The third-generation Dodge Dakota is one ugly truck. It's big, clumsy, and kind of awkward looking. Any objections? But these gripes are, of course, descriptions of a bone-stock model. One that's sitting at ground level with all the custom trimmings couldn't look all that bad. But the question of who would actually be crazy enough to start, let alone go through with a full buildup of one would eventually be raised. Well, just over three years ago, I personally discovered two guys who were already chest-deep in headaches and regrets due to such a build.
Roger Lomas, the owner of the Dakota in question, had high hopes of seeing his truck finished one day, although the doubt in his eyes was undeniably strong. And beside him stood a man who he had recently invested all his hope and trust to make it all happen. Dusty Briley, a small collision shop owner in Louisiana who had some custom work on his résumé, had taken on the task of completing the Dodge from its stripped-down, sorry state. And although the truck's past was plagued with problems and failure, its future wasn't looking much brighter at that point. "When Roger agreed to have me finish what another unnamed shop had started, we both had no idea what we were in store for. The truck's interior arrived to me in boxes and buckets, some parts were missing, and others had clearly been chewed on by some kind of animal. The rack-and-pinion was jacked, and the brake lines were cut. This was just the beginning," Dusty recalls.
"The deeper I dug into the truck, I found that more sh*t was either done half-assed or just completely wrong. Almost all the work that was previously completed had to be redone." Dusty was able to handle a great deal of the work himself afterhours when his collision jobs were tucked away for the night, but when times got tough he relied heavily on family and close friends for help and encouragement. With the healing process underway, Roger would stop by Dusty's shop when he could, but living a few hours away in Texas, visits weren't always an option. "After a year of fixing other people's f*ck-ups, we were finally able to make forward progress."
But what may seem to be just another story of guys playing around in the garage, Dusty made it very clear that they took every bit of the Dakota's four-year resurrection seriously, and it taxed everyone involved, as well as a few innocent parties. "This truck was built solely on nights and weekends. It felt like we would take three steps forward, then were shoved six steps back. My 14-year-old cousin Ean would come help out after school, and my daughter would even have to sleep on the pool table at our airbrusher/pinstriper, Marc LeFerve's shop when we had to pull all-night work sessions because my wife was working the night shift at the hospital. Roger and I really pushed our families to the limit due to this truck, and we're lucky our wives didn't divorce our dumb asses in the process."
This is truly a story of a beat-down, overmatched underdog winning a fixed fight. Both Roger and Dusty were handicapped with there not being enough hours in a day, a lack of money in the bank, and a shortage of skilled manpower to pull a build of this caliber off, but somehow they made it happen. Dusty tells us, "We truly believe our success is largely due to the disappointment and mistreatment we received from the unnamed shop that started this truck. It only made us want this even more for ourselves."