We Say Goodbye to the Last Dodge Dakota

By Mark Williams

(Source: Ramzone.com)

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.

So now we bid farewell to the Dakota. Thanks for all the hard work and miles we put you through.

(original piece at http://www.ramzone.com/?p=5061)


It sucks, though, because the most recent Dakotas didn't offer a Hemi and the front face was ugly, I will say I won't miss it. They screwed up a good thing, being that it was the first midsize pickup on the market. We'll see what they replace it with...IF they replace it.

I think I would rather it not be replaced at all then it be replaced by some nasty crossover wannabe truck.

I've had a Dakota since 2003 bought new.
210k on it now and still going strong
QuadCab 4x4 4.7 Liter V8.
I think the looks of the last Gen Dakota ruined it.
The second Gen we by far the best looking.

The current looks of it killed it.

I loved my 2003 SXT Club Cab. Had to go full size to accommodate the growing family, or I'd likely still have it. After 2005, the Dakota became so ugly, I'm not surprised they had difficulty moving them. Too bad. Dodge had the formula right from 1987-2004.

The '04 model was the last great Dakota. I think it is now extinct because of a mix of its looks and that the midsize truck segment is dwindling due to changing tastes in the US.

Remember when Mitsubishi so unsuccessfully used the Dakota platform for its short-lived Raider? They managed to make the already awkward 06-09 Dakota look even worse...what a shame.


Had an 02 bought it from my dad when I got my license he bought it brand new took it to 180k miles only non maitenance problem on hub went 4.7 v8 4x4 quadcab perfect size could take 6 people and use the bed was real quick too only upgraded to a fullsize Ram b/c the new ones are so ugly and the price difference was so close. Lets see the size of the 2nd gen Dakotas bigger than the Ranger/S10 yet not so close to the full sizes

I remember mine to be a truck that never stranded me anywhere and that in itself is a good thing.
It wasn't a particularly good vehicle though.
End of an era though. Salute!

I hate to see it go, but the syling chance they make fix or six years ago turned it into an ugly duckling. I like the idea of nearly full size capabilty in a smaller package.

To me, the 2nd gen crew cab remains the best looking midsize. Its a big year for dead platforms- the BOF Explorer, the Panther, the Ranger, The GMT355 twins, and the Dakota. For me, mid-size trucks are great, and now there are only 2 choices remaining (for the time being).

Good riddance , now about making an actual compact truck like a late seventies or early 80s Toyota Hilux size .

The dakota was my first truck. 6 cyl and 4 wd. While I have gone on to a bigger truck, I'll always fondly remember the workhorse Dakota.

Kudo's to Ram for acknowledging the end of the production run. GMC didn't have the decenct to acknowledge the last Hummer (Went to a rental company - what a crappy end)
Too bad the small truck market is dying. I fear that all of the replacements for these trucks will be CUV based trucklets.

I ordered a 2001 with 4wd, 4 door, 4.7 and 5 spd. manual. Currently I am approaching 300,000 miles with same engine etc... It still looks very nice.

A sad time indeed.

My favorite is the late-90's to early-00s Dakota R/T. The 5.9L Magnum is a sweet motor. I love it in my 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited.

I would say the final gen dakota styling did take a turn for the worse, but sad to see it go. Dodge spent all that effort on the journey and forgot about the Dakota! well my thoughts are with those at the plant, hopefully more work comes in and hard-working americans can keep their jobs.

Had an '88 2WD V6 5-spd as my first truck, then bought an '03 4WD Club, SLT, 4.7 5-spd brand new; great truck, the 4.7/5-spd was incredible; rolled that baby on a snowy road.

By '05, they looked terrible and were nearly as expensive as 1/2 tons, so they became obsolete.

The '92-'93 years were the best for the older generation motors, they really had the 3.9 and 318 tuned up great.

@Taylor , the 1980's sized Hilux sized vehicles are pretty dead Globally.
Their are the car based mini utes like the Proton, Chevy Tornado. Yes you get about 1500lbs payload, but they are not as useful as true Pickups as a result are not that popular globally.

