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Neglected Muscle Truck: 1989 Shelby Dakota

This rare 1989 Shelby Dakota is a limited-production performance truck made under the watchful eye of Carroll Shelby, and while it is generally considered a collector’s item, this one has clearly seen better days. Faded paint, dull graphics, and a dead fuel pump means this one has been sitting for a while, but it resides in one of the more hospitable climates for a neglected vehicle: Oregon. The seller points out correctly that production was limited to 1,500 examples, and while it is a project, this Shelby Dakota looks completely worthy of bringing back to life. Find it here on craigslist for $4,000 near Springfield.

The Shelby Dakota was a legitimate performance vehicle, joining the ranks of numerous other limited-production models breathed on by Carroll Shelby. While it would have been easy enough to slap on a decal kit and call it a day, the Shelby pickup obviously had to go further than that. Shelby’s team swapped in the injected 5.2L V8 in place of the 3.9L V6, along with a four-speed automatic with a limited-slip differential. The rest of the improvements were largely cosmetic, as the standard-issue “Sport” package suspension was added (front sway bar up front, along with disc brakes) along with a wheel and tire combo unique to the Shelby trucks. The front air dam was another upgrade, with integrated fog lamps.

Of course, you got a special dash plaque with Shelby’s signature, and the seat upholstery was upgraded with a specific pattern for the hot-rod Dakota. A three-spoke steering wheel and a light bar in the bed further set the Shelby trucks apart, along with an exterior decal kit. Overall, it was a healthy mix of cosmetic and performance upgrades, even if it wasn’t blazing fast. 60 rolled by in under nine seconds, and the quarter-mile in a hair under 17 seconds. While we may yawn at those numbers today, the Shelby Dakota really did open the door for the likes of the Chevy SS, Ford Lightning, and the GMC Syclone/Typhoon duo.

Image courtesy of Hemmings

When it was new, this Shelby-ized Dakota had to have blown some minds. Trucks simply didn’t get a high-performance make-over at this point in history, and the likes of the Omni GLHS were more what enthusiasts had come to expect from Shelby. The Dakota, taken as a whole, is still a super cool package with distinctive styling and respectable performance. If nothing else, these trucks sound and look good, and the limited production makes it an instant collector’s item. The truck shown here is a project, but one that absolutely deserves rejuvenation – but potentially for a lower purchase price.


  1. Howard A Member

    I know I’ve been extra critical of vehicles with silly names plastered on the side,,,and this post will be no different. Far as I’m concerned, this was the bottom of the barrel for ol’ Shel’. I think he could have put his name on a toaster and had results. I read, the base price for a V8 Dakota pickup was $9850. 4×4, extended cab, etc. put it well over $10g’s, but you got a nice truck. The Shelby edition sold for $12,000. IDK, looks like tried and true “badge engineering” wins again,,,it was nothing special. As far as catchy names on mundane vehicles goes, I suppose it didn’t get much better than Shelby. Sure beats “Honcho”,,,that still cracks me up,,,Honcho. I liked my Dakota, but silly names do nothing for me.

    Like 3
    • T. Mann Member

      There were NO regular Dakota pickups with V8 in 1988, 1989 or 1990.
      Dakota pickups got a V8 in 1991 when the front bodywork changed allowing a fanbelt run Fan. Shelby Dakotas had an electric Fan.

      Like 6
  2. Ed H

    Nothing special

  3. Mark

    A friend of mine had a 88 Dakota w/a 3.9 2×4, I helped him swap it out with a 360 driveline from his rusted duster- that thing flew!!!!!
    4G for a rust free daily driver 4×4 Dakota same vintage is right, this ones not that so a bit overpriced in my mind.

    Like 1
  4. Doug

    Nice write up Jeff, sounds like Howard and Ed already had their minds made up and were too busy to read the facts. Fact, there was no “V8 Dakota” in 1989. Fact, 1500 v6 Dakotas were sent to Shelby’s facility where they were the first rear wheel drive domestic platforms to receive a V8 upgrade since the late 60’s. Fact, there was extensive engineering involved to make the V8 fit in the engine bay. Fact, most of the vehicles electrical system had to be completely redesigned, etc. Hot rod trucks are very popular today and this vehicle should not be compared to a toaster. Yes, I own one, but mine runs the quarter in the 10’s. All I had to really do was take advantage of the heavy lifting that Shelby had already accomplished.

    Like 17
    • Frank D Member

      Your correct Doug! Lately these trucks are climbing in price.

      Like 2
  5. Howie Mueler

    If it just needs a fuel pump why not put one in?

    Like 3
  6. Jace F.

    Even though I partially agree with people who say that this truck is mostly badge engineering, I would definitely try to save this truck because I see them going up in value, especially with the market right now. Maybe I’m wrong though, as values for the Chevy SS454, Ford Lightning, and GMC Typhoon/Syclone are already sky high.

    Like 1
  7. flynndawg


  8. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    The people who are critical of the true Shelby Mopars are people who have never driven, or been driven in, one.

    Therefore, their opinions do not count.

    Like 2
  9. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    This is located in the same town as Graveyard Cars.
    It would make for an interesting Mopar project.

  10. Rich

    It’s nice to see these old mopars from the 80s finally getting some notoriety. The convertible Dakotas have been going up in value as well. Haters are gonna be haters.

  11. Beignet at the Beach

    I had one of these as a “Company Car”… Loved it! My only complaint was the electric fan, (needed because of the length of the V8 vs the V6)…when that thing turned on, it sounded like the Batmobile was arriving!

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