Curbside Classic: 1982 Dodge Ram 150 – Eat Rice; Potatoes Make Your Butt BIG

My wife and I aren’t big practitioners of tradition.  Tradition is fine and all, but being chained or obligated to them limits our ability for enjoying new, or different, experiences.

Aren’t new and different experiences the key to giving extra zest to life?

However, we have been keeping a tradition nearly every August for about the last twenty years, one which has involved sightings of this refreshingly basic Dodge pickup for nearly every one of those years.  Like us, this Dodge still looks to be in good shape although the years are starting to exert their influence by means of its appearance.

Since it’s now the middle of winter in North America, discussing summertime activities seems appropriate.  One of the few traditions my wife and I have contains an intoxicating cocktail of predictability and unpredictability.  What is it?  Going to the Missouri State Fair every August.  Summer is simply incomplete without doing so.

The state fair has provided plenty of fodder for these pages over the years such as the ancient Ford F-600 that likely witnessed a music festival (some pictures are here) that made Woodstock appear like Sunday school.  All are linked at the bottom.

Yet this Dodge has always escaped me.  But just what is it, other than being among the best and most lovely Dodge pickups ever built, that makes it so special?


One could look far and wide and never see any bumper sticker that is so well color-coordinated.

At least this bumper sticker didn’t say “Eat More ‘Possum”.  I’ve seen those, too.  And, no, I haven’t tried opossum (that I can remember), although I see them in my yard quite frequently.

A person needs context as context means everything.  We know this is the state fair, which deals with all nearly all industry within the state, but this Dodge is invariably parked near the Agriculture Building.  The Ag Building is such a natural setting for a green Dodge  In fact, where this Dodge was parked for these pictures is the furthest I’ve ever seen it from the Ag Building – which was about two hundred feet behind from where I took this picture.

Seeing such a blatant call for changing one’s diet, particularly given its setting, got me to wondering and researching, a very healthy reaction.  For instance…

Did you know Missouri has around 200,000 acres planted in rice each year, primarily in the Bootheel, making the state the fourth largest rice producer in the nation?  As of 2019, the US Department of Agriculture reported Arkansas has more land devoted to rice production than does California (roughly 2:1), with Missouri being right behind Louisiana (third most) in acreage.  Texas is behind Missouri in ranking.

Rice production relies heavily on irrigation.  The Missouri Bootheel is old swamp that was drained in the early 20th Century, where laborers could earn either a dollar per day or an acre per day.  Not only does this make for fertile farmland, it also means the water table in the Missouri Bootheel is quite shallow, around six feet or so.

Sitting on the infamous New Madrid (pronounced Mad-rid) Fault, the ongoing concern is how this shallow water table could prompt the ground in that area to liquify if we have another earthquake.  There were a series of quakes along the New Madrid Fault from December 1811 to February 1812; each is estimated to be well over 7.0, some over 8.0, on the Richter scale.

In 2021, the per capita rice consumption in the United States was 11.7 kilograms per person per year.  That is up from a low of 2.36 kilograms in 1978.

Bangladesh has the highest per capita rice consumption on the planet at 257 kilograms per person per year.

From Idaho

So do Americans eat a lot more potatoes?  Do potatoes make one’s butt big?  Well, the average American is taller but has a higher body-mass index (which does not account for differences in people’s frame size) than once upon a time.  Is it from eating too many spuds?

Americans consume potatoes at four times the rate of rice, or 48.6 kg per person per year.  But in potato eating ranking, the United States is way behind Belarus (170.5 kg, making it the leader) as well as the Netherlands, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and New Zealand.  But we are ahead of Australia.

Potato production in Missouri is not a significant thing as our weather is generally too warm.  What few potato farms exist are also in the Bootheel area.

What if the owner of this old Dodge lives down in Missouri rice country and makes the trip to the fair in Sedalia every year?  If so, it’s 320 miles to the fair from Kennett, the most populated town within the Bootheel proper.

