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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Longtime auto journalist Patrick Rall contributes to Ford Truck Enthusiasts, Rennlist, Club Lexus, F-150 Online, and YotaTech.

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