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Never-Ending Project Vehicle

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What started as a high school graduation present from his parents has turned into an obsession for Pete Intrieri.

He first saw the 1999 Dodge Dakota on eBay. It took only one spin around the seller’s neighborhood for the then-18-year-old Intrieri to know he found his new ride. The truck had its flaws—a rough paint job and an automatic transmission (Intrieri always wanted a five-speed manual). But it was perfect as the new focus of his budding hobby and passion, auto restoration.

“From the day I bought it … I knew I would fix [it up] one day,” he says.

For the first few years he owned the truck, it simply served as his daily driver. But his interest in working on cars would springboard Intrieri into years of repairs and seemingly never-ending modifications to the Dakota. Money, time and equipment were the first hurdles for the project, though.

Not long after purchasing the truck, Intrieri decided to attend a trade school in Blairsville, Pa. Shortly after graduation, he landed a job as a paint prepper at Patterson Auto Body in Patterson, N.Y., where he eventually worked his way to lead painter, a position he still holds today.

Working at Patterson Auto Body put Intrieri in the perfect position to finally repaint the Dakota. Two years after purchasing it, he restored the truck to its original amber fire ProCoat paint job. It’s what makes the vehicle unique: Dodge only produced 46 Dakotas in 1999 with that color.

Photo courtesy Pete Intieri

During the process, Intrieri added a new tailgate and front bumper to the truck. He then swapped the original transmission for a Tremec TKO-600 to pair with the 360ci V8 engine. Intrieri wanted to keep all the work in-house at Patterson’s—where coworkers assisted with the mechanical aspects—to ensure everything was done right. During the process, he painted the engine and transmission a flat black with chrome details and added a slight touch of amber fire to match the exterior.

“It was just supposed to be a transmission swap, and then it just snowballed and turned into a big ordeal,” Intrieri says.

He added a custom tubular drive shaft loop and transmission crossmember, as well as a Wilwood clutch master cylinder. He lowered the suspension, put in adjustable shocks and all stainless steel brake lines, and replaced the sway bars and tie rods. Under the hood, he added new rocker arms and valve covers and added a Mopar Performance M1 2bbl intake manifold. He kept the interior stock, but removed certain decals, installed new wheels and painted the grill and wiper cowl a flat black. 

“Basically I just want it to be fast and low,” he says.

When asked how much money he has put into the Dakota project, he laughs and says, “A lot more than it’s worth.” He estimates he spent around $25,000 on all of the modifications. “As special as it is to me, in the end, it’s just a Dodge Dakota, so it’s probably worth around $7,000 if I’m lucky.”

Though Intrieri has upgraded his daily driver to a 2014 Dodge Ram, he says the Dakota is still his favorite and he has no plans of selling.

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