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Party Like It's 1989 In the Dodge Dakota Convertible Pickup Truck

These rare soft-top compact pickups preceded today's Jeep Gladiator by decades.

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is the only roofless pickup truck on the market today, but over 30 years ago, Chrysler offered a different convertible pickup: The Dodge Dakota Sport. In between, there haven't been many imitators—we're lookin' at you, Chevrolet SSR—and maybe for good reason. While the Gladiator shares in the outdoorsy, roof-and-doors-off vibe of the Wrangler with which it's visually connected, the SSR was strange and the Dakota convertible was downright bizarre.

Starting in 1989, Dodge started shipping a few regular-cab Dakotas to American Sunroof Company (ASC) for conversion into convertibles. The process was fairly straightforward: ASC lopped off the roof, fitted a goofy-looking single-hoop roll bar, and a worn-tent-like soft top with a crappy plastic rear window. New, frameless-glass doors also were installed for a cleaner top-down appearance. Thing is, top-up or down, the Dakota convertible looked pretty ungainly—today's Gladiator suffers a similar affliction. But, hey, it was one of a kind. Think of these as reverse mullets: Business in the back, party up front.

Keep in mind that before the roofless Dakota came along, there had been several pickup-esque creations without roofs. Early Chevy Blazers and Broncos come to mind, and you could make the case for Toyota's 4Runner with its removable rear roof section being a truck if you removed the back seats. Subaru's Brat pickup wasn't a full convertible, but it did offer huge removable T-top panels.

Most of those other rigs had more lasting power than the Dodge, though, which fizzled out of existence after 1991. After it sold a little over 2800 examples in 1989, Dodge pushed only 909 on customers the following year, and fewer than 10 the year after that. Those sales figures plop the Dodge firmly in the company of other failed, yet weirdly interesting, convertibles such as the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet and the Range Rover Evoque convertible.

If rare-because-bad-not-because-good interests you—or you'd like to win at your local Radwood gathering—we have good news: There is a decent-looking '89 Dakota convertible for sale on Craigslist in Fort Meyers, Florida at the time of publishing. It's a white example with sweet "Dakota Sport" graphics across its hips and under 100,000 miles on its odometer. The seller notes that the top will need replacing soon, which is a head-scratcher for us when it comes to evaluating this thing's $7,000 asking price. Maybe a new top is cheap and easy to source-more likely, it isn't.

Either way, this one looks clean and isn't egregiously expensive. And we've seen these things listed before, so they're not extinct. At least not yet. If this ain't for you, Jeep surely will sell you a new Gladiator. We hear the awkward-looking base models are heavily discounted, but, hey, they come with a warranty and are honest-to-goodness convertible pickup trucks.