'99 Dodge builds muscle over decades

·5 min read

Chris Kilmury has been meticulously caring for his 1999 Dodge Dakota R/T for more than a decade.

Kilmury started off with a 1997 Dodge Dakota Sport, which he loved, but it was rusty and had gained a lifetime’s worth of kilometres.

He soon learned about the R/T and was on the lookout for a truck in decent condition. His goal was to one day get behind the wheel of the truck.

“When the Dodge Dakotas came out for that year, I really liked the styling of them up. Until then, the Dodges were always a little squarer and boxier, and then this new generation of Dakota came out and it was a lot smoother and I liked the lines of it.”

It took research and time to find a ride that was the right fit for his garage.

Kilmury eventually located an R/T in the United States in October 2007 — the critical selling point for the truck was that it was rust-free.

He bought it sight unseen and had it shipped to Canada soon after. He was confident in the purchase as the man he bought it from provided many photos of the rig in advance. It was Kilmury’s first time buying a vehicle without viewing it in person first, so it was a relief when the truck arrived in Manitoba.

“I was a little nervous. We actually went to Winnipeg to pick it up and it was a pretty happy day when I realized it was in pretty good shape,” Kilmury said. “I just like that it’s an all-around vehicle. It’s a truck, so I still haul things with it. We can go out to the camper and haul things with it, or I can still go to a car show, and I might even try doing some road and track stuff.”

The R/T has found a home in Kilmury’s garage. Each year he slowly adds refinements to the vehicle, meticulously turning it into a prime specimen.

Kilmury has added a mix of modifications and stock parts to the truck.

“I try to keep it to what maybe the R/T would have come out as from the factory,” Kilmury said. “When they came out, originally they were kind of plain-looking and they didn’t really distinguish from the regular version, so I’m trying to make it stand out a little bit more so it looks different from the rest.”

Kilmury has added a new cowl induction hood to the vehicle, a new front bumper cover, re-painted it, lowered the front-end suspension, added different body skirts, a new tailgate, spoiler and other changes paired with engine modifications that include the addition of a different throttle body and new programmer.

The truck has a 5.9L 360 engine, Kilmury said, which is rare for the R/T model.

The truck was finished with a flame-red paint job to make the truck pop on the road.

The outside of the vehicle has been finished just how he likes it, Kilmury said, so he is now focused on performance modifications.

“I’ve done quite a few things. I’ve had it for quite a long time, so I try and do something different to it every year and improve it every year as budget allows.”

He usually has a game plan in place so he can ensure he has the time and the funds to complete his yearly projects with the truck.

The R/T is stored away over the winter, so the majority of the work he does on the vehicle is completed during the summer.

Lately, he has been focused on maintaining the truck and preventing its 21 years of age from showing. The goal is to keep it on the road and running with diligent maintenance.

Parts for the R/T can still be secured with relative ease, Kilmury said, although some of the after-market parts are no longer produced. These pieces were hard to find originally, he said, and each year the items become a little harder to track down.

The mechanical parts are still fairly common.

Kilmury knows what he wants to do with the truck, but also draws inspiration from other designers, including his hero Chip Foose, the legendary American automotive designer and artist.

“I try and make it something that he would do. Nothing too crazy, just kind of subtle but definitely looks different from all the rest.”

The final look for the R/T ended up being “stock, but a little bit beyond stock,” Kilmury said, explaining he found a happy medium in modifications to create a clean vehicle that still honours its history.

This summer he is aiming to add new exhaust headers to the R/T to give it a little more horsepower and complement what is already in it.

Kilmury will take the ride to car shows when COVID-19 public health measures allow.

He typically sticks to Brandon and the surrounding area for car shows but hopes to one day attend some of the bigger events in the United States.

He is also hoping to take the R/T to a track in Winnipeg over the summer if he gets the chance.

“I still drive it to work pretty much every day and just enjoy it and take it to car shows,” Kilmury said. “I just like to drive it and enjoy it as much as I can over the summer.”

» ckemp@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp

Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun

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