Project Dakota

Video: Meet Our New MoparInsiders Project Vehicle!

Our 2003 Dakota R/T Project Will Be Directed By You, The Viewers!

Dakota R/T History…

With all the rear-wheel-drive performance currently available in the Dodge lineup, it’s easy to forget that times weren’t always so good for Mopar fans. Back in the 1990s, your choices for an American rear-wheel-drive V8 muscle car were limited to the crosstown rivals from Ford or GM. There was, of course, the wild V10 Dodge Viper available if you could afford it, but that was in a different realm than your traditional V8 muscle car. 

MoparInsiders 2003 Dodge Dakota 5.9L R/T. (MoparInsiders).

In 1998, Dodge got in on the action with a different formula. The idea: take their largest and most powerful V8 available at the time and put it in their smallest and lightest truck. The Dakota R/T was born. Powered by the 5.9-liter Magnum V8 and backed by the 46RE 4-speed automatic transmission, the Dakota R/T was able to run quarter-mile times in the high 14-second range, right on par with the Mustang GT of the era. 

Production of the Dakota R/T ran from 1998 until 2003 when the 5.9 Magnum was killed off, succeeded by the much more modern 5.7-liter HEMI V8 which made 95 more horsepower than the 5.9 Magnum in the Dakota R/T. Recently the Dakota R/T has been gaining popularity as it is one of the last true muscle trucks. Companies like Holley have developed some awesome Gen III Hemi swap kits for the platform. 

Holley Performance 1999 Dodge Dakota 6.4 R/T. (Holley).

Our Dakota R/T…

Our Dakota R/T is a 2003 Club Cab model meaning it has the larger cab with a small back seat and as far as I can tell, the truck is fully loaded. I bought the truck with 223,000 kms (139,375 miles) on the odometer, and while it runs decently, there is a lot of work that needs to be done. The truck has had a cheap repaint at some time, the front grille is cracked, the tailgate is mismatched, and some small dings and dents need to be taken out of the body. This truck is a perfect project truck as the body and frame are solid. We plan on getting all the bodywork taken care of and bring the truck back to like-new condition. We also want to do an engine swap and start tearing up the drag strip with the truck. That is where you guys come in. We want this to be an interactive build, directed by you, the viewers!

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The choice with the most votes at the end of October will dictate which way we go with the engine build on this truck! Stay tuned as we will be providing weekly content with our Dakota R/T project truck!

Jared Balfour

Jared founded MoparInsiders and is a 41-year-old automotive enthusiast from Vancouver, British Columbia. He took an interest in cars at a very young age and has been interested in them ever since. His hobbies include photography, videography, drag racing, and auto detailing. He currently owns and drives a 2023 Audi RS6, a 2024 GMC Sierra, and a 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat.

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Always loved the RT. One of the best sounding factory exhaust systems ever produced

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I voted for the 5.9 Magnum as there are literally thousands of these around. But I would love to see this as a stroker (408) Topped off with fuel injection. But regardless of what power plant is selected the R/T is a great project choice. Looking forward to this.

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I'm excited to see this happen!

Actually went trolling through AutoTrader to look for one and it brought back the memories of the Dakotas we had (not the R/Ts tho)

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The best-looking pickup ever!

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2003/4 models should have had the Hemi and 5 speed NAG-1 transmission. Too Bad.

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