By on August 28, 2012

In the final year of the Malaise Era, truck shoppers could still get a Chrysler SUV that wasn’t trying to be a tall New Yorker. Because the echoes of the vans-and-Quaaludes ethos of the 1970s were still quite loud in 1983, this Ramcharger came equipped with groovy earth-tone stripes.
The Royal SE package came with all sorts of options that seem fairly primitive by 21st-century SUV standards: cigarette lighter, bucket seats, and so on. I am unable to determine whether the stripes were factory-installed or applied by a custom-minded owner with vivid memories of steamboating Acapulco Gold through a toilet-paper tube.
Power came courtesy of the same 318 or 360 engine that motivated variations of just about every rear-drive Chrysler product from the late 1960s until well into the present century.
It is a disappointment that no Royal SE Brougham Edition was ever sold.

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48 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1983 Dodge Ramcharger Royal SE...”


  • avatar
    stephenjmcn

    These always looked to me to be ridiculously similar to the GM trucks of the same era, especially around the doors. Are they totally unrelated?

    • 0 avatar
      Maxb49

      I’m glad you asked this question. No, they are not unrelated. For the longest time, the frames of ALL the big three full size trucks were manufactured by one company named Tower Automotive, a division of A.O. Smith (the water heater manufacturer).

      • 0 avatar
        stephenjmcn

        @Maxb49 knowledge like that is why I come here – thanks.

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        The fact that the blazer, bronco and ramcharger had some of their components manufactured by the same companies does not make them related. Both ford and dodge trucks of this era had heavier frames than GM trucks.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Not only what Moparman said below, but… the frames?

        Yeah, even if they had *identical* frames that won’t make them look the same, because they are after all body-on-frame vehicles. Body design decisions aren’t *that* dependent on frame details…

        If the Dodge and GM trucks look similar in that era, that’s because the designers were copying one another, or some common inspiration.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    I like the paint scheme. Reminds me of a jukebox or a fast food restaurant from the same era.

  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    They may not have had a Royal SE Brougham Edition, but at least they did have a Bordello Red interior on the Royal. Oh and if those stripes weren’t factory they were dealer add-ons since I remember seeing these in my youth.

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    “Power came courtesy of the same 318 or 360 engine that motivated variations of just about every rear-drive Chrysler product from the late 1960s until well into the present century.”

    Err… What 2000+ products were motivated by the 360 or 318? I believe the last year for the 360 was in the ’97 Ram.

    • 0 avatar
      DinosaurWine

      Nope. Half-ton Rams were powered by the 5.9/360 until 2002, when they switched to the Hemi.

    • 0 avatar

      They just changed the designation from cubic inches to liters, because that made the engine seem more modern, or European, or something.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        Reference Grampa Simpson, “the metric system is the instrument of the devil!”. And, apparently, desperate marketing execs.

      • 0 avatar
        Joe McKinney

        Metric designations can make some of the old, big block engines sound even bigger. My 1967 Thunderbird has a 390 and I have always thought it would be fun to add some discrete 6.4 Liter badges.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        “Did I ever tell you kids about my 7.8 Litre V6?”

      • 0 avatar
        nrd515

        I don’t think anything short of universal Alzheimer’s could have made the 318/360 more modern. The “magnumizing” sure didn’t.
        When I was truck shopping in 2000, the 360 kept me from buying a Ram. With only 15 miles on the odometer, the truck they gave me to test “just bring it back before closing at 9PM!” pinged like it was 20 years old and the timing chain had jumped. I had driven another truck at another dealer, and it pinged just like the other one did. Clack…clack..clack. I went to the Chevy dealer, liked the truck, but every one they had was loaded with crappy bolt on junk, so I went to the GMC dealer and bought a Sierra with a 5.3. Other than the nonsensical claims made by GM of a “carbon” tick it had when starting up cold (It was lifters, plain and simple), it was a great truck until it was wrecked. In 2003, after I decided the Sierra had to go, the Ram’s hemi made the choice a simple one to go to Dodge. I loved that truck, and miss it every time I see it, about 5 times a week.

  • avatar

    These stripes are definately aftermarket and not factory installed. If anything, they were dealer installed.

    I had one of these. My parents purchased it new, for Mom, back in 1984. It was a Royal SE package, 2WD, two-tone blue, with a 318/auto combo. I purchased it from my parents sometime around 91 or 92 so Mom could get a new minivan.

    I kept the truck, making various modifications and damages over the years, and finally junked it back in 2002.

    During my morning commute to Auburn hills every monring, I see a flawless example on the road here. It’s a black, 4wd, base (non-SE) model. No custom rims, painted white steel wheels and hubcaps. It’s beautiful! I would buy it form this dudee in second if I could.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      Screw being modern. The small block chrysler was and still is one of the most rugged engines ever made. A bodies with complete interiors and all steel body panels run in the mid-high 12′s with out of the box 360 crate motors.

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    These Ram Chargers are still quite common here in the southeast. I would imagine you see quite a few in Colorado as well.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    They remain on the road anywhere that doesn’t use salt, I would imagine. Certainly have a batch in Texas.