The Dakota and the Ranger have disappeared for the same reasons. Full-size trucks are the most profitable large scale product lines these auto makers have. For the most part, truck companies feel that the people who bought Dakotas and Rangers were choosing them instead of the bigger trucks ie. the smaller trucks were cannibalizing the sales of the more profitable bigger trucks. It's also the reason prices for the Dakota and Colorado/Canyon were so ridiculously high. Many, many folks looked at the prices and thought, I had might as well get the big one because they almost cost the same, and the mileage isn't that much different.

I own an 03 v6 ext.cab. Trucks still working hard every day. taken it with a trailer halfway through Canada, no problems.

Still see lots of the older models on the road in Ontario

I was looking forward to a redesign Dakota for 2012, but it looks like a half ton Ram is next for me.

Goodbye Dodge Dakota.

There are many small CUVs & Wagons which can do the job of this Pickup and they have much higher mileage.

@ Max Reid, how many sheet of plywood can you fit in the back your station wagon/CUV?

I also haul bags of concrete in the bed fairly often, do you really want that in the interior of your wagon?

Just sayin

How many of these miracle C.U.V.s and wagons can hold; 3-seat couches, refrigerators, washers, and dryers, etc.?

I had a 1988 2wd 3.9l DAKOTA that my dad gave me...he bought it brand new in 1988 and told me that it was mine when I turned 16. That was a great truck and a tough one to! I put it through so much Young-And-Dumb HE!! that no truck should have lasted! I then got a 1998 4X4 with the 5-SPD and 3.9L.... That truck was a awesome, go anywhere, pulling machine for its time. My dad then purchased a 2000 4X4 Quad Cab with the 4.7L and that thing was a beast! It would outrun my buddies Xtreme S10 V6 and then some. I remember the Motor Trend Test where they said all you had to do to put a smile on your face was to press the gas pedal. Great trucks for sure! I really hated when Dodge made them look like a edgy mini ram....it was just way off the bold muscular look the 2nd Gens had. They will be missed for sure!

I have owned a 1995 Dakota Club Cab 4X4 with the 3.9 V6. I worked that little truck to death. 286K miles. Towing eith a 12' or 18' landscape trailer. Had a Meyers TMP-7.0 poly plow on it for most of it's life. The only big thing was tranny replaced at 160K and front hub bearings. Motor was eating some oil towards the end. Sold it to a friend (who still has it) and bought a 1996 Dakota Club Cab 4X4 with the 5.2 V8. It only had 72K miles on it. Transferred plow to this truck since it was identical and run the crap of it as well. 148K miles on this one and only real issue was been water pump that I replaced myself. Love this generation Dakota but the last generation was UGLY. I did like the H.O. 4.7 V8 though.

I was trying to say I love the generation of Dakota's I have had.

2nd gen was imo the better looking yrs. Nice size with power to match. Not sad to see it go, friends n family who's owned this generation bought it bcuz of its nice looks n v8, but was plagues with numerous nick pick probs, including tranny issues. Too bad Dakota. GO TACOMA!!!!!!!!_

I did a special order '98 Dakota with a 5.2L with manual tranny, I added a supercharger on my own. It was nice, low profile, great for loading my bike. The styling was great, the 5.2L long in the tooth.

I drove a 1987 Dakota on an Outside Sales route for an auto parts store. It had the 3.9 V-6, 5 speed manual, and was two wheel drive. I am sure there were and still are good Dakotas out there...but this one wasn't one them. "Reluctant" in the power department (the most polite word I could come up with, not to upset the Mopar fan club) and it always enjoyed a fuel station. It was finally replaced with a 2001 Chevy S-10 which also enjoyed the same fuel stations, but had a "backbone" when passing cars on the highway. By the way, they both kept out the wind noise (at highway speeds) like a high quality screen door. I can't really say any auto maker builds a good, solid mid-size pick-up with respectable fuel economy. I have driven the newer Rangers and Colorados, unfortunately for the high twenties (grand) on the price tag I am still disappointed when hearing the "wind through the screen door." Maybe that is why the big three quit the mid-size program. It was, to put it bluntly, a disgrace. You certainly didn't get what you paid for.

Now that's an ugly truck! Good riddance. As much as USA needs a midsize truck ...this ain't it!

