1996 Dakota Driveway Find Turned Good Deed

With more than 176,000 miles on the clock, this 1996 Dodge Dakota in Dublin, Virginia shows the faded paint and other signs of age associated with decades of outside parking. It’s not for sale, nor is it likely to be for some time. After several years of occasional trash-hauling duty, today marks the beginning of a new adventure for this Dodge as it becomes part of a good deed worth describing.

Sometimes life is about the connections we make and relationships we build. The owner acquired the Dakota Sport when it was nearly new, and agreed to sell it to my Mom and Step-Dad who recently lost their home and SUV to fire, so they won’t have to feel rushed to purchase a vehicle that may not suit their needs. At a later date my family will sell it back for the same price, making it a zero-dollar transaction. As the middle-man I agreed that the truck will return with numerous items fixed and an inspection sticker, making it not only a good deed, but a true “win-win” for all parties.

This picture shows the Dodge in its hey-day, a Summer afternoon in the year 2000 when Michael, the truck’s owner (center), our friend Dean (left) and myself spent a day on the lake drowning worms. The mighty Dodge is happy to be on the road again! I slammed in a can of R134 and now the formerly non-functional AC is so cold I had to mix in some heat. The 318 cid (5.2L) V8 in this Dodge must be one of those rare mills that’s randomly balanced and blueprinted from the factory. Dodge rated the 0-60 on these trucks in the low 8 second range. Years ago we stuck a G-Tech on it and got did two 0-60s of 7.4 and 7.5 seconds, and that’s with full-time four-wheel drive! Tonight I deliver it from Southwest Virginia to coastal Carolina. Assuming it doesn’t throw a rod, it will enjoy some weeks or months of work and play before coming home to roost. Wish me luck!


  1. bobk

    Good job to all involved.

    Like 2
  2. Kevin Barr Staff

    Safe travels, Todd. Also, very sorry to hear about your family, but glad they are okay.

    Like 1
  3. Dave

    I bought a 93 Dakota with the V6 in 2000. It had 64K miles on it. When I gave it to my oldest son in 2005 it had 181K on it and had no rust and ran great. I wish I still had it. Good luck with it.

  4. angliagt angliaGT Member

    Good job! I might be interested in it,
    when they’re ready to sell.I’ve been looking
    for a pre-’97 4WD Club Cab with a V8 for a
    while,but the ones I’ve seen are usually rust –
    I currently have a very clean ’95 2WD
    Club Cab,with a V6 & automatic.I much prefer
    the 4WD/V8 combo.
    Let me know if it comes up for sale.I’m
    in Roanoke,not too far away.

    Like 1
  5. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    That is such a great story, Todd! It doesn’t surprise me at all that you’re involved in a worthy and gracious project like this one. You’re a role model with a capital-R. Well done, sir.

    Like 2
  6. TimM

    I have a 1994 dodge Dakota SLT that I want to sell!! After putting a lower mileage motor in it I developed a issue with the automatic transmission!! If anyone is interested I will gladly send pictures and info!! I haven’t advertised it as for sale yet!! So if your interested!! Leave me an email and I’ll send $50 to barn find for the sale!!

    Like 1
    • angliagt angliagt Member

      Is it 4WD? Where are you located?

      • TimM

        Yes it is I’m in New York!!!

    • angliagt angliagt Member

      You can contact me @ dougmilota at gmail dot com.

  7. Todd Fitch Staff

    Thanks for all the well-wishes! The mighty Dodge ran great, barely needing any throttle to run 78+ on I40 through Raleigh and out to the coast. I threw some single-stage urethane on it today just to cover the primer and bare metal. It’s already made one trip to what’s left of the house to retrieve some family belongings that may be salvageable. I appreciate all the kind words – Barnfinds readers are the best!

    Like 2
  8. man ' war

    I found one – a 96 with 5.2L, 5spd, 8′ bed with liner, burgundy paint with hood paint peeling off, front of roof surface rust, interior dirty looking tan color, ding on left front of driver fender, tow hitch, BUT only 76k miles and never been in an accident original owner said!!! Seller was 84, and said he used to have a camper on it, and towed his boat with it in the past. His current 3rd gen Dodge Dakota was the one he was using. It seemed as if it was being used to pull his boat. I test drove the 2nd gen, and it felt fantastic!! However, per wife’s orders, I had to sell my other car first!!! Seller said he would hold it for me then at the end of the week I told him I have the cash because I knew it would sell fast. I didn’t sell my other car yet, and I knew that I couldn’t wait longer. Unfortunately, he said he sold it without even contacting me!!!! He made me feel as if though I was first in line, and would hold it!!!!!!! I even made a personal connection with him. But understandable, he probably wheeled and dealed a better offer. I just wonder if I would have gave him a down payment if I would have it now. I was going to go to the bank, but he said “it’s a little late for the bank” even though I probably had an hour before they closed. I guess he felt I wasn’t serious even though I was!!! Just had to deal with wife’s demands!!!! Now I really have no need to sell my ‘other’ vehicle. It seems as though the more I sell off, the stricter it gets to how many I can have!!! The noose keeps getting tighter!! lol.

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