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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Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
11 months ago

I don’t much care for trucks, but if I needed a working beater I’d go with the Dodge. Mostly I just came here to post GWAR covering “Carry on My Wayward Son”:

https://youtu.be/HJzecKumufM

10001010
10001010
11 months ago

I went with the GMC because of the dog. Always include a dog in your used car photos, they get me every time.

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
11 months ago
Reply to  10001010

Always include a dog in your used car photos…

That, used car sellers, is rock-solid marketing advice.

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
11 months ago

If that Dodge was near me, I’d be tempted to go check it out with my checkbook in hand. Looks far better than 99% of $3500 trucks I see for sale.

Most look more like that GMC, which is probably on borrowed time with that rust, even if it is mechanically sound.

R Rr
R Rr
11 months ago
Reply to  Vic Vinegar

I could never call anything with 2 different fluid leaks and a permanent ‘check engine’ light “mechanically sound”, but you do you 😉

Last edited 11 months ago by R Rr
Cam.man67
Cam.man67
11 months ago

That white truck is basically my daily, though mine only has 230k miles, and lacks the cool rear 3rd door. GM all the way.

Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
11 months ago

Dakota. They had me at “new tires”, but the whole package does appear to be in much better shape overall.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
11 months ago

This one goes to the Dakota. In terms of drivetrains, the 4L80-E and 46re are more or less on par (IMO). Both have solid V8s with good track records. At this point, the difference maker is body integrity; in addition to the Dakota allegedly not needing any work, it’s the easy choice in this contest. FWIW, I’m 6’3″ and about 240 LB, wide as a brick outhouse, and I actually find the interior of the first and second generation Dakotas a rather comfortable place to be.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
11 months ago

I’ll take the Dakota because it’s blue and I sorta liked these back in the day. I’d rather have a six and standard trans than eight and auto, but that combo is probably why this one is still running today, so, compromise. That backseat, though, will never hold all of the people I don’t like very much.

Fuzz
Fuzz
11 months ago

The A pillar in the Dakota makes a massive blind spot for a such a small truck. The GM truck may be weeping, but I think it would be a happier ownership.

DadBod
DadBod
11 months ago

I want to like the GM because dog, but I had the previous gen Dakota and it was a great truck.

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
11 months ago

I fully thought I would be voting GMC today, I like and trust those more, but the dakota with the V8 and no visible rust? Yeah gotta go Dodge. Also, the blue is awesome. It’s crazy to me these were only 1 model year apart, the Dodge looks like it’s at least a decade newer just due to the incredibly outdated body on the GMC.

Mike B
Mike B
11 months ago
Reply to  Brandon Forbes

I think OBS Chevies look better than most new trucks. Such a clean design.

Tom Gordon
Tom Gordon
11 months ago

Dakota all day. My third vehicle is a 2002 Dakota, and it went on vacation with my last week so I could haul all that stuff that I might use, and it was great on the trip. Such an underrated truck for the price. That said, I paid about this much for mine which had 100k less miles and 4 doors, so they both seem a little pricy, but I did buy right before the car market went nuts…

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
11 months ago

This is a tough one. The Dodge looks nicer, but if I go see the GMC seller I might get to pet a nice dog.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
11 months ago

DODGE for the win today.
BTW does anyone else find the current GM truck commercials stupid? What is this shit with taking your hands off the wheel so you can rock out to Queen? WTF? And hey let’s do it whilst passing other vehicles on a 2 lane road, just because we can?
THAT is some stupid shit here folks…

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
11 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

I guess it’s better than sitting there with you d**k in you hand. The whole premise of limited “hand’s free” driving that requires you to be alert and ready to take the wheel at a second’s notice is useless and dangerous as Torch has reiterated many times.

Nick Ginther
Nick Ginther
11 months ago

Really enjoy when the showdown is in my neck of the woods. Grew up near Augusta which is just east of Wichita. Both of these trucks feel like 1k too much to me. Voted Dodge anyway.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
11 months ago

The Dakota is the better bet here. So of course I voted for the OBS.

Gene1969
Gene1969
11 months ago

Dodge all the way!

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
11 months ago

I like ’90s GM trucks, but I have my limits. The photo of the undercarriage shows a lot of rust (incidentally, I hope that dog is just sleeping). It doesn’t look like it is rusty to the point of being structurally dangerous, buy it looks like the rust could compromise structural integrity in the near future. Also, they don’t show the entire undercarriage, so it is possible there are worse areas they are trying to hide. Even if the photos are representative, though, this thing is way overpriced at $2,900.