For this unfamiliar, Kennett is way south.  Going west gets you to Arkansas and due east gets you to Tennessee.  Memphis is much closer than is St. Louis; Little Rock is about as far away as is St. Louis.

Would I set off for that distance in this old Dodge, a true beauty powered by the versatile and rugged 318?  Hell yes.  I wouldn’t think twice about it.  Plus, if I encountered any parking spots dedicated to green vehicles, I would proudly and triumphantly park this green Dodge in its rightful – and reserved – parking spot.

We’ve spent time delving into bumper stickers, but not so much this Dodge itself.  Such needs to be corrected as this Dodge is from an interesting time in automotive history.

January 7, 1980; Lee has apparently finished his serving of humble pie and nobody looks too enthused.

Forget about the whole government bailout of Chrysler thing (the first one) from two years before this half-ton was built.  There were other factors at play which made this an interesting time period.  It was during this time there were major economic doldrums within the United States combined with remarkably high fuel prices.

It was in 1982 that General Motors introduced the S-10, a homegrown compact pickup.  GM had been peddling the Isuzu built L’UV for a while, but they wanted something they could call their own.

Ford followed suit in 1983 with the Ranger, supplanting the Mazda sourced Courier.

Chrysler, like GM and Ford, had their captive import, using a rebadged Mitsubishi Triton for their compact truck offering.

Unsurprisingly, resources were precious for poor old Chrysler (Bailout 1.0 happened for a reason) and what resources Chrysler had were dedicated to where sales were happening.

This is where the sales were happening for Chrysler in 1982.

As anybody even remotely familiar with the 1970s and 1980s American light truck industry, heavy sales volume was a foreign entity for Dodge truck salesmen.  Dodge was in a perpetual, and distant, third place in light truck sales.  For years.  Decades.

It has often been said necessity is the mother of invention.  Or creativity, in this case.

Not having the wherewithal to introduce a compact pickup of their own, Dodge took an idea from their passenger car line and applied it to their pickups.  It melded full size utility with compact fuel economy – in theory.

It was called the Miser.

The Miser, an optional package whose name was borrowed from the Omni lineup, was a basic, no frills half-ton powered by the fire breathing 90 horsepower 225 cubic inch slant six.  Dodge advertised these heavily, touting their excellent (if delusional) fuel mileage estimates.

It must have worked as it is easy to find these Misers for sale yet today.  Although, thinking about it, such is not surprising.  Long ago I had ample seat time in an ’87 Ram 150 (non-Miser) powered by that very same slant six.  It was an awful experience in the modestly hilly terrain of Southern Illinois; I can only imagine the joy of driving it in truly hilly areas.  No wonder so many of them still exist; they were miser-able to drive.

From what can be determined, the Miser ran its course by around 1984, drifting off into the mists of time upon fuel prices lowering.

In all likelihood, somebody at Highland Park said the hell with this fuel economy crap, let’s make trucks that people truly want!  Wanting to build aspirational trucks, instead of something one settled for, the Dodge boys went back to building joyous, fun to drive beauties such as these.  Such has worked out really well until about the last few months or so.  It was a good run.

Or maybe I’m just speculating.

Regardless this old Dodge is a delight to see on my annual and traditional pilgrimage to the Missouri State Fair.  May she continue to be present for another forty years, able to keep her butt trim and shapely.

(Author’s Note:  If you sensed any enthusiastic bias toward Dodge pickups of this vintage, you are well-tuned to fine nuances.  I owned an ’87 Dodge D-250 and currently own a ’91 W-150; these truly are awesome pickups that continue to be an overlooked gem.)

Found August 2023 between the Horticulture and Poultry Buildings at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia.

Related state fair reading:

1959 Dodge Coronet highway patrol car

1968 Mercury highway patrol car

1972ish Ford F-600

Related Dodge goodness:

1987 Dodge D250