By on January 30, 2012

The good old Chrysler 318 engine has been around since, oh, around the start of the Iron Age. From about 1,000 BC to 2002 AD, the 318 and its LA engine relatives were installed in Chrysler products, and they did a fine job. If it hadn’t been for the cockroach-grade immortality of the Chrysler Slant Six, in fact, we’d probably be talking about the 318 as the most unkillable engine Detroit ever made. In 1992, Chrysler updated the 318 (which had gone to a roller cam a few years before) with high-pressure multi-point fuel injection and more emission-friendly heads… and they called it the 5.2 Magnum, no doubt because the original Dodge Magnum hadn’t been good enough to justify such a cool name. As I discovered in a Denver wrecking yard last week, at least one Dakota owner was proud enough of his Magnum to apply a full-body vinyl wrap to his truck.
I’m hoping that this truck was owned by a shop specializing in hot-rodded Magnums for the off-road crowd, or some sort of outdoorsy engine-related business, because getting a screaming-eagles-and-virgin-forest vinyl wrap job for a Dakota seems somewhat creepy otherwise.
Here it is: Magnum.
I might be talking heresy here, but a Hemi in a Dakota sounds like a fine idea to me.

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32 Comments on “Junkyard Find: NO, IT’S NOT A HEMI!...”

  • avatar

    The one thing that always stood out about the Magnum V8 is how awful it sounds. It’s as if Chrysler was doing their best to make sure it aurally emulated a bunch of bolts in a blender.

  • avatar

    Outside of the intake plenum issue, they are fairly bulletproof engines. Too bad the same can’t be said for most of the automatic transmissions that were hooked to them.

    • 0 avatar
      Johnny Canada

      Nailed it. I have 200K miles on my 5.2 with no internal issues. Unfortunately, she’s on the 3rd transmission…and just starting to have “issues”. The era of Chrysler’s quality Torqueflite transmissions are a distant memory.

  • avatar

    Not as creepy as 80’s Monte Carlos and GrandPrixs painted up to look exactly like a Nascar Stocker.

    Here in Massachusetts I remember seeing more than 1 #3 and #43. They were the areo cars with the extra glass in the back. The cars had the right paint, the right decals, the #s. They were just street cars.

    The 43s really stuck out in a crowd because of the Petty Blue. The red was that dayglow red because you had to have that kind of red to look correct on TVs in the race.

  • avatar

    Boy, those could move, and it didn’t need 16 spark plugs…

    I might be talking heresy here, but a Hemi in a Dakota sounds like a fine idea to me.

    Well, it’d fit. A Cummins in a Dakota would scare people. I think they drop those in and go drag racing.

  • avatar

    What a strange pickup bed slogan. Is there really that much infighting/rivalry between the Magnum and Hemi crowds?

    • 0 avatar

      I was heretofore unaware of any such rivalry.

      Perhaps the owner was a legend in his own mind.

    • 0 avatar

      The “West Side Story” fight scenes were based on the rivalry.

      Not pretty.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know about the recent iron, but if you pulled up in a late 60’s model dodge, it’s a whole different story. Everybody would gather round, listen to the engine burble, and then ask the fateful question. I’d answer, nope, no hemi, “just” a 440 Magnum. And then they all look down their noses at it like something they’d have to scrap off their shoe.

      As if their collection of mid-70’s smog crap novas with big tires and 2 bbl carbs gave them any bragging rights. I’d have the fastest car on the lot and the “not a hemi” wouldn’t rate anything more than sneers and snide looks. More than once I’d wish for special lettering 3 ft tall calling out the 440 magnum on my ride.

  • avatar

    It looks like a perfectly good work truck, I wonder what put it in the junkyard

  • avatar

    Oh man, I miss my Dak. I bought a used 2WD SLT super cab Magnum V6 from a standalone Autonation back in the 90’s. I had a lot more land in Georgia, so I needed a good hauler, for stuff like brush from the trees and general home project duty. The super cab was great when the kids were little, but it that didn’t last. Ya keep feedin’ em, they keep growin’…

    Before I bought my truck, I had been borrowing my in-laws’ Ranger. It wasn’t a bad little truck, but for stuff like landscaping mulch & etc., the bed was a little too small. If you buy mulch by the bed load, you get gypped with a Ranger. The Dak was a nice mix of small and big truck. After we moved to Michigan, it was too much of a hassle for my wife to get the kids in and out of the extra cab, and the drivability in snow was awful. So, it got traded in on an… Aztek.

