By on December 2, 2012

Remember the Raider? No, you don’t. Nobody remembers the Raider, because this one that I found yesterday at a self-service wrecking yard near Denver was the only Raider Dodge ever sold.
All right, Chrysler probably moved a few more rebadged first-gen Mitsubishi Monteros out of the showrooms, but it’s hard to think of an example of Japan/Detroit badge engineering that vanished into more complete obscurity than this one. Maybe the Toyota Cavalier comes close, but supposedly there are (dozens of) avid fans of the Cavalier in Japan.
Anecdotal evidence (from everyone I’ve ever known who has owned or worked on a Montero) suggests that these trucks weren’t quite as reliable as, say, Blazers and Broncos. In fact, the expletive-heavy anecdotes that I’ve heard about the first-gen Montero suggest that the world would be a better place if they’d all been driven directly from the assembly line into the jaws of The Crusher. Members of the Pajero Jihad, feel free to tell us about your 900,000-trouble-free-mile Raiders.
This truck was powered by the 2.6 liter Astron engine, the same one used in the Plymouth Arrow and (in turbocharged form) the Mitsubishi Starion.
My shot of the odometer didn’t come out, but this truck’s life ended with about 175,000 miles on the clock.
Such a macho name!
It seemed appropriate that F-16s from nearby Buckley AFB were screaming low overhead as I contemplated the warlike name of this piece of automotive history.

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58 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1987 Dodge Raider...”


  • avatar
    Angus McClure

    I remember this but not very well from it’s own day. I saw a few but recently there was one that divided it’s time between being parked in front of the feed store and the nearby mechanics shop. Never inquired as to the problem. Just assumed (era and make) that there was sufficient wrong to avoid it.

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    the truck is full of meh. i have seen them on the road and i remember this b/c it struck me as odd – i had never heard of them before.

    the model on the other hand…… lithesome, long brown hair, dark aviators, and a pair of Vasque Sundowners just about the time they were becoming very popular.

    Somewhere there is a sociology study that looks at how advertising and cultural trends work hand-in-hand to define what we find attractive. Then the question becomes, does what we find attractive change beyond a certain age?

    inquiring minds want to know.

  • avatar
    detlump

    I remember as a kid seeing a yellow Raider at a Chrysler Chelsea proving ground open house. There were a number of cars on display, including a turbo panel minivan that I also thought was cool. Being not a member of the car buying public yet there was not much I could do. I thought it looked like an honest truck (SUV had not yet been coined, at least I don’t recall that term in 1987).

    Years later I worked at a Mitsu dealer prepping cars and such. I got to drive the tarted-up versions of this truck which were quite expensive. I guess I like uncommon cars so I enjoyed my time with various Mitsus of the early 90s.

    Of course, when I see these Mitsus I also think of the Tamiya RC Montero, which could do wheelies and was probably more reliable.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I know someone who has one of these. The last school I was a teacher at (before going into administration) the gym teacher had a Dodge Raider in light blue in picture perfect shape. It was his daily driver most days, his other rides being a 90s GMC truck and a rusty but trusty late 60s Oldsmobile 442 convertible.

    I still see him in the Raider around town occasionally.

  • avatar
    4LiterLexus

    This is one of those cars that I’ve never had the pleasure (?) of seeing in the flesh. Perhaps most of the Chicago-area examples have rusted out already.

    Also, it’s interesting that the Raider nameplate began life as a Dodge-badged Mitsubishi, and ended as a Mitsubishi-badged Dodge Dakota. When Chrysler and Mitsubishi collaborate, weird stuff happens.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    Man I miss 2-door SUVs. Hopefully the success of the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque will convince more manufacturers to sell them.

  • avatar
    ...m...

    …ah, the dodge raider: i know it well…just before our high school graduation, a good friend replaced his XR4Ti with a silver raider in which we enjoyed three years of madcap offroad misadventures, until he elected to downsize to a capri roadster about halfway through college…his family always had a thing for quirkily-obscure late-model vehicles and tended to swap out cars from their fleet about every nine months, so that three-year stint with the raider was something of a long-term record…

    …it struck me as a fun, solid, and surpringly-capacious vehicle back in the late eighties, before the SUV boom arrived in full force about five years later to desensitize everyone to the novelty of piling a whole gaggle of friends together and traipsing off toward the horizon without heed for roads…of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was a competent off-roader, nor that were we as drivers: while its ground clearance was perfectly sufficient, that ‘on-demand 4WD’ managed to leave us stranded more than once in embarassingly-mundane conditions, hiking home to arrange a more-surefooted truck come pull it free…

    …i haven’t seen one since the early nineties, so they were certainly uncommon beasts…perhaps this speaks more to industry evolution since its era than to the raider itself, but behold the glorious visibility out that wonderful wraparound greenhouse!..

