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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

The 1987 Dodge Dakota was a true segment buster

Dodge Dakota: founder of the mid-size truck segment. No, the story of this pickup isn't quite a star-crossed, semi-tragic proto-CUV tale in the vein of the AMC Eagle, but the history of any segment-buster is worthy of discussion and appreciation.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/car-profiles/the-1987-dodge-dakota-was-a-true-segment-buster/
41 REPLIES 41
Gary_Bechtold
Specialist

Not everyone needs a bigger truck but the "smaller" midsizers are often barely cheaper than their 1 ton full size trucks. That is the biggest issue now is price wise it doesn't make sense for some people to go smaller.
deckerbilt
Intermediate Driver

Smaller is easier to maneuver and park and likely uses less energy. If they don't sell in the high numbers, the price may not benefit from that.
Exsanguinator
Intermediate Driver

I've owned 3 Dakotas all purchased new, the latest is a 2003 quad cab 4x4 that looks and runs like new. However I would happily pass it down to a grandson and purchase another when RAM gets the new Dakota in the showroom!
hyperv6
Racer

The Dakota was a low quality late to the party model not a segment buster. I had experience with seral of these and none ever met up to my love of my 887 Sonoma ZQ8.

The three I was familiar with only one held up and it was a low mile garaged model that seldom went out. It has the OHC V8. I Drove it to work to keep it in running condition for a neighbor that never went out much due to health issues. The other two rotted out pretty fast with rust.
Today I have a GMC Canyon and it is the perfect truck for my needs. With the V6 I am seeing 21 MPG around town in a crew and 4x4. This is a truck that is 1,000 heavier than my S10 or Sonoma was and still gets better MPG with twice the power of the old 4.3.

I have no interest in the Maverick. I would not call it a hit yet. Let see the sales in 3 years and see if it keeps up or dies like the Ridgeline that only sells around 35,000 per year while the other true mid size trucks sell much more than that. The Ridge line shows the weakness of the FWD based trucks. And before you say anything about the Maverick price it will be in the range of a Colorado and Ranger price by the time you get many options. Also the Colorado can be had for close to $20k in base trim out the door.
deckerbilt
Intermediate Driver

I had a 95 Dakota V8 4x4 I purchased new. Never went back to the dealer except when first delivered; someone left the cap on master cylinder loose and it fell off. Only sold it after 160k miles because it started to visibly rot out.

I currently have a 2018 F150 4x4 Super crew cab (longest wheelbase) with the Eco-Boost motor and get that mileage (21 mpg) around town as long as I'm not towing.

The Maverick is essentially an open back crossover. I'm sure many people will be happy with its size and utility; just don't expect to carry 4x8 sheet goods or to tow with it.
OldCarMan
Instructor

Sorry, but you are mistaken. Chrysler has never had an OHC V8! In fact the ONLY OHC V8 was the 1964-66 Ford Quad Cam race engine and it was never in a pass car or truck.

I don't think any Toyota ever could fit 3 adults and they certainly rusted as fast as anyone else in the salty midwest. The S10s were nice, cute trucks, but not nearly as capable. Your canyon mileage is almost the same as a 1987 Dakota. Not much improvement, there.
Sajeev
Community Manager

Not true @OldCarMan, they made a 4.7-liter SOHC motor. More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysler_PowerTech_engine 

gtokdx1
Detailer

The 4.7L V8 was an OHC engine and it did go into Dakota (and Jeep GC). Also, it was a great package in that mid sized truck. Perfect combo of torque and performance and it was nothing for that motor to get between 200k to 300k longevity if maintained properly!
OHCOddball
Advanced Driver

Technically they did have an OHC V8. When they bought AMC, they got their 4.7 OHC V8.
hyperv6
Racer

As pointed out they did have the engine. It was also known for some cam issues too. It was more common to the Jeep line.

 

Well my Canyon can carry 5 people, has 4x4 and 310 hp. The Dakota sport I drove with the 4.7 had less power and on a good day get 17 mpg in a 2WD standard cab short bed sport. 

Note my mpg in the GMC is over 17,000 miles as an average. 

Todays trucks as a whole are more efficient and powerful than any mid size in the past. Time and technology has seen to that. 

Yes Tacos all rotted out here in the mid west. My buddies broke in half at 8 year. 

68GSS440
Pit Crew

since the 'c' and 'v' are next to each other, i think the 'OHC' comment was a typo
hyperv6
Racer

Do the home work SOHC 4.7 was an option not a typo. 

