That, combines with QA1 shocks sharpened handling considerably.
Not bad, but some of the Daks in the club looked cooler. A ‘70s-style ‘Cuda shaker would turn heads in his direction. Terry DeLong made one (he’s no longer in business), and Brian got one before Terry folded up his tent. It’s a functional fresh air unit. The Dak served a Brian’s daily driver until 2004. That’s when he really went nuts pulling the truck completely apart, powder coating the chassis and having his father in law repaint the truck in its original color but with a PPG 3-stage paint, clear sanding and 4 coats of clear. That process, says Brian took a year as it was a one-man job (guess the guy took a lot of breaks).
Looking around at some of the other trucks in the club, Brian decided his Dak Needed “a little more.” So he spruced up the front end a bit with a Sniper grille and bumper and GSM side skirts. He shaved the tailgate and flipped it around so the handle was on the inside, and while he had his Gilette auto razor our, he shaved the antenna. He musta run outa blades before he got to the door handles. Turning to the interior, Brian sprang for custom Katzkin leather seats (made from real katz). He cobbled up a custom console and dash cover. The dash and A-pillar sport Proparts and Blackcat gauges so Brian can monitor much more information than he really needs to know. ‘Course other club members now feel gauge-challenged, but that’s their problem.
Well, Brian’s Dak now seemed like a pretty complete package—maybe to you Road Runner fans out there, but you don’t think like a Dakhead. Indeed it was a pretty complete package—visually and handling wise, but it lacked just one more little detail. It wasn’t quick enough. That detail was handled by Southeast Performance in Tampa, FL for a complete 408 stroker long block. The engine builders used all the good stuff—MP forged crank, 10:1 Diamond pistons, Eagle H-beam rods, ARP studs. Up top in ported and polished Dak heads, the valvetrain is motivated by a Comp cams bumpstick. Inside the feedbag are an M1 4-Bbl intake and 58mm throttle body. Injectors are 34 lb/hr Ford racing units. Needing a “little extra” on occasion, Brian went for a 150 HP NO2 nitrous shot with NX solenoids.
Beefing the stock 4-speed automatic equipped with a 2800-stall converter and shift kit essentially was running diesel-duty components such as Kevlar clutch bands. A trans cooler keeps temps in line. Brian figured the current setup should be good for turning some good times at the track. So far he’s had it out twice, with his best chalking up a 12.1 ET @ 113 MPH. He was plagued by traction problems from the stock 3.92 rear. Seems his Sure-Grip was sure-gripping the way it should. He now will be installing a Detroit Locker with the-only-one-in-the-world 4.30 Eaton ring and pinion. Eaton offers rear gears in 4.10 and 4.56 ratios, and the Dak R/T club was interested in a 4.30 gear. Eaton cranked out 3 prototype sets. But when the club found out the cost for tooling up a limited production run, they passed (or passed out). Two of the 4.30 sets were scrapped. The third was secreted away by an Eaton employee. A friend of Brian’s bought the “lunchpail” gears from the Eaton guy and Brian then bought them from his friend—for $300.
With his stock rear Brian goes through the traps at about 5500-5800 RPM. His stroker is redlined at 6200, so Brian thinks the new gearing should work out just fine. We just hope Brian’s Dak isn’t out-trumped by another truck in the club. And after checking what’s left in his bank account, Brian hopes so too.