  • avatar
    morbo

    It’s OK, Dodge got revenge in the form of the Mitsubishi Raider. Though that one at leats got an uglier nose job.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitsubishi_Raider

  • avatar
    hgrunt

    I used to work for an engine warehouse and the owner ended up with a Mitsubishi one of these, because a customer had the engine rebuilt, but couldn’t afford the bill so he let my boss take the whole thing in payment. It was the 4-cylinder, 5-speed version, and I had a lot of fun just driving it around on normal roads. Every now and then, I want to call him and ask him if he’ll sell it to me.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Tha main thing I remember about all the Mitsu-Dodges of this era (using this engine) were the skillions of miles of vacuum piping and hoses. An ex had a K-car with this engine. The carbureter was inscrutable, and the thing never ran right.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      That carb was a Mikuni….and they were about 700 bucks back then. And they had all sorts of issues, though in the interest of being fair, they were no worse than the Holly sourced carbs of that era. The transition to fuel injection made such a difference in all around driveability…it was like night and day. The 2.2/2.5 engines were never smooth but finally all the stalling. rough idle, and hesitation was eliminated….

      • 0 avatar
        Hoser

        “This truck was powered by the 2.6 liter Astron engine”

        Seeing that line and knowing that air cleaner was sitting on a Mikuni is all it took to send me to corner as “The Crying Game” played in the back of my head. I actually had the one in my E-body New Yorker replaced and as I paid the bill, (I’ve rebuilt auto transmissions before, but didn’t want any part of this) heard the mechanic say “I can’t wait until all of these are finally off the road”.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Not so much the F-16s Murilee – more the translation of Pajero & Montero… This Spanish wanker/mountain hunter looks to be in surprisingly good condition for a 25-year-something off Raider. Wall-to-wall carpet this enviro..? Mitsu price-chopper on the Range Rover without the capability.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I knew a lot of military guys who had Monteros and Raiders back in the day. I never heard they were unreliable, but I also never owned one. They had more off-road cred than the Blazers, were less common than Cherokees, and more confortable than Wranglers. The Mitsu (like the Isuzu Trooper) could also be had in 4-door form, and were much roomier than the Cherokees, which made them more usable than other SUVs of the day. Almost bought a later Montero in the late 90s, but ended up with a Land Rover Disco instead. I miss the days when SUVs were real trucks and not glorified station wagons.

    • 0 avatar
      markholli

      “I miss the days when SUVs were real trucks an not glorified station wagons”

      Here, here! Real offroad capable SUVs with lots of “solid metal bits underneath,” as the Top Gear blokes would say, are a dying breed. Remember when you could actually take an Explorer, Durango or Pathfinder on a rutted logging trail?

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Well I had a couple Explorers… neither was very rugged road capable. My old Discovery was very capable. Never tried a Durango, but Pathfinders were pretty bad ass back in the day. Remember the Desert Runner styled 2-dr Pathfinder?? I always wanted one of those or the Hardbody pickup version.

        I hate today’s crossovers.

      • 0 avatar
        markholli

        I’ll have to beg to differ on the Explorer’s offroad capability. In high school I had a 1994 Explorer with 31″ tires, no lift. My three good friends had an ’89 Range Rover, a ’95 Jeep Wrangler, and an ’85 S-10 Blazer. We frequently ventured deep into the Rockies with these things, an I was always blown away at how the Explorer was able to keep up.

        In fact, there were at least a few instances where the Blazer and Explorer were able to go where the Wrangler couldn’t. I attribute it to two things: the wrangler had very stiff suspension with no flex, and the driver pussy-footed it because he didn’t want to hurt his precious baby Jeep.

        The Range Rover was, hands down, the most unstoppable. No contest there.

        I miss those days. I took my wife’s Pathfinder on a trail a couple years ago and I was so worried about damaging the car that it wasn’t even fun. The magic was gone.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Search Youtube for “Angry tears ticket”.

    That is how I remember the Dodge Raider, as well as the personality of anybody who would own one.