    • 0 avatar
      Neb

      Good to know; reporting from a place that uses salt like you would not believe, these things have vanished off the roads. (Actually, now that I think of it, they’ve vanished off the roads of Canada even in the no salt zone; I think they remained popular and were all used up.)

      When I was growing up, Ramchargers were common in my town. Despite being pigs on gas, they were durable and easy to fix, and that made them popular with anybody who did stuff in the back country. They also were popular with local utility companies, probably for the same reasons.

      • 0 avatar
        nrd515

        There’s a bronze one here in Toledo still running around the South end of town, I see it a couple times a month, complete with the awful hood ornament and the hideous flat aluminum hubcaps that stripper ones had. Between the dorky stuff above, that color just doesn’t work, it reminds me of what came out of the “puke tank” of a nitro car at the drag races. An orangey mix of oil, water, and nitro, it wasn’t a reach to call it puke. It’s in great shape though. Somehow, even thought it’s driven year round, it’s holding up very well.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    Why did the Big 3 get rid of full size, 2 door SUVs like these?

    Maybe it’s the era I grew up in, but EVERY guy wanted a Bronco or 2 Dr Blazer.

    Do they canibalize sales of other trucks, or did they just stop selling?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I blame OJ Simpson. While it is true that he XJ Cherokee 4-door was a runaway sales success that begot the Exploder, there had been 4-door Wagoneers and Suburbans for decades. International offered them too. I think the numbers would have been there for at least one or two 2-door models to survive, but then OJ made Broncos into liabilities. Now all that is left is the ever bigger and bulkier Wrangler.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      By the mid 90′s the 2 door full-size SUV was on the way out due to the family SUV craze. Ruggedness, simplicity, and off-road capability took a back seat to comfort and kid-friendly accessibility. Like CJ mentioned OJ’s little escapade was the final nail in the coffin.

      Blazers, Broncos, and even Ramchargers are still very popular since no equivalent exists today. I’m hoping that the CUV craze and corresponding lack of any usable capability beyond being able to haul a few large bags of dog food from Costco will bring back demand for capable, short wheelbase full size SUVs. If Ford sees fit to create an Ecoboost Bronco I’ll be the first to plunk down 35k. Until then my well loved ’96 with manual transmission and old school 302 will soldier on.

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        Yeah, the market pretty well killed them off. It wasn’t worth spending the development money and taking up production capacity, when resources could be more profitably used on the 4-doors. GM marketed 2-door Suburbans up until about 1998 or 99, but almost nobody bought them.

    • 0 avatar
      Neb

      Profitability probably had something to do with it, too. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel like part of the charm of these things is that they were affordable new. Now imagine you are an automaker with CAFE a constant pressure on your mind. Would you rather sell a Ramcharger for around what you sell your pickups for, or would you rather sell something that costs only a little more than the Ramcharger for twice as much?

      Oh, and I think there was a Ramcharger-esque 2 door Durango for sale – but only in Mexico.

      • 0 avatar
        jacob_coulter

        The thing is, it’s not exactly difficult to remake a vehicle a Bronco or Blazer from an existing pickup, especially since extended cabs are the norm these days.

        Ford could easily make a Bronco out of an F-150, and just try it out.

        You look at all the ridiculous things auto companies have tried (Hello Lincoln Blackwood) I think something like a new Bronco would be pretty inexpensive to try out. I bet they’d sell like hotcakes, especially among guys who don’t want a huge SUV but also don’t want a soccer mom CUV.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        Many years ago (think 1997-ish) I saw a 2 door prototype “Bronco” at the Dearborn Proving Grounds. It used the new-for-1997 F-150 front clip and doors, with unique rear sheetmetal. What we ended up getting of course was the 4-door Expedition.

      • 0 avatar
        azmtbkr81

        Agreed, I can’t imagine it would take a huge amount of retooling or engineering – the 90′s broncos are essentially identical to F150s aside from a shorter frame and different sheet metal behind the doors.

        Expedition buyers have all moved on to CUVs and Ford doesn’t seem to have plans to update it with the latest generation of engines. The BOF SUV market has already become a niche so why not kill the Expedition off for good and offer an F150 based Bronco to those who truly need an SUV?

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      “…EVERY guy wanted a Bronco or 2 Dr Blazer…”

      But, every wife wanted a 4 door, later on.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      When you go looking for a used Bronco/Ramcharger/Blazer they all seem to have a LOT of miles on them – like 200-300K in some cases. What that tells me is that there is an unserved market out there – people who want a capable, full-size SUV that isn’t a mommymobile. There probably isn’t room for GM, Ford and Chrysler to jump into this segment, but if just one of them did, I’m sure it would be profitable.

      We’re at a point where many leading-edge male baby boomers are retiring and spending time on hobbies such as fishing and hunting. These boomers don’t want a 4-door since the kids are all grown up and on their own. They want a 2 door with enough room for their dog or a buddy and their outdoor gear. These vehicles fit that niche perfectly, but now finding a nice one with reasonable miles that can be depended on is getting difficult.

