Home » Same Year, Similar Problems: 1990 Dodge Dakota Convertible vs 1990 Chevy Corvette

Same Year, Similar Problems: 1990 Dodge Dakota Convertible vs 1990 Chevy Corvette

Sbsd 4 17 2024
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Good morning, Autopians! For your mid-week Showdown, we’re going to look at a couple of American fixer-uppers from the same year: 1990. Both of them need a little love, but both of them are probably worth it.

But first, let’s see which BMW you chose yesterday. It sounds like you had a bit of a hard time choosing between these two, but in the end, the 535i took a two-to-one win over the little 3 Series. Some of you commented that a six-cylinder is the only “proper” engine for a BMW to have, and I guess I’d agree, except that the 2002 was a thing, and if it wasn’t a proper BMW, nothing is.

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I would have a hard time choosing between them as well. I’d be a lot more inclined to vote for the 535 if it were any color but bright red; I’m still not a fan of red cars. But it’s significantly cheaper, and has a more honest-sounding ad.

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It’s funny how your perception of time changes as you get older. 1990 was the year I graduated from high school, and it’s hard to believe that that was twice as long ago as my age at the time (yes, I graduated at 17; I was a precocious little shit). Even harder to believe is that what I considered a “classic” car at the time, my dad’s friend’s 1968 Ford Galaxie, was only 22 years old then. 22-year-old cars now are my bread-and-butter on here; they’re just old crappy cars, nothing “classic” about them.

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And here we have two vehicles from 1990 that have passed through the veil of merely old and crappy and have emerged as classics. They’re both as old and tired as I feel some mornings, and both in need of some serious overhaul work. But are their best days behind them? Hell no. Let’s see which one you’re more willing to whip back into shape.

1990 Dodge Dakota Sport Convertible – $4,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.9 liter overhead valve V6, five-speed manual, RWD

Location: Concord, CA

Odometer reading: 156,000 miles

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Operational status: Runs, but needs a lot of work

This was a new one on me. I knew about the Dakota convertible, of course, but I had no idea they were available with a manual transmission. I’ve only ever seen automatics. I coudn’t find the exact production figures, but fewer than 4,000 Dakota convertibles were built in total, and only a few hundred of those were manuals. This is a rare vehicle.

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The Dakota convertible was built by ASC, like a lot of convertibles built in the US. It has a manual top, and a roll bar behind the seats. As far as I can tell, the convertible was only available with the Sport package, which included the stripes, the alloy wheels, the blackout trim, and the 3.9 liter V6, This is before the Magnum multi-port fuel injection days; this one makes do with basic throttle-body fuel injection. The seller says it starts and runs, but “the engine does not have a lot left in it.” What that means, I don’t know, but if it starts and runs, at least you can find out. It also needs a new clutch and some cooling system work.

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The interior is partially disassembled, but the seller says all the parts are there except the carpet. The power windows and locks don’t work, and I don’t see any mention of air conditioning. Good thing the top is manual.

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The outside looks all right, but it’s no show truck. The stripes are cracked in a few places, and there are some bad spots in the paint. There is also a little bit of rust in the windshield header; it’s probably nothing, but it bears some investigation. All in all, this truck has good bones, it looks like, and since most of what it needs is mechanical, it shouldn’t be too difficult to repair.

1990 Chevrolet Corvette – $3,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 5.7 liter overhead valve V8, six-speed manual, RWD

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Location: Arden, CA

Odometer reading: 114,000 miles

Operational status: Was running recently, now won’t start, and clutch is shot

Another example of the time slipping away phenomenon is that in my mind, I still think of the C4 Corvette as “the new Corvette.” Probably because I remember what a big deal it was when it came out. It was such a radical departure from the old C3 that it may as well have been a spaceship. It feels dated now, but I still can’t help but think of it as new, which makes seeing a faded, worn-out one like this a bit surreal.

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1990 was a weird year for the Corvette, the first year of the new interior and the last year of the old exterior. It’s also the second year for the six-speed ZF manual transmission, instead of the old Doug Nash 4+3. The six-speed has an annoying feature called Computer Aided Gear Selection, CAGS for short, or “that stupid skip-shift thing” by nearly anyone who has driven one. CAGS locks you out of second and third gear when you’re puttering around at low speeds, forcing you to upshift from first to fourth, in the name of fuel economy. You’ll be happy to know that a simple bypass connector is available to eliminate it, and it only costs like twenty bucks.

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In front of that six-speed gearbox is a tuned-port injection 350 V8, RPO code L98, making 245 horsepower. The days of slow Corvettes were over by 1990; this one ran to 60 MPH in a respectable 5.7 seconds and managed low 14s in the quarter mile. This one sat for a long time, but the seller had it running just a couple of weeks ago, and now it won’t start again. It’s gotta be fuel or spark, and my first guess would be fuel. I bet they didn’t clean out the tank or the lines, and just dumped some new gas in. It’s probably gummed up.

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It also needs–let’s see –a new clutch, new shocks, an E-brake cable, a rear wheel bearing, a new windshield, new weatherstripping, and the air conditioning fixed. That’s quite a list of stuff, but if you have the ability to do the work yourself, it’s not a whole lot of money in parts.

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The nice thing about both of these vehicles is that, if you don’t mind a little faded paint, they only need mechanical repairs. And we’re talking about a Chevy and a Dodge, nothing exotic. Just buy some parts, turn some wrenches, and you’ll end up with a fun-to-drive classic that you don’t have to fuss over, whichever one you choose.

