In 1989, Carroll Shelby and his Shelby Automotive team decided to shake up the pickup market after a wide range of success in adding performance to various front-wheel-drive (FWD) Dodges. The result was a limited one-year production run of the midsized Dodge Dakota pickup, that ditched Dakota’s lame-duck 3.9-liter V6 in favor of V8 power.
Starting with a short-wheelbase, short-bed, regular-cab pickup, the Shelby Automotive team removed the 3.9-liter V6 and swapped it for a 5.2-liter (318 cubic-inch) V8 equipped with a throttle-body injection. Although it might seem like a pretty easy engine swap, the tight space of Dakota’s engine compartment meant that the stock engine-driven fan was replaced by two electric fans. The removal of the belt-driven fan on the 5.2-liter V8 meant an increase of 5 additional horsepower.
The 5.2-liter V8 delivered 175 horsepower and 270 ft.-lb. (370 N⋅m) of torque under the hood of the Shelby Dakota and was mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission.
Shelby ditched the option for four-wheel drive (4×4), in favor of two-wheel drive (4×2) to keep weight down. The Shelby Automotive team equipped the midsized pickup with 3.90:1 gears and a limited-slip differential to help manage the power from the V8.
When it came to helping to put the power down to the pavement, Shelby choose a set of Goodyear Eagle GT+4 tires that helped improve handling and traction. At the time, the Goodyears were some of the best performance tires on the market and were used on several Chrysler police vehicles models.
Shelby Automotive also designed the Dakota not just to go fast in a straight line, but to handle as well. Stiffer springs and re-valved shocks helped to improve cornering. Believe it or not, the Shelby Dakota was capable of 0.81 lateral g.
According to records, there were 1,500 units produced in 1989. Among them, 505 were white, 995 in red, and at least 1 was made in a two-tone with red below the stripe and white about the stripe. The white truck shown here is currently up for auction on the popular online automotive auction site, Bring A Trailer. Of those 1,500 units, the dashboard-mounted plaque shows that this truck is #746.
Capable of a 0 to 60 mph run in less than 8.5 seconds (pretty fast for late-1980s standards), the Shelby Dakota also included gas-powered shocks, a rear anti-lock brake system (ABS), and 15-inch aluminum wheels. This truck also features air conditioning, AM/FM cassette stereo, and a sliding rear window.
All Shelby Dakotas were fitted with Shelby-specific graphics, a custom lower front air dam with integrated foglamps, black bumpers, wheel-arch extensions, a sports bar behind the cab, a three-spoke performance steering wheel, Shelby-branded seats, and dual exhaust.
This particular truck only has 16,341 original miles on the odometer and has a few changes done to it. A set of Edelweiss air horns and an aftermarket exhaust system have been installed. The air conditioning has been converted to R134a refrigerant. The stock Shelby wheels are gone and were replaced with 15-Inch Vision Legend Series wheels wrapped in 225/70 Cooper Cobra Radial G/T rubber. The seller has noted that there is evidence of touch-up paintwork, and flaws on the hood, bed, and decals.
This truck might be far from perfect, but it still is a part of Dodge/Shelby history.
This Shelby Dakota was first titled in the state of Indiana and remained there until its acquisition by the selling dealer in 2022. The truck is now offered at no reserve by the selling dealer in Wisconsin with a clean Carfax report and a clean Indiana title.
When new the MSRP for a Shelby Dakota was $15,813 (plus destination charges). With 1 day left in the auction, the top bid was $13,750. For more information, pictures, or to place a bid, you can check out the ad on Bring A Trailer.
1989 Dodge Shelby Dakota Image Gallery: