During my final year of college I drove my dad's early-90's Dakota and loved it and its blocky look and bench seat. After graduation I bought my own brand new Dakota standard cab sport. It was Sept '97 when I bought my red '98. I've modified it modestly: a fiberglass tonneau cover in '98 and a new radio in '05.
Me and my Dakota on Daytona Beach - November 2002
During these years I've really grown to love it to an almost unhealthy degree. I've described it to others as being similar to the love for a loyal pet. It is the only object I own that I pity when it fails to work properly, and it is by far the most reliable thing I have ever owned. With each year I get more and more expressions of disbelief from people:
"you're still driving that red truck?"
We've been to PA, Memphis, and on the beach of Daytona Beach. We've been through accidents, snow storms, and vandalism. It has even carried passengers who have since died, many years ago. I've paid for the repair of water pumps and transmission solenoid without giving the "maybe it's time for a new truck" idea any serious consideration. I've had it for 186K miles and plan to get another 186K from it.
Or that's what I would have written a month ago...
In early December I had a 2-day business meeting in southern Florida, and by total coincidence an old friend was going to be in the area for some scuba diving. I used this as a chance to "get wet" for the first time in 3 years. Of course I showed off my truck and made it known how much I enjoyed it. When I left my business meeting on the last day I loaded the bed with some supplies and thought:
"This truck is my 'Rosebud' except that I'm lucky enough to still have my 'Rosebud'!"
I eventually arrived at a motel near the dive site and got a room. I am not one to worry about things but for some bizarre reason I got this strong notion that the truck was not safe. I dismissed it.
The next day my friends and I went diving, ate, and I returned to I-95 for my ride home. As often happens in Florida, a sudden strong rainstorm hit and just as rapidly it disappeared. A couple minutes later is happened: the rear slid back and forth, then the truck slid off into the media and gradually rotated so that it was sliding backwards.
"#(*$*. I'm going need towed!"
It kept sliding...
"*&#$$. It's going to slam into those trees and get body damage on the rear end"
It slid more and then rolled 1 and a quarter times.
"#*&$#*&. This is going to be very expensive."
I thought as it rolled.
Yes, I actually did think those things as the accident happened. I had no fear whatsoever during the accident, only annoyance. Intense annoyance. I didn't have any fear until it stopped on its passenger side door and then there I was in this completely unnatural position in my truck in the middle of nowhere!
I tried opening the door and it would not open. I figured it was damaged, then I realized it was just really heavy since it was opening upwards instead of out.
The Dakota after the accident.
Being 12 years old and involved in a major accident in 2001 (perfectly repaired BTW) it had little Blue Book value and was totalled by the insurance company. I was told that in Florida that once a car's been totalled that it's more-or-less impossible to get it back on the road due to the laws that were enacted to prevent vehicles submerged in hurricane flood waters from being put back on the streets.
The roof of the cab. I received no injuries whatsoever. I wasn't even sore the next day.
One of the really odd things about the accident was that the only two windows to survive the accident were the only two original windows on the vehicle! Coincidence? I think so, but a funny one nonetheless.
Buying another truck was a given, but I decided to keep an open mind on other makes and models, but I found that I just could not keep my eyes off of the other Dakotas on the road. I read and was told that Dakotas are mechnically unreliable and that Toyota's were the way to go. I thought maybe my reliable little workhorse was an anomoly, but then I kept noticing '97-'04 Dakota after '97-'04 Dakota after '97-'04 Dakota on the road and figured they couldn't be the unreliable "XBOX360" of the truck world that I was hearing. And every one of them was at least 5 years old! So that was it. I was buying another Dakota.
Good grief was that hard.
As common as these trucks are you'd think every used car lot would have a few, but you'd be wrong. I wanted a 2000-2004 red club cab V6 automatic with a sliding rear window. I went to dozens of car lots, looked at magazines, and checked online. NADA!
Eventually I found a nice white Dakota a quarter mile from my house. Took it on a test drive, and it rode and felt great. I took it back and the guy who test drove it before me was there to buy it.
Finally after another week of searching I pulled into a lot and found my next truck. It's a drab battleship gray '02 with a club cab, but no rear slider. I bought it the next day.
My new used Dakota:
It feels really solid when I drive it, and I enjoy that extra space in the back.
Once again I'm planning for modifications, but nothing too crazy.
1) I'm getting a Roll-n-Lock bed cover instead of a tonneau. It's already ordered and I was hoping to have it earlier this week.
2) The radio is being replaced for one with USB flash drive support
3) I want to get a sliding rear window
4) It needs to be painted a real color because the only color worse than this would be pink with unicorns painted on the hood. I like that reddish-copper look Mitsubishi has, but this will have to wait for a while.
I'm also thinking about going even further with the modifications, perhaps fancier headlights and other add-ons to improve fuel efficiency. (I'm still testing, but I think I only get around 15MPG while my other would get 18mpg with less highway exposure!) Though the cosmetic things are going to need to wait.