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Dodge Dakota Convertible: Feel the Wind in Your Mullet

I can still remember when pickup trucks were basic, basic, basic. If your pickup had an automatic transmission and power windows, you were practically rolling in a Coupe de Ville. Nowadays, as we all know, pickup trucks offer many of the same creature comforts as luxury cars (though why GMC can’t be bothered to put a keyless ignition in the Sierra Denali still baffles me). There are 2-door pickups and 4-door pickups, so why not a convertible pickup truck? I’m not talking about a specialty one-off like the Chevrolet SSR — I mean an honest-to-goodness pickup truck with a drop-top.

Probably because the last time anyone tried it, no one wanted it.

The year was 1989, and Chrysler was just starting to buck the headwinds of K-car apathy. They needed something to add excitement, and someone, somewhere — Chrysler Chief Finance Officer Jerry York, according to this TTAC interview with Bob Lutz — wanted to make a drop-top Dakota.

That fact in and of itself is worthy of comment. We hear all these tales about "bean-counters" ruining automakers (check out "On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors," John DeLorean’s almost-autobiography and a great read, for more on that), and yet here we have the CFO of Chrysler asking the engineers to rip the roof off a Dakota. Ten points to Gryffindor.

In 1989, the Dakota Convertible made its appearance, complete with an optional 4×4 drivetrain for that mud-in-your-hair experience. The convertible conversion was done by ASC in Mexico, and according to Mr. Lutz, the top leaked like a sieve.

The Dakota was not a strong seller to begin with. Dodge sold a little over 89,000 units in 1989, a drop in the bucket when you consider that Chevrolet sold 250,000 copies of its aging S10 pickup that same year.

As for the convertible, sales were dismal. Fewer than 2,500 found homes in 1989, and sales dropped to just under 1,100 in 1990. Sales in 1991: just eight.

Car and Driver summed it up best: "A pickup truck with a flop top makes as much sense as a steel baseball mitt."

No question, this was a failure of epic proportions. But no one at Chrysler seemed very sad. The same year as the drop-top Dakota made its appearance, Chrysler started fitting the Cummins 6BT turbodiesel to their slow-selling, box-bodied full-size pickup. As the last convertible Dakotas were coming up from ASC, the drop-fender RAM — the one that would change the company’s truck fortunes for good — was on its way into showrooms. Happy times were just ahead, and no one mourned the death of the soft-top Dakota.

Finding a used Dakota convertible isn’t as hard as you think — despite their rarity, we’ve seen them trading in the $1,500-to-$10,000 range. We think they make a very cool collector truck. But remember what Bob said about those leaky tops: Be sure to carry an umbrella. Find a Dodge Dakota convertible for sale

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10 COMMENTS

  1. You all have to be kidding right? These trucks are awesome. I bought mine new in 1990 and love it. I always have the top down ( perks of So Cal) and have people ask about it everywhere I go. Yes it leaks a little and is underpowered ( throttle body injection is horrible) but my wife and I absolutely love this truck!

  2. I have owned 4 of these over the years. Bought two new which I owned for almost 20 years. A fun truck but under powered.

  3. Story time.

    So my mini convertible was just totaled and I needed a car. I find a 95 dakota near foxwoods with 175k miles. Owner says it’ll run for another 20k no problem. I figure a $500 bet on a running truck is a win.

    It comes with rust and problems, but I love it all the same. One day, I’m traveling through the 97th street transverse at night (NYC people will know). I hit a dip in the road and hear a loud THUD. I look back and see sparks flying EVERYWHERE. What the hell is that I think to myself? I pull over and look under the truck. Darkness. I can’t even see to the other side. I walk around the side of the truck and realize my fuel tank had dropped when the brackets gave out. There was HUGE hole (probably a foot in diameter) that opens into gallons of fuel. I get to thinking that if ANY of those sparks had made their way inside….

    I’d buy another one without thinking about it. I loved that thing and it was what I picked up my ex-wife in on our first magical date.

  4. Speaking of keyless ignition, you know the Infiniti Q30 doesn’t offer it at any price??? Even base Sentra’s and Versas have it standard. M-B really did a number on Nissan for that car. 

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