Dodge Dakota Quad Cab 4X4: Project X

It has been a long-standing problem in my automotive career that I like to take unloved vehicles and bring them back to health. There are limits, of course, but I’ve done more than my fair share of saving cars from the crusher.  If you were to ask my significant other about this affliction, it is indeed hard to understand.

Project X started as a lightly crashed 2001 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab 4×4 pick-up. I have appreciated the body style and utility of these pickups since Dodge introduced the Quad Cab for the 2000 model year.

This truck is destined to explore the foothills of southern Alberta, and as such I am more concerned about the mechanical fitness of the unit, versus prettiness. I don’t want to drive something totally ugly and rotted out, but at the same time I don’t want to worry about beating it down a gravel road or putting it through some light trail action.

I found Project X resting in the back yard of an inner city home. The previous owner had plans to fix the truck but just didn’t get to it. With a bit of negotiation I was able to drive away with a new-to-me set of wheels, complete with a remote starter, a cold air intake, a noisy muffler and a big stereo. What can I say? It was a young fellow’s truck, and it came with all the necessary equipment. As the saying roughly goes, you can sell an older man a young man’s vehicle, but it is tough to make a sale in the other direction.

Once the truck hit my garage the broken pieces were immediately stripped off – the left front fender, bumper and fascia, grill, and headlights. The hard, immovable object definitely made a mess of the front end but I was relieved to discover the front frame rails remained unscathed. Included with the deal was a fender, void of paint. The used fender fit well, making subsequent reassembly straight-forward.

With any project of this nature it is easy to have costs get out of control. While all the front end pieces I require are available new in the aftermarket, I elected to go down the used parts road. A sunny Saturday morning spent at Pick and Pull yielded a rust-free fender for the right side of the truck, inner fender liners, a left front fender flare, and a proper air cleaner lid and ducting as I am not a fan of cold air intakes. A front bumper, fascia, grille and one good headlight were found on the local Kijiji website.

Continuing along the lines of a cost-effective repair to a vehicle that will see use as a real truck, I made a stop at Canadian Tire to pick up some supplies. “The Tire” as I fondly refer to the chain, has recently made some great additions to fix-it-yourself body section. I’m using items from their “Dupli-Color” line of products. These products are easy to use, fast drying, and the great results speak for themselves.

As I disassembled the truck, I treated the trouble zones with Rust Check’s Rust Converter, also from Canadian Tire. The trick is to knock all the loose rust off, and then give the spot a shot of the rust converter, with a resulting paintable surface. The offending areas then received a coat of primer, and were top coated.

Because the previous owner took all the paint off the fender, I used some self-etching primer to prep the fender before applying any color. The primer was sanded lightly after each coat and then shot with Perfect Match. I completely finished the inner areas of the fenders with color and clear, as those regions will be inaccessible once the fenders are installed back on the vehicle.

The project is now at the point where reassembly has begun. The painted left front fender has been installed, and the bumper and fascia has been test-fitted. The right front fender still needs to be replaced but both fenders are sporting a few coats of Bright Silver Metallic. The final clear coats won’t happen until the right fender is permanently installed, and the paint is blended into the front doors.

2 thoughts on “Dodge Dakota Quad Cab 4X4: Project X

  • July 26, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    Just a quick note of appreciation for your column in the Herald. It caught my eye because I’m an old car nut that is seriously addicted to fixing up older vehicles and keeping them running, and looking good if not perfect. The techniques you talk about are exactly what I do – used parts from Pick n’ Pull, minor body and paint work in the garage, and the result is good reliable vehicles that just are too good to give away for the prices they would command.

    I’ll be keeping a lookout for your articles and blogs.

    My fleet consists of 76 Triumph TR6 (needs some attention but is a great runner), 2002 Ford Focus wagon 80,000 km used to be my daughters car, now my “spare”; 97 Pontiac Bonneville SSEi my favourite car bought new now has 380,000 kms but runs like a top and looks good could use a new used drivers seat, 98 Jeep Cherokee Laredo wifes truck, she bent the bumper and smashed the right front lights last week and I got a quote $2g’s to fix, did it myself with used parts and two nights work, looks as good as new except front bumper valance not quite the same colour, ancient motor home 77 Dodge with a 440 motor, everything works perfect only 70,000 kms looks ugly as sin, 2011 Cadillac CTS for show, its a good car but no better than the Bonny.
    Whoops this got longer than I expected. Anyway thanks for confirming that I’m not nuts for keeping good old vehicles running. AL P

    • July 26, 2013 at 9:50 pm

      Thanks for the note – glad to hear you enjoyed the story. Just like me, I’m sure you can kick the car habit anytime…


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