I had two Dakotas. The first was a 91 regular cab, two wheel drive with 3.9L. I loved that truck but needed more room so I traded it for a 97 SLT. Both trucks ran well with no major problems. Sold the 97 because I was done with the house remodel and needed better mileage so I bought an 05 Matrix...The Matrix hasn't been nearly as reliable and not as much fun to drive...A sad day indeed!

What killed the truck was its price,it cost more than a Ram 1500..my daughter bought one,it cost more than a Ram 1500 QuadCab Hemi 4x4 !!

310 h.p 4.7 made this truck haul ,it was a 6 second flat 0-60 !!!! And low 14's in the 1/4 !!!!

It was a good looking truck,but the base model shown,looks good with the chrome grill and headlight trim and nice chrome wheels !! My daughter owns a top model 2010 Dakota quadcab with the 300+ 4.7 and that truck is a fun truck..She owned a Nissan Pathfinder as her first ride,then a 06 Tacoma V-6 and the Dakota is the best mid-size truck she ever owned,better performance and better ride,comfort and more reliable than her Tacoma !!

Another thing was, the 2003-04 models had 4-wheel disc brakes, which was a step forward, then the 2005 redesign brought back those ugly economy-car rear drums, which was a step backward. That said, if Dodge or RAM does replace the Dakota, it should be spun of the Durango/GC platform...unibody while maintaining RWD capability, like the Jeep Comanche! BRING BACK THE FREAKING COMANCHE!!!

2ND gen is the best. Very hard to find a used one with low milahe. People are holding onto them for a reason. Thay are a damn good truck!

I have a 94 2wd sport RC and i love it. now with 135,000 its still almost rust free and it still gets me where i want to go. now in 2 years it will be concitered a historic vehicle here in Maryland.

Oh Remember they were also built in Toledo Ohio in 93-96 as well. so add another maybe 50,75K to the total 2,751,226 from warren truck.

I have a 2000 R/T Club Cab and love it.

I'm at 103,000 miles and still running great. The only downside I've found is mileage. I knew it wouldn't be good, but 11mpg in town from a midsize is still a little shocking. My 95 Silverado got 14 in town from the 350. But then again, my R/T will blow the wheels off the Silverado.

I hope they find a way to make a truck equivalent to the 2nd gen in looks and size.

It's cool to see all the sentiments of Dakota owners, and your're right Dave, 2nd gen is not selling because they're going strong.
My '03 4x4 quad cab has been great....a throttle position sensor and blower motor resistor is all it's needed after 130K. I also put in the greasable MOOG ball joints a few months ago, just as a preventative measure.
It's a shame that design was sacrificed so much in the 3rd gen....you would think there would be some kind of market research before such an ugly truck hits the dealers.
Maybe they'll get this next one right, but it seems their just turning it into another crossover, like a poor man's Avalanche.

YES... Take the New Durango's front end....make a long bed Quad Cab Version.....and it will sell like crazy! Also price it at around $18,000 to $26,000 for top level and you got yourself a WINNER!

My 2000 Dakota was the best truck I've ever had for the daily grind...I kick myself all the time for getting rid of it. The looks of the last bodystyle definitely ruined it. They had a great thing going when the the durango/dakota were based on the same platform, both were doomed when they split the line and gave them both fugly styling.

I had a 2007 quad cab 4x4 4.7 HO 3.92 gears. The shocks in the front really messed this truck up. It was plauqed with water getting in the cab from the AC unit onto the passenger floorboard and later a leaky cargo light. Had those things been better, and maybe had they built it with the club cabs bed behind the quad cab, it woulda been more realistic and better. As it was I just couldn't fit much in it. Had they put the Hemi in a truck like that pushing less air and near 800 pounds lighter than a quad 4x4 Ram 1500, I think over 23 MPG woulda been a cinch. As it was tho the frame is really tough, and the leafs are actually built to handle some weight, unlike a Tacoma or Frontier with little flat springs. I guess mine had a problem most did not: the driver side cam got all messed up (oil changes were done at low miles like near 3000 on synthetic) This was during May 09 thanks to the bankruptcy took about 8 weeks to get it fixed due to the HO engines have differant cams, and there were none in stock.

