Home » Carry On My Wayward Trucks: 1997 GMC K1500 vs 1998 Dodge Dakota

Carry On My Wayward Trucks: 1997 GMC K1500 vs 1998 Dodge Dakota

Sbsd 7 11 2023
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Welcome to another Shitbox Showdown! Today we’re in the Sunflower State, looking at a couple of 4×4 trucks with a bazillion miles each on them. But before we head for the plains, let’s see what you made of yesterday’s derelict hatchbacks:

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Aha. So there is a limit to the mid-80s Chrysler animosity. All it takes is a yard-art Fiat. Interesting. Of the two, I think the Fiat would make the more compelling project, and if both were in good shape, would certainly be more fun to drive, but even I have to admit that that poor little 128 is probably too far gone to save.

You’ll be happy to hear that both of today’s choices run and drive, and have been doing so quite a lot. With a combined total of 626,000 miles, these trucks have been around the block. Which one has reached the point of no return? Let’s take a look and see.

1997 GMC K1500 Z71 – $2,900

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Engine/drivetrain: 5.7 liter overhead valve V8, four-speed automatic, part-time 4WD

Location: Emporia, KS

Odometer reading: 356,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yep

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of full-size GM trucks. Mine has treated me very well; so well, in fact, that we have added another to our fleet, a GMT800-chassis GMC Yukon. Their combined mileage of just under 400,000 miles is more than this white Z71 has on it, but not by a whole lot. My hope is that ours hold up as well as this one has at 356,000 miles.

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Not all is well: The check-engine light is on for a bad catalytic converter (Kansas doesn’t have emissions testing, so the seller never bothered to fix it), it leaks oil and power steering fluid, and the windshield is cracked. Great Plains winters are tough on vehicles, and as a result, like most GMT400s that are exposed to road salt, large chunks of the cab corners and rocker panels have become dust in the wind. Still, the seller just drove it from California to Kansas without issue, so clearly it’s still roadworthy.

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It does have newer front end parts and front wheel bearings, and the transmission was rebuilt 50,000 miles ago. And it has one advantage over my truck: the air conditioning works. The nice locking toolbox in the back is included, if you move fast – the seller is offering it for sale separately as well. I guess if it sells before the truck, they’ll drop the price.

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No word on whether the sleepy dog is included. Probably not.

1998 Dodge Dakota SLT – $3,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 5.2 liter overhead valve V8, four-speed automatic, part-time 4WD

Location: Augusta, KS

Odometer reading: 270,000 miles

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Runs/drives? Sure does

Dodge’s midsized Dakota was ahead of its time. When it was introduced, trucks came in two sizes: small or large. Clearly there was room in the market for a medium size, and in the intervening years, Toyota, GM, and Nissan have all swelled their small trucks to match the Dakota in size. Dodge (or Ram, I guess now) abandoned the midsized market twelve years ago, and I’m not sure why, because for a long time it seemed like Dakotas were everywhere. Especially after Dodge got wise and dropped the 5.2 liter Magnum V8 into the truck to cure its power deficiency.

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This second-generation Dakota is so equipped, and also boasts four-wheel-drive. Probably not a great combination for fuel economy, but it makes for a nice capable truck. With 270,000 miles on the clock, it’s no spring chicken, and we don’t get any information about its condition beyond “runs good” and “new tires.” The photos are encouraging: it looks good and clean, with a few shiny parts in the engine bay.

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And for the record, this is what the bed of a well-seasoned truck should look like: Dents, scratches, scuffs, and even a mismatched replacement tailgate. This truck has earned its keep.

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Inside, it’s actually pretty nice for a truck that’s north of a quarter million miles. As an SLT model, it has goodies like power windows and locks, though there’s no word on whether they still work. This extended-cab has a small bench seat across the back of the cab, unlike compact trucks that usually have a pair of inward-facing jump seats. Still, the back seat is probably best suited to dogs, children, or people you don’t like very much.

So there they are: two old trucks with plenty of stories to tell, but with at least a few more roads to travel. One is a bit bigger, the other a bit nicer, but either one would handle basic truck duties just fine. Which one is more your speed?

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(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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M0L0TOV
M0L0TOV
10 months ago

The Dakota for sure! The Magnum engines are pretty reliable. I’m not seeing rust like on the GMC. You could probably either repair the dents in the bed and rhino line it or just buy a cheap plastic cover to hide all the battle damage.

