See also Shelby Dakota
The Dodge Dakota was conceived by Chrysler management as the first "mid-sized pickup" combining the nimble handling and fuel economy of a compact pickup with cargo handling capacity approaching that of full-sized pickups. To keep investment low, many components were shared with existing Chrysler products and the manufacturing plant was shared with the full-sized Dodge D-Model. The name Dakota means "friend or ally" in the Sioux Indian language.
The first generation of the Dakota was produced from 1987 through 1996. Straight-4 and V6 engines were offered along with either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. Four wheel drive was available only with the V6. Both 6.5ft (2m) and 8ft (2.4m) beds were offered. Fuel injection was added to the 3.9L V6 for 1988 but the output remained the same.
In 1988, the Sport package was added as a mid-year release. Available in both 2wd and 4x4, the Sport included:
- AM Stereo / FM Stereo radio with cassette player
- Carpeted logo floor mats
- Center armrest bench seat
- Charcoal/Silver Deluxe Cloth interior with fold-down arm rest
- Color-keyed leather-wrapped sport steering wheel
- Deluxe wipers
- Dual remote control outside mirrors
- Floor Carpet
- Gauge Package
- Mopar Air Dam with Bosch Fog Lamps
- Mopar Light Bar with Bosch Off-Road lamps (4x4 only)
- Unique bodyside tape stripes
- Euro-style black out grille and bumpers
- Sliding rear window
- 3.9 L V6 engine
- 15" aluminum wheels (5 bolt)
The Sport was available only in Black, Bright White and Graphic Red.
The N-body platform was the result of the identification by Harold K. Sperlich, in charge of Chrysler's Product Planning in the early 1980s, that the Japanese-inspired compact pickups of the time lacked the size and features necessary to meet the demands of American buyers. In the late-1970's, Chrysler was still recovering from their near-bankruptcy and resources were in short supply. Sperlich challenged the N-Body team to search for all opportunities to reuse existing components to create the Dakota. The resulting highly investment-efficient program enabled Chrysler to create an all-new market segment at low cost. Key individuals involved in making this product a reality included Glenn Gardner, Glen House, Robert Burnham, Don Sebert, Jim Hackstedde, and Clark Ewing. The basic Dakota vehicle was ultimately used as a foundation to create the Dakota extended cab version and the Dodge Durango SUV.