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Theotherotter
Theotherotter
1 month ago

I’m about the same age as Mark, and I feel him on perception of time. I received my Sentra SE-R when I graduated from high school in 1993. It’s now 31 years old. A 31-year-old car when I graduated would have been….1962. And there was nothing remotely modern-feeling about a 1962 car in 1993.

Matthew Hogan
Matthew Hogan
1 month ago

Fixing up the Dakota is easier than the Vette, and in the end you have a legit rare classic. If the interior in that Vette was better it would get the nod.

TheDrunkenWrench
TheDrunkenWrench
1 month ago

I don’t own any jean shorts or New Balance, I’ll take the Dakota please!

TDI in PNW
TDI in PNW
1 month ago

I’ve always liked those wheels. I am not a Corvette person but the wheels look perfect for that car.

Brau Beaton
Brau Beaton
1 month ago

Absolutely LOVE this era of Dakota! Searched for two years trying to buy one in 2000 but those who have ’em love ’em and will not let them go, so I had to opt for something else. Today my need has passed but I still lust after one … and it’s a convertible you say? SOLD!

Here4thecars
Here4thecars
1 month ago

I saw one of the drop-top Dakotas in Santa Cruz a few years ago and thought it was pretty cool. The owner actually had a bunch of press material in the car explaining it’s provenance that he was happy to show me. Who knows, maybe this is the same vehicle I saw? It’s the same color. With my imaginary money I voted Dakota.
*edit* Just went and found the photos I took of the Dakota, and it’s not the same vehicle. Same color, but different graphics, and the one I saw was in much better shape. What are the odds that there would be two of these rare birds in the Bay Area of Northern California?

Last edited 1 month ago by Here4thecars
Greensoul
Greensoul
1 month ago

Check that Dakota for rust. I had a now gone to meet his reward friend that bought one off of the showroom floor and worshipped that thing until his departure. It leaked like crazy .Going through a car wash with the roof up was akin to going through it with the top down .Would have made no difference. Not a water tight conversion on that Dakota.

Timothy Swanson
Timothy Swanson
1 month ago

After the C-1, I think the C-4 is the prettiest Vette. This one has an honest SBC without the twitchy CrossFire. Voting Vette.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
1 month ago

Dakota

VermonsterDad
VermonsterDad
1 month ago

This was a tough one. . .went with Dakota just due to being rare.

Hatebobbarker
Hatebobbarker
1 month ago

Manual convertible truck please!

XLEJim700
XLEJim700
1 month ago

Haven’t some of us crossed paths with a topless “Dakota” at some point? Time to relive the good times.

Church
Church
1 month ago

I cannot resist a Dakota. And a super rare one? I’m in. This is objectively wrong about me, but I don’t care.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago

One of these is rare and it ain’t the Corvette. Going with completely silly Dakota convertible because why not? Plus, I like trucks where the top comes off. Never mind that the Dakota’s top was really just the idea of a top versus a real working weather cover.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago

Well convertibles yea, smaller trucks yeah, rare manual yeah. Corvette they all suck and this one is dead with no diagnosis. How far can you stick your fingers up its exhaust system for a pre colonoscopy that it’s owner probably needs as well.

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 month ago

Corvette, even though I don’t really like them. This one has the right wheels and I can only imagine all the parts needed to put it right are easily available.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 month ago

Corvette for me. I always thought the Dakota convertible was stupid. The only way I would vote for it over the Vette is if it was in much better condition.

This one isn’t.

So the Vette gets my vote.

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
1 month ago

This one is easy. I’ll take the Dakota. While I have heard they aren’t easy to live with (the top supposedly doesn’t fit well causing leaks and annoying wind noises), it is one of the coolest pickup trucks ever built. I love pickup trucks and, after selling my Wrangler a few years ago, I really want another open-air vehicle. I think I would really enjoy this truck. Also, I am someone who prefers a manual transmission (even bad manual transmissions and/or in vehicles where the automatic is objectively better), so this truck has more appeal than the few other Dakota convertibles I have seen for sale.

I have no idea what this truck is worth in this condition. I also know I don’t have the mechanical ability to get it road worthy. I think I would have no problem giving the seller $4,000 for it, though. Unfortunately, the truck is 3,000 miles from where I live so that is a bit of a barrier.

It is probably better for my wallet that the coolest vehicles on Shitbox Showdown always seem to be located on the west coast.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
1 month ago

This was a bit of a tough one. I am philosophically not a convertible person, but those convertible Dakotas are on my list of exceptions…except this one is in rough shape. What is on my list of wants is a cheap 6-speed L98 Vette, though my preference is for 1991 model to get the newer exterior. Around where I live, absolutely beat junk Vettes go for twice what is being asked here, so I’m going with the Vette just on price alone. If the Vette were any more expensive, I’d be on team Dakota.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

TBF on a pickup this manual convertible is really just a sunroof.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Fair, though it’s a bit more than that as you don’t get a back window to limit wind buffeting.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

Not sure it had that

DaChicken
DaChicken
1 month ago

I already have a 90 Vette (convertible, 6sp) and I would take that one, too. Easy cars to work on, mostly cheap fixes. As long as the dual-mass flywheel is still in decent shape a new clutch is pretty easy and cheap to do. Not exactly fast by modern sports car metrics but still fun to rip around in.

Regarding the CAGS, you can also just unplug the connector at the transmission. No codes or other adverse effects on these early OBD1 systems.

Luxobarge
Luxobarge
1 month ago

I don’t know what I’m going to do with a convertible pickup, but I know exactly what I’ll do with a 1990 ‘Vette. It’s the Corvette for me.

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