Prepare to step aside
What you are looking at is a 1987 Dodge Dakota with a stepside bed. What? A stepside bed. Surely that is not factory?
First off, don’t call me Shirley. Second, yes, this is a factory Dakota, eh, sorta.
In the late 80s, Dodge had this obsession with sending cars to outfitters and making limited edition trims. In 1987, 700 Dodge Dakotas were shipped from the factory to Country Sales of Three Rivers, Michigan, and had stepside conversions. These Dakotas were then shipped off to dealers mainly in the Great Lakes region. Most of these trucks seem to appear in MI, IN, OH, and PA.
The stepside Dakota joins the Shelby Dakota and the Dakota Convertible as seemingly random one-off Dakota trims of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
but wait, there’s more...
In 1978, Dodge built the Lil Red Express. The Lil Red Express was constructed on the Ram platform and is the predecessor to the SRT-10. It was incredibly loud, powerful, and fast for its time (thanks to loopholes). It was the fastest production vehicle of 1979, beating out Ferrari.
Flash forward 12 years and someone got the idea of paying homage to the Little Red Express. Dodge liked the idea so much that they contracted a company, LER, to make the kits and offered them as dealer options for the 1990 through 1992 model years.
However, instead of this being an option for the Ram, they were made for the Dakota. The reason? I have no idea... The only one I can think of is size?
Anyway, the Lil Red Express Dakota was a shell of the hero it was honoring. It is basically like the time your friend modified the exterior of his car in NFS Underground 2, but forgot to modify the engine. The stacks on the back did not function, and the performance was no different than the base Dakota. However, it certainly is a looker. For the 1992 model year, Dodge offered the Lil Red Express Dakota with a 5.2L Magnum V8 so it could at least have a little bite to its bark.
If you are not a fan of the Lil Red Express Dakota then you have the Dakota Warrior. It is exactly the same as the Lil Red Express Dakota, sans the pipes. If you are looking for either truck, good luck. Production numbers are not known, but guessed at less than 1000 for both trucks combined with the Warrior being far more rare. If you are trying to find the V8, well then you have quite the hunt ahead of you.
So would you rather have the Express or the Warrior. I choose the convertible.
Ebay Listing that inspired this post.
Edits 10/14/16: Changed model runs from“1990 and 1992" to “1990 through 1992", added sources.