Jeep enthusiasts will still spend for speed

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His upgrades range from current Jeep models to Wrangler predecessors such as the CJ7. McKeag even has gone beyond eight cylinders, filling TJ Wranglers with V-10 engines used in the Dodge Viper. Dakota Customs also did V-8 Wranglers for Chrysler between 2008 and 2012, including for the Moab off-road event in Utah.

For one of his latest projects, McKeag is packing a 1,000-hp Hellephant engine in a 1947 Dodge Power Wagon pickup. The truck, he said, will retain a slightly dented exterior that belies its devastating capabilities.

Business has been booming during the pandemic. McKeag’s affluent clientele still has money, and their thirst for muscle hasn’t faltered. In late August, McKeag said he had done “four times the amount of business” this year than in the same period in 2019.

The jobs can take up to three weeks. Dakota installs hoods that help with engine cooling, along with shocks and different suspension setups, depending on the tire size the customer wants. “We definitely firm up the suspension; otherwise, you can have the front end lift too high because of the engine torque,” McKeag said.

The shop also adds larger brakes. Every build, he said, is a bit different. Figuring out the engine programming for the Hellcat back in 2015 was a challenge when it debuted, McKeag said, but the shop managed to do it.

A Hellcat conversion for a Wrangler is $56,000. Turning a Gladiator into a Demon costs $68,000.

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Saurabh Shukla

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