By on October 10, 2016

1983 Dodge Ram 50 in Colorado Junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Small pickups sold pretty well in the United States during the Malaise Era, and Ford and GM cashed in by importing and rebadging Mazda and Isuzu trucks, respectively. Chrysler, late to the party, turned to longtime partner Mitsubishi and began bringing in first-generation Forte pickups, starting in the 1979 model year.

Here’s a Dodge-badged version I found last week in a Denver self-service yard.

1983 Dodge Ram 50 in Colorado Junkyard, Build tag - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Dodge Ram 50 (aka Dodge D50) and Plymouth Arrow pickup were cheap, fairly reliable, and got the job done. Once Mitsubishi started selling vehicles in the United States under its own badging, small-truck shoppers could buy a Mighty Max version as well.

1983 Dodge Ram 50 in Colorado Junkyard, Astron Engine - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The 2.6-liter Astron four-cylinder engine powered a bewildering assortment of US-market vehicles, from the K-Cars with “Hemi 2.6” engines to the exquisitely 1980s Mitsubishi Starion.

1983 Dodge Ram 50 in Colorado Junkyard, body filler - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

This truck has plenty of body filler and general hooptieness, but doesn’t seem rusty.

1983 Dodge Ram 50 in Colorado Junkyard, radio - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

A very simple little truck, with simple controls and not much to go wrong. And now its constituent materials will reenter the commodities food chain.

The best EPA fuel economy of all small pickups with optional automatic transmissions? Yes, the D50 and its optimistic 28 highway miles per gallon.

You don’t have to look tough to be tough.

By 1983, the Ram 50 had to compete with the identical Mighty Max.

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40 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1983 Dodge Ram 50 Prospector...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Chrysler and Mitsubishi are like that couple who end up featured on Cops in three different seasons. They’re no good for one another, but they end up in bed together over and over.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    My ex Father-In-Law bought one of these and simply loved it to death .

    I wasn’t impressed but it was a tough little Trucklet .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I never even saw one of these until I was in college (1995-1999) and it was a little 4×4 model with a small lift and knobby tires on it.

    The contingent of students from Michigan (and specifically North of Detroit) ensured that there would always be little lifted trucks in the parking lot being used as commuters and backwoods rigs.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Dayum, those are some sporty seats in the 1981 ad. Probably 99.5% of these were sold with the standard vinyl bench.

    28 mpg might be optimistic for the auto, but a stick could hit it easily.

    • 0 avatar
      StudeDude

      I owned an ’82 and an ’86 D50, both with 2.0 engines, manual trans, manual steering and A/C. Both were very reliable and did their job well. They also handled very well considering what they were. I wish trucks of their size were still sold in the US rather than the current crop of behemoths.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        You, me, and a lot of other people have the same wish, but apparently our numbers are not enough to make updating such trucks profitable enough. Face it, we’ll have to chop up a compact like a Focus to get what we want. Anybody know somebody with a Focus who would like to take a stab at it?

  • avatar
    JimZ

    ugh. the sight of that Mikuni carburetor brings back unpleasant memories.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    semi-OT: This weekend while driving up north I saw a fairly minty Jeep Comanche that was cruising along on the highway. That’s a rare sight in Michigan.

    A nice truck with straight lines.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I can never wrap my mind around all of the half-assed uses of bondo and other DIY body work that seems to happen all too often. Here it looks like they slathered it on, but never bothered to sand. Or the primer-but-never-painted look. What sort of life calamity came up that you couldn’t take one more afternoon to finish the job?

    • 0 avatar

      I had a friend in the 90’s with a first gen 4runner who would use spray foam a skim of bondo and white rustoleum, he usually did the whole repair in under an hour (including drying time hot batch of bondo) As he said I’m just going to knock if off again in the woods why take the time.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      There is a group of people who are “project people.” They never actually finish anything, every item is half-assed and then left that way. This person probably also had wood furniture which needed stripped and varnished, patio furniture they intended to paint, a roof with fifteen patches but never new shingles, and a stereo from 1982 that just needed a quick re-wiring. They also have four or five cars, only two of which have tires on them at any given time.

      You never want to live next to this sort of person.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Haha I think you’re right Corey. Quite CrabSpirit-esque I might add.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Yeah we rarely finish a project, but the important thing is we *can*. Except those that criticize us have never finished a project ’cause they’ve never started one, for some strange reason. Heck I’m not sure they have any actual hobbies, beyond criticizing everyone. But the best part of any project is starting the project. Then it becomes just another chore.

      • 0 avatar

        The “In Tow” in tape on the back window makes me wonder if it spent the latter part of it’s life hooked up to the back of a motorhome.

        I suppose it could have been put there while it was towed to a junkyard, but doing that with tape seems kind of elaborate – at that point I think most people would either not bother, or go with spray paint.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Barring finding an elusive Fire Arrow, I wouldn’t mind a clean Arriw truck (even have seen a few with the wild arrow decal on the hood).

    • 0 avatar
      Conslaw

      The non-turocharged 2.6 liter Fire Arrow was one of the 10 fastest cars you could buy in 1979 according to Road and Track (or was it Car and Driver), 0-60 in a heart-stopping 9.6 seconds.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        Back in 79-80 the rabbi at the Reform synagogue in the town where I grew up drove a Fire Arrow. It was white with the black striped Fire Arrow package. His previous car was a 72 Toronado in brown. I guess buying the fuel efficient Arrow was his way of sticking it to OPEC.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I owned a Mitsubishi