Dodge was considered an also-ran in the full-size truck market in the 1980s, but due to its partnership with Mitsubishi was able to field a competitive small truck to compete with the big Japanese brands just as its cross-town competition did with their own Japanese sourced stock until they developed their eventual in-house offerings. As opposed to Ford and GM, Dodge never did develop a small truck of their own for sale here – the eventual Dakota was mid-sized and even after that was released the smaller Mitsubishi sourced Ram 50 continued in the lineup for several more years.
This 1984 model is from the tail end of the first generation of its run, and being 4WD is known as the Power Ram 50 as opposed to just Ram 50. The early ’80s were a bit of an odd time for the Mitsu-Chrysler partnership as offerings seeming randomly changed year to year as to who offered what with this same truck being offered as a Plymouth for a few years until Mitsubishi decided (or was able) to offer it under its own brand as the MightyMax starting in 1982 at which time Plymouth ended their version.
But Dodge soldiered on with it. Stylistically it was on the generic side, easily confused with the Datsun/Nissan especially from the front, and likely with all the others as well for those not really versed in the differences.
Of course the back end of any of these trucks generally makes it extremely clear what one is looking at. I love these old-style camper shells made out of aluminum with straighter lines than the newfangled fiberglass offerings that were starting to appear on the market around this time.
That shell probably has never been off of the truck since the beginning, the paint on the 6.5 foot long bed looks almost like new.
4WD was only added starting in 1982 but was a popular option, especially in mountain areas such as Colorado and Wyoming where this one seemed to have spent most of its time judging by where it is, the University of Wyoming sticker, as well as the Holiday Homes Inc label on the camper shell which was a company in Colorado Springs.
Power was provided by Mitsubishi’s 4G54 (this particular version known as the G54B) engine, the 2.6liter four cylinder unit of which different versions have powered numerous vehicles built by both Mitsubishi and Chrysler, in this case as a carbureted version producing around 114hp and 146lb-ft of torque. A 2liter four was also available on 2WD Ram 50 models as well as a 2.3liter turbodiesel on either model.
The cabin layout was typical for these trucks with a bench seat and not a lot of extra space for those on the tall side. But in typical Japanese style, they were relatively well equipped from the base model.
This one’s a 5-speed manual, the transfer case used a chain to drive the front wheels and could be switched from two to four wheel drive on the fly, only needing a stop to engage the low range.
Shifting back into 2WD automatically releases the front hubs, a feature that Dodge decided was worthy of advertising. It’s interesting how the hub cap doesn’t actually cover the hub in this case, I suppose trim ring is a better descriptor as it only covers the lug nuts.
Back inside, I’m a bit perplexed as to how the HVAC works here, specifically the bottom slider that has “off” on the left and “hot” on the right. I’m assuming that’s the temperature control and that “cold”, i.e. ambient air is selected by having the selector be where it currently is, just to the right of the “off” position? There’s no A/C on this one either.
Gauges are sparse but legible and at least no blanks are present here with warning lights taking over where a gauge was deemed unnecessary. The tiny little hazard light switch position is curious, this seems a very Detroit way of doing it, i.e. not easily accessible in an emergency situation. The 34405 mileage figure likely needs at least a 1 in front of it to be correct and perhaps even a 2; the interior seems in too good of shape for that many but the exterior sort of supports it.
Overall a pleasant enough place to spend time and holding up well after 35 years of use (I came across this truck last fall and just found it again in my files).
These used to be a semi-regular sighting on the roads but have more of less disappeared (late edit: I ran across a running 1984 Power Ram 50 in the parking lot of this same junkyard between writing this up last week and it publishing now, the CC effect strikes us writers as well!).
The second generation with slightly more rounded off bodywork is getting scarcer as well, but for a long time oodles of these small trucks were all over the place, adding a lot of variety to the offerings. All though were essentially “same same but different” as is commonly heard in Asian tourist markets with brand preference and price having as much to do with a purchase decision as anything else as they for the most part all performed their jobs pretty well.
If nothing else, these little trucks helped Mitsubishi establish a bit of a beachhead over here that they then used to break into the market with their own branded offerings. It looks like that may be coming to an end again soon though, but I kind of like their offerings despite never having owned one myself under any label. I guess that makes me part of the problem, hmm. Mitsubishi gets bagged on a lot these days by people that I don’t think have ever driven or owned one and I don’t really buy into the mantra that they are unworthy of consideration.
Not that it would happen but I wonder if a renewed relationship with FCA and their much larger dealer network could make some sense. Mitsubishi does have a range of smaller cars and CUVs with some interesting electric technology that with some judicious choices could fill a few gaps in some of FCA’s offerings, not least of which being a reasonably priced smaller pickup truck (one item not currently offered here by Mitsubishi but sold in over 150 overseas markets) that would seem an obvious fit.
If a Mitsubishi was considered “Ram Tough” back then, then why not now?
(Note: RAM actually does already sell it as the RAM1200 in some markets but not here due to the “chicken tax” – whose time has come and long gone but that’s a discussion for another day.)