Convertible Pickup: 1989 Dodge Dakota Sport

The Dodge Dakota was at times an underappreciated truck, it just never seemed to get the loyal followers of its Ranger and S-10 competitors. In my opinion, Dodge got things right with the size of the Dakota, it was bigger than a Ranger but not as big as a full-size Ram. The Dakota seems roomy inside compared to the cramped Ranger. However you may feel about them, they were great reliable utility vehicles. To add some excitement, Dodge decided to make a convertible version of the mid-size pickup. Limited numbers were made and nice examples are hard to find. Check out this one here on craigslist in Dallas for $8,500. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Pat L for the tip!

Just under 3,000 examples of the Dakota Convertible were produced from ’89 to ’91. The truck started life as a normal Dakota Sport from the factory before being sent to American Sunroof Corporation (ASC) for the convertible conversion, a roll bar was added for safety as part of the conversion. All ’89 model convertibles were made from sport model trucks in black, red, or white only. From all views, this truck looks to be in great condition and ready for work with the bedliner and trailer hitch.

The interior was nothing special compared to a normal Dakota, a modification aside from the roll bar are to the doors which had their window frame removed.  Everything looks to be in great condition inside, we can see power windows and locks along with the factory cassette player and the A/C is reported to blow cold. What more could you want?

The truck looks as good with the top up as it does down, ASC did a good job at not making this look like an awkward conversion. The top is said to be in great shape though it is not mentioned whether it is original or not. Overall this Dakota is in very original condition with a good running 3.9 V6 and 131K on the odometer. If you have been looking for one of these, this may be the one.

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Jim in FL

    This will go quickly. I wanted one when they were new, but they weren’t very common. Then I missed the sweet spot where they weren’t worth much. Now they are becoming collectible, and with lower production numbers, the money is there for decent examples. They used to come up for sale occasionally, but much less these days.

    Objectively, they weren’t great trucks, but I drove a couple, and they are pretty fun with the top down, especially with a manual. I missed a ratty one for $2k several years ago, I showed up first, drove it, and said I would come back after soccer practice with a deposit. The guy called me at practice and said it was gone.

    8
    • John

      Comparing these to rangers or any other small size truck is a dis-service to the Dakotas which were full 1/2 ton rather than 1/4. This makes a huge difference. As far as it not being a good truck I have substantial experience with this truck and I have found it very satisfactory. As far as it lack of acceptance from the get go , this is attributable to its original cost. You could have bought 2 rangers for what a single Dakota Convertible cost you new. Remember Also they were only preshipped to two states Ca and Fl. The only way to get one in the other 48 states was to custom order it from the factory or have your local dealership make a deal with a Fl/Ca dealership. They also didnt advertize them in the other 48 states if you were on vacation in Cl or Fl you might see and adv, otherwise who even knew they were available. PS someone referred to a 8 cly convertible. The 8 was never installed in a convertible dakota.

  2. Howard A Member

    Dakotas were great trucks. Mine had 200g’s, my brother had one, 1/4 mil before the rusted frame broke. This is kind of as far from a pickups original concept as you could get. A convertible pickup? Preposterous, pickups are for working and hauling stuff, not lolly-gagging down by the beach with the top down like some sports car. Not many other manufacturers followed, but it was a nice try.

    5
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      I’m with you there, Howard. Mine had just shy of 65k when I sold it to my then BIL; that V8 was still going strong at 100k+ when he left us. And Scott when you said the Dakota was the perfect size you too got it right-IMO the worst thing the leather chairs got wrong was making the Dakota and Durango bigger!
      But then it seems that all of the automotive corporation has a propensity over the years to add largess to any and all-and their vehicles too.

      2
      • Steve R

        If you think about the motives of the “leather chairs” to make these cars bigger over time, they look pretty smart. Many of these models started out as entry level cars geared towards first time buyers of new cars. Over time, the majority these buyers are going to need bigger vehicles as their family grows and their needs change. By adding size and luxury equipment to an existing model you can capture their future purchase without starting having to start from scratch.

        Every manufacturer has done this with nearly every longstanding model. It’s been done countless times and will continue to be done. It’s smart business.

        Steve R

        2
      • SubGothius

        Even today’s “midsize” pickups are about the same or larger in every dimension as a ’70s Chevy full-size “squarebody” pickup, nowhere near as small as these original Dakotas.

        We have our absurd CAFE regulatory scheme to blame for the disappearance of smaller pickups from the US market:
        https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/how-cafe-killed-compact-trucks-and-station-wagons/

        1
      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        I totally agree with you, Steve R and yes for the most part is smart business-until they lose sight of the original concept for the inception of said model, I.e. the BMW 3 series, the T-bird, Cougar/Mustang & the 3td(4th?) gen Miata, before Mazda regained its reasoning.
        We’re all too well aware of the need for the corporate tabled money changers to push upsizing for profit and the reality of wanting more money/more money/more money, but that doesn’t always work either as was demonstrated by the British car/motorcycle industry of the ‘60’s..
        But you’re absolutely right, Steve R.- it’s rarely good economic business when they listen to the heart. Logic of intelligence overwhelms emotion but generally we miss the real picture by applying all of one or the other.

        2
    • Tom Wasney

      Model A Ford made a roadster pickup …!!!

      1
  3. 1-MAC

    There are a few with the 360. That would be the one to have. Dakota is bigger than s-10 or Ranger and more comfortable for bigger people. We used one for landscaping and worked it hard. Nice to have 15 inch tires so easy to reach into the bed to load and unlaod.