  • avatar
    loj

    Chuck Norris drove Ramchargers, both as Lone Wolf McQuade and Walker, Texas Ranger. The scene in LWM after the villains bury him alive in his Ramcharger is classic. Drink 1/2 beer, dump remainder over own head. Switch on supercharger (?) and drive the SOB OUT OF THE GROUND.

    Tough trucks. I prefer the earlier models with the removable roof, but the stripes on this one score MAJOR disco points.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    By the mid 90′s the 2 door full-size SUV was on the way out due to the family SUV craze. Ruggedness, simplicity, and off-road capability took a back seat to comfort and kid-friendly accessibility. Like CJ mentioned OJ’s little escapade was the final nail in the coffin.

    Blazers, Broncos, and even Ramchargers are still very popular since no equivalent exists today. I’m hoping that the CUV craze and corresponding lack of any usable capability beyond being able to haul a few large bags of dog food from Costco will bring back demand for capable, short wheelbase full size SUVs. If Ford sees fit to create an Ecoboost Bronco I’ll be the first to plunk down 35k. Until then my well loved ’96 with manual transmission and old school 302 will soldier on.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    I had an 80 ramcharger back in the day, with the 360/727 combo. I would take it down to Wva along with a couple of buddies to go hunting. It was probably the best hunting vehicle I ever owned, we would take it back into the woods for miles, and it climbed hills like a mountain goat. The short length allowed it to fit into places that my pickup trucks won’t, and the short wheelbase made for better traction. I remember going up hills that almost seemed like they were straight up, and it never once got stuck.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    1983 was full recovery, no ‘Malaise’ at all.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    The ramsled as we called them still to this day IMO Make best plow trucks. Short wheel base for parking lots and loads of power for pushing snow.

  • avatar

    I have a 1988 Royal SE ramcharger Baby blue Royal blue exterior with blue interior. 318/727 (actually in 88 it was already 5.2 TBI) great truck with the TB EFI not nearly bad as the earlier models on gas (mine also had 3.20 gears which helps) when traveling too and from Maine on the highway I could archive 14-15 mpg with the cruise set at 65 which is pretty good considering it had a 35 gallon gas tank. On the broughminess of the truck one thing I always got a kick out of on mine was the amount of chrome. From the factory mine had chrome around the windows between the two tone on the lift gate and anywhere it was remotely possible to chrome.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      Mine would get around 16-17 mpg on the highway in 2wd. I installed a set of cheap blackjack headers, got them for $49.99 at Midwest Auto Specialties. It was a popular speed shop back then before summit came long. I also had dual exhaust, and I advanced the timing a few degrees and used a thermoquad from a 72 340 with an open element air cleaner. Before I performed those cheap and easy mods it was hard pressed to get 12.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Factory graphics, or no, these are way cool. I love supergraphics and they are SO late 70′s, early 80′s in a very mod way.

    Love the colors, and against black, they work, faded or no.

    Even here in Seattle where rust isn’t an issue, I don’t see these 2 door SUV’s too often anymore, but they DO exist, especially early Broncos, mostly as restored or well kept examples.

    I hardly see the Chevy Blazer variants, nor the Dodges either.

    However, I DO see the occasional 2 door 4Runner, or Nissan Hardbody Pathfinder, but even those are not as common as they once were, it’s the 4 doors that I see most often of the early ones at least.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      Believe it or not those goofy graphics were a factory option, but it’s been so long that I can’t remember what they were called by the factory. Ramchargers sold in very small numbers compared to the Bronco and Blazer, that is why you don’t see many. They had a very small but very loyal following. A local guy brings a pristine all original 77 with a factory installed 400 to the truck fest at Summit Racing every year. The factory equipped big block models are extremely rare.

  • avatar
    LeadHead

    Really my only issue with this generation of Ram, is that the interiors were made with the hardest, nastiest, cheapest, brittle and all around most terrible plastic you could get. GM truck interiors had about the same (lack of) quality. The Ford interior of the time seemed a bit nicer – but not by much.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      Yeah, the Ford’s insides seemed a little better, and not by much, but for some reason Fords had that stupid, and ugly trim on most of their trucks that was a salt magnet, causing them to rot even faster than the Rams and GM trucks did. Not as bad as a Toyota, but bad. I could, and did, live with the cheapo Ram (Pre Ram, actually, I had a ’77 Power Wagon) interior, but the ugliness of the Fords was too much to tolerate.

  • avatar
    and003

    nrd515 wrote: “I don’t think anything short of universal Alzheimer’s could have made the 318/360 more modern. The ‘magnumizing’ sure didn’t.”

    What if adding a modern EFI system made today could make it modern? In any case, I suspect anyone who has a 318 or 360 in their Mopar vehicle isn’t going to complain about it not being modern, especially if it suits their needs.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    People swap magnums into old mopars and get good performance and mileage out of them. Rick Ehrenberg at Mopar Action swapped a 360 magnum into a 62 Savoy bolted to the car’s original 727 trans. He added bigger injectors, headers with dual exhausts and played around with the software, no internal mods to the engine. It runs 13′s and gets over 20 mpg. He has more things planned for the future including a 518 trans swap.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    BTW, the Ram Charger lived on until 2001 – in Mexico – as a 2-door Durango model.

    Someone should go pick one up.


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