The late-great Carroll Shelby built an incredibly successful career of making all sorts of cars faster, more often than not, with a bigger or more potent engine under the hood. The icons are well known—legends like the Shelby Cobra, GT350 Mustang, and the big GT500.
But by the 1980s, Shelby was plying his trade over at Chrysler, at the behest of chairman Lee Iacocca, churning out special editions like the Dodge Shelby Charger, zippy CSX, rorty GLHS, and this—the 1989 Shelby Dakota muscle truck.
1,500 of these racy pickups were built for just one year and a whole two-and-a-half decades later they still turn heads. This one especially. The spotless pickup recently turned up for sale online, and its odometer reads a claimed 25,307 miles.
So what makes these rarified work trucks special? As with most Shelbys, it starts under the hood. Up until 1989, the standard Dodge Dakota pickups were offered in only four-cylinder and V6 variants. But Dodge (and Shelby) wanted more, so the larger 5.2-liter Magnum V8 from Dodge’s full-size pickup was shoehorned into the midsize Dakota, albeit not effortlessly.
To fit, Dodge had to swap the V8’s belt-driven fan for an electric unit mounted in front of the radiator. That did the trick, as well as earned the V8 a few extra ponies, pushing the special Dakota up to 175 horsepower and 270 lb.-ft. of torque.
That performance may sound paltry by today’s standards, but in 1989 it was seen as quite sporty, and netted a zero to 60 mph dash in 8.5 seconds. A four-speed automatic with lockup torque converter transmitted that power to the rear wheels.
Additional Shelby performance goodies included a limited-slip differential, transmission cooler, along with a host of eye-catching body mods, including a unique air dam and bumpers, Shelby floor mats, monogramed seats and door panels, a “CS” steering wheel, 15-spoke hollow alloy wheels, and shouty body graphics.
While the Shelby Dakota didn’t return for 1990, its V8 legacy did continue, and in 1991 the 5.2-liter eight-cylinder became an option on new Dakotas.
Of the 1,500 Shelby Dakota pickups built, 860 were dressed in red while a rarer 640 came adorned in Bright White. This ’89 is said to be #245 of those white trucks, sold new to its original (and sole) owner in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, for $15,985 (the Shelby package cost $3,933 in its day). Currently, it’s demanding bids north of $10,000 for its low-mileage originality.