I have to go with the Dodge. It isn’t my favorite truck by any means, but it is in good condition. It is a reasonable purchase at this price.

Last edited 11 months ago by Stig's Cousin
Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
11 months ago

When the V8 Dakota came out that all is anyone talked about, it has a V8 unlike others in the class so they sucked. Then I read up on the V8, way more fuel usage and not much more towing than the V6.

Even with that I would take the Dakota based on shape and it is a work truck you don’t care it if it gets beaten up a bit.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
11 months ago
Reply to  Arrest-me Red

Agreed. There wasn’t much point to Dakotas in general, especially with the 8. I still always thought they were sharp, tho. I went the same way, today. I hate how thin on the ground these GMT400s have become here in the Midwest. They are very handsome trucks and you can’t beat that 350.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
11 months ago

I like the GMT400, but this one is too rusty 🙁

Also, the Dakota is a cooler color 😛

XLEJim700
XLEJim700
11 months ago

My first “car” was a ’72 Dodge Power Wagon W100,, auto, slant, 4WD with Warn locking hubs, 8′ bed. It was really good in the snow, but the manual steering could be a challenge at times.

I’ve already talked about the two bucket seats I had out in that huge stretch of open bed. They came out of a wrecked ’67 GTO and made for many a good time back in the old world.

So now I’ll vote for a second MoPar pickup for my imaginary stable.

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
11 months ago

This one’s a no-brainer.

Chrysler. It’s got the 5.2 Magnum (225HP, 300ft/lbs.) It’s got the A518 (46RE) instead of the 545RFE (much harder rebuild.) It’s got the NVG246. The body is all there and in much better shape. It’s got far lower miles.

A. Barth
A. Barth
11 months ago

Dakota, please!

It has been well used and I think well loved – look at pic #10 in the ad to see the row of small blingy bits below the rear window. The interior is in surprisingly good shape, the 318 is a good engine, and the body has not (yet) been claimed by rust. I am not generally a pickup person but this is what I would want a truck to be.

The GMC appears to be well loved too, which is nice, but it probably sounds like a harmonica on the highway.

World24
World24
11 months ago

You could probably make some money back on those running boards on that Dakota… maybe to buy some paint to re-paint the tailgate a similar shade of blue at least?

Drew
Drew
11 months ago

I’m not really a Dodge guy, but it’s blue, fewer miles, and plenty of pickup for my needs. Easy vote.

Last edited 11 months ago by Drew
Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
11 months ago

A Dakota similar to that one was the first car I ever bought brand new (V6, manual, black). I’d probably still have it if it hadn’t gotten t-boned. That truck is strangely clean for 270,000 miles, but it gets my vote on nostalgia alone. That body style just looks fantastic and always has.

Last edited 11 months ago by Rad Barchetta
06dak
06dak
11 months ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

Are you my doppleganger? My first new car was also a black ’98 Dakota Ext V6/5spd, just unfortunately 2WD. Only one built with a tow package, premium audio, and a 3.21 rear end lol. I unfortunately traded it in with 72k miles for a 01 4.7 V8 4×4 which went through 2 heater cores and new heads by 40k miles and turned me off the 2nd gen for awhile.
This one is definitely loved because it still has metal around the wheels. Most in my home state of Michigan are far crustier than this!

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
11 months ago
Reply to  06dak

damn close. Same year, but mine was a 4×4 (that never went offroad). Those were the days when you could option it a la carte in a lot of cases. I opted for no power windows and locks and used the money on the premium audio! (only two doors, why do I need power locks? I can just lean over and unlock the other side). Only had one minor problem with it, and I can’t recall what it was.
I had it repaired after the accident, but it never was quite the same. Still had new rattles and just didn’t feel right. So I traded it in. I still kinda miss that old gal.

TurboCruiser
TurboCruiser
11 months ago
Reply to  06dak

My father bought an ’01 brand new with the 4.7, 5spd and 2wd. His went 284k miles over 14yrs before he sold it and it was still on the original heater core. Idk if he was lucky or you got unlucky. Growing up with that truck really imprinted on me which is why I recently bought an ’03 R/T with the 5.9. They are still one of the best looking trucks in the past couple decades.

Last edited 11 months ago by TurboCruiser
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