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Manual Swap Candidate: $1K Dodge Dakota Shelby

Buying a vehicle with a blown transmission is usually cause for running the other way, but sometimes, it can also be considered opportunity knocking. This Dodge Dakota Shelby pickup is one of just 1,500 made and is said to run sweetly – with the exception of the standard slushbox. Find it here on craigslist for just $1K somewhere near Portland, Oregon (and if the ad disappears, click here instead). 

The Dakota has under 130,000 original miles. The Shelby-specific cloth and door panels look very good for the age and mileage, but the steering wheel is throwing me off: I thought these came with a thinner, more Momo-like steering wheel that looked far more sporting than this one, which looks like it was plucked out of a Dynasty sedan. The rest of the interior, including the carpets, present quite well.

The 318 V8 from the full-size pickups found a pleasant, if slightly cramped, home in the Dakota engine bay. Power was routed through a four-speed automatic paired to a limited-slip differential. The Dakota could hustle to 60 in under 9 seconds, which wasn’t bad – but certainly is a far cry from what today’s muscle trucks can do. Recent maintenance for this example includes new belts and tires, and it will come with a spare set of wheels.

The Shelby-specific bodyside graphics and tailgate applique are hanging in there, though the paint overall looks a bit tired. The seller admits that the truck was running well as recently as a few weeks ago, but the transmission has failed quite permanently and it currently doesn’t start. For $1,000, there are worst gambles you could make, and you might even get the seller down to $800 given the limited market for a single-cab pickup with a dead transmission. Swap time?


  1. jw454

    Gone already. Also, that motor should be a V6 not V8.

    • Andre

      All Shelby Dakota’s had a V8 (5.2/318), There wasn’t a V6 available.

    • Miguel

      I believe the Shelby trucks had the V8.

    • The Walrus

      As stated by the others, this was the only flat nose Dakota to come with a V-8. You can even see the original V-8 decal on the front fender ahead of the tire. To fit the engine bay of this model, the fan assembly had to be removed (the redesign in 1991 has a few extra inches to accommodate the length). The standard fan was replaced with dual electric fans mounted to the radiator.

  2. Larry Q

    It’s got 4 plug wires on drivers’s a v8.318

  3. stillrunners LAWRENCE Member

    Not sure what was meant by slush box….looked like an auto drive….but heck – gone all ready……..

    • The Walrus

      Right… In addition to installing the V-8, the Shelby factory also re-worked the transmissions with Hi-Stall converters and a shift kit. They shift hard, like a 60’s torqueflight, not like the late 80’s truck transmission that they are.

  4. ThePopulist

    I would have jumped on this had it been in my neighborhood, if no rust. I could rebuild the trans with converter for like $250-300 bucks. Shop would want 10 times that for a half ass job. Any body rust, forget it.

  5. Dave Siton

    All V8 Dakota’s came with an automatic transmission. Even in the Shelby. The only way to get a manual was the 2.8 or the later 3.7 V6. Or the first few years of the Dakota a 2.5 4 cylinder was offered with a manual.

    • angliagt angliagt Member

      I believe that you Could get a V8/5 speed.

      • Dave Suton

        I work at Warren truck assembly in Michigan where these were assembled. Never saw a V8 Dakota go out the door with a manual. If there are some, they were aftermarket set ups.

      • The Walrus

        There are no factory 5 speed Shelby Dakota’s. The engine was not installed at the factory. It was swapped out at the Shelby facility in Whittier California. To put a 5-speed in with what was available in 1989 would require extensive modification of the transmission tunnel. When the front end was redesigned in 1991, it was to accommodate a V-8. At that time the transmission tunnel was also redesigned to accommodate a further set back and the 5-speed mounted to a V-8.

    • The Walrus

      What is the 2.8? This (’87-’90) and the ’91-’96 Dakotas were only available with the 2.2/2.5 L 4 cylinder, the 3.9L V-6 (Magnum starting in 1992) and 5.2L (318) V-8 (Magnum starting in 1992). There was never a 2.8 or 3.7 in this version. Perhaps starting in 1997 with the total redesign those engines were available.

  6. Nova Scotian

    Trans blown, trailer ball out back…very telling. What else is about to let go?

  7. rod444

    I had one of these but not quite as complete. Pd 2500 sold for 4000. Someone got a steal.

  8. Brian

    I’ve had enough bad luck with TF transmissions. That 318 should be good for another 130k miles though.

  9. chad

    I guess it’s an ’89 (none listed here) that somebody swapped a tilt wheel into.

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