    I don’t know what is so creepy about the wrap on this truck, I kind of like it. I’ve more than once thought about wrapping my own personal car, as the wrap is pretty cheap, compared to custom paint. But the body has to be in pretty good condition, and that part isn’t cheap.

  • avatar

    “If it hadn’t been for the cockroach-grade immortality of the Chrysler Slant Six,”

    Years ago I read an article in Hot Rod Magazine that was title, “The Chrysler Slant 6: The Thing That Wouldn’t Die.”

  • avatar

    Seeing this makes me realize the vinyl-wrapping opportunity I missed with my 89 Dakota.

    It did have some sweet graphics down the side though.

  • avatar

    I had a 99 4×4 Dakota with the 318. I miss it. I think I’m getting verklempt.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised that tailgate didn’t end up as a wall-hanger.

  • avatar

    I remember when the 318 was a hot ticket with the stock class drag racing crowd. Around 62 or whatever. I owned a couple and they were tough but IMO no tougher than the 283 I’m still running. I think I liked them better though.

    I haven’t cared a lick about nascar since they made a lie out of the name. Drag racing had always been fun right up till I couldn’t afford it. I thought Dodge and Plymouth were tops in the drive all week and race on sunday crowd. I suppose that all stopped in the mid sixties when cars became smaller and engines became bigger (mustang/barracuda/camaro). Fun to remember and I get a kick out of these junkyard features.

  • avatar

    Why no love for the otherwise equivalent 5.9/360?

    I’d still love to pick up a quad-cab Dakota from the 99-04 generation. My sister had one (with the sadly orphaned 4.7L) and it was an awesome truck: V8 power, room for 5, big enough bed for most tasks.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      The LA series engines were good engines in all their guises although most people only remember their experiences with the emissions-strangled versions from the mid to late 70s. One hot rodding magazine performed a modern junkyard budget build on a 360 and specifically selected a heavily smogged-out ’78 Cordoba for the donor core. Swapping the cylinder heads for clean burning aftermarket units and providing modern valvetrain components with a solid rebuild of the stock crank, rods and pistons, they managed to churn out over 400 horsepower with a fairly mild cam.

      The really fun build happened with their leftover parts. After several years of power building experiments on various iterations, the leftover “substandard” parts comprised enough to put together yet another engine, and this one was slapped together and tested. Horsepower came out around 365 at its peak along with a broad, flat torque curve just above 400 ft-lbs – with a BSFC of .35. That’s high-20s in the MPG department if you match up your driveline gearing properly and use an overdrive transmission. A great way for Mopar fans to have their cake and eat it too.

      Now that I think on it, that engine build should have been submitted to Chryco for further R&D; I have several friends w/Dakotas equipped w/the 5.9 and they’ve continually complained about terrible fuel consumption even at highway cruise.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Now that I think on it, that engine build should have been submitted to Chryco for further R&D; I have several friends w/Dakotas equipped w/the 5.9 and they’ve continually complained about terrible fuel consumption even at highway cruise.

        Jeep Grand Cherokees with 5.9s are pigs as well. You know that seems to be the problem with many manufacturers. 4.6 Ford V8? Not bad. 5.4 Ford V8? Gas Pig.

      • 0 avatar

        Jeep Grand Cherokees with 5.9s are pigs as well.

        That’s a very rare setup.

        The vast majority of ZJs came with the 4.0L or 5.2L and the WJs used 4.0L and 4.7L only.

        IIRC, the 5.9 went into the JGC exclusively in 1998 and only in the top trim level. Only 20K were ever built.

        So if you know someone with a JGC 5.9L, they’ve got a pretty cool ride, even if it is a gas pig.