    1
  4. Dave

    I bought a 93 Dakota extended cab 4×4 with the 3.9 in 2000. It had 64000 when I bought it, 187000 when I gave it to my oldest son in 2005. It was the perfect field service truck for me. I never could get it to give me more than 19 mpg and the engine and transmission would fight one another going uphill on the highway. Trans was a 4 speed, so you’d start up the hill in 4th, converter locked, trans would unlock the converter and drop to 3rd, revs would jump up, trans would shift into 4th, lock the converter, revs would drop, cycle would repeat unless you punched the “O/D Lockout” button. Engine would have been better if it had been 3/4 of a 360 instead of a 318. Had the trans fluid changed at 100000 and it finally failed at 185000 miles. Not a spot of rust anywhere. Gave it to my son after inheriting a 2001 Ram 1500 4×4 with the 5.9. It got 18 mpg on the highway.

    3
  5. Jcs

    Even though $8500 does seem like a lot, I am surprised this rare little truck is still there.

    3
  6. Kelly g

    My 89 had 316k on it when i sold it still running and working fine. Good tuff little trucks. My father in law has a 92 shortbed 4×4 SLE all stock with only 63k on it.

    2
  7. Maestro1 Member

    This truck has a big fan base so someone will jump on it. Great product.

    1
  8. jerry hw brentnell

    I have a rare dakota! 5.2 v8, 5 speed stick, 355 shure grip rear, rear wheel drive, heavy duty tow package love it oh yea its a 1997, what makes it rare? the fact its a regular cab, short box, 2×4 and the color magenta! no air, I ordered it in oct. 96 got it easter weekend 1997 7 months to get it! why because of the color,

    4
  9. Bill

    Hi Barn Finds Love your site you are off on your numbers a little bit on how many built of the Convertible They Built 2842 in 1989 and 909 in 1990 and said to have built 7 in 1991 that no one has ever seen to finish up there contract obligation with ASC I am on my fifth one Drove my 90 for 18 yrs just sold to a fellow in NY I am restoring a Red Stock 4whl drive 1989 now Can’t imagine life without one 😎(The Last True Roadster Pickup)I have also owned the Chevy SSR Not a Roadster Pickup as name suggests but a Hardtop Convertible

    3
    • Rodney M

      Bill you have me beat I’m only on my 3rd convertible. This one was a 1989 4×4 3.9 V6 5 speed that I’ve had for 15 years. 200,000+ miles on it. We swapped a 1992 5.2 V8 and automatic into it years ago. It really woke up the truck and best thing I’ve ever done especially for towing. Love these trucks.

      3
      • Bill

        Hi Rodney My 90 was my first one I just sold and my second one was an 89 with a 5.2 4whl drive Someone put a 91 front end on it looked good it was white All but the one have been 89s The one I am doing now has a blown motor and i bought last year in Washington Stare Bone stock all there since there is no smog up there I am going the V/8 route also Just a super fun trucks

    • Rodney M

      Bill we went with the 92 front end also and the AAR Fiberglass RT style hood. It looks stock and the emission guys don’t even ask as long as it passes the values on the hose test. Hopefully I get it finished and repainted this fall once it cools down here in Arizona to work on it. You don’t by chance have a yellow “Swing Crew” bumper sticker on yours do you? My first one I sold to a friend’s brother who kept it a few years and sold it. Then a couple years later his friend saw one for sale and he bought it back and ended up taking it from Wisconsin to Seattle and sold it out there a few years back.

      1
      • Bill

        Hi Rodney The one I have now is Red It is out of Ca Ended up in storage in Spokane Guys Daughter was driving it and ran it out of oil I am told I don’t believe so on sticker

  10. Bob McK Member

    I wanted one of these for years. Now I can have one, I have lost interest. This is a really nice example. So many are trashed.

    2
  11. Eric

    Always wanted one of the 4×4 versions (or was it 4wd?) of these… Unlike the Gladiator, at least this has a useable bed..but…then again…only 2 seats…

    2
  12. TimM

    Cool convertible!! I have one of these but not the convertible of coarse!!!

  13. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    I’m surprised after all these years, with a top that goes down, that red interior has maintained most of its original color. If this truck was treated like most any car with red velour those seats would be pink and the red plastic panels would be starting to deteriorate and turn to powder. The exterior would probably be down to primer in spots too. This truck was loved.

  14. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    It’s gone now.

    I was at a car show last year and a guy had what I thought was one of these. It had no roof and a roll bar, but he had cut the roof off himself. He said he always liked these, so he made one himself.
    It wasn’t a hack job, it looked very well done. No top, though.
    I didn’t ask him if he had done anything to the frame to make up for the lost roof.

    • Rodney M

      I don’t think there was much done to the frame as far as changes when they did this. They did add in the roll bar and it’s solidly mounted but I don’t know how much strength it actually gives anything and guessing more for protection in a rollover. The windows are different in the doors because the top and back window frame is removed so there are some impossible to find specialty fasteners and trim pieces on them. And make sure you always put the windows down when raising and lowering the roof because I didn’t once and I broke the passengers window a decade ago and they had a hard time finding one and it was more expensive than the windshield. There’s many kits that have been made through the years both softtops and latches to put your hardtop back on when you cut it off but none as clean as this ever was. I’ve been able to manually lower and even raise the top while sitting in the truck. Especially when you try to push leaving the top down when driving into an approaching rainstorm. Someone was lucky to get this one.

      1
      • Stevieg Member

        I always wanted one of these like this.
        I had a 1992 Dakota 4X4 a few years back. I bought it from the original owner, well under 100,000 miles but I don’t remember exactly how low it was any more. The farmer used it on the farm only & it hadn’t been on the road in over 10 years when I bought it. It had always been used in the summer & kept in a shed for winter, not sure why he even wanted 4X4 when he bought it new lol.
        I miss that truck. Again, solid roof, unlike this one. Regular cab, long bed, 3.9 liter. And red. I think trucks should be red for some reason lol.

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