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Hello all,

I recently reacquired my dad's old '96 Dakota that he had purchased new. I drove it for a while in college and gave it back to him, and he recently decided he was finally ready to part ways with it. I have somewhat of an emotional attachment to this truck but it needs a LOT of work and I don't have a lot of disposable income at the moment. First the truck: manual transmission with 3.9L magnum V6, crew cab, SLT. I have several questions related to getting it back in good working order, and some curiosities that I might pursue further on down the road;
The seatbelts and seats need to be replaced. Seatbelts are easy enough to find, but I am not sure what seats I could look at that would fit. Is it as easy as swapping out the bracket and hardware? I imagine I could find something from the Chrysler family that should fit pretty easily (newer Jeeps or Dodges primarily) but not sure if that's the case and having trouble finding definitive answers.
Second, neither the A/C nor the heat work on the vehicle. I've done some work on this truck and other vehicles in the past, but not sure I am up to these, is it as simple as replacing the components and charging the AC system with refrigerant?
Lastly, the paint is coming off in several places and there are rust spots. The roof is the worst. I absolutely cannot afford a whole body paint job at the moment ($2-3k from what I understand for something that will last), but I know I can't ignore this issue. Any recommendations?

Beyond these major issues, I'd like to fix up the interior of the truck a bit.
Does anyone know if I could swap out the steering wheel with one from a newer Dakota or Durango?
The gauge cluster needs to be replaced, it shuts off sometimes (as they are prone to do from my understanding) and the gas gauge has completely failed. But I can't find an OEM replacement, they have been discontinued. Is ebay my only option here?
I saw a post somewhere on the internet about converting the rear wheels from drum to disk brakes, is this common? If I wanted to pursue that, where should I start?
Lastly, the engine. I think it would be neat to swap it out for a 5.9L V8, would that be a straightforward job or more involved? ie. are the motor mounts and transmission bolt patterns the same? What about for newer V8's?
 

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Red Trucker
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1,874 Posts
Sounds like alot of work for a base model truck....but your money to spend. Ebay and car-part.com (and junkyards) will be your friends here. See below in bold

Hello all,

I recently reacquired my dad's old '96 Dakota that he had purchased new. I drove it for a while in college and gave it back to him, and he recently decided he was finally ready to part ways with it. I have somewhat of an emotional attachment to this truck but it needs a LOT of work and I don't have a lot of disposable income at the moment. First the truck: manual transmission with 3.9L magnum V6, crew cab, SLT. I have several questions related to getting it back in good working order, and some curiosities that I might pursue further on down the road;
The seatbelts and seats need to be replaced. Seatbelts are easy enough to find, but I am not sure what seats I could look at that would fit. Is it as easy as swapping out the bracket and hardware? I imagine I could find something from the Chrysler family that should fit pretty easily (newer Jeeps or Dodges primarily) but not sure if that's the case and having trouble finding definitive answers. - you won't find definitive answers on this because this is kind of the forgotten generation...if you can find a Dakota specific forum they may help more. Otherwise it's trial and error, the good old fashioned way lol.
Second, neither the A/C nor the heat work on the vehicle. I've done some work on this truck and other vehicles in the past, but not sure I am up to these, is it as simple as replacing the components and charging the AC system with refrigerant? - heater is most likely the heater core, difficulty depends on how easy it is to access. A/C system is much more complicated and could have issues anywhere in the system; I recommend if you don't have the ability/tools to properly diagnose to take it to a shop. Somewhere in that decade is when R12 was phased out in favor of R134a refrigerant. The components aren't directly compatible and if they can't put R12 in then the system will need to upgraded to handle R134a.
Lastly, the paint is coming off in several places and there are rust spots. The roof is the worst. I absolutely cannot afford a whole body paint job at the moment ($2-3k from what I understand for something that will last), but I know I can't ignore this issue. Any recommendations? - is it surface rust or rot?

Beyond these major issues, I'd like to fix up the interior of the truck a bit.
Does anyone know if I could swap out the steering wheel with one from a newer Dakota or Durango? - have to see if a newer wheel will 1) actually bolt on and 2) is the newer airbag compatible with your truck
The gauge cluster needs to be replaced, it shuts off sometimes (as they are prone to do from my understanding) and the gas gauge has completely failed. But I can't find an OEM replacement, they have been discontinued. Is ebay my only option here? - either that or see if one of the cluster repair services can work some magic
I saw a post somewhere on the internet about converting the rear wheels from drum to disk brakes, is this common? If I wanted to pursue that, where should I start? - very common, just have to find some that are compatible with your axle
Lastly, the engine. I think it would be neat to swap it out for a 5.9L V8, would that be a straightforward job or more involved? ie. are the motor mounts and transmission bolt patterns the same? What about for newer V8's? - somewhat straightforward, 318 was available in that body but the factory refused to do it until Carroll Shelby did lol. Externally the 318 is the same size as the 360
1989-dodge-dakota-shelby-1m.jpg 18764706-700-0.jpg
 
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