    • 0 avatar
      240SX_KAT

      I know that guy. We worked for the same company in the late 80s to early 90s. He was going through some pretty rough personal stuff at the time and was so high strung he was practically ultrasonic.

      He’s doing much better lately, I occasionally email him to see how he’s doing.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I beg your pardon, MM. I remember the Raider very well and initially found them somewhat desirable.

    There was a Dodge dealer right up my street and Florissant, MO was very well represented by all Chrysler dealerships, hence our love for our K-Car and its derivatives.

    I thought they resembled the original Ford Broncos, which I came close to selecting one for my first new vehicle purchase.

    I don’t know about the reliability/durability of these, but they appeared on the scene along with the Trooper and disappeared almost as quickly.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I don’t know about that. The Raider was around for what, 3 years? The Trooper ran from 88-02!

      • 0 avatar

        The Raider is a Mitsubishi Pajero. All Dodge did was re-badge them.

        On that note, the Pajero has been in constant production since 1982, thereby outliving the Trooper. (For which, as a former Amigo owner, I retain the utmost respect.)

        Ever see that Ewan McGregor series “Long Way Round?” Mitsubishi provided the support vehicles for that show, including a 2003 Shogun (aka: UKDM Pajero). They drove that thing around the world.

        See: http://www.imcdb.org/i069290.jpg

        Not only did it survive the trip, it’s been my good friend Darin’s daily driver pretty much ever since he bought it from the production company in 2007. As he put it, “it’s probably the best vehicle I’ve ever bought.”

        See: http://gearboxmagazine.com/darin-runs-the-mitsubishi-lancer-register-2/

  • avatar
    19 Pinkslips

    When I was a kid one of my dads friends bought one of these brand new, an exact copy of this one. He was a doctor and wanted something to get to work in the snow, but I don’t think he kept it long. I remember that as a very car savvy kid, I didn’t know what it was when I first saw it. It drove extremely.. upright, flat windshield and all of the controls sort of jutted up at you OH and it had one of those silly tilt meter snow globe things in the dash.

  • avatar
    AlienProbe

    Round headlights. Liquid floaty compass built into dash. Nimble and capable. I loved so many things about this vehicle.

    Oh, and lets not forget the HumRaider from 1999’s Four Wheeler Top Truck Challenge.

    Only thing that kept me from getting one was my mechanic father warning me that they went through headgaskets as bad as isuzu troopers.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    Thanks for updating my automotive memory. Somehow I remembered them as rebadged Isuzus.

  • avatar

    I hardly consider myself a member of the Pajero Jihad, but I do daily drive one of these. And, while the $4 rear cam plug leak on the back of the head is turning my driveway into a Superfund site, and the warped exhaust manifold leaves much to be desired in terms of exhaust notes, and the carby 2.6 smokes like a an old locomotive on those cold, Phoenix mornings, I love it.

    The whole reason I’m the Mitsubishi fanboi I am is because I walked into a Jeep-Eagle dealership to buy a Wrangler in 1996 and left in a 97 Talon. When it was time to finally get behind the wheel of something 4WD and gnarly, 300,000+ miles with Mitsubishis pointed me right to the SWB Pajero for its ability, simplicity, and way of giving the finger to the sycophants who so blindly rail against brands they can’t be bothered to understand.

    Don’t let your blind consumerism disadvantage you. Check out the Mitsubishi sections on 4x4wire and Expedition Portal. The Pajero remains crazy popular all over the world and is more capable off-road than just about any SUV you’ll find on the lot today. Remember, MMC made Jeep CJs decades before Chrysler came along.

    There is so much potential in these little trucks, it’s hard to explain. Throw a 4d55 diesel in one for 30mpg. Swap a 4g63 in for double to triple or more the horsepower. The GM Vortec 4.3 swap is even popular. And a lot of the running gear from newer models bolts right up.

    Love my little Rocínante. It’s the Fun Cooker.

    • 0 avatar
      joeveto3

      Nice response. It’s cool to see someone with so much passion for a marque.

      I had an 01 Montero Sport I bought one year old. I loved that truck. I put over 70K trouble free miles on it and still I regret getting rid of it. I could off-road the heck out of it, hose it off, and then make calls on my customers. Even though its V-6 only had 165hp, it was tow rated at 5000lbs. I towed my Corvette through the hills of the PA turnpike with no issues. White with silver trim, it was really sharp.

