George Hooper’s Committed 15 Year Relationship
Avid readers of Modern Mopar Magazine with a sharp eye know about our section called “Modern Mopars Gone Bye”, where we celebrate various special models that Mother Mopar has put out over the last 20 years or so and are no longer in production. Furthermore, if you’ve flipped through the last few issues you no doubt would have concluded that we’re big fans of the recently departed Dodge Dakota. It was a nimble, well-built truck that could do pretty much anything. The limited R/T models especially, with their big 360 cubic inch engines and low 3.92 geared rear ends to launch hard, and tuned suspensions that were the predecessors to today’s SRT ingenuity. To put it simply, we think Dodge Dakota R/Ts are badass trucks and we hate that they don’t make them anymore.
For our subscribers that were fortunate enough to read ‘The Road to SEMA’ (See Issue #7), you’ll recognize the feature truck in this week’s blog. George Hooper of Wichita, Kansas is the lucky owner of this immaculate 1999 Deep Amethyst Dodge Dakota R/T regular cab. In 1999, only a sparse 170 Amethyst regular cabs were churned out of Warren, Michigan. We’re willing to bet that not a lot of them have survived the last 15 years, and George has done a fantastic job of preserving a precious piece of modern Mopar history. George is the original owner of the R/T and one of the founding members of the National Dodge Dakota R/T Club. George is as big of a Mopar enthusiast as they come. The inside of his home is adorned with Mopar memorabilia and collectibles in virtually every room. When we sauntered off into the garage, we saw what can only be described as “Purple”.
Stock Dakota R/Ts are awesome, no doubt. But when you see one with a list of subtle performance and appearance mods that make you snap your neck, it’s something truly special. When you’re dealing with a purple vehicle, you have to be very careful with your choices in modifications, because it’s very easy to dance into the realm of “tacky”. George kept the outside of the truck clean by adding a Profinish-Proglass “shaker” hood, reminiscent of the ‘70-‘71 ‘Cudas and Challengers, and painted the scoop in a nice contrasting silver. To protect any precious cargo, a low profile Checkmate F/X tonneau cover was installed and the R/T logo was airbrushed on. A set of APC clear one-piece marker lenses give the nose a clean look and the windows received a 35% tint on the side, and 15% tint on the rear. At the rear of the truck, a Profinish fiberglass roll pan replaces the factory rear bumper. Underneath the Checkmate cover, a comfortable carpet kit from Bedrug, was laid in and a full set of Mopar splash guards helps protect that gorgeous Deep Amethyst paint.
Inside the cab, George rests his tush on a set of seats plucked from a Dodge Neon SRT4, which are basically the same as Viper seats but wrapped in cloth instead of leather. They’re supportive and look a lot better than the standard high back buckets that come in the Dakotas. All automatic Dodge Dakotas came with column shifters, but that wouldn’t do for George. So a B&M floor shifter was installed to give a more muscular feel. George added a platinum gauge face from Nu Image for some style and a pair of custom embroidered “R/T” floor mats rest under his feet. George left the factory AM/FM/CD/Cassette radio in the dash, but rocks out to tunes from a set of Alpine 6.5″ mid-range speakers, a pair of 1″ Infinity tweeters, a Rockford Fosgate Punch 160a2 amplifier and a whopping 4 Rockford Fosgate 8″ subwoofers. That’s a lot of boom for such a small cabin!
If you looked under the hood of this purple speed demon, you’d never think you were looking at a 15 year old engine. George took his time in making it fill the shoes of both show and go. The original 360 block was warmed over with a set of Mopar Performance 1.92 valve cylinder heads, filled with Harland Sharp’s 1.7:1 roller rockers. Stuffed between the heads is a single plane Mopar Performance M1 intake manifold, fed by a Holley 52mm throttle body. The exhaust gasses are expelled through a pair of Mopar Performance Tri-Y headers and oversized downpipes, and leave the truck through an MBRP cat-back system and reproduction ‘Cuda exhaust tips. A set of Accel 8.5mm wires keep the spark intact, and the clutch fan was replaced with an electric unit out of a Dodge Viper to keep things cool. All of the engine’s actions are dictated from a Mopar Performance computer. The engine isn’t all “go” though. All of the pulleys have been replaced with billet aluminum, along with the battery tie-down, fluid handles and the fuse box cover. The crowning jewel is the Mopar “Magnum” valve covers that have been custom painted with matching Deep Amethyst.
The suspension wasn’t left alone either. George put in a call to Hotchkis Suspension for their 2″ front/3″ rear drop kit and added a set of Hotchkis sway bars for better handling. The shocks are re-valved Bilstein units and George’s R/T rides on fully polished Dakota R/T wheels wrapped in Nitto NT-450 tires measuring 275/50R17 all around.
Over the years, George has racked up numerous car show awards from very prestigious events. He’s taken “Outstanding Truck” at the Wichita Area Mopars show almost every year and “Lowest Regular Cab” and “Best Stereo” at the 2001 Dakota R/T Nationals. George was also featured in his local newspaper in the ‘Wichita on Wheels’ section, spotlighting him and his impressive Dodge. We’re glad to see George has maintained his committed relationship for a decade and a half, and he tells us at Modern Mopar Magazine that he has zero plans of ever selling “Purple”!
By: Shawn Kaufman