By on September 26, 2016

1995 Dodge Dakota in Colorado Junkyard, RH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The plenitude of vehicles based on the Chrysler K Platform helped the company bounce back from its humiliating 1979 near-bankruptcy and government bailout, and the modern overhead-cam four-cylinder engine Chrysler developed for the K was a big part of that success. We think of that 2.2/2.5 as a transverse-front-wheel-drive-only engine, but Chrysler made a longitudinal version for the rear-wheel-drive Dakota pickup.

Here’s a very rare 2.5/5-speed example I saw in a Denver-area yard recently.

1995 Dodge Dakota in Colorado Junkyard, engine - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

1995 was the last model year for the good old K-Car 2.5 engine in the Dakota. After that, FAW made these engines for Chinese-market vehicles, while Chrysler switched to the 2.5-liter AMC four-cylinder for the Dakota.

1995 Dodge Dakota in Colorado Junkyard, gearshift - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

This transmission and bellhousing should enable crazed engine swappers to use the Spirit R/T‘s engine in, say, a Miata. We recommend this application.

1995 Dodge Dakota in Colorado Junkyard, floor trash - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The last owner of any Dakota must smoke Marlboros. It’s the law.

1995 Dodge Dakota in Colorado Junkyard, speedometer - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Just over 126k miles on the clock. Nobody loves non-huge pickups these days, it seems.

1995 Dodge Dakota in Colorado Junkyard, tape stripes - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The 1980s had been over for a while at this point, but 1980s-style tape stripes and graphics lived on in Detroit.

Dodge pickups were #1 in sales growth in 1995!

Those who bought the first-gen Dakota Club Cab could fit four lumberjacks inside. Cue Monty Python song.

[Image: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]

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81 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1995 Dodge Dakota, with K-Car Engine...”


  • avatar
    sirwired

    I wonder what killed it; it has fairly low miles, doesn’t have any obvious catastrophic body damage, and looks to be in overall usable, if not pretty, shape.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      I’m guessing emphysema.

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        Approaching 70, I can really see the difference in my cohort who were /are lifetime smokers. Many are dead already, and many carrying the oxy bottle.

        Yes there’s that outlier of “my grandmother smoked 2 packs a day from age 14 and now she’s 90 and healthy as a marathoner” but those are unicorns.

        • 0 avatar
          John

          More Americans die annually from tobacco use, than all other substance use combined, yet we continue to shovel tobacco farmers money in subsidies, and continue to shovel the law enforcement/courts/incarceration cartels money to persecute users and sellers of relatively innocuous substances, such as marijuana. Makes perfect sense to me. Oh, and we also continue to shovel money to the Medicare cartels to pay for treatment of smokers who are ill, but not yet dead.

          • 0 avatar
            xtoyota

            Dear John you have been smoking too much weed :=)

          • 0 avatar
            MRF 95 T-Bird

            Currently there is a lot of tobacco R&D on alternate used as varied as Ebola vaccine and using the seeds for bio-fuels. If there is success maybe the Winston 500 will come back.

          • 0 avatar
            Jeff S

            John–Tobacco subsidies to farmers ended in the early 2000’s. There are only subsidies for corn and soybeans. Many tobacco farmers have gone to either growing grapes or other crops.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Probably just a blown head gasket, which normally wouldn’t send a perfectly good pickup to the scrapper, but it’s a regular cab, 2wd, 4 banger, manual, and too old for Mexico.

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        Can you explain the “too old for Mexico” ?

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          Simple :

          Older low value vehicles of any stripe that still have life in them , are worth more in Mexico .

          Were you in California you’d know about the daily trains of pickups towing other old pickups , always heading South .

          Used to be mostly from Oregon but now I see more Washington state plates headed to Mexico .

          -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          They want our used pickups, but only the best. Or what importers can make the most off of. There’s a 20 year cutoff anyway.

          Aging crew-cabs are getting plentiful enough, so the value of old stripper regular-cabs is dropping fast.

          • 0 avatar
            indi500fan

            I’m still confused. Is it illegal to import a car more than 20 yrs old from the US into Mexico?

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            A pickup has to be 10 to 20 years old for legal import/registration in Mexico. For cars/vans/SUVs/etc, there’s only a one year window for import. 10 years old, no more, no less.

