Droptop Project: 1990 Dodge Dakota Convertible

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Technically a Dodge Dakota Sport, reportedly only 909 examples of this unique convertible pickup were made for the 1990 model year. We’ve seen a few examples here on Barn Finds over the years and this may be the one with the most on its to-do list. The seller has this 1990 Dodge Dakota Sport Convertible posted here on craigslist in Concord, California and they’re asking $4,000. Here is the original listing, and thanks to numskal for the tip!

From 1986 for the 1987 model year until the end of 1996, the first-generation Dodge Dakota was available for those buyers who wanted a little more. They were a bit bigger than the Chevrolet S-10 and Ford Ranger, and several engines were available, from a 2.2-liter inline-four with 94 horsepower to a 230 horsepower 318 V8. A 250 horsepower 318 was available in the second-generation trucks.

The big deal here, of course, is that this truck turns into a convertible whenever the driver wants to get some wind in their hair or on their scalp. The droptop version was available on the Dakota Sport – the mid-trim-level trucks, above the S and below the LE – for only three years: 1989, 1990, and 1991. This truck looks great in the photos until you zoom in and/or until you read the seller’s description and then you’ll see that this one may not be a slam-dunk for a casual buyer.

For one thing, the top is missing. Just kidding. No, check out the photos and you’ll see that the paint has seen better days and the decals will need to be replaced. Start the calculator, a nice paint job and new graphics won’t be inexpensive. The interior also adds a few things to the master to-do list. There is no carpet and the seller says that the interior is disassembled. There are some parts shown in the bed, but the top also needs to be replaced. Luckily, those are still available from a few sources. The power windows, locks, and other things aren’t working inside, so there’s that.

After all that, the seller says that the engine needs to be replaced. They say that it runs but “the engine does not have a lot left in it.” It’s a Dodge 3.9-liter OHV V6 with 125 horsepower, or it did have that much at one time. It sends power through a five-speed manual to the rear wheels. This truck also needs a “clutch, radiator, rear differential pinion seal” and I’m guessing more. You can usually find a nice example for $9,000 to 10,000 or less sometimes. Given all the work that’s needed here, what’s your best price on this rare Dakota Sport Convertible?

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  1. Jim

    This is definitely a 10 footer. Any closer and you see what a disaster it is. The top of the driver’s door is completely deteriorated through. The interior is torn apart, the paint is coming off, and it needs a new engine. You’d have to REALLY want one of these to consider this at when half that price.

    Like 9
  2. stillrunners stillrunnersMember

    Man I wanted one when the first ones showed up about 1981….and then the drop tops….and then the first Shelbys and finally I got a 1994 with the little 318. Good little trucks I say as I have about 250,000 on mine – that’s bragging for a Dodge. There is one still around the corner from me – don’t see it often but it was outside the other day. This one is going to be for a lover and just don’t see it bringing the money needing every thing.

    Like 9
    • Jim

      Did they ever make a Shelby convertible?

      Like 1
      • Shelbydude

        Short answer: No! But then again, rumor has it that for the right price, CS would slap a plaque on just about anything.

        Like 3
  3. Howie

    This is a fast and easy pass, no engine photos? No plates with a Washington title but in CA.

    Like 5
  4. Roland

    I had one of these in 2003-4, I bought it out of a pick-n-pull in Oakland, CA and put a used engine in it (3.9 V-6). It was a long bed 4×4, I liked the truck but without an overdrive fourth gear on the automatic it got at best 14-15 on the highway. It also could not stop hard, even with new brakes, I never figured out what the issue was, maybe the wrong master cylinder or some other mismatch that was not obvious to look at. I could stand on the pedal with both feet pushing with everything I had and the truck would slow down like.a normal stop. This truck here needs a lot of work, and wiring was not easy on these trucks. Too much money for too little truck. With a running 318 maybe this price would be worth considering, but not with a dead 3.9.

    Like 3
  5. JustPassinThru

    Sad. Such a promising concept, but didn’t connect with buyers. One of the many Iacocca failed ideas, to round out his handful of brilliancies.

    This model resonates with me, for the time – laden with optimism – and that my ex’s kid brother bought one, coming out of college. He was full of enthusiasm, we all were – but dreams die messily, as everything does.

    It is too bad. The sad state of this one, and overly-optimistic price, speaks of a less-popular model in its second-owner hands. It shows wear that a self-evident classic never would.

    Too bad for the Dakota model. Too bad for Dodge. Too bad for Chrysler, and frankly, too bad for the American auto industry.

    Like 6
    • chuck

      There were 2 in my little town and I thought it was a great idea… Many people want a convertible but need a small truck now and then..

      I did read that the tops leaked significantly while driving… ”light rain outside… heavy rain inside”……

      Like 1
  6. HoA HoAMember

    I wholeheartedly agree with JPT^, the answer to the question nobody asked. It only shows to go, how off base a company can take a vehicle from its intended purpose. I had a 4×4 Dakota, a beater, but still a great truck, my brother had a 2wd, put a jillion miles on it until the frame broke, and bought another. This “idea” combines the popularity of the pickup truck, and the lack of insight of who might actually want one, in the quest for sales, and S.Cal. was clearly the target audience. As a “used truck”, it could be fun, but it flopped for a reason. I don’t know if there’s any appeal for this today.

    Like 4
    • JustPassinThru

      Goes without saying, I agree with your agreeing with me. But I do kinda see how Lee & Company got there…

      The original Blazer had a removable fiberglass top – as well as the Jeepster Commando (removable steel). Both of those, and the later Ramcharger (similar to Blazer, the first two years) were heavily advertised topless.

      Although I think I’ve seen maybe one blazer, and none of the others, actually on the street without a roof.

      But…auto execs, even Lido, who had a better handle on public tastes…none of them really pay much attention to how the hoi polloi live. This happens all the time – a car aimed at first-time buyers get a lot of retirees buying it; a supposedly hot youth car has palsied playboys flaunting it. Stodgy square cars or utility trucks have gotten the kids’ votes.

      So, the marketing geniuses at ChryCo thought, if the Blazer had appeal, well, we can reach that with a less expensive folding top that doesn’t need removal.

      Didn’t work.

      Like 1
  7. RoadDog

    At the time they were being built, customizing ‘mini’ trucks was an automotive fad in full swing. Chrysler was just trying to get a slice of the pie. Look it up.

    Like 3
  8. Claudio

    It only needs everything and would only be a big hole …
    It would/could be quite an awesome custom truck but worth only a 1/4 of the investment, then again many of us have lost on projects …

    Like 0
  9. Herbert

    When I haul manure, I always want a drop top. Makes me connect with my work more.

    Like 4
  10. H Siegel

    Ok here’s my thoughts on this truck. If you have enough room in your garage to park this and leave it sit then buy it. I can remember when you could buy slant 6 dodge darts for $50.00 and look at the money they bring now. So this truck may become a future collectable not many were made and it’s a convertible pickup. The day may come when those with money just have to have one of these. All that said was just my honest opinion. GLWTS

    Like 1

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