For quite a long while now, I have been combing through online posts looking for my Dakota and have yet to find it. It seems what used to be a commonplace have mostly been beat up, crashed, or rusted away.
But first, a bit of my history. In 1987 my brother liked the new Dakota so much he bought one. If memory serves, it had no options which meant truck without power steering or power brakes, plastic door cards and no headliner, manual windows and locks and no A/C. It had hubcaps, no radio and a 4-cylindar 2.2 motor. Also, it was a demo. Not the ideal woodgas truck, but new — from the dealer — it cost $5,000. Now it seems that all run-of-the-mill (150,000+ mile) V8s in decent condition cost two or three times what he paid new.
Buying a cheaper one that needs a lot of work didn’t seem like a great option for me. Simply building the gasifier seems daunting and to add what could be potentially hundreds of hours of bodywork or other mechanical repairs would make a difficult project all that more likely to never get completed. Not that there can’t be satisfaction in bringing one back from the edge. Those projects can often be more rewarding than buying a nice one, but for me, right now, it didn’t seem like the best option.
Buying a more expensive one, still not an idea I’ve fully embraced, but when the average used car is over $20,000, if one pays $15,000 for a Dakota and $5,000 to build the gasifier, we’re still spending less than the average used car but will have something WAY cooler than the average used car.
Is there a third option?
By expanding the search for all 1987-1996 it not only opens up the 91-96 trucks with smaller motors, but it will also include four more model years when V8s weren’t available. Pretty elementary stuff here, but it took me a year to think of it.
You’ll still need a mill that will work and it’s quite possible you could pick up a clean V6 Dakota and a V8 donor for less than a nice V8 Dakota. Look for 5.2’s in:
- 1992–2001 Dodge Rams
- 1998–2000 Dodge Durangos
- 1992–1993 Dodge Ramchargers (Please don’t kill off a Ramcharger, though)
- 1992–2002 Dodge Ram Vans
- 1993–1998 Jeep Grand Cherokees
and 5.9’s in:
- 1992–early 2003 Dodge Rams
- 1992–2003 Dodge Ram Vans
- 1998–2003 Dodge Durangos
- 1992–2001 Dodge Ramchargers (Please, please, please don’t kill off a 5.9 Ramcharger!)
- 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limiteds (Ditto)
Another option is a crate motor. It looks like https://www.summitracing.com/parts/vre-dd58 will work (but check for certain before you buy it!) Although not currently in stock, it lists for $2,241.99. You’ll need to pay a core charge as well as a slew of other parts that won’t move from the 4 or 6 that came with your truck but it’s very possible that a clean V6 truck and brand-new motor will be cheaper than an existing V8 truck.
A quick search seems to reveal (but again, double check before you buy anything) Dakotas used 3-speed A998 or 4-speed A500 transmissions, both of which should stand up to a 5.2 on woodgas. Please correct me if I’m mistaken.
I have another idea for an interesting donor vehicle, but I’ll need to make a phone call first. Will try to post a followup to this in another thread. I’d be excited to know your thoughts.