when i was young, I never had any real interest in cars, no one ever really taught me about them or anything. One day, playing frisbee on the front street, I decapitated an 80's rams head of a dodge power wagon, big, mean, nasty ram head off a big mean nasty red power wagon. ever since then, I wanted one.
that never happened. Instead, I bought shitbox after shitbox, and ended up with the worst financial decision in my life. I bought a 1999 Dodge Dakota, I wanted a truck, we needed to rent them several times so I figured I would help out. Not only is that a terrible idea because as soon as you own one, you are tethered to friendly favors for everyone and their mother. but it was a terrible idea because it was an old vehicle with many miles, and many problems within weeks of buying it.
It was only a v6, but it had a new exhaust system and an exhaust note that made it sound much more than what it was. the same v6, that had absolute crap mileage. despite being a v6, and compared to other light trucks. It was so good. It looked good, the flames were an instant hit, the family loved it, the girlfriend loved it, and I loved it. V6, 5speed stick, 4x4, brand new all terrain tires with a set of new winter tires to go with. the vehicle was unstoppable (especially on ice when I didn't change to winter tires and slid over a curb and drove on the sidewalk for a block to the next space between trees to get back on the road).
It was over the top, a week after buying it, the t-case blew in half on the highway. the linkage was kinked, and held it in "almost 4 high" which explained a somewhat noisy transmission. the 5 speeds are naturally noisy I learned, but this was, slightly noisier. I got it replaced by a family friend mechanic, and it still cost way too much. I vowed to fix my own problems from then on. next thing, the ball stud in the trans housing went, sent the clutch fork all over, and the slave cylinder was toast, the piston flew into the bell housing.
Christmas that year, the trans went, input bearing was done. made an awful clunking. picked up a used trans with 80 k m on it for 500 bucks. worked in an unheated garage with tools I bought with my last 300 bucks, I got the trans replaced, and I also did the water pump, after starting it up to have the garage filled with 4 liters of coolant.
Next spring, balljoints, brake rotors and pads, tie rods, and shocks. pretty much the entire front end suspension needed to be done.
the truck was running better than ever. it felt like a brand new vehicle. engine ran like a top. I learned to drive stick in this truck, I learned how manual transmissions worked, how transfer cases worked. pretty much how every component of a vehicle worked. because of this truck. Everywhere I got looks, some bad, some very bad, and some very good. My truck was the talk of the block. it was either loved or hated. there was no middle ground, no indifference. no uncertainty. when you saw it, it took no time to decide. It finally stopped costing me money, I loved driving it, and I had a nice collection of tools and equipment to use for new projects.
I spent all my time in ownership of this truck studying on it's history. from its conception, through its demise. specifically the sport edition, 2 door trucks with regular sized beds. and one crazy convertible version, which I found out my unknown father once owned. along with a yellow el camino.
Dodge is successful on image. they had the 60s and 70s muscle, they had the 80's trucks, power wagons and Rams with big shiny ram heads on the hood, and into the 90's leaving that decade with a truck styling that took the world by storm. Image. The Dakota took on that styling, it was larger than other, real small trucks, less efficient, but it could tow as much as a full size pickup. only if you got the v8 options anyways. with a beefier drive train. it could hold more than other small trucks, it had a v8 option,small, and big block, while only Colorado's offered a small block V8 (an awesome truck by the way). It was aggressive, it was large, and it was Dodge. the better trucks didn't matter. because the other trucks weren't an f-150 for companies to bother with buying, and because the better trucks weren't, "out there" enough. and one day, I learned, the Dakota wasn't "out there" enough either. at least, not enough to be seen a mile away from a stop sign.
one accident, only one I have ever been in. and it did enough to total the truck. now its gone, replaced with an equally inefficient 1999 dodge Ram 1500. but the dream machine is in the works.
Part 2 "a classic family sedan, turned into classic sleeper muscle, that ran record sales, and started a power war between insurance companies and people having fun"
coming.... whenever I get to it.