Dodge Dakota Custom Packs Supreme Power Under the Hood

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Custom Dodge 1987 Dakota High Front

Dakota with extensive customization is a show winner packing 303 horsepower and 366 lb-ft of torque with an awesomely-’80s design.

In 1987, Dodge introduced the modern market to the V8-powered small truck pickup with the introduction of the Dakota. The arrival of the 1987 Dodge Dakota with V8 power led to the emergence of a new performance market in the US and this truck that we found on is a beautiful example of a modified ’80s truck.

Dodge Introduces V8 Power in a Small Truck

When the Dodge Dakota was introduced for the 1987 model year, it was the first smaller truck to feature V8 power. Designed to compete with the Ford Ranger and Chevy S-10 – both of which relied on V6 power in their most-powerful configurations, the Dakota was a little bigger and a whole lot more power. This new truck created the first true performance market for factory-built, smaller-than-half-ton trucks in the US.

1987 Dodge Dakota Custom Front

As people began buying the V8-powered Dakota, they found that these small trucks benefitted from the same upgrades as the Ram 1500, but in the mid-sized truck, those changes led to far greater performance capabilities. Of course, in addition to making their trucks faster, owners made physical changes to make them look faster as well, leading to unique custom pickups like the one shown here.

1987 Dodge Dakota Custom Side

Meet the OPUS

This heavily-customized 1987 Dodge Dakota has a relatively unsavory nickname, OPUS or “old piece uh s#!7,” but the truck appears to be anything but a piece.

The front end of the Dakota is lowered by four inches and the rear is dropped by five inches. A ground effects package, a hard tonneau cover, a hood with 108 louvers, a tailgate with 78 louvers and a custom rear roll pan make this truck far sportier than a stock ’87 body. The exterior is finished off with bright red paint, red-painted wheels with moon eye hubcaps and a stripe package that is clearly from the 1980s.

1987 Dodge Dakota Custom Inside

On the inside, much of this 1987 is still finished in the same grey that came from the factory in many Dodge trucks in the ’80s and ’90s, but the trim around the gauges has been painted bright red to match the exterior while the seats, door panels and floor have similar awesomely-’80s stripes to those found on the outside.

1987 Dodge Dakota Custom Engine

Big Power

In addition to crafting an eye-catching 1987 Dodge Dakota, the original and only owner added a 360-cubic inch that was built by the Mopar experts at Koffel’s Place. This 10-to-1, .030 over engine is fitted with an Edelbrock 750 CFM card, a dual plane intake, ported cylinder heads, a Mopar camshaft and Hooker Super Comp headers – all of which come together to help this truck send 303 horsepower and 366 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels.

We don’t know what rearend is in this 1987 Dakota, but with 300-plus wheel horsepower, this lightweight mid-sized truck is probably pretty quick, especially for a pickup from the 80s. This truck is so sharp inside and out that it has won its class at the Detroit Autorama.

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A lifetime automotive expert, diehard Dodge fan, and respected auto journalist for over 10 years, Patrick Rall is highly experienced in the automotive world. He has clocked in time as an auto mechanic, longtime drag racer and now auto journalist who contributes to nearly a dozen popular websites dedicated to fellow enthusiasts.

“Before I was old enough to walk, my dad was taking me to various types of racing events, from local drag racing to the Daytona 500,” says Rall. “He owned a repair shop and had a variety of performance cars when I was young, but by the time I was 16, he was ready to build me my first drag car: a 1983 Dodge Mirada that ran low 12s. I spent 10 years traveling around the country, racing with my dad by my side. While we live in different areas of the country, my dad still drag races at 80 years old in the car that he built when I was 16. Meanwhile, I race other vehicles, including my 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and my 1972 Dodge Demon 340.

“Although I went to college for accounting, my time in my dad’s shop growing up allowed me the knowledge to spend time working as a mechanic before getting my accounting degree, at which point I worked in the office of a dealership group,” adds Rall. “While I was working in the accounting world, I continued racing and taking pictures of cars at the track. Over time, I began showing off those pictures online and that led to my writing.

“Ten years ago, I left the accounting world to become a full-time automotive writer and I am living proof that if you love what you do, you will never ‘work’ a day in your life. I love covering the automotive industry and everything involved with the job. I was fortunate to turn my love of the automotive world into a hobby that led to an exciting career, with my past of working as a mechanic and as an accountant in the automotive world provides me with a unique perspective of the industry.

“My experience drag racing for more than 20 years coupled with a newfound interest in road racing over the past decade allows me to push performance cars to their limit, while my role as a horse stable manager gives me vast experience towing and hauling with all of the newest trucks on the market today.

“Being based on Detroit, I never miss the North American International Auto Show, the Woodward Dream Cruise and Roadkill Nights, along with spending plenty of time raising hell on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue with the best muscle car crowd in the world.”

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