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JeremyJ
JeremyJ Reader
10/12/20 10:56 a.m.

I've been looking around for a regular cab, short bed, 2WD truck to mess around with for a while. Being a Mopar guy, I was mostly looking at Dodges, but was open to an import, like the Toyota X-Runner. There's just something so appealing to me about a truck that sits low, and actually handles corners well. I had a couple of trucks fall through my fingers and was feeling frustrated when a unicorn fell into my lap, for cheap. 

It's a 2003 Dakota. Regular cab, short bed, 2WD, 4.7 V8, and...a manual transmission. These things are incredibly rare. I've never even seen one in this configuration before. I went to look at it this past weekend. It had its flaws, like a E36 M3ty respray paint job, mismatched tailgate and rear bumper (incident with a trailer), noisy throwout bearing, some dings in the front bumper, and 188,000 miles on it. To offset this, it also came with a $1500 canopy (albeit painted the wrong color), it doesn't leak anywhere, runs and drives perfectly, and did I mention the manual transmission? 

He was asking $3500, but I talked him down to $3000. I got him to throw in a new clutch kit, a lowering kit, and a new front bumper cover. All things considered, I think I got a good deal. My first order of business is to install that clutch kit. I'm going to try to enlist a mechanic buddy of mine to make that go more smoothly. Then comes the fun stuff, like a 3/5 drop kit, roll pan, sway bars, exhaust, and some other goodies. I'm excited to start working on it. I'll post pictures soon.

solfly
solfly Dork
10/12/20 11:46 a.m.

Sounds like a fun truck. What are the specs on the 4.7? What's the front suspension on these?

Ranger50
Ranger50 UltimaDork
10/12/20 12:18 p.m.
solfly said:

Sounds like a fun truck. What are the specs on the 4.7? What's the front suspension on these?

Specs are "they're junk". Double a arm front and buggy leaf springs in back.

JeremyJ
JeremyJ Reader
10/12/20 4:44 p.m.

Thanks for the encouraging words, Ranger. 

Leaf springs aren't ideal, but I don't have the fab skills to put together a four-link setup. I think it'll do just fine with a good drop and some decent sway bars on it. 

Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter)
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/12/20 4:52 p.m.

Having owned a few of these trucks  (no 4.7 experience), the suspension i loved was hotchkis springs and stock front and rear sway bars, kyb monomax shocks. 17x8 cragar soft 8s with 275/40/17 was pretty bad ass on them as well. Lowered just enough,  with just fat enough rubber. Dynomax super turbo catback sounded awesome on the 318, and cut factory airbox sounded good and made more seat of the pants power and documented mpg than the ebay intake.

 

Post pictures! I love these trucks. 

solfly
solfly Dork
10/12/20 4:52 p.m.

What a negative Nancy.

Spindle and shackles/hangers? Is the axle above or below the leafs?

JeremyJ
JeremyJ Reader
10/12/20 5:24 p.m.

Axle is above the leafs. I was planning on a DJM 3/5 drop kit that includes lower control arms, modified hangers, and all new shocks. There's always the option to go lower with springs if I deem it too high. I'll need a C-notch if that's the case. I believe the 5" rear drop already puts the axle pretty close to the frame. 

solfly
solfly Dork
10/12/20 6:09 p.m.

Seems like a good plan.

Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter)
Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
10/12/20 7:24 p.m.

Should be a fun ripper. There is a kid who brings a single cab, 4.7, 5 speed dak to mopar nats for burnout's and does 3rd gear burnout's all night in it. 

Ranger50
Ranger50 UltimaDork
10/12/20 9:48 p.m.
solfly said:

What a negative Nancy.

When you see 3 a week for various misfire codes in the dealership.... And you can take the heads off in 1.5hrs to be taken to the machine shop... It gets old.

JeremyJ
JeremyJ Reader
10/13/20 9:47 a.m.

So here's the truck, in all its mismatched glory:

I'm going to paint the tailgate to match, replace the rear bumper with a roll pan, and get rid of the cheapo lighting. Likely OEM tail lights and some sort of headlight that doesn't look terrible. I'm on the fence about the canopy. On one hand, they can be useful for carrying things and it was really expensive when new. On the other hand, I'm not a huge fan of them in general and...it's blue. I don't know what to do with it yet. I'm either going to store it off the truck for future use, or I'm going to sell it and spend the money on fun stuff. 

solfly
solfly Dork
10/13/20 9:49 a.m.

looks pretty clean

JeremyJ
JeremyJ Reader
10/13/20 9:56 a.m.
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) said:

Having owned a few of these trucks  (no 4.7 experience), the suspension i loved was hotchkis springs and stock front and rear sway bars, kyb monomax shocks. 17x8 cragar soft 8s with 275/40/17 was pretty bad ass on them as well. Lowered just enough,  with just fat enough rubber. Dynomax super turbo catback sounded awesome on the 318, and cut factory airbox sounded good and made more seat of the pants power and documented mpg than the ebay intake.

 

Post pictures! I love these trucks. 

I would love to throw some Hotchkis parts at it, but they're discontinued. I know it would be ideal for handling. I'm going to go for a bigger drop, anyway. We'll see how it feels. Hopefully it doesn't get too harsh. I don't mind a stiff ride, but riding on bump stops isn't any fun. 

JeremyJ
JeremyJ Reader
10/15/20 10:10 a.m.

I took the canopy off the bed yesterday (and seriously berkeleyed up my neck in the process). Not only did I drop about 200 pounds off the truck, I think it looks a lot better. 

I also noticed that the truck is missing a center console. I think the truck originally came with a front bench seat, so when the previous owner swapped in the buckets, they never put in the matching console. I'm curious to know if it would bolt up to the factory holes where the center bench portion used to be. Unfortunately, finding a console meant for a manual transmission won't be easy. 