Hagertydoug
New Driver

Just got rid of my ‘92 Dakota two days ago. Great truck, but 12 mpg didn’t work for me, and the paint was falling off.
OldCarMan
Instructor

gee doug- that was your big complaint after only 19 years?? 🙂
Did you ever tune it up? 12MPG seems like you had other issues...
topside
Advanced Driver

Good size for casual pickup use; a bit roomier, I recall, than the Ford Ranger & Chevy S10. A bonus for me is the simple design; doesn't look like an Angry Bird or Transformer, merely what it is, which I find honest and in a sense, pure.
I'd gladly replace my longbed K10 with one if I could find a near-mint example, but folks seem to have mostly beat them to death.
CT-car-guy
Intermediate Driver

I had a 1990 Dakota long bed with the V6 and manual transmission. I loved the truck. It was black with red velour interior and was nicely equipped. It had plenty of low-end torque which came in handy pulling a two-horse trailer up steep hills in CT.
I remember giving a colleague a ride home one time. Her mom sold Japanese cars, and the whole family denigrated anything made in America. She was shocked at how nice the interior was, how well the truck rode and felt, how good the fit and finish was.
I would have kept the truck a long time, but some financial setbacks forced me to sell it.
Ajakeski
Detailer

Hagerty woudln't insure my 1989 Shelby Dakota in 2014 because it had some rust on the box....
brsinbozeman
Pit Crew

My Dakota was underpowered garbage. Worst truck I ever had - which fortunately was a short time.
Still443
Intermediate Driver

You bought the wrong motor. My 318 Dakota was very fast.
Gary20
New Driver

Ahhh, but the coolest part about the Dakota was the convertible. It just added that element of fun to the pick-up segment that was missing at the time.
Since the light duty pick-up is expanding in popularity, Chrysler, FCA, Stellantis, whatever, should chop the rear end off the Pacifica and make a light duty FWD/AWD pick-up just like Honda has been forced to do with their Ridgeline. Great example of parts bin engineering to avoid major capital expenditure....Gee, where have I heard that before?
OldCarMan
Instructor

The Honda isn't really a truck, or an El Camino!
DrOverboost
Intermediate Driver

I was a “car guy” until I borrowed a friend’s 1989 Dakota. Loved the utility and performance. I stepped up to a Z-71 with a small block. Then I added a supercharger. Switched to a 454 with a tricked out turbo-400. I used it to pull horse trailers and car trailers. I stepped up to a 2010 Ford F-450 quad cab dually diesel and later a new 2014 Ram 3500 Quad cab dually Cummins. It pulls my other pickup: an 8-second (1/4 mile) 1936 Ford which only gets 1 gallon/mile! That damn Dakota ruined me!!!
Thanks for reminding me…
RichL
Pit Crew

I currently own (and recently purchased) a 1998 Dakota SLT 4x4 with the extended bed and 240K miles on it. This is my first pickup. After some major, past due work needed to pass state safety inspection, a fuel system rebuild, and replacement of both oxygen sensors it seems to be running fine. It was not cared for properly and the body is a bit worse for wear.  Okay, no big deal since I’m using it as a “trash truck.” So far I’m happy with it. The biggest problem is rust and cosmetic (dents though none severe as to need major panel replacement/work).

Gas mileage on the 3.9 V6 is decent though not spectacular. It doesn’t like to go over 70 and requires bullying to get it up to that. No problem. It’s not going to be used as an over-the-road vehicle.

 

So, after we get it to 250K miles on it we’ll see.

JAG
Detailer

Got to give Chrysler credit, the Dakota was a winner from day one and set the tone for the next 30 years. I am a GM owner, the S10/S15 (and Ranger for you Ford guys) really didn't compete except for the 4.3 in the S10/S15 and the low price of a Ranger. Priced right with better ride and handling, easier to maneuver, a truly usable vehicle, plus all the crazy variants. The only thing that held them back was...they are Chrysler and find ways to underperform.
Pete1
Pit Crew

The '96 Dakota V6 drove nimbly with it's R&P steering gear and truck springs. Chrysler did it just right, at least I thought so for the nine years I drove mine.
Elandan2
New Driver

Funny, the Jeep Comanche MJ came out in 1986 and was advertised as a mid size truck from the beginning. I had an '89 and when I was shopping, there was no comparison between it and the Dakota. The Jeep had more power, could be set up to carry more and was an all around nicer truck to drive. Still miss it.!!
JPTL
Intermediate Driver

Not sure where that main photo came from, but it it was from a Dodge sales brochure, that sends a bad subliminal message regarding overall quality. The novice Photoshop job shows the added passenger at the wrong angle. If the intent was to suggest ruggedness, it does the opposite.
Unless 4 wheel steering was an option in 1987, the new Dodge Dakota pictured will need a rollback to rescue it from the off-road adventure.
JPTL
Intermediate Driver

