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.