            It’s why used pickup prices can get a little insane, especially Tacoma 4X4s. We gotta be losing about half our trucks to export, legal and otherwise, to Mexico and beyond.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      that’s a TBI K-car engine, so it probably had such bad piston slap it would drown out the cacophony of a 6.0 Powerstroke.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    I think those stripes and that color was more 90’s than 80’s.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    I was wondering what 5 speed went into this truck, lo and behold in wiki it was a medium sized gearbox shared with Jeep and GM.

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    Left Hand Brewing Sticker from Longmont, CO. Cool!

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    This would make a perfect weekend junk and mulch hauler. The problem is simply the space and registration and insurance cost/hassle of yet another vehicle in the fleet.

  • avatar
    MoDo

    Had an 87 with the 3.9L – loved that truck!

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I got to drive an early 1990s model in the college maintenance department. Regular cab, long bed, 2wd with V6 and automatic. Pretty sprightly – the V8 must have been a tire roasting, no traction affair on anything less than bone dry glass smooth pavement.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I remember borrowing a friend’s rusted out shorty Ram van with the 3.9L to fetch a non-running motorcycle, going up a slight incline in third I’d depress the accelerator to what felt like a detent, pressing further it would downshift. Not a hotrod by any means but it felt like a perfectly decent amount of power. My friend had bought it at a silent auction for $375, it was a former fleet vehicle for Cornell’s physics laboratory. Working A/C and everything! But pretty scary amounts of rust and steering with about 30 degrees of slop in the wheel.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          You could feel it in your foot on the gas pedal right before the 3-2 downshift in the old Torqueflite transmissions (and some others too). A solid kickdown linkage would really transmit this feel very well, better than a kickdown cable.

          Not sure any drive by wire cars replicate this, or if anybody even cares nowadays…

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I honestly found myself thinking that I was having more fun from the visceral experience of driving that crusty old van than I had piloting my brother’s friend’s new WRX the week prior. I can vividly remember the details of driving the van and how it felt, but barely remember anything about the new Subie aside from it accelerating really quickly.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            “having more fun from the visceral experience of driving that crusty old van”

            I do kinda miss a lot of stuff about driving old cars. I remember that the faster you went, the closer to the floor that hard spot in the gas pedal seemed to get. My slant 6/904 could shift into top gear as low at 10mph or kick down to second as fast as 70-something. There are plenty of things I don’t miss about that car but I still have a sense of nostalgia.

        • 0 avatar
          mikeg216

          The 3.9 was the 318 minus two cylinders.. So yea.. Lots of torque and a robust automatic transmission in an otherwise crap box truck

      • 0 avatar

        I had a 1995 4wd club cab 318 v8. The original dealer (Holley dodge Middletown CT, now gone, they were big on performance paks) installed a mopar performance computer , mopar cam, Doug Thorley headers and a Gibson 3″ Cat back. It also had a limited slip rear. It was indeed quick and would roast tires. It also handles surprisingly well for a 4WD pickup. I ended up selling it 8 years ago to my father who uses is for dump runs, boat/motorcycle hauling, and Home depot. Great little truck.

    • 0 avatar

      Dad had a 87 4×4. automatic, 3.9. Top speed was 92mph. above 50mph, it was SLOW. below 50, it was just slow. It could take a slant six ’74 Dart off the line, but not by much. It also hated my guts, I could not leave its home county without it barfing parts-least with me driving it.

      It was a comfortable driver though, actually had a better ride than his 94 extended cab 2wd Dakota that replaced it, that 94 was about 6 times faster to accelerate as well with the Magnum 3.9.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    “This transmission and bell housing should enable crazed engine swappers to use the Spirit R/T‘s engine in, say, a Miata. We recommend this application.”

    I’m pretty sure they make pills for that now. Since ever so common and powerful Ford motors not only fit but play nice with the wiring…

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      MONSTER MIATA with the trusty old Mustang 5.0 302 and T-5 would be a blast as well. Lot’s cheaper than a LSX swap.

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        To me if you’re gonna go to all that effort, why worry about saving maybe a grand on the motor, especially since the LS gets you alum block and heads?

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Personally if it was me I’d just turbo the 4 cyl that the Miata came with. But then I’m not a guy who cries if he doesn’t have the maximum HP possible.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          You can save much more than “maybe a grand”. That’s a pretty absurd judgement unless you’re talking brand new crate engines. 302s are very plentiful and very easy to modify. It can be the difference in being able to afford the project or finally selling it off in pieces because you spent yourself into oblivion before you ever put tire to pavement.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      There are some guys running Chump in the north east with an Ecotec engine in their NA Miata. They regularly blow the doors off our 1.6 of similar vintage…

  • avatar
    IHateCars

    Remember the Dakota convertibles? They were kinda cool…

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    A 4 cylinder Dakota? Sounds like a miserable experience.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      Probably no better or worse than other 4-cyl compact trucks of the 80’s & 90’s. My 91 Mazda truck was a 2.0 and had like 100 hp and did the task just fine. Still running, on about its 6th owner. A friend had a 5-spd Caravan with this engine and it drove fine, borrowed it a lot. Decent low-end torque, like driving a 4-cyl compact car.

