The Dodge Dakota is a mid-size pickup truck from Chrysler’s Ram (previously Dodge Truck) brand. For the final two years of production, it was referred to as the Ram Dakota. As a 1987 model, the first Dakota was unveiled in late 1986. It was marketed under the Dodge brand from its debut through 2009, then for the final two years under the Ram brand.
The Dakota was larger than small pickups like the Ford Ranger and Chevrolet S-10, but smaller than large pickups like Dodge’s Ram. It has a typical design with a body-on-frame building and a rear end with a leaf spring and live axle. The first mid-size pickup with a V8 engine as an option was the Dakota.
In 2000, the Dakota was a finalist for the North American Truck of the Year award.
First Generation of Dodge Dakota
Chrysler created the Dodge Dakota as a mid-sized pickup. Numerous parts came from already-existing Chrysler vehicles, and the manufacturing facility shares the full-sized Dodge D and W Models in order to keep costs down.
The operational efforts of Harold K. Sperlich, who oversaw Chrysler’s product planning in the early 1980s, led to the development of the N-body platform. The compact pickups, inspired by Japan, did not meet the size and characteristics demanded by American consumers. Resources were scarce as Chrysler struggled to recover from its bankruptcy preparation in the late 1970s. Sperlich tasked the N-Body crew with finding every possible way to repurpose pre-existing parts in order to build the Dakota.
The Dakota was the first pickup truck with rack-and-pinion steering (available exclusively in 2WD in the early years). There was a choice of a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission to go with the inline-four and V6 engines. Only the V6 was available with four-wheel drive. Beds with 6.5 and 8 feet of length were available.
In first-generation trucks, additional options included:
- diminished suspension
- Chromed 15-inch road wheels
- Along the mattresses are chrome bars.
- AM/FM stereo with optional CD and cassette players and
- movable back windows
- bumpers with chrome
- V8 motors
- Integrated audio systems
The sports package was released in the middle of the year. Exterior paint options were black, stark white, and vivid red. The sport option, which contains both 2WD and 4×4, includes:
- AM/FM stereo cassette player radio
- logo-covered carpeted floor mats
- Bench seat with a central armrest
- premium cloth inside in charcoal-silver with a fold-down armrest.
- Sports steering wheel with a leather cover.
- superior wipers
- Outside mirrors with two remote controls
- Floor covering
- meter package
- Bosch fog lamps with a Mopar air dam
- 4×4 only. Mopar light bar with Bosch off-road lighting
- stripe bodyside tape
- Black bumpers and a grille
- 15-inch aluminum wheels, a 3.9 L V6 engine.
The Dodge Dakota was available in three basic variants from 1987 through 1996:
The entry-level trim level was the Dakota S. Base vinyl seating surfaces, a radio delete package, an audio system delete package (later, an AM/FM stereo with a two-speaker audio system became standard equipment on the Dakota model with a two-speaker audio system), vinyl flooring, a black front grille and front bumper, full-faced steel wheels, all-season tires, manual “roll-up” windows, and door locks were all included as standard features. Also, Air conditioning, an AM/FM or AM/FM/Cassette radio, a black painted back step bumper, and power steering were available as add-ons. This model was not commonly thought of as a Club Cab vehicle. Like the other Dakota models, there isn’t a V8 option.
The Dakota boasts interior highlights featuring cloth trim, bodyside cladding, and sport-styled steel wheels, enhancing its overall appeal and performance. Later, the Dakota received the addition of chrome-clad steel wheels, a color-keyed front fascia and grille, and “Sport” decals for the doors and pickup bed sides. On the Sport variant, V6 and V8 engines were available.
Dodge Dakota: Second Generation
The second-generation Dakota started its development in 1991, and in January 1994, thirty months before Job 1, the exterior design concept by Dennis Myles and design director John R. Starr stopped production. On May 20, 1994, design patent applications were submitted to the USPTO under D373,979. The Dakota was made from July 1996 to July 2004 and debuted via press release in the summer of 1996. Although the underside mostly remained the same, it took on the semi-truck appearance of the larger Ram. However, the 2-wheel drive models’ steering was upgraded to a rack and pinion as part of the redesign.
