12/15/1999 | 3 MINUTE READ

Two More Doors, One "New" Truck

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The one truism in this industry right now is that trucks make money. So how do you build more different trucks? Just ask Dodge...


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It's a Dakota! It's a Durango! No...It's the 2000 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab!

Yes, many truck-crazed American consumers will think that this latest DCXproduct is unequivocally trick. (Just look at our cover; even we're buying into the hype.) But pick-`em-up trucks with four doors are not exactly a new idea. Yes, compact pickups with four doors are new to the U.S. market, however they are common in other parts of the world. And why shouldn't they be? The functionality of a 215.1-in., 131-in. wheelbase truck with a 5-ft. 3-in. bed and a four-door cab whose full rear doors open 84° is undeniable. Although Dodge PR describes the Dakota Quad Cab as "the best kind of hybrid in the world," the bottom line is that this vehicle is not another "segment-buster" (think minivan). It's just another truck, which is not necessarily a bad thing. In this market, the Quad Cab and every other SUV-pickup "hybrid" will undoubtedly sell. (It's funny how everyone wants to label themselves with the ultra-cool hybrid vernacular, even if they couldn't tell an electric motor with a regenerative-braking system from a fuel cell.) The real story here is how DaimlerChrysler's Truck Engineering designed the Quad Cab to take advantage of parts commonality with other models and used a low capital-investment manufacturing strategy. Remember, this business isn't really about building cool new products...it's all about makin' money.

A: Putting It Together
At the Dodge City Assembly Plant (Warren, MI), there is not a lot of space in the body shop. This would have lead to a bit of a problem had they decided to assemble the Quad Cab box themselves, just like they do the other Dakota boxes. Normally, stampings for the inner and outer box sides and box floor are supplied to the body shop where they are sub-assembled with other standard brackets and smaller pieces. These subassemblies are then fit into a framer where they are welded into the complete pickup box. While the other Dakota boxes are either 6.5 ft. or 8 ft. long, the Quad Cab box is only 5.25 ft. This means that there is no commonality between the stampings, which further means that new equipment and tooling would be necessary to build the subassemblies. So the decision was made to farm out all of the subassemblies, with Tower Automotive (Grand Rapids, MI) picking up the contract. This is a first for the former-Chrysler Corp. Not only does this contract save that ever-so-precious floor space, but more importantly gets the burden of owning all the equipment off DCX's back. (Which will be important when the truck/SUV market is saturated.)

B: Composites On Board
The optional skid plates on the Quad Cab are made from a fiberglass-reinforced polypropylene and supplied by Cambridge Industries. This composite is said to provide equal strength and weight compared to steel plates, but with improved protection. One cited benefit of the composite is that it springs back to its normal position after encountering an obstruction. (We'll let one of the off-road magazines test this claim.)

C: The Dakotas
Look at the A-pillar forward. That's all Dakota, common to every version of the platform (Dakota, Dakota Club Cab, Dakota R/T, Durango, and now Dakota Quad Cab). So is the IP and its cross-member. Suspension components are also shared among the vehicles, however, each system is tuned to compensate for the weight bias particular to each truck. The Quad Cab's tailgate is shared with the rest of the Dakota pickups. The frame begins its life the same as the Club Cab, but the Quad Cab's mounting points are in different locations.

D: "I hail from Durango"
The front doors and the front half of the floor-pan come from the Dakota-based SUV. The regular Dakota doors are too large to allow the four-door arrangement.

E: Under The Hood
Three engines are offered, and they're all shared with other DCX vehicles. The base 3.9-liter Magnum V-6 and 5.9-liter Magnum V-8 are carryover Dodge truck engines from last year's models. But Dodge's old 5.2-liter Magnum V-8 has been replaced in favor of the 4.7-liter V-8 which is also found in the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

F: Jeepin'
An "all-new" aluminum four-wheel-drive front axle housing is actually a design that's borrowed from the stables of Jeep. It weighs 11.5 lbs. less than the cast iron unit it replaces, helping to offset the hefty 300 to 375 lb. of extra weight that the Quad Cab carries over the Dakota Club Cab (this amount varies due to configuration).


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