I have a 2006 quad with the 3.7 V6, Trailer tow upgrade factory package which beefs up a lot of items, 47K miles. Alternate to my 1996 B2500 318 Conv Van (186K), and 2000 Cherokke 4WD (185K). I have had zero problems with the Dakota, strong but not a head banger but 22-23 mpg with synthetic oil and aftermarket airfilter and intake riser. Hated the flattened 2007 up models. Long wheel base gives great highway ride. Space betwen bumper and radiator allowed for a 9000 lb electric winch to be mounted. Limited slip works great. sad to see the model go. Size is perfect for urban and dirt roads over the larger RAM.

I'd have driven my '98 V6 forever, but it was a lemon. Left me stranded again and again, unlike a friend's '97 V6 or his current '02 V8. They have both held up really well.

Dodge lost me as a customer, especially when the dealership provided to be a bunch of scoundrels about honoring warranty repairs for what was obviously a collection of bad sensors and a bad tranny. Soured my taste on Dodge, period.

I wanted to love the truck...nice-looking vehicle in a size big enough to do actual work. Nearly 30MPG on the highway.

So it goes; then Dodge made it UGLY with its final styling. So, farewell Dakota. You won't be missed, except as a concept for a reasonably sized truck in a nation of overpowered monsters.

I bought a 2011 Dakota CrewCab V-8 4x4,and love it !!

Living downtown in a major city it fits perfect in parking spots ect.It gets better gas mileage than my wifes 2006 Tacoma and the Dakota's performance is alot better,as is ride and handling.Funny,people like the looks of the Dakota better,its a top line model,18 " chrome wheels,chrome grill ect,looks real sharp !!My wife would rather drive the Dakota than here Tacoma ! Guess I better hurry up and buy another one soon !

The only reason the Dakota sold slower was the price,it was as much and in some cases more,than a full size Ram 1500 !

I know many domestic and import truck owners and everybody says its a nice looking truck,I think so.They all say the price is expensive for a smaller truck,and they cant figure out why people bash it because they all like it in person,yep a few kind of sounded funny on the phone when I told them but once they looked at it,went for a ride they loved it !

Had 3 Dakotas 95 with a 5.2 a 98 with a 3.9 and now a 2003 with 4.7 best truck I have ever owned.. had a 99 f-150 in there for a yr hated it and the motor blew. I have done many things with my dakotas and have never been let down.. This truck will be sadly missed by me.. my current Kota is lifted and has some minor motor mods..

I have a 99' Dakota. It has over 270,000 miles on it and it still gets me to work every day. It has never let me down for one time. I would propose a better battery in the new models. I have bought two dodges in the last 12 years and both came with a lower quility batterty that had to be replaced within 1 year. I really don't like not being able to buy a new dakota when this stops. What am I to do?

"... I would propose a better battery in the new models. I have bought two dodges in the last 12 years and both came with a lower quility batterty that had to be replaced within 1 year...." -Mark Staudt

That is strange. My 2005 Ram 2500 still has the original Mopar battery. The 4-year old Mopar battery in my 2003 Jeep Wrangler, taken out of a 2008 Grand Caravan, is still holding up as well.

Just traded in my 1997 Dakota 3.9 six cyl, 4x4 Extended cab SLT for a 2011 bighorn.
The 97 was still going strong at 241,000 not burning oil between changes...
I felt I didn't want to be forced into a full size for the next truck. I don't need that big of a truck, so I grabbed another Dakota while I still could!
The new truck so far is great but I still like the styling on the 97

The secon generation of Dakotas was a dream to my self,I bought the 1998,and still I have it in a good shape,the 3.9L magnum and 5 gear manual trany,rock the power,I wonder to have one of the first different stiles,the second generation there others Make are just copies of the Dakotas generations.well since the model been made in straight lines details,my interest been lost.But I will say Dakotas been bilt on good o may I say the best midium size light truck ever made!!!!!!!!...Jim B.

have a 2001 dakota quad cab 2 wheel drive and it is an excellent mid size truck. Have 170,000 miles on it with no problems. replaced front brakes at 130,000 and rear brakes are original equipment & still have about one half wear left.Could not ask for a better truck.

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