You can see the original stubby shifter surround/tray piece, as well as a cheap aftermarket cup holder piece that's just sitting on the floor behind it. I'd really like a place to rest my right elbow when driving. 

Ranger50
Ranger50 UltimaDork
10/15/20 10:26 a.m.

You could probably get creative with a Durango console if you can't find one from a Dakota.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
10/15/20 10:38 a.m.

Back when these were new, a friend bought one, but his was 4WD. It was a fun truck at the time. Short bed, 4.7L V8, and a stick was a decent combo. Yes, the 4.7 has its issues, but my friend never had any issues with his over the years. A lot of the issues stem from deferred maintenance, so if you got one that has been maintained, it should hopefully treat you well as long as you do the same. When it does eventually blow up, slap in a 5.9 Magnum or be a hero and cobble up a Hemi swap!

Full disclosure: I had a 1997 Dakota Sport 2WD and liked it, mostly. They do have their issues like any other vehicle. The front end stuff (ball joints, suspension, etc) fails a lot, and the steering shaft U-joint likes to fail, so inspect that stuff ASAP. Actually, everything likes to rust! Mine had almost all new brake lines due to rot, and some of the ones that were replaced rotted again! I still want a clean 5.9 R/T to this day.

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise SuperDork
10/15/20 10:41 a.m.

Love the truck. But man can't wait to see it after you replace those horrendous ricer tails/headlights.

Ranger50
Ranger50 UltimaDork
10/15/20 10:42 a.m.
Tony Sestito said:

or be a hero and cobble up a Hemi swap!

Holley makes a whole list of parts for this. wink

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa SuperDork
10/15/20 11:03 a.m.
JeremyJ said:

I took the canopy off the bed yesterday (and seriously berkeleyed up my neck in the process). Not only did I drop about 200 pounds off the truck, I think it looks a lot better. 

I also noticed that the truck is missing a center console. I think the truck originally came with a front bench seat, so when the previous owner swapped in the buckets, they never put in the matching console. I'm curious to know if it would bolt up to the factory holes where the center bench portion used to be. Unfortunately, finding a console meant for a manual transmission won't be easy. 

You can see the original stubby shifter surround/tray piece, as well as a cheap aftermarket cup holder piece that's just sitting on the floor behind it. I'd really like a place to rest my right elbow when driving. 

Those are one of the best looking modern trucks out there.  Top 3 at least

JeremyJ
JeremyJ Reader
10/15/20 11:54 a.m.
mr2s2000elise said:

Love the truck. But man can't wait to see it after you replace those horrendous ricer tails/headlights.

The tail lights are killing me. I've made fun of them my entire adult life and now I have a pair. It hurts my soul a little to drive it like this. I actually like black-housing headlights in general, but these ones are pretty weak. The problem is finding a set that doesn't look cheap. I've been eyeing these ones: 

But I may end up sticking with some OEM clear/amber ones. What's the consensus on these lights? Acceptable or still cheap looking? 

Down the road I'd love to do a Hemi swap. There was a stronger manual transmission that came with some early Hemis, but it may have been 4WD only. I'd have to look into that more. Then there's the wiring. I might just be better off with a 5.9 build. At least those offer a harness that was meant for this body. I'm getting ahead of myself, though. 

JeremyJ
JeremyJ Reader
10/16/20 9:59 a.m.

Just for E36 M3s & giggles, I took the truck to a transmission shop to get a quote on replacing the clutch. $2200! Ouch. What's crazy is that if I supply all the parts, it's only about a grand. That means they were going to charge me $1200 for a clutch, flywheel, and throwout bearing. I did some shopping around and I can source decent components for under $400. What a joke.

In related news, the sounds coming from the transmission may not be a throwout bearing. There's a grindy, bad bearing sound that happens only in neutral, with my foot off the clutch pedal. As soon as I push it in, the noise stops. It seems to be quiet when I'm driving around and the clutch engages just fine. I've been reading a bit and it sounds like it might actually be the input shaft bearing. Wouldn't the throwout bearing only make noise when I engage the clutch pedal, and not when it's released? Does anyone here have experience with the NV3500? 

Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter)
Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
10/16/20 11:33 a.m.

In reply to JeremyJ :

I got quite a bit of nv3500 experience. Also can you feel anything in the clutch pedal?

JeremyJ
JeremyJ Reader
10/16/20 11:34 a.m.

Not really. It seems to engage pretty smoothly. 

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise SuperDork
10/16/20 11:39 a.m.
JeremyJ said:
mr2s2000elise said:

Love the truck. But man can't wait to see it after you replace those horrendous ricer tails/headlights.

The tail lights are killing me. I've made fun of them my entire adult life and now I have a pair. It hurts my soul a little to drive it like this. I actually like black-housing headlights in general, but these ones are pretty weak. The problem is finding a set that doesn't look cheap. I've been eyeing these ones: 

But I may end up sticking with some OEM clear/amber ones. What's the consensus on these lights? Acceptable or still cheap looking? 

Down the road I'd love to do a Hemi swap. There was a stronger manual transmission that came with some early Hemis, but it may have been 4WD only. I'd have to look into that more. Then there's the wiring. I might just be better off with a 5.9 build. At least those offer a harness that was meant for this body. I'm getting ahead of myself, though. 

Those are still Ricer. I like black housings, but those not done right 

 put oem front and rear lights, stat

JeremyJ
JeremyJ Reader
10/22/20 9:27 a.m.

Small change, but big result. I hated those tail lights. 

I also removed the stickers from the tailgate. Small changes, but it's progress!

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