By on May 7, 2018

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]

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21 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1989 Dodge Shelby Dakota – a Subtle, Speedy Box...”

  • avatar

    The back glass is the headrest!

  • avatar

    Cool seats! I’d forgotten that Dakota started off as a compact, as big as they were towards the end of the model’s life.

  • avatar

    Definitely a collectible truck. These were pretty quick and did not handle too badly.

    BTW, Dodge sold the Mitsu truck as the D50 beginning in the 1979 model year as did Plymouth (Arrow). Plymouth only sold their version through the ’82 model year.

  • avatar

    Wow. Ol Shel slapped his name on a lot of things…I never even knew this one existed, and the parts of the brain most folks devote to sports scores I stuff with useless car trivia.

    I am grateful for his GLH turbo, although, like this truck, I don’t know why you had to pay someone to go down the parts bin, pull out “big motor” ” big brakes” and “improve seats”. Any first year engineer could have done that, although maybe the execs who wanted to do this needed the star power to fight the accountants for the $200 more it cost to make such a vehicle.

    Any stats ? Is this like the Little Red Truck, or Cyclone/Typhoon cars, that existed to drive through an emissions loophole ?

    I love these oddballs….keep em coming !!!

  • avatar

    You know it’s butch…no back bumper.

    God, I don’t even remember these being on a lot back in the day. Pretty nice shape for that mileage, though.

  • avatar

    The US auto mgs were not caught with their pants down in the late 70’s mini-truck game. The LUV and Courier were introduced in the early 70’s and were what made the mini-truck fad really take off. LUVs and Couriers were everywhere, far more common than Toyotas, even on the west coast.

    Now if you were to have said Chrysler was caught with their pants down, I’d wholeheartedly agree, and point out Chrysler was caught with their pants down more often than not in the 70’s. This despite the fact that they had established a relationship with Mitsubishi in the early 70’s when they were caught with their pants down and w/o a home grown sub-compact. Of course even that was botched because they stupidly marketed them as supplied by Mitsubishi in several instances, and thus set up an easy path for Mitsu to start selling their wares in the US w/o Chrysler’s involvement or profit. Still it took them until 79 to introduce their own captive import mini-truck and by that point Ford and GM were ready for their in house responses that took the mini-truck fad mainstream.

  • avatar

    Those Eagle GT II are giving me flashbacks to childhood…

  • avatar

    I had one once, great little truck to drive around.

  • avatar

    These trucks were, I believe, the 2nd to use plastic wheels. That only lasted 6 months, as they were supplied with aluminum wheels after that.

    Porsche 928 was the 1st, and also quit after about 6 months.

    Plastic creep loosened up the lug nuts rather quickly. Porsche recommended tightening the lug nuts weekly.

  • avatar

    My dad had an ’87 V-6. Red with a really ugly red camper top. Remember when it caught some ice going up a hill after a Tom Petty concert in 1990. I did 1.5 360s and nearly thwacked it into the guard rail. Scared the crap out of me. I’d hate to have one with a V-8, even a pathetic V-8 like this.

  • avatar

    I had a 89 model, extended cab with V8, pretty well loaded up, including tow package. Good truck, but ended up trading it in on a full size 93 model…also extended cab and loaded. Both had the same engine, both danged good trucks…

  • avatar

    I was this > < close to getting a Dakota convertible at the local body shop but the banks don't give loans to a 16 year old on a truck that is salvage title and not fixed up yet. No one would insure same kid to get a Shelby Charger or Dodge Conquest so I got a new Shadow ES with the turbo/5 speed.

    We do have a Dakota based 2000 Durango though. That gen has been a good truck.

  • avatar

    “Subtle” is not the word that comes to mind when I see those graphics, and “speedy” is not the word that comes to mind when you mention a pre-Magnum 318.

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