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Story and photos by Toby Brooks
Pro street comes in many flavors. If you think of fat-tired rides like language, then there are plenty of “accents” based in region, based in availability, and based in personal taste. Some opt for sleek and modern, while others opt for the wildest, most over-the-top build they can conjure up.
It’s safe to say that Brighton, Illinois native Rod Bollini falls squarely in the latter category. One look at his insane 1991 Dodge Dakota is all it takes to hammer home the idea that if a little is good, a lot must be better.
“I started building cars when I was 15,” Bollini said. A Mopar enthusiast from day one, that first car was a 1973 Gold Duster given to him by his grandmother. After it met an untimely demise in an accident, Bollini moved on to a blown pro street 1977 Ramcharger that he still has today. However, the urge was there to build something even more off the beaten path in celebration of pro street’s recent resurgence in popularity.
“I always wanted a V-8 Dakota that was totally different. I don’t like cookie-cutter builds,” Bollini remarked. As a result, the fun-loving Illinoisan acquired the truck in trade, then spent the better part of the next decade to develop what is arguably the wildest, most radical pro street Pentastar pickup the world has ever seen.
First, the low-slung stance with big-n-littles took more than one attempt to meet Bollini’s expectations, but the end result is dead-on perfect. Out back, Bollini installed a mild steel Chassis Engineering backhalf and cage himself using 1 5/8-inch DOM tubing. A custom 4-link was partnered with Strange single-adjustable coil overs to suspend the shortened Dana 60 housing. The rearend was set up by Vance Miller, and was stuffed with Strange 35-spline axles and Richmond 4:10 gears. A pair of 15×15-inch double beadlocked Billet Specialties Street Lites have been shod with 33×21.5-15 Mickey Thompson Sportsman SR steamrollers in back, while matching 15×4 Street Lites roll up front. Strange disc brakes have been mounted on each corner and plumbed with custom stainless hard lines to help the Dodge stop as quikly as it starts.
Up front, Bollini initially debuted the truck with the deepest static drop he could find, but opted to redo the front suspension over the winter of 2015 to get it even lower. Steve Yates of Yates Performance Chassis modified the stock frame rails to fit a custom Mustang II setup with Air Lift bags and Bell Tech shocks to get the Green Monster waaaay down in the weeds. In order to tuck the tires, Yates had to modify and narrow the stock front track width by five inches, but the end result is clearly worth the effort.
The towering pile of polished aluminum wretched excess reaching skyward from the hoodless engine bay is no more or less subtle than the rest of the build. Bollini started with a 440 scavenged from an RV, only to discover that he couldn’t equip it with a 500 ci stroker kit after the initial machine work had been done. Undeterred, Bollini called up Indy Cylinder Head, who were ready, willing, and able to help him see his vision through to reality.
First, an iron Chrysler block was equipped with 9.5:1 compression Ross pistons swinging from Eagle 6.76-inch rods on an Eagle 4.150-inch stroke crankshaft. A custom-ground Indy Street Blower spec solid roller cam by COMP works in unison with the aluminum Indy SR310 cylinder heads that have been equipped with Indy adjustable roller rockers.
Topping the whole glorious concoction is an Indy blower intake with a Blower Shop 8/71 billet huffer sporting dual 750 cfm Demon blower carbs and a polished converted Enderle Big Ugly injector hat. The hat has been modified to accept a K&N filter from a 2009 Subaru. As if that weren’t enough, Steve Yates also bent up a cool 150-shot NOS Cheater nitrous system on a custom plate.
An 8-quart Milodon pan houses an Indy custom high output oil pump with swinging pickup to keep the internals adequately lubricated. An MSD 6 BTM ignition and Pro Billet distributor handle sparking chores, while the remains of spent gases are routed rearward through custom owner-fabbed and Nitro-plated 2 1/8-inch collector headers. The 3.5-inch exhaust and Flow Master Hush Power mufflers dump just ahead of the rear wheel openings. A Vintage Air Maxi-Cool system was also installed to keep occupants comfy on longer cruises.
Once complete, the combo was good for more than 900 horses and almost 850 ft.-lbs. of torque. “When Russ at Indy Cylinder Head faxed me the dyno sheet showing that the engine did 916 hp at 6,400 rpm on pump gas, I was blown away,” Bollini said.
Backing the potent mill is a beefed-up Chrysler 727 3-speed transmission assembled by Coan. A Mopar Performance 8-bolt flexplate has been affixed to a Coan 2,800 rpm stall converter. A custom shortened 3-inch driveshaft then couples power from the tail shaft to the rear housing.
Given Bollini’s the-crazier-the-better approach to pro street, paint and body on the Dakota are necessarily wild and over the top, too. Body mods include shaved door handles and a smooth tailgate skin along with a Carriage Works billet grille. Additionally, fabricator extraordinaire Steve Yates again came to the rescue, whipping up a custom front spoiler, rear wing, and nitrous bottle mounts. James Tucker and Tony Weber performed the initial prep work before handing off to Daniel Deren for the Synergy Green/House of Kolor Kandy Green pain and insane airbrushed graphics. The 34 skulls are so detailed that you can actually see them sweating, and the effort was good enough to walk away with a 2015 Street Machine Nationals Legends of Pro Street Best Paint award.
Jeff Jones and Denny Paynic teamed up on the fresh interior that is clean and straightforward. The smoothed dash has been painted to match the exterior and is now adorned with the signatures of many of Bollini’s childhood heroes, the Legends of Pro Street. Leather-wrapped seats have been partnered with 5-way harnesses for style, comfort, and safety, while a dash full of AutoMeter relays all the important data. A billet steering wheel provides a highly polished finishing touch.
Subtle, it ain’t. But Rod’s thrilled with the end result, for the attention the truck has garnered, and most importantly for the new friendships he has formed as a result of the build. And like spoken accents, everyone is a bit different and some might even say the SkullZilla is just too much.
And that’s just right!