      My only gripe was a vibration that manifested itself between 55-60 miles per hour and the timing belt/water pump replacement requirement every 60K. Though if I had it today, I’m sure I could do the job myself.

      I still see the Montero Sports around here, and almost without fail, they are in great shape with a design that still looks contemporary. IMHO they are far more “real” than the CUVs that are being sold.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Dodge did not have a mid-sized SUV to compete with S10, Cherokee, Bronco II, Pathfinder, 4-Runner etc. At the time they were considering a SUV version of the Dakota PU. but to no avail. So they just rebadged the Montero 2dr.

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      Yeah, Dodge really lost it by not doing a 4dr midsize SUV on the 1st gen Dakota chassis. The Explorer took it all.

      Of course back then they still had the full size 2dr Ramcharger to go against the full size Blazer and Bronco…

  • avatar

    Funny thing about this picture besides the picture itself is that Dodge produced the engine for Mitsubishi for a short time for the Mitsubishi Raider truck. This is my first time on this site and I really enjoy all the great content. For more great content check out our auto glass blog at http://www.dartautoglass.com/blog

    • 0 avatar
      Macca

      …more than just the engine – the Mitsu Raider truck is a Dodge Dakota with a nose job; just ever so slightly more involved than simply swapping badges. Essentially the inverse of the Dodge Raider situation.

  • avatar
    mikeg216

    These were reliable beasts if you just followed the scheduled maintenance, which no one ever does. Everything back then had a bazillion miles of vacuum lines, once mitsubishi sorts an engine out, they are on par with anyone. The first few years are rough though.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    hey 175 k is a pretty good record for a forgotten Dodge

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I remember the Raider well. I worked at a car dealership in 1989, and we had two new Raider V6s with 5 speed manual transmissions. In the three months I was there, I never even saw a customer glance at them. Still, they were among my favorite loaner vehicles, right up there with the manual AWD Legacy, the Plymouth Laser Turbo, and the Dodge D250 Cummins pickups. The Raiders felt fairly quick with the V6 and a five speed. They had individually suspended front seats, said to mimic tractor trailer cabs of the day. The elevated ride height, the decent drivetrain, and the suspensions seats allowed me to make my friend’s return from Paris Island sea sickening. I basically was drifting in those Raiders before anyone else devolved enough to drift. I’d use a closed throttle clutch drop into second on corner entrance and then floor it to stay sideways to the exit, then stab the brakes to transfer weight forward while cutting back in the opposite direction to set up for the next turn. My fearless Marine friend quickly cried uncle. I’m guessing he remembers the Dodge Raider too.

  • avatar
    bkrell

    I worked/roomed with a guy circa 2000 who had one of these and was crazy about it. He did some serious off-roading in it and still has it to this day. I’ll never forget the time I came home to find half the engine disassembled and numbered on the floor while he was replacing something. Even then, I hadn;pt seen one of these in a while but do remember them when they came out. I remember a friend’s mom throwing me in the rear cargo area for an hour ride to a soccer game. Ah the days before seatbelt enforcement…

  • avatar
    markholli

    In spite of my qualms with Mitsubishi, I always liked the Montero. The poor man’s Land Cruiser. I love anything with decent ground clearance and a 2-speed transfer case.

  • avatar
    volksman

    Ha, just last week I was behind one of these and thought “Dodge Raider? I’ve never noticed one of these before”
    This has happened with three of the junkyard find features in the past couple of months. I’ll notice some car around shortly after one is featured here.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The interior looks quite dated, even for 1987.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    I saw these Pajeros all over Baghdad and see them frequently in Kandahar along with the Hiluxes and jacked up Carollas. They must be somewhat reliable and durable since I’ve seen way more of these things than I have paved roads.

  • avatar
    Steve65

    I had them on my short list, but by the time I started seriously shopping they weren’t available any more. I ended up with a soft top Sidekick.

  • avatar
    RatherhaveaBuick

    That interior looks to be in nice condition, probably due to the fact that no one else has one to need those parts for. I like the look of boxy old Monteros but the ones after that are nasty looking…

  • avatar
    Lt.BrunoStachel

    I’ve had the pleasure of pulling parts at Self Service yards all across the country. That F-16 fly by reminds me of the LKQ in Virginia Beach VA. It’s right across the road from Oceana NAS. I thought U-2’s were noisey. Nothing beats a F/A-18 buzzing the boneyard on aproach. If I was an enemy of the states I’d be peeing my diaper at the sight and sound of one of those birds making a strafing run on my crib.When one crashed in April of this year my first thought was did it crash into this junkyard. A close second would be the LKQ in Daytona Beach. USCG sometimes fly HC/RC-130 and on ocassion P3 looking craft into Daytona Beach’s civilian airfield just southeast of there.I’ve also seen numerous WW2 and Korean vintage fighters flying there as it is also just down the road from a fly in community. One Sunday morning I swear I was strafed by Jack Roush in a P51.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    I’m sad to see this Raider crushed; they always reminded me of miniature FJ-60 Land Cruisers.