During the Dakota Sport model’s production from 1998 to 2003, a new, limited-edition R/T package was introduced in the spring. Only available in RWD, this model is regarded as a true street or sports truck.
Truck Special Programs, a Brazilian team, produced the Dakota R1 in 1998. It features a V8 engine, a 2.5L VMI turbodiesel, and a reinforced four-wheel-drive chassis. 28 roll-in-chassis R1 versions were created for the Brazilian market.
The Dakota’s four-cylinder engine was only produced for the 2002 model year when Chrysler stopped using the American Motors Corporation design. The powerful V6 or V8 engines were commonly used in construction, but the four-cylinder engine did not have an automatic transmission. Additionally, Sirius Satellite Radio was now an option that could be used with updated radios that had new wire harnesses.
The 2003 model saw the end of the OHV V6 and R/T V8. However, the 2004 model year saw the introduction of the 3.7-liter PowerTech V6 engine and the 4.7-liter V8 variation.
In 2004, a CD player was standard on all models in place of the cassette deck option.
From 1998 to 2001, this generation was produced and sold in Brazil.
The new Dodge Durango SUV and the revised 2005 Dakota still used the same platform. This model has a new front and rear suspension, rack-and-pinion steering, and is 3.7 in longer and 2.7 in wider. Due to cost and assembly time savings, this new generation model also switched from the six-lug wheels of the previous generation to five-lug wheels. The Warren Truck Assembly facility in Warren, Michigan, produces the Dakota.
It has an up-to-date appearance, although this version did not have a conventional cab option. There were only club and Quad Cab options available. Late in 2005, the Dakota R/T made a comeback for the 2006 model year, albeit with only minor changes. The Dakota R/T, despite its “R/T” designation, was an optional package with a non-functional hood scoop, a unique gauge cluster, and hockey stick-shaped side stripes. Both vehicles with two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive could purchase the kit.
At the 2007 Chicago Auto Show, the third-generation Dakota received a facelift and it became the 2008 model. The Dakota had another redesign and interior upgrade, as well as a few other improvements. These improvements include heated bench seats, built-in cargo-box utility rails, best-in-class towing (up to 7,050 lb (3,198 kg)), the longest and largest standard bed in the class, and the largest mid-size truck cab.
The second generation of Dodge Dakota came in three different basic models:
The ST served as the foundational Dakota design. A/M-F/M stereo with a single-disc CD player (later, single-disc CD/MP3 player), auxiliary audio input jack (on most models), a four-speaker sound system, air conditioning, a 3.7L “Power-Tech” V6 engine that came standard, or the optional 4.7L “Power-Tech” V8 engine, 16-inch styled steel wheels, 16-inch tires, front cloth bench seats, vinyl-trimmed seating surfaces, manual windows
The SLT served as the “mid-level” Dakota model, adding the following features to the base ST model: 16-inch sport-styled alloy wheels, cloth seating surfaces, power windows, and door locks with keyless entry. The SLT is available with any engine put on the Dakota. A Big Horn (all states other than Texas) or Lonestar (Texas Only) Package was also available, which included “value-added” features.
The Laramie also referred to as the SLT Laramie, was Dakota’s “top-line” vehicle. The mid-level SLT model received upgrades including 17-inch alloy wheels, 17-inch tires, and an A/M-F/M stereo. It also has a premium Infinity audio system, leather-trimmed seats, power front seats, a security system, and a five-speed automatic transmission.
The Dodge Dakota comes in so many variations and configurations that keeping track of them all requires a computer-designed flow chart.
All other models came with either 2WD or a 4WD option, while the Club Cabs exclusively came with 2WD. Even though it wasn’t practical, drivers liked the convertible cab. On all models, ABS was a given.