The modern mid-sized pickups are designed for utility, efficiency and off-road capabilities, but in the late 1990s and early 2000s the Dodge Dakota R/T packed as much on-road muscle as the top-selling pony cars of the era. Powered by a 5.9-liter Magnum V8 that sent 250 horsepower and 345 lb-ft of torque towards the rear wheels, these small, relatively light trucks were popular options for Mopar lovers who wanted an affordable V8-powered, rear-drive vehicle in an era where all of the Dodge cars were front-wheel-drive.
Rob Rohe was shopping for a new vehicle in 2000. He wanted something that would be sporty and fun to drive. Being torn between a Pontiac Trans Am WS6, a Pontiac Grand Prix GXP or a Dodge Dakota R/T, Rob ended up going the “cheapest route” at the time, a Dodge Dakota R/T. While he wanted the Club Cab in Amber Fire, he missed the ordering deadline for that color. As a result, he got a Bright White Dakota R/T.
As time went on, an Amber Fire truck became available through the Dakota R/T Club. It was posted for sale by fellow club member David Salazar out of the Baltimore area, so Rohe took a midnight express Greyhound bus from Michigan to Maryland to buy the truck shown here – one of just 46 built in this color and body style for 2000.
One of the appeals of the second generation Dakota R/T was the ability to make it a whole lot quicker with basic upgrades. When Rohe bought this truck, the 5.9-liter V8 had aftermarket cylinder heads, camshaft, intake and tune and ran a lot better than it did when stock. His first order of business was to give it a proper stance.
He lowered the truck, then added a bit more power via a nitrous oxide system. That helped him get down to an 11.45 at 115 miles per hour in the quarter mile. Over the next few years Rohe made some gradual improvements to the truck – including a full rebuild of the Magnum V8 in his dining room.
Eventually the 5.9-liter engine spun a bearing. Shortly after the spun bearing, Rohe was offered a deal on a modern 392 cubic inch Hemi that he couldn’t pass up. He installed the SRT Hemi into his truck and without any upgrades to the engine itself, this Dakota ran an 11.80 at 115 in the quarter mile. After spending a few years driving the truck with the naturally aspirated 392, Rohe rolled the Dakota into his garage for the big build that led to its current form.
Today, Rob Rohe’s 2000 Dodge Dakota R/T is powered by a 392 SRT Hemi with a forged bottom end from Modern Muscle Xtreme, a FRP/TSP “Widowmaker” camshaft, ARP head studs and a billet T6 S480 turbocharger with VS Racing twin 44-millimeter wastegates and a VS Racing blow-off valve. The engine is held in place by mounts from Schumacher Creative Services.
The forced induction system features 2.5-inch piping on the hot side, 3-inch piping on the cold side, built by Brett Fenning at FenFab, with a CX Racing air-to-air intercooler and a 4-inch downpipe. Fuel is provided by a Hyperfuel 15-gallon cell, twin Walbro 525 Hellcat fuel pumps, Snake Eater 1000cc fuel injectors and Fore Innovations fuel rails. The engine is tuned for pump gas by Flyin’ Ryan Performance (FRP) using HPTuners software.
Rohe’s Dakota has not been on the dyno yet, so he does not have any exact power numbers. However, he expects to make somewhere in the area of 750-to-800 wheel horsepower once he gets the truck on the rollers later this year. That is his goal on pump gas, but in the future, he plans to have an E85 tune and more boost that will yield upwards of a thousand horsepower.
When asked why he chose a turbo setup over a big supercharger, he answered “because turbo!” He went on to explain that he has wanted for some time to add a turbocharger to his modern SRT Hemi and after enjoying the engine without the boost, the time came to make the jump to big power.
That power is sent towards the rear wheels by means of a 46RE transmission, built by Cope Racing with a full manual valve body, a transbrake, a remote fluid cooler and a PATC billet 10-inch torque convertor that stalls to 3,400 rpm. After that built transmission, there is a Driveshaft Shop 4-inch aluminum driveshaft, 1350 Spicer U-joints and a 9.25-inch rear differential with a Detroit Locker, 4.56 Yukon gear set and an LPW aluminum diff cover with a girdle.
