So you want to check out the new Dodge Dakota Quad Cab?
How about a fire-rescue Dakota, complete with winches, strobe lights and sirens?
Or maybe a family camper Dakota, with a fold-out tent in the pickup bed? Perhaps you'd prefer the Dodge Dakarta, festooned with rooftop racing lamps in case you want to challenge your buddies to an all-night race across the desert.
Don't bother looking for any plain-vanilla Dakota Quad Cabs at the Las Vegas Convention Center. To spur interest in the 2000 Dakota Quad Cab, DaimlerChrysler shipped 22 of them to aftermarket suppliers
These vehicles will be on display this week in Las Vegas, the site of a nnual trade shows sponsored by the Specialty Equipment Market Association and the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association.
'It's like a big boy's toy store,' said SEMA President Charles Blum. 'The factory can't be a cust om hot rod shop and produce vehicles one at a time. That's where the aftermarket comes in. There's a lot of wild stuff out there.'
DaimlerChrysler is using the aftermarket to create a buzz for the new truck. In all, the automaker handed out 59 vehicles - including the Dodge Neon, Intrepid, Grand Caravan and Durango, the Chrysler 300M, the Plymouth Prowler and three Jeeps - for aftermarket embellishment.
DaimlerChrysler has never previously participated to this degree in the annual SEMA show. Last year, for instance, it provided only eight vehicles to exhibitors.
'All the automakers really believe that the SEMA show is now a major show,' said Mark Heber, DaimlerChrysler marketin g manager for the Quad Cab and Durango.
JAPANESE JUMP IN
In recent years, General Motors and Ford Motor Co. have shared DaimlerChrysler's enthusiasm for the show. Now the Japanese automakers are jumping in. This year, both Nissa n and Honda will sponsor exhibit booths. All told, Japanese automakers will display at least 50 vehicles.
Participation by the automakers in the show has intensified during the past few years, Blum said.
But the featured automaker of this year's show is DaimlerChrysler, and it is using the opportunity to launch the Quad Cab. This new Dakota model features two rear doors that are hinged on the B pillar. Production began Oct. 6, and they will be shipped to D odge dealers beginning this week.
The SEMA show will help DaimlerChrysler sell cars and trucks. Aftermarket manufacturers will get a lift, too. DaimlerChrysler has given them a chance to accessorize an all-new vehicle before it ev en hits the dealerships, Heber noted.
'They're going to be able to create products for that vehicle and get them out to the community so that we really have a broad range of aftermarket accessories, whether it be bed caps or running boards and things like that,' Heber said.
Judging by the results, the Quad Cab seems likely to generate some aftermarket buzz.
Full Effect, of San Bernardino, Calif., opted for a camping theme. In the bed of the truck, the company installed a folding tent that accommodates two adults and a child. The roof rack holds two mountain bikes.
'It is something a family can use for work or play, something that could replace a typical car,' sa id Bill Thomas, Full Effect's owner. The camping theme highlights Dodge's effort to create an all-purpose pickup, Thomas said.
To add to the outdoors theme, Full Effect is using a special material that is molded onto the existing interior trim.
'If you look closely, the pattern has leaves and trees,' Thomas said. 'It is almost like contact paper, but when it is on, it looks like the whole trim piece is made of it. It goes along with our theme and I wan ted something in the truck that nobody else would have.'
Borla Performance Industries, of Oxnard, Calif., used its Dakota Quad Cab to create a fire-rescue vehicle.
The Dakarta, designed by Performance West, of Vista, Calif., will be featured with comedian Jay Leno on the cover of the SEMA show magazine. The name Dakarta is derived from Dakota and the annual Paris-Dakar-Cairo off-road race, said Larry Weiner, executive vice president at Performance West.
RED TRUCK TURNS YELLOW
The entire cab is surrounded with a tubular aluminum cage. The front end is equipped with a tubular guard that supports lamps and an aluminum skid plate. A roof rack is equipped with a plethora of lamps for night racing, and the truck bed is covered with a sloping canvas soft top with window.
More than 30 aftermarket suppliers were used for the body, interior, powertrain and chassis modifications and accessories.
The Dakarta uses DaimlerChrysler's big 5.9-liter Magnum V-8 truck engine, but it was modified with a Kenne Bell supercharger. The modified engine generates 350 hp. Even its color was changed. The Dakarta was repainted a bright yellow.
'They sent us a red truck,' Weiner said. 'We had to literally blow it apart and start from scratch.'
Despite all the changes, the goal always was to maintain brand equity, so the Dakarta clearly is a Dodge truck, Weiner said.
'When peo ple see the Dakarta, they will have lots of ideas about how they can buy a Dakota Quad Cab and fix it up,' he said. 'Virtually everything we put on this truck is available. You can pick up a phone and buy it. Probably the only no norderable part is the exterior roll caging, and that is something you probably wouldn't want on the street anyway.'
BOAT AND TRAILER
G.T. Styling, of Ontario, Calif., went with a lifestyle theme. Its Quad Cab is pulling a 25-fo ot boat and trailer.
Jamie Cook, marketing director at G.T. Styling, calls it an SUT, for sport-utility-truck.
'With the four doors and big back seat, it has the same functionality of a sport-utility vehicle, plus there is the a dded versatility of a pickup truck bed,' Cook said.
Organizers like Blum seem almost surprised at the lift the show has gotten from automakers.
'For years they always supplied us with a couple of vehicles,' Blum said. 'Then it went from a couple to a couple dozen. This year, it's something like 380 vehicles supplied to our members to accessorize and display at the show. It's really gotten big. It's the largest group of vehicles that we've ever seen.'