EDIT:
Not sure where that main photo came from, but if it was from a Dodge sales brochure, that sends a bad subliminal message regarding overall quality. The novice Photoshop job shows the added rear passenger wheel at the wrong angle. If the intent was to suggest ruggedness, it does the opposite.
Unless 4 wheel steering was an option in 1987, the new Dodge Dakota pictured will need a rollback to rescue it from the off-road adventure.
Sajeev
Community Manager

Photo came from the 1990 Dakota brochure. I noticed that too, but kept my mouth shut for the sake of the article's integrity. Screen Shot 2021-11-01 at 3.40.11 PM.png

DanM
Pit Crew

Please don't forget the 1989 Shelby Dakota. Bought mine new and it has just under 40k miles.
Love it. It's just like new, and with the 318 it scoots. Not as fast as some of the current stuff, but for it's time it moved and it gets good gas mileage too!
ed
Advanced Driver

My first truck was a 2001 Dakota quad cab. I loved that truck, drove it until the rust took over. Followed it with a couple of RAM 1500 quad cab hemis. They were OK, but my wife didn't like driving them like she liked that Dakota (too big).
SuperDeLuxe
Advanced Driver

A friend of mine remarked at the time how much it had in common with his 1962 Studebaker Champ. Size, payload, HP, so on.
Gus
Pit Crew

Special ordered an all black1996 Dakota Sport in late 1995. Standard cab, short bed, 2WD, 318 V8, 4 speed OD auto, 3:50 gears with sure grip, aluminum rims. It had every HD option available added to it. It was a quick little truck. Best it every did was 21 MPG on a long hi-way run. I still have it and drive it, but the biggest problem is finding parts when I need them for a 25 year old truck! Would sure like to buy a replacement like it!
jimliberty
Intermediate Driver

I'm just finishing a body off restoration of a '47 Crosley pickup. Just right for moving a motor or tranny. Not both at the same time. ............Jim.
LIBERTY MOTORSPORTS
Maestro1
Technician

I always thought this was a great idea poorly executed in some of its years.  I have a friend with a Dakota I don't know what year with a 318 in it. He's had it forever and drives it several days a week depending on need. I've borrowed it and I don't like the ergonomics

but other than that it's a workhorse. He says he'll be buried in it........thanks for this.

Gary
Detailer

Bought 4x4 Dakota sport new in 1999. Love it and still have it, v-6, 5spd. 87000 miles, plan on having it forever. Gets better gas mileage and has more power than my 36 Ford pickup, although I still love the sound of that flathead v-8.
Timbo
Detailer

I was in Truck Pricing during the ill fated convertible venture. Some exec went to California, saw custom topless, and decided that we should make them as production. It was priced at the cost of the conversion on top of the truck price, with no profit. We couldn't give them away!!!
Still443
Intermediate Driver

Had a '98 regular cab Dakota. A great looking truck after they changed the body style from the old square design. This thing was fire engine red with a 318 and a 5 speed. Most fun I had ever had in a pickup truck. Also only ticket I ever received in a pickup truck.
drm101
Detailer

I had a 2002 4x4 extended cab Sport with the SOHC 4.7L and auto. Bought it new. The best truck I ever owned. It did not have a rattle in it, even after 100K miles and looked like new when I sold it in '08. I pulled our 23 foot Airstream all over MI with it. Sold it and bought an '08 Ram because we wanted a new truck to haul our trailer out West. The Ram has been a good truck too, and currently has 175K miles. I can't complain about either of them, but after owning a full size this long I would like to go back to a smaller truck. Easier to park and doesn't hog so much garage space.
VetteKid56
Intermediate Driver

I drove the original Ford Ranger pickups from the late 1990's to when they discontinued them in 2012 in favor of pushing their bloated oversized trucks instead that had a much greater profit margin. Towards the end of the original Ranger ford eliminated all higher trim versions to force buyers away that were looking for an upscale midsized truck.
REB74
New Driver

As an integral part of the Product Planning team that created the original Dakota, I very much appreciate the positive comments about this “milestone” truck. I'm the guy who thought of the name Dakota, which comes from the Sioux word Da Koda, meaning "considered a friend," and that it was to many owners. It's particularly exciting to learn that the name may be resurrected in a new version of a midsize pickup. In the 1980s, our N-Truck team worked very hard to anticipate what pickup trucks would become as they expanded from “work trucks” into more personal-use roles. Although Hal Sperlich had a great idea in identifying and exploiting a gap in the truck market, we faced great challenges in implementing the program within the constraints of Chrysler’s corporate resources extant at the time and were innovators in keeping investment low. Later in my career, I was Program Manager for the amazing Ford F-150 Lightning Performance Truck (handles like a Ferrari but hauls like an F-150!), and that name is also reemerging. The exciting new F-150 Lightning EV, like the original Lightning, breaks new ground in terms of what a pickup truck can be, while retaining all the functional capabilities of the rugged F-150. Great memories of extraordinary trucks which shattered the mold of past pickups.