Saturday, February 26, 2011

Shelby made a pickup truck. Who knew?



What was the first rear-wheel drive car that Carroll Shelby put his name to after the Mustangs in the '60s? It was none other than Dodge's compact truck offering, the 1989 Dakota. For most of the '80s, Shelby had been busy with turbocharging the living shit out of Dodge's little Omni penalty boxes. Those cars were dubbed GLH (its successor, GLH-S), which stood for "Goes Like Hell" ("-Som'more"). They really should've been called TSIATADAHFD (Torque Steer Into A Tree And Die A Horrible Fiery Death). After those crazy monsters, he tried his hand at useless and slow.

Seems like Dodge wanted to drum up sales of its relatively new small truck with a couple limited edition versions, including a convertible, and this here high-po Shelby Dakota with V8 power.

The regular Dakota's3.9L V6 is essentially a 318-cube (5.2L) V8 sans two cylinders; all Shelby's factory had to do was remove the V6 and massage the V8 a bit before bolting it in. The only special provision involved lopping off the crank-driven radiator fan and fitting an electric fan instead... which is apparently missing here. Good luck in traffic with this one.

This swap was so simple, in fact, that Dodge offered its workhorse 318 as the top-spec engine in regular Dakotas starting in 1991.

The truck received no handling upgrades to speak of, though the press release circa 1989 brags about its nitrogen gas shocks and 70-series radial tires. Oooooo, I'm all tingly. It did get the obligatory limited-slip differential and some newfangled fancy transmission, but that trans was an automatic. Boo. I guess a 4-speed overdrive slushbox was a big deal in '89.

What's especially disappointing is the fact that this truck pulls the same 0-60 time as a 1995 Neon, or a 1989 Miata. A blistering 8 seconds.

They only made 1500 of these, each with a numbered plaque affixed to the dashboard to remind you of your econo-with-a-six-foot-box exclusivity. This one's number 1202, and the current body-shop-operating owner has a big trophy in his office that it won at a car show a couple years ago. The trophy is in front of the window in the last picture. He's selling this example, which has seen 62k miles, for a measly seven grand. I'll admit the graphics look nice, as does that styling thing over the bed. But a slow, unknown, 20-year-old truck with no street cred and a bunch of big-name badges is not worth that much money in my eyes. Maybe to the right guy wearing Mopar-tinted glasses.

The guy who was drooling all over this truck (when I stopped by this body shop for a quote on rust repair) also talked in very excited tones about the Chrysler Sebring parked next to it. Ouch. If you're interested in either one, there is no hope for y-- uh, I mean: They're for sale at Bob Schmidt Body Shop in DeKalb, Illinois.

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