Back in the late ’90s, small trucks were big business. Little rigs like the Ford Ranger, Chevy S-10, and Toyota Tacoma, offered customers lots of capability for a fittingly small price. The Dodge Dakota, on the other hand, was unashamed of its full-size aspirations, offering more room, towing and payload capacity than its diminutive rivals. V8 power was available too. And, in the case of the Dodge Dakota R/T, it had a torque-happy 5.9L V8 that even had muscle car drivers taking notice.
When the Dodge Dakota R/T was first introduced in 1998, pickups were transitioning from rugged workhorses into lifestyle vehicles. Nevertheless, the muscle-bound looks of this hot hauler were still quite shocking, even back then. There are flared wheel arches, filled with 17-inch tires wider than your mother-in-law. The R/T sits a full two inches lower than a standard Dakota, and there are ‘5.9 R/T’ badges visible from nearly every angle. And then there are the colors, which appear to have been designed by the Highlighter Marker people. Depending on the year, you can get Bizzam! Blue, F-U Red, Yowza Yella, Spray-tan Orange, Switch-Hitter Purple, Boring Black, Graduation Present White, and Actually Tasteful Grey.
Beneath the GymBro looks are the underpinnings of a real handler. The stiffer springs and re-valved shocks were augmented by bigger front disc brakes—11.3-inch vented discs—rear drums with ABS, large front/rear sway bars, and a 3.91 Sure-Grip (limited-slip) differential. The quicker steering helped make easy work of tail-slides, as did the 250-hp/345 lb-ft 5.9L (360ci) V8. Stomp the go-pedal and the Dodge Dakota R/T would romp to 60 mph in a bit under 7 ticks. While they’re certainly not Lightning or Syclone track times, the R/T is still a very respectable performer even by today’s standards. But this muscle truck wasn’t built to win stoplight races. It was designed to burn rubber and raise hell. And it does that brilliantly.
Aside from all of the go-fast hardware, the Dodge Dakota R/T was a pretty basic truck. You could have a regular cab/shortbed, or an extended (Club) cab. The engine shovels its torque onto the rear wheels (RWD was the only choice) through a 4-speed column-shift automatic (the only choice). And, in the way of standard accoutrements,you get manual windows and cloth bucket seats. But if you stomp the gas pedal, you won’t care about any of that.
Though today’s sport trucks are a rare breed, your search to own a muscle truck doesn’t have to dead end. The chances of you seeing one for sale on the side of the road is pretty low. Your time is much better spent browsing the used car market to fulfill your need for speed. When you look at sites like KBB, the Dodge Dakota R/T range from $4700–$10,000 depending on the mileage, equipment, and condition.