There was a somber moment at the fast-paced Warren Truck Assembly Plant a few weeks ago, as the final Dodge Dakota rolled off the assembly line.
Almost 3 million units of the hard-working midsize truck were built at the Michigan plant from February 1986 to August 2011. Many of the first- and second-generation models are still on the road today, we’re told.
The Dakota was the original midsize truck that had all the capability of a light-duty truck in a smaller package. The ride quality and handling was very nimble, thanks in part to its rack-and-pinion steering.
For more than two decades, the Dakota came in many shapes and sizes. The most notable was the somewhat unorthodox and rare Dakota Sport convertible. That’s right, someone thought it would be cool to haul your stuff with the top down.
In 1989 the Dakota gained some muscle when Carroll Shelby and Dodge collaborated on a limited-production Shelby V-8 Dakota. Shelby’s team of gear heads figured out a way to install the venerable 318-cubic-inch small-block V-8 under the hood. His designers even crafted a cool Fiberglas light bar behind the cab and full-length Shelby decals that would let the world know you were driving something special.
Product planners knew buyers wanted more power, and when the Dakota was refreshed in 1991, a 5.2-liter Magnum V-8 was a regular production option on two- and four-wheel-drive models. There was even a Dakota R/T model with the 5.9-liter Magnum V-8. Regardless, the Dakota filled the void among midsize truck buyers looking for V-8 power along with numerous cab and bed configurations.
(original piece at http://www.ramzone.com/?p=5061)