We mentioned above that this Dakota was lowered, but it isn’t a simple lowering kit. The chassis and suspension have been modified to make use of all of that power. This includes Airbagit tubular upper control arms, Western Chassis lower control arms along with Landrum drag race coil springs.
The springs lower the front end 3-4 inches, Western Chassis front leaf hangers, Western Chassis shackler hangers that lower the rear end 5-6 inches. QA1 double adjustable front and rear shocks with Caltracs adjustable traction bars and a Thor Bros C-notch.
For those wondering, this Dakota R/T is a legit street truck. Rohe has been spotted at handful of local events, including 2021 Roadkill Nights, where he participated in the legal street racing program on Woodward Avenue. The racing action is heads-up without times, so Rohe didn’t get time slips for his runs on the short street track, but it was one of the stronger actual street driven vehicles in the event. His goal is to get into the 9-second range while still maintaining the ability to comfortably drive the truck on the street.
The only performance aspect that he has not upgraded with aftermarket components is the braking system. This truck currently has front disc brakes from a 2003 Dakota with the factory drum brakes out back. That is the next thing that he wants to change, possibly swapping to a Ford 8.8 or 9-inch rear differential with a 5-lug pattern.
Ideally, this would allow him to run Mustang Track Pack brakes, but if nothing else, it would open up many more aftermarket braking system options. It would also allow him to pick from a greater collection of wheel choices. He would like to eventually have a set of 20-inch Weld wheels up front with 17-inch Weld beadlocks out back.
On the outside, Rohe’s Dakota R/T features DEPO 1-piece headlight housings with Morimoto LED headlight bulbs, OEM fog light housings with matching LED bulbs, AAR Fiberglass raised cowl hood, billet aluminum fuel door, Checkmate tonneau cover, Cervini rear spoiler and DEPO tinted taillights. It also supports an array of Street Scene body parts, including the front bumper cover, the grille inserts, the power mirrors and the rear roll pan.
For his wheel-and-tire setup, Rohe has a set of 20-inch factory-style wheels wrapped in Cooper Zeon RS3-S tires for daily driving use. His track setup includes 15-inch Real Racing Pro-6 wheels with Mickey Thompson SR front runners and 275/60 Mickey Thompson ET Street R radials out back.
Finally, the cockpit of Rohe’s wicked turbocharged Dakota R/T has Braum racing style bucket seats, a MOMO steering wheel with an NRG quick-release hub, and Motion Raceworks brackets. The dash has a spread of Speedhut gauges in the factory gauge cluster area including a GPS speedometer, Autometer tachometer and shift light and a Ballenger wideband air-to-fuel ratio gauge.
A custom switch panel was made for the transbrake arm, 2-step arm and Biondo shift timer arm buttons and a B&M Stealth Pro shifter on a custom aluminum stand-off mount. All of the switches and gauges are fitted neatly into the dash for a very clean look. Being a street truck, it also has a custom sound system including an Alpine head unit, a Kicker 5-channel amp, Kicker 6.5-inch component speakers and a Kicker 10-inch subwoofer.
The only changes Rohe foresees for the interior and exterior is the addition of a roll cage and maybe a fresh coat of Amber Fire paint. The factory paint still looks great after 170,000 miles but with 22 years on the street, it could be better. We have seen the truck in person and would contest that it looks great sitting among a sea of freshly painted show cars.
The number of clean second generation Dodge Dakota R/T pickups that are anywhere near as nice as Rob Rohe’s is small. Even fewer have the level of modification done to them while preserving the lines that make this such a great-looking truck when new. We might go so far as to say Rohe has built the perfect Dakota R/T – delivering 9-second quarter mile performance coupled with the ability to comfortably be driven around Metro Detroit.