In 1999, the Dodge brand released a performance package for its midsized Dakota that would change the brand’s direction into what we know today. Known for its limited-edition performance trucks of the 1970s like the popular Warlock and Lil’ Red Express pickups, the Dakota 5.9 R/T offered modern-day performance in a rear-wheel-drive architecture (before the resurgence of the modern muscle car).
Powered by a high-output 5.9-liter MAGNUM V8 making a modest 250 horsepower and a stump-pulling 350 ft.-lb. of torque and mated to a heavy-duty 46RE 4-speed automatic transmission, the Dakota 5.9 R/T was offered in both Regular Cab and Club Cab (extended cab) configurations. The Dakota 5.9 R/T package also featured a tighter suspension which included a 9mm bigger rear stabilizer bar and was lowered by 19mm, performance exhaust, a 3.92 ratio limited-slip rear differential axle, and 17-inch x 9-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in 255/55/17 Goodyear Eagle RSA tires.
Production of the Dakota 5.9 R/T ran from 1999 to 2003 and while only 16,496 Dakota 5.9 R/Ts were made, some Dodge (errr Ram) pickup enthusiasts continue to think that the Dakota 5.9 R/T is one of the best-looking trucks ever made. Some of its bodylines were even mimicked in today’s fifth-generation Ram 1500 pickups. That being said, those trucks which have survived have become somewhat of a collector’s item.
While the performance of the Dakota 5.9 R/T might not seem mind-bending compared to performance offerings of today’s vehicles. But Holley Performance believes that the Dakota 5.9 R/T is the perfect platform to perform adapt the latest HEMI powertrains. On a recent build, the Holley Performance team is showing Dakota owners not only how easy it is to build a 6.4-liter 392 cubic-inch HEMI V8 but what is needed to get it done.
Using a donor 6.4-liter HEMI from a 2015 Dodge Challenger, the now 485 horsepower Dodge Dakota 5.9 R/T (errr 6.4 R/T) is what modern sport truck lovers have been dying for. For those who know how to turn a wrench and have a Dakota or know where they can find one, this might be one of the best budget builds one can do for the money. This is great news for those who want a performance pickup but simply can’t afford a $70,000+ Ram 1500 TRX.
Holley Performance has provided a complete build list for those who are interested in swapping their Dakotas into a 392 HEMI tire shredding machine. The build is not just a simple engine swap either, it will show you how what is needed to create a bulletproof setup.
Holley best describes the driving dynamics of their build with the comment of “Sure, it’ll burn the tires down if that’s what you’re after, but it’ll also spin that speedometer over in a way that MAGNUM engine could only dream of, and when you get close to a turn the truck doesn’t embarrass itself in the least. As long as you know the difference between “gentle” and “aggressive” throttle input, you could easily track the Dakota around the road course”.
If you are not a fan of the Dakota 5.9 R/T, Holley Performance also GEN III HEMI swaps for 1972 to 1993 Ram D-100/D-150 Ram pickups, 1987 to 1996 Dodge Dakota, 1966 to 1972 B-Body cars, and even the beloved Wrangler (TJ).
It makes us wish we could find a cheap, well-maintained second-generation 1997 to 2004 Dodge Dakota or even a first-generation 1998 to 2003 Dodge Durango to do this to.
To find out what is needed for the complete 6.4-liter 392 cubic-inch HEMI V8 swap in the Dakota R/T, you can visit Holley Performance.