    • 0 avatar
      blppt

      Could be worse—I couldnt believe Chrysler actually launched the Caravan with a 93-97hp 2.2L. Which was peppy enough in a small car like my Horizon—but ONLY when the nightmare of a carb was happy. That car weighed about 600lbs less than the early K-car vans–never mind that those vans were *designed* to be able to carry 7 people. Yikes.

      Must have felt like those 60s flower vans when you had to ascend any sort of grade.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        True, but it was in the 55mph speed limit era. A lot of car magazines published 0-50 times because 0-60 would be just too painful… there were actually some mainstream cars with 16-18 second 0-60 times. So the 2.2 Caravan was pokey even for the time, but it wasn’t in a pokey class of its own.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I would question the “nobody loves non-huge pickups…” line. I still see plenty of 1980s-90s vintage Rangers used by landscapers in So. Cal. A neighbor down the street has a single cab F150 and regularly parks it in front of a hydrant to unload his mowers, rolling them a half block to his garage. The bed is so high he needs an 8 foot ramp to get them off the truck, and the hydrant is the only place with enough room. He probably wishes he had a Ranger or similar.

  • avatar

    4 banger Dakotas were always rare and they got more so thru the model years. As a teenager my parents neighbor had this same truck with a V6 same paint same graphics same 5 speed only the V6. He was single guy and it was empty all the time except for either a mountain bike or a canoe on a 2×4 rack every weekend in the summer. Great looking truck thou.

  • avatar
    chris8017

    “The last owner of any Dakota must smoke Marlboros. It’s the law.”

    Judging by the Brillo pad on the floor next to cigarette butts, I’d say the previous owner smoked more than just Marlboros.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I’ve been missing CrapSpirits stories for a while now…

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Which probably explains why this went to the JY. The previous owner was sent to jail and this truck sat until the roommates left or were evicted and then the landlord had it towed away. Or it was still there when he got out but didn’t have the money to put a battery in it and license it so he called up the wrecking yard to get a few $$ to pay for his long awaited fix. It had to have set for sometime since putting the words “lights” or similar on a cigarette package was outlawed sometime ago.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      If I knew more about drugs I could write something.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    No one should use the Spirit R/T engine in anything when there are perfectly good LS1s available for cheap. Or if you really need turbo lag, perfectly good Ecotec turbos.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      speaking of turn of the century laggy turbo motors, check out this Nissan Gloria Turbo Brougham VIP ya’ll (courtesy of the ‘other’ site):

      austin.craigslist.org/cto/5759134774.html

      If this doesn’t have CoreyDL’s name written all over it, I don’t know what does. Well it is missing ‘lacy alloys (TM)’

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Ha, soooooooo ’80s. The engine is only 175hp or so (VG20ET), but you do get to cruise around in a true hardtop. I like the period-correct wheels better than some full-wire gaudiness (or stanced 19″ Rays that some of these end up with). IIRC the steering wheel center is gyroscopically balanced, so it remains centered as you turn the wheel.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Yeah I’m more of a Toyota Crown kind of guy, but man the puckered velour interior, super-80s looking stereo with the wood grain, pillarless hardtop, man this thing is just perfect. I can see some over-worked chain smoking mid-management “salaryman” driving one of these around Osaka/Tokyo back in the day.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            This is a bit too much for mid-management. That chain-smoker bought a Leopard (or a Soarer). Whoever bought this car had their own office with a door.

            My own ’80s VIP dream car is the Y31 Cima: same basic form as this, but smooths out the hard creases and offers a 250hp VG30DET.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            That’s a beautiful car for sure. I’ve been meaning to learn more about the whole domestic Japanese market of that era. The economic bubble of the 80s definitely produced some no-expense spared over the top features that we haven’t seen since. The 1990s US-market Toyota products that I own and gush over are much more subdued by comparison.

