Rare Rides: The 1989 Dodge Shelby Dakota - a Subtle, Speedy Box

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Back in the fall of 2017, we featured the hotted-up Dodge Shelby Charger, born of a collaboration between Dodge and elder racing legend Carroll Shelby. That 2.2-liter four-seat coupe is a bit practical though, a bit pedestrian.

Let’s turn up the volume with another Shelby, this one featuring double the cylinders and half the seats of the Charger. Dakota!

American manufacturers were caught off guard by demand for smaller pickup trucks in the late Seventies, spurred on by the Oil Crisis. Dodge sought a quick fix by rebadging the Mitsubishi Mighty Max as the Dodge D50. That compact Japanese truck carried the small torch for the Dodge brand all alone between 1979 and 1986.

By 1987, Dodge was ready to debut its own compact segment-starting mid-size in the form of the Dakota. Brand new that year, the model shared dealer floor space with the new (second-generation) D50. It was offered as the larger and more feature-laden alternative to the rather spartan Mitsubishi offering.

Manual or automatic transmissions were available, and, depending on year, power came from the K-car 2.2-liter, a 3.9-liter V6, or the 5.2-liter Magnum V8. For 1989, there was even a convertible Dakota available from your local dealer. Chrysler sent standard Dakotas over to ASC, where they were chopped and revised. The other important development for ’89 was, of course, today’s Shelby Dakota.

The first rear-drive Shelby product manufactured in two decades, the special Dakota was limited to just 1,500 examples. Pulling out many of the stops, the Shelby Dakota had a unique front fascia with integrated fog lamps, colored black regardless of exterior paint scheme. Also standard was a graphic stripe package in superb ’80s fashion, five-spoke sporting alloys, and a color-key valance over the bed. The 5.2-liter V8 was standard equipment as well, but was not an option on other Dakota models until 1991.

Shelby Dakotas had a unique interior theme: racing steering wheel, embroidered floor mats, and luggage-like Shelby monogrammed interior upholstery. There was also a special Shelby dash plaque above the glove box, but that appears to be missing here.

Today’s example had a high 146,000 miles, and was listed for a mere $6,000 in present condition. Since discovery, the listing has been removed. I’m curious whether the general consensus finds the Shelby Dakota a collectible oddity, or just an unfortunate historical blip.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • Grant P Farrell Oh no the dealership kept the car for hours on two occasions before giving me a loaner for two months while they supposedly replaced the ECU. I hate cords so I've only connected it wirelessly. Next I'm gonna try using the usb-c in the center console and leaving the phone plugged in in there, not as convenient but it might lower my blood pressure.
  • Jeff Tiny electrical parts are ruining today's cars! What can they ...
  • CEastwood From zero there is nowhere to go but up . BYD isn't sold in the U.S. and most Teslas are ugly azz 90s looking plain jane drone mobiles . I've only seen one Rivian on the road and it 's not looking good for them . I live out in the sticks of NW NJ and EVs just aren't practical here , but the local drag strip thrives in the warmer months with most cars making the trip from New York .
  • Lorenzo Aw, that's just the base price. Toyota dealers aren't in the same class as BMW/Porsche upsellers, and the Toyota base is more complete, but nobody will be driving that model off the lot at that price.
  • Mike The cost if our busing program is 6.2 million for our average size district in NJ. It was 3.5 last year.
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