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Dodge Shelby Dakota pickup trucks

Following the formula that has become his trademark, Carroll Shelby started with a standard 112-inch wheelbase Dodge Dakota Sport model and transformed it into a true modern-day muscle truck. And he did it with V8 power. Yes, this Dakota is the first V8, rear-wheel-drive machine Shelby has built since the 1960s.

Shelby Automobiles in Whittier, California, bought vehicles from Dodge and turns them into high performance bargains that outperform vehicles costing thousands of dollars more - much the same way Shelby converted standard Mustangs during the muscle-car era. The latest vehicle to carry the Shelby marque, the 318 cubic inch (5.2 liter) fuel injected Shelby Dakota, boasts 175 hp and 270 pound-feet of torque and sells for under $16,000.

Slipping the V8 into an engine compartment that was originally designed for the 3.9 liter V6 was not as hard as it would seem, since the 3.9 liter was built on the Chrysler LA block (318/360 cubic inch) platform. Basically, the V6 is a 318-style engine less two cylinders. But the swap meant the Dakota's cooling system required a little work, as there was now no room for the standard engine-driven cooling fan between the block and the radiator. So Shelby Automobiles engineered a cooling system that operates with an electric fan mounted on the forward side of the radiator.

Shelby version of Dodge Dakota pickup truck

Other engineering breakthroughs on the Shelby Dakota include the use of an all-new V8-rated 4-speed automatic transmission. Featuring a high stall speed torque converter and rear-mounted New Process overdrive system, this transmission is one of the most complex ever produced by Chrysler. In order to provide the best possible performance, the 4-speed unit was fitted with an auxiliary transmission cooler. Power is put to the ground via a special limited-slip differential fitted with 3.90-to-1 gears. Another new feature on the Shelby truck is a unique rear-wheel anti-lock brake system that consists of a speed sensor, electronic control module and pressure-limiting valve.

To improve rebound and compression controls, nitrogen gas-charged shock absorbers were fitted to the truck, as were hollow-spoke-style 15x6-inch aluminum wheels, mounting P225/70R15 Goodyear Eagle GT+4 high performance radials.

The 3610-pound Sport Dakota was equipped with a number of other special Shelby pieces, including a three-spoke leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, "Shelby" charcoal cloth inserts in the seats and door panels and an AM/FM stereo/cassette deck with four speakers.

And a number of unique styling touches make the truck look as good as it runs. These include a light-bar extension behind the cab that's mounted to the bed of the truck, Bosch auxiliary-light-equipped front air dam, four non-color-keyed wheel lip extensions and special Shelby graphics on the hood and sides of the vehicle. The brawny V8 Dakota is available in white or red, accented with blackout front and rear bumpers, grille and trim. Small "V8" logos mounted on the front fenders and Shelby markings on the windshield and lower front grille complete the package.

With its quick off-the-line performance (0 to 60 in 8 seconds [editor's note: yes, the same as a 1995 Neon]), this truck can handle just about anything it comes up against on the road. The Goodyear GT+4 performance radials give plenty of road-gripping traction, and cornering capabilities are good thanks to the gas-charged shocks. The Shelby Dakota is a true muscle truck, which puts it in a class all by itself. And since Shelby only expects to build some 1500 units by August 1989, if you're interested, you'd better get your order in quick. [Webmaster note: this was written in Fall 1989]

Feedback

"Shelbydak" wrote: I own #939 with 97,000 miles on it. I work in a auto shop and my engine started knocking so I took it out and stripped it. It had aluminum flat top pistons, double roller timing chain, roller lifters, and mild cam. I owned this truck since new and the engine has never been out before, so I think the 175 hp is a little off. I compared the crank to one in a full size 1989 Dodge truck's 318 and it was very different, maybe stroker or balanced, I am not sure yet. I will be building it myself except for the cam bearings which will get put in at a machine shop.

Standard 1987-1996 Dodge Dakota

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