            At some point in my life when I hopefully have a three car garage, something like this would be a cool summer time commuter, and not even that impractical aside from a few specific parts (and the whole RHD thing):

            http://www.japaneseclassics.com/vehicle/1991-toyota-cresta-gt/

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            I’m a Nissan fanboy, but those X80 pillared hardtops are tempting. S140 Crown Majestas will be legal in a week or so…

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Damn. Like a Crown but with a few extra broughams included. Not to mention the hardtop, which would give it the structural rigidity of yesterday’s spaghetti but looks simply glorious.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Oh that is brilliant. The shape of the steering wheel stalks makes me so confused! And look how the rear window falls down at an angle into the door! When the front window’s down, there’s only a little mountain/triangle outline of window interrupting that clean line. The interior looks very comfy and sleepy.

        This almost looks early ’90s Korean, when they were rebranding a bunch of Mazda and Mitsubishi JDM stuff from the mid-late ’80s.

        *Please note I’d still rather have a Crown or Crown Comfort.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          Crown Comfort? The LWB version of the derpy tophat taxicab? Seems more like a Kenmore ride.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            There is nothing wrong with the Crown Comfort!

            http://jalopnik.com/is-this-supercharged-toyota-taxi-the-most-ridiculous-pe-1750994017

            And if you’re feeling fancy you can put doilies in it.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Sure, if you’re getting the factory tuner taxi. You’d better be pretty short, though. The Comfort (and the Crew) prioritize rear seat space by jamming the driver up towards the steering wheel.

            The lacy white covers on the seatbacks are antimacassars. Nobody born after 1960 knows what a macassar is, though.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            I remember those lacy seat covers, but I didn’t know that they had a name. Antimacassar as in macassar oil? Wouldn’t that be the predecessor to Brylcreem?

            I inherited a wonderfully comfy mid-’80s recliner from my late grandpa that had a sort-of antimacassar made from a square scrap of the same upholstery, but I just went to check and it seems it’s missing.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            Welp… I guess the wiki page for antimacassar just got a bunch of hits from the “born after 1960” crowd.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Hey, I totally knew what those seat covers were called before I looked it up on Wikipedia (no, I didn’t). I was more pointing out how macassar oil was only fashionable through the early 20th century and by the early/mid-century had been mostly supplanted by stuff like Brylcreem, Murray’s, or Dapper Dan.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Are you a Dapper Dan man?

            Also, they needed antimacassars on the sofa in Coming To America, after those people who had used Soul Glow sat there.

            My grandparents got recliners in the early ’00s which they still use, and they have head and arm antimacassars. So you might be able to get that feature if you go to the right store.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    That 2.5 looks good in there, and very serviceable.

    In FWD applications (for which they were originally designed), the 2.2/2.5 could be kinda tight. Omni/Horizons were a nightmare to work on, K- H-bodies less so.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Chrysler had plans to build a 2 door SUV version of the Dakota. They dropped it probably because it would have cut into XJ sales.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Getting the parts for this truck would not make it cost effective unless you were looking for a Dakota and had enough time and money to spend on it and then you would most likely drop a V-8 and compatible transmission in it. Most who would be interested in restoring an older midsize or compact truck would probably choose a Toyota or an older S-10 which the S-10 would get a V-8. I have seen a few older S-10s from the 80’s with transplanted V-8’s.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    It would be kind of fun to have this as an around town runabout. The 2.5 SOHC motor would be pretty decent in a reg cab shorty, especially with the five speed. You’re not going to tow more than a pop-up trailer with it, but it would make runs to the municipal yard trash site very easy.

    I’d forgotten these came with the Trenton engine as late as 1995. I thought by the early 90’s, all the lower end Daks used the AMC 2.5. Isn’t that the Iron Duke, reanimated for truck duty?

    I had a 1995 Dakota Club Cab SLT with the 3.9 and the 4 speed autobox. It could haul more than either of my father- or brother-in-law’s Rangers, but it wasn’t a tank like a full size pickup. It did have the gas mileage of the big boys, however.

    With each suceeding generation they got bigger and the original Dak that I loved was no more.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      The AMC 2.5 was it’s own design which shared components with the 4.0-6. Before it was introduced they did purchase the Iron Duke for some models.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMC_straight-4_engine

  • avatar

    When I worked for an Audi-Porsche dealer, their buildings were spread out and one warehouse that housed the detailing section also stored large parts such as bumpers, doors and the like. To haul them around between buildings, they used a 92 or 93 Dakota just like this one except it was a long bed and as of a year or so ago, they still had it….with 349,000 miles on the odometer!!

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