Stephen Reed
Stephen Reed
10 months ago

I can smell the GMC pic. Frankly the rust worries me, while the Dodge looks clean and seems like it might be a bit more fun since it’s smaller and still has a V8.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
10 months ago

I’ll take the beautiful blue Dodge!
Also, on the GMC at 1st I thought that was a big pool of oil under the differential…but I’ll take the dog ha ha

Top Dead Center
Top Dead Center
10 months ago

Have a 98 Dakota Sport 6 cyl/5 speed at our vacation place, it’s a beater with 158k on it – but everything works (even AC) and it gets you were you want it to go… easy to work on, parts cheap, so I will continue sticking with it…

Last edited 10 months ago by Top Dead Center
Astrass
Astrass
10 months ago

An interesting idea for Shitbox Showdown would be to take two examples of the same model that are similarly crappy in different ways. Like, one beat-up truck might have a rusted-out frame, whereas the other example is rust-free but needs an engine, that sort of thing.

Last edited 10 months ago by Astrass
Frank Wrench
Frank Wrench
10 months ago

I can’t pick the GM because where would the dog lay when it’s gone?

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
10 months ago

350,000+ miles is too much to consider any used 1500 GMT400, which is a shame because I love GMT 400s. It also has a few time bombs to consider: intake gaskets dumping coolant in the oil (happend on our suburban) and the 4L60E trans is probably nearing the end of its life… even if it’s a rebuilt one.

So… Dodge I guess since it has the 318/5.2L which is a durable motor, and it has the regular stick actuated 4×4 system so that will help too. I’m sure it’ll have it’s fair share of issues (I think these had electrical gremlins…not 100% on that though)

DDayJ
DDayJ
10 months ago

The Dodge doesn’t look too dodgy (get it, hehe) and a bit cleaner so I went that way, though if you can get away with no smog tests the Chevy isn’t terrible. Only thing is what is going on with the airbag hub on the Dodge? Was something glued to it at some point?

Last edited 10 months ago by DDayJ
ScaredOfGeese
ScaredOfGeese
10 months ago

I’ll pick the Dodge. I had a 96 with the V-6 and manual. Turning radius was horrible and the fuel economy was abysmal, but I did enjoy the truck. I always wanted one of the V-8 ones.

Paul E
Paul E
10 months ago

GMC all the way here. One of my friends has what she calls the “Joint Custody Pickup”, this truck’s Chevy doppelganger — a ’97 K1500, but with only the 305, with similar rust and half the miles. I keep it running and thus get to use it any time I want, for about anything I want (usually car dolly duty when I haul heaps home). Other than dealing with the power steering pump replacement a couple weeks back, it’s been incredibly solid, even with rust in identical places.

Goof
Goof
10 months ago

Borrowed my uncle’s brand new Dakota of the same vintage to pick up a 27” Sony Trinitron from the store. I distinctly remember three things:

* The wind noise. Even at 55mph, it was insane.
* The truck was 10-11 weeks off the lot, and it already had several notable squeaks and rattles.
* The fuel economy, or lack thereof. I don’t remember what it was offhand, but my father noted that his F-150 he used at work got better.

Mike B
Mike B
10 months ago

If they were comparable condition, I’d go with the GMT400. The Dakota seems like it’s in nicer shape, so I’ll go with that despite it being more expensive.

Angry Bob
Angry Bob
10 months ago

Keep in mind the full size Chevy will get better gas mileage than the mid size Dakota. I’ve had two Dakotas and they never broke out of the 12’s for gas mileage. You’d think there was a hole in the tank or something.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
10 months ago

Dodge. It’s not as crusty looking. At this age condition is everything. The Dodge appears to be in better condition.

Dumb Shadetree
Dumb Shadetree
10 months ago

Those Dakotas were awesome, especially with the V8. Enough power to tow. Stout truck. Big enough to haul stuff, but not ridiculously huge. This one looks well cared for, and I don’t like the interiors on square body chevy’s. Easy pick.

Mike B
Mike B
10 months ago
Reply to  Dumb Shadetree

Squarebodies are 73-87 (73-91 for 1-tons, K5’s, and Suburban). That truck is a GMT400, known as the “OBS” by GM nerds. It stands “Old Body Style” (or original), it came about in ’99 when Chevy introduced the GMT900 series pickups (New Body Style).

I agree those V8 Dakotas are awesome, especially for the time when a Tacoma had a little 180hp 3.4L V6.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
10 months ago
Reply to  Mike B

I think you meant GMT800 not GMT900

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