The Dodge Dakota is having a bit of a renaissance right now. Dodge or Ram haven’t sold a mid-size pickup in the United States since the Dakota went out of production in 2011, but recent rumors indicate a successor is in the works, although it’s unclear the exact size and platform it will use. No matter how exciting this new version is, however, we will always have a soft spot for the Dakotas of yesteryear, specifically the second generation model. It’s taught and brawny styling still look great today, especially in single cab R/T spec. But that Dodge Dakota R/T 5.9 liter V8 puts out a rather disappointing 250 hp, and could use an upgrade, if you ask us. That’s where Holley comes in, as they have developed a 392 Hemi V8 engine swap for the 1998-2003 Dodge Dakota that turns it into a modern restomod of sorts.
The idea is about as simple as it sounds: drop a modern, Hemi V8 into a second gen Dodge Dakota, preferably the R/T model, and you’ve got yourself a gnarly little sport truck. In reality, though, engine swaps aren’t for the novice with so many details owners need to get right. Luckily, Holley’s system makes it relatively easy, as demonstrated in their red development truck you see pictured.
First, you obviously need to procure yourself a Hemi V8. Holley got their 6.4 liter 392 V8 out of a 2015 Scat Pack Charger, but almost any Hemi will work. Holley’s Terminator X Max ECU controls the engine, VVT and Hughes-prepared Chrysler 46RE four-speed automatic transmission. With Holley’s system, though, you can pick any Hemi engine and transmission mounts in the beginning of the process.
From the outside, you’d barely know it.
Next, you’ll need to pick out your Dodge Dakota R/T’s exhaust. Holley’s build used one of their own Hooker stainless systems, which is designed to clear all the new engine and transmission mount points. You’ll also need to upgrade the alternator, fuel pump and transmission flex plate (if using an older transmission like on this build), which you can get from Holley. Finally, Holley finished off the project with their Pro Dash instrument cluster display, which brings a modern touch to the interior.
If this new Dodge or Ram Dakota is indeed coming, older models like this could gain some continued appeal, similar to what we’ve seen with the Bronco. And even if you find a well cared for example, they aren’t too expensive, making this a rather affordable, yet unique build. Check out the video below to learn everything about Holley’s Dodge Dakota Hemi swap system.