    • 0 avatar

      The 360 may never have developed a strong following because it replaced the legendary 340. Even at the smogged end of its run, the 340 was a great performer. The 360 was initially offered only as a 2 barrel equipped workhorse, with lower power output than the 340. At the time, the 340 was available as either a high performance 4 barrel equipped motor or a higher performance 6 barrel motor with 3 carburetors. When the 360 eventually replaced the 340 as a performance offering, it was unfortunately at a time when performance in general was suffering due to smog controls. That said, the smog-exempt 360 equipped 1978 L’il Red Express Truck was the quickest accelerating thing you could buy with four wheels according to Car and Driver. It still probably couldn’t have hung with a 1973 Duster 340 though.

  • avatar

    I had an aunt with a 74 Dart sporting the 318. I got to take it out a few times to see what it could do and the answer was: not much. Smog pumps and a cat converter really stole its mojo, I’d say it was marginally quicker than my dad’s 2.3 liter Pinto. I will say in the 10 years she had it I don’t recall it having many problems.

  • avatar

    IDK about a Hemi…don’t use the 5.7L Hemi, they are junk! My buddies just blew at 96,000 miles…has 2 holes in the block and from what the shop told him it is common on that model Hemi engine. And…I remember seeing a Vortech S/C on a 318 Magnum with Mopars heads…it made 400hp at the flywheel :(

  • avatar

    The LA series came out in the early 60’s as I recall (in 273 cubic inch form). The previous small block was known as the ‘A’ engine and parts were not interchangeable. Over the years it was available in 273, 318, 340, 360, and 400 inch sizes. Great motor.

  • avatar
    Ian Anderson

    I might be talking heresy here, but a Hemi in a Dakota sounds like a fine idea to me. <– There you go! There's a few posts out there for 2nd gen (97-04) Dakotas, same thing since the frame/platform is the same!

    Where’s that truck at? I need a parts truck with less rust than the ’94 SLT 5.2Mag Ext. Cab I just towed home. Has every option except the automatic and 4WD (both of which are junk in the Dakotas). It’s a nice compliment to the ’92 base model (3.9V6/5MT/2WD) I drive everyday. They’re great trucks and there’s still a lot of support for the Magnum engines despite the Hemi taking over.

  • avatar

    In college I picked up a ’74 Duster with a 318 and probably 152K on the clock (I’m sure I was lied to). Maybe Russcyle had a poor example, but mine MOVED. Almost lost my driver’s license with it. I wouldn’t call it bulletproof, though. Various gasket issues, and when the timing chain busted, that was it. The rest of the car wasn’t worth a rebuild.

  • avatar

    Scratches noggin’, peers at junkyard Mopar.. thoughts of a Coors can enters head.

  • avatar

    There was absolutely nothing wrong with the transmissions in the 90’s dakotas. The A-500 that came behind the V6 and 318 2WD models was the 999 torgueflite with an electric overdrive unit added to the tailshaft. Same thing with the A-518 used in the 318 4X4’s. It was the rugged 727 with overdrive on the tailshaft. Other than the overdrive they used the same parts as the older torqueflites, even filters and gaskets interchanged. The switch that activates the overdrive was known to go bad, which was an esay fix. Some people even bypassed it and used a toggle switch on the dash.
    Starvingteacher, the 318 was tougher than a 283 for the same reasons that all other A engines were togher than small block chevies. Higher nickel content in the block, with thicker bulkheads and beefier main caps with bigger bolts. They also used longer and beefier rods and and the head bolts were further from the bore resulting in less bore distortion than a chevy. The mopar also used bigger diameter lifters with wider cam lobes and a better hardening process than the chevy. That was why worn cams were a rare sight on mopars, very common on chevies before they switched to the roller design in 87.
    The 440 Magnum was a highly respected engine back in the day because it was chrysler’s top dog on the street. They only sold around 2k hemi’s a year due to the high price, and the majority of those sold ended up on the drag strip, they were a very rare sight on the streets.

  • avatar

    From where I stand, Murilee, you’re not talking heresy. A 3G Hemi would be a perfect powerplant for a Dakota. As for the Magnum engine itself, I could imagine it being installed in an old specialty car from the 1950s, perhaps something from LaDawri or Victress.

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