When most people start building a custom truck, they usually start with a model year that aftermarket companies make a ton of parts for, making the buildup that much easier. This is why there are so many customized Chevys. This is no slam against Chevy owners-it's just the truth. When Phillip Cordova wanted to build his custom truck, though, he decided to build his daily-driven '97 Dodge Dakota. Keep in mind, there is very little available in the custom automotive aftermarket for these trucks, except for various performance goodies and a few bumper and hood items that can be bought and installed.

For four years, Phillip worked with a number of people who all helped him achieve his goal of having a Dakota he could totally be proud of. Since this was his first attempt at a custom truck, he relied heavily on what he'd seen at shows and on those who he trusted to make the most of his midsize hauler. One of the first things that was done to turn the Dodge into the picture he had in his mind was plenty of suspension work. Arami Picazo of Clout Nine Customs started by fabricating a reverse cantilever four-link suspension in the rear that can be adjusted in ride height with Slam Specialties air springs. In the front, the stock control arms were modified to accept another pair of Slam Specialties 'bags to make the whole truck's ride height adjustable at will.

Then, the truck went to the body shop, where it was smoothed and painted by Marcos Garcia in Antioch, California. Everything on the exterior that had bothered Phillip was shaved smooth and blocked, until there was no sign that anything other than smooth sheetmetal had ever been there in the first place. After the body was completely blocked to ensure that it was straight and perfect, it was sprayed with Auto Color Emerald Green and Silver, and topped with PPG Purple tribal flames. With a fresh new look, Phillip couldn't wait to get the truck out of the body shop and onto its next destination for interior work, which would allow the truck to return to the showfields and to see how it ranked against others on the West Coast.

Rather than upholster everything in sight like a lot of truck owners do, Phillip chose to smooth some of the truck's interior plastics and paint them in the same shade of green as the exterior. After the cab was smoothed and given a healthy dose of cool with the painted panels, the classy touch came in the form of replacing the factory covers with green and gray Katzkin leather, installed by Jim Karr of Karr Products.

Filling the Dodge's cab is a serious ear-blistering audio system, featuring two 12-inch JL Audio subwoofers mounted in a custom-built box, along with three JL Audio amplifiers mounted in custom console in the bed. Filling in the blanks between all of the bass is a collection of MB Quartz mids and highs. Musical signals are sent to the amps and speakers through an Eclipse in-dash CD unit. The talents of Rob Espizio of Motor Music were used with the construction and installation of the audio system.

After going through the whole truck and changing everything to reflect his own tastes, Phillip has been tearing up the show scene, taking home numerous awards. In fact, that's exactly how we ran into Phillip this past year. One look at his clean Dakota, and we knew we needed to get it shot for others to enjoy.