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Dodge Muscle Truck: This 2000 Dakota Really Hauls with an 820-hp Small-Block!

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 11/20/2020 John Machaqueiro
a car parked on the side of a building: 001-dodge-dakota-front © Hot Rod Network Staff 001-dodge-dakota-front

Marco Sandin and his family are what you could call Moparaholics. They have a large collection of Chrysler vehicles that range from a blown Hemi Dart, to Vipers, and some race-prepped Darts. These have all been maintained at their Sonora Workshop and Body Shop in Hermosillo, Mexico, and are either actively raced by his sons Alex and Marco, Jr. or shown on both sides of the border. Every year, their entire crew comes up to the Muscle Cars at the Strip show in Las Vegas and participates in both the car show and the race side of the event. In 2019, they showed up with their latest build, a 2000 Dodge Dakota R/T that has been race-prepped with all the right ingredients.

When we sat down with Marco to find out about the truck, we were particularly interested in why he decided to have a truck. First off, the desire to acquire one was simple. He explains, "We only had cars, and we wanted something different." Beyond the wish to own one, he did point out that creating one from the ground up would require a huge investment, so when the decision was made to add one, they decided to look for something that was already built but could be fashioned to suit his vision. Race-ready trucks aren't a dime a dozen, so finding one was a challenge. With a fair amount of time invested in that effort, one finally showed up on their radar that was for sale in Seattle, Washington. It was the ideal candidate with a fully finished race chassis, but it was missing its drivetrain.

a close up of a motorcycle engine © Hot Rod Network Staff

Once it was transported down to Hermosillo, it sat for a few years. During that time, all the drivetrain parts were purchased to move forward to the next step. Given the truck's layout, they faced certain limitations in what they could drop in the engine bay. Fortunately, suppliers for that combination were quite plentiful, so buying an engine was the first part of that process. Having a great relationship with the folks at Indy Cylinder Head and already owning a number of their engines, it was only natural that they would once again be their engine supplier.

Marco opted for one of their 440 48-degree small-block LA bracket master engine packages. The foundation for this combination starts with a Mopar Performance iron Siamese block. When you order one of these packages, you have the option of choosing an Eagle or Callies bottom end. His choice was to go with a Callies forged crank, Callies Compstar connecting rods, 14.25:1 Diamond forged aluminum pistons, and a Comp Cams 50mm roller camshaft. The top end relies on a set of Indy 360-1 48-degree aluminum cylinder heads, Indy 360-2 aluminum intake, and a Holley 1050 cfm Dominator carburetor.

The folks at Indy Cylinder Head claim that this package, which runs on race fuel, is good for about 820 hp, and when dropped into a vehicle that is about 3,000 pounds, will run consistent low 9-second passes all day. That power, of course, needs to be efficiently transferred to the rear, and for that part of the job, he went with a 904 Super Competition Plus automatic transmission, which features a manual reverse pattern valve body. From there, everything shifts to a Moser 9-inch with 4.32:1 gears on a spool. In between is an aluminum driveshaft from Inland Empire Driveline. The rear suspension is comprised of QA1 springs and AFCO racing shocks, while the disc brake setup is OEM Ford Explorer. Up front, Marco installed Lamb Components four-piston calipers and 11.5-inch rotors and spindles, QA1 springs, and AFCO Racing shocks. As this complex grouping came together and the drivetrain was mocked in place, the last part of that puzzle was to fabricate the custom exhaust. This was an in-house project that included the headers, 3-inch stainless steel pipes, and the mufflers.

a blue car parked in front of a building © Hot Rod Network Staff

When they were ready to move on to the paint and body stage, the crew at the shop tore the truck down to a bare shell. Marco drew inspiration from the existing race-prepped cars in their collection for the color combination. The black was from their 1969 Dart GTS, named "The Back Mamba," the purple from their 1973 Dart Sport called "El Mantinido Jr," and the green hand-painted stripe from their 1974 Dart Sport called "Stupid Clean." The colors are all a combination of R-M paints with the black and purple a base coat/clear coat application. Underneath, the chassis was treated to a full makeover, and as Marco points out, "We rebuilt it to Sandin Racing standards." The interior was actually a low-maintenance deal for them. It was all original and in great condition. It did come with a rollcage and five-point restraints, a Kirkey aluminum seat, and Auto Meter gauges.

The last ingredient in this recipe was the addition of some wheels and tires. From the Billet Specialties catalog he chose their Comp 5 wheels. The front set measure 15x3.5, and the rear are double beadlock units measuring 15x12. Rubber choice is from Mickey Thompson. Up front, the wheels are skinned in their Sportsman S/R 26x6.00R15LT tires, while at the back, ET Street R 13x16.50R15LT were chosen.

As a package, this Dakota has all the right credentials to go down the track; however, from the outset Marco's desire was to build a show truck and not something to tear up the dragstrip. We think he has succeeded on all accounts.

2000 Dodge Dakota Muscle Truck Specifications

Owner: Marco Sandin, Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico

EngineType: Indy Cylinder 440 48-degree small-block LA bracket master engine

Bore x Stroke: 4.195 (bore) x 4.000 (stroke) inches

Block: Mopar Performance LA cast iron

Rotating Assembly: Callies forged crank, Callies Compstar connecting rods, Diamond forged aluminum pistons

Cylinder Heads: Indy Cylinder 360-1 245cfm 48-degree aluminum

Camshaft: Comp Cams roller

Compression: 14.25:1

Induction: Indy Cylinder W2 360-3R intake manifold, Holley 1050 CFM Dominator carburetor

Oiling System: Charlie's Oil Pans kickout aluminum oil pan, Melling high-volume oil pump

Exhaust: Custom-built headers and 3-inch stainless pipes

Ignition: MSD 6AL controller, MSD Pro-Billet distributor, MSD crank trigger

Cooling: Chrysler original radiator, 16-inch Be Cool electric fan

Exhaust fabricated by: Sonora Workshop and Body Shop

DrivetrainTransmission: A&A Transmissions 904 Super Competition Plus automatic transmission, A&A 8-inch 5,600 stall speed converter

Shifter: Precision Performance Products CO2 shifter, Mega 475 digital delay box

Driveshaft: Custom aluminum driveshaft from Inland Empire Driveline

Rearend: Moser 9-inch spool, 4.32:1 gears

ChassisFront Suspension: QA1 shocks, AFCO racing shocks

Rear Suspension: Ladder bars, QA1 shocks, AFCO racing shocks

Steering: Stock steering column, stock steering box

Front brakes: Lamb Components four-piston calipers and 11.50-inch discs

Rear brakes: Ford Explorer OEM disc

Wheels & TiresFront Wheels: 15x3.5-inch Billet Specialties Comp 5

Rear Wheels: 15x12-inch Billet Specialties Comp 5

Front Tires: Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R 26x6.00R15LT

Rear Tires: Mickey Thompson ET Street R 13x16.50R15LT

BodySheetmetal: Stock Dodge Dakota sheetmetal

Paint: R-M base coat/clear coat black and purple

Bodywork and Paint: Sonora Workshop and Body Shop, Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico

InteriorInstrumentation: Factory dash and instruments, Auto Meter gauges

Upholstery: Original interior with Kirkey aluminum seat, roll cage, Impact Racing five-point belts

Air conditioning: None

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