Shelby Dakota

Rare Ride Gets Noticed

John Gunnell - June 16, 2014 09:46 AM


Shelby wasn’t shy about putting his name on this truck.

Courtesy of John Gunnell

The trucks had Shelby ID badges, too.

Courtesy of John Gunnell

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      Trudy and Randy Vollmer of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, may have been thinking ahead of the curve when they restored their 1989 Shelby Dakota pickup. Since Carroll Shelby passed on about two years ago, they have seen interest in their sporty truck increase.
      In the early 1980s, Lee Iacocca was hired to bring Chrysler back from the brink of collapse. He realized Dodge’s high-performance image had suffered and hired Carroll Shelby to create the Dodge Shelby Charger and Omni GLH. Rather than building Shelbys for Dodge, Carroll switched to purchasing Dodges, then modifying and selling them. Dodge-based Shelbys included the 1989-only model based on Dodge’s mid-sized sport truck. It was called the Shelby Dakota.
Shelby started with a stock Dakota sport pickup and added a 318 (5.2 liter) fuel-injected Dodge V-8 that was part of a performance package. The 1989 Shelby Dakota came only in red or white and included aluminum flat top pistons, a double roller timing chain, roller lifters, a mild performance cam, a four-speed automatic, a high-stall-speed torque converter, a 3.90:1 rear axle, a limited-slip differential, an auxiliary transmission cooler, gas shocks, ABS with speed sensor, an ECM and pressure-limiting valve, a behind-the-cab light bar extension, the Dakota Sport model aero package, a front air dam and fender extensions, special graphics, hollow-spoke 15 x 6.5-inch aluminum wheels, Goodyear 225/70HR15 high-speed Eagle GT+4 radial tires, an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette and four speakers, “Shelby” charcoal cloth seat and door panel inserts, a three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel, an electric cooling fan on the forward side of radiator and Bosch front bumper running lights
      Shelby Dakota owners could move out with the power of a full-sized pickup in a mid-sized package. 0-to-60 mph took 8.7 sec. Top speed was 113 mph. From the beginning, limited production was part of the Shelby Dakota story. Total production was 1,475 units of which 995 were red and 480 were white.
      The Vollmers dressed up their red Shelby Dakota with Dodge R/T badges, aftermarket wheels and their names painted on the rear bumper. However, they stayed “pure” in reproducing the factory graphics. Brush Boy Customs duplicated the Shelby graphics back then. Today, a striping kit for the Shelby Dakota is available from Phoenix Graphics.
       As the Shelby Dakotas become more and more popular with collectors, we can probably expect to see more parts and more trim items being reproduced for them. But, the Vollmers were likely among the first to restore a Shelby Dakota.