    This particular example seems to be in very good shape overall and would make for a unique and maneuverable trail truck with its short wheelbase and beefy suspension parts. I’m guessing that the beautiful blue paint would look a mile deep with a little wax. Oh well, can’t same ‘em all.

  • avatar
    davew833

    When I worked in the parts dept. at the local Infiniti dealership in 1991 or ’92, the used car manager picked up an identical Raider at the auction to sell on the lot. Our dealership was still “getting off the ground” so we didn’t have a dedicated parts delivery truck. I delivered parts in whatever the used car dept. had handy, including said Raider once or twice. I kind of liked it in my brief experience with it. Two or three years later at another job, I happened to meet the guy that bought it. In angry tones he told me what a piece of junk it was and breathed out various threats against the salesman (who I knew) that sold it to him. Oh well…

  • avatar
    askinner

    You have no idea what you’re talking about. A 1987 Dodge Raider was my first car, purchased for $2,500 at 100k miles in 1997. When I sold it in 2009 it had 245,000 miles on it, and it never once left me on the side of the road. The only thing wrong with it was a little rust from Mitsubishi’s crappy paint and years in San Diego’s salty air.

    It was indestructible and fun to drive, much safer than a Jeep (lower and slightly wider wheelbase), and screw you, visually appealing. It wasn’t powerful but it would go anywhere, parts were cheap, and I could replace nearly everything myself at 18 (I’m a girl, and no, I’m not just being sentimental), from hoses to belts to alternator. I got 80,000 miles out of a set of $40 tires on that thing and I drove it all over California, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. I cried like hell when it was time for something that got better mileage. I still see it tooling around when I go back to my hometown.

  • avatar
    LarryC213

    I owned one of these. I bought it used, from an old friend and to this day I still say that was the best/favorite automobile that I have ever had. There were some comments earlier about these having a dodge or chrysler engine. I cannot speak for any other than mine, but mine had a Mitsubishi engine. If I had it to do over, I would still have what I affectionately called my japanese jeep. These things were built like tanks. I took it somewhere for an oil change shortly after I got married and when I was getting ready to leave, an employee at the jiffy lube kind of place had all kinds of questions about it. He said the rear end and the transmission looked like something out of a two ton truck. He was a jeep enthusiast and said that he was incredibly impressed at its build quality. There was a plate bolted somewhere under the hood that read: “This vehicle designed for high altitude mountainous terrain.” It really made me angry that by the time I could afford to buy a new Montero, that they had stopped importing them into the states. But way before that they had apparently stopped importing the shorter two-door models like mine. I had well over 250,00 miles on mine and I cannot really recall, but I think I might have had something like 325,000 miles on mine when I traded it in on something that I cannot even recall. I’ve even thought of buying one in Mexico or Canada and driving it home, but I have no idea how that actually works and I would probably by S.O.L. if I ever needed it worked on since they have never sold that current model in this country.

  • avatar
    ApK253wa

    I always thought it’d be cool to own a Dodge Raider or a Daihatsu Rocky (remember those?). Both were rugged-looking little trucks with badass names and were uncommon enough to stand out from the crowd. The downside would have to be parts availability, especially now that it’s been over 20 years since they quit making them.

  • avatar
    paintedfool

    I have an 87 Dodge Raider (non-running)that my family would like to send out to scrap. I grew up with this car, purchased new from the dealership and it was awesome to drive. The main reason I don’t want to scrap it is that it was in a movie with Claude Skins called Pushed Too Far. While he didn’t drive it, the main family drove it across the Greenfield, Indiana courthouse lawn. We have a VHS tape of the movie somewhere. It was a B film if you ever saw one. Quite possibly C quality. If you know of anyone interested, this is free to a good home, provided you pick it up. We are located outside of Columbia, SC. Please let me know if you are interested, or if there is a better website for this.
    Thanks,
    Dylan


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