One of the positives of buying and selling cars is all the different people you get to meet. One of the downsides of buying and selling cars is all the different people you have to meet.
A little background: In the late 70s the kid next door and I were both in first grade. His grandfather would occasionally give us a ride to school in his orange Dodge Ramcharger. I remember thinking it was the most fascinating vehicle I’d ever ridden in. It certainly wasn’t a car, but it was not a pickup truck either.
The pickups of the 1970s there were not like the crew cab or double cab pickups seen everywhere today. I think that 99% of them back then were regular cab trucks. I remember being stunned when I saw my first Datsun King Cab! There is space behind the seats? It was like something from outer space!
The Ramcharger was just a derivative of a Dodge pickup. It came equipped with bucket seats and a massive center console. The back seat was actually higher off the floor so rear passengers had a great view, and there was a huge area for storage behind the second row. The Ramcharger was different, and for a seven year-old, different was cool. I decided that one day, I would own one.
Fast-forward a few decades. I was perusing the internet local used junklist and I found one. It looked okay in the picture, it said it ran good, and the price was rock-bottom. Every time I called the number it went to voicemail and said “voicemail box full”. I gave up after about the third or fourth call over a two day span. What kind of person wants to sell something and doesn’t answer their phone? I wondered.
I really needed transportation. I have four kids, and each time one of them turned 16 I gave them my car. This was one of those times, so back to the web junklist I went. The same Ramcharger was posted again, this time with a new lower price! I called the same number and there was still no answer, but this time the voicemail worked! I left my name and number and soon forgot about it.
Two days later I receive a cryptic sounding call and the only word I can understand this man saying is “Ram”. I was about to hang up when I realized it was the seller of the Ramcharger. Only it wasn’t actually the seller, it was his agent or assistant or something. Why you need an agent to sell an old $750 Dodge, I’ll never understand, but I got the address and went to look at it. The vehicle was being used to haul hay so it was a mess. It had an automatic, with a fuel-injected LA 5.2 (318 V8) and 2 wheel drive but I couldn’t hear it run or take it for a test drive because, of course, there was no one there. I called and left a voicemail. Another couple days later the “agent” calls and we agree on a day and time. I express frustration, telling him I have to borrow my wife’s car each time I drive out to look at it. He promises that they both will be there.
By this point it has been nearly ten days since I first saw the ad. I pulled up to see someone laying on top of a picnic table and another individual peering down at him. The one standing gave me the keys and the supine person did not move. The Ramcharger fired right up and the quick test drive was uneventful (unless you count dust and hay blowing everywhere). I checked fluids and crawled underneath it and it really seemed to be in nice condition. The price negotiations were like a comedy sketch. I think I offered $600 to the couple, and the lying down man wanted $700, but the standing man said we should compromise at $650. I had the cash literally in hand, but the deal would end up having to be done the next day, because the laying down man had the title at another location.
This was probably one of the most drawn-out, protracted auto purchases I’d ever had to go through. Many times I asked myself if it was worth it. We FINALLY closed the deal the next day.
After a thorough cleaning this old SUV was actually pleasant to drive. Early Ramchargers came with a removable roof, but this one was fixed. It was as roomy as I remembered in the first grade. The 5.2 was under-powered and a gas hog, but it always started right up. The Bendix had that distinctive “wheezy” Chrysler starter sound. Some readers will know exactly what I am referring to.
Plymouth had their version called the Trailduster, I guess this name was chosen because it incorporated the name of another Plymouth vehicle? Bonus points for a little creativity. Other than the front end treatment and badging, I think the Ramcharger and Trailduster were identical.
At any rate, I drove the Ramcharger for a while, but I got bored with it. I identify with Jay Leno. Leno says many Hollywood types have had multiple marriages but only one car, and he has had only one wife, but hundreds of cars. My wife and I married our junior year of college. One wife, over 50 cars. I know I’ve SOLD more cars than Leno because I only have a two car garage.
Speaking of selling cars: It is funny that some vehicle transactions go so quickly and easily, and others are a disaster. I think the Ramcharger had some kind of a transaction curse. When I put it up for sale I only had one interested buyer. He was very interested though. The sale took much longer than it should have, the buyer probably called me about ten times and came to my house three times. Ultimately, closing the deal included me driving the truck to his house. After I got the cash things began to get weird. He took his shirt off, and wanted me to hang out and have a beer. I decided to start walking home rather than wait the extra five minutes for my wife to come and get me. I did not want to see any Ramchargers after that. As common as they were years ago, I almost never see one now.
Owning a Ramcharger was a promise made to my seven year-old self. It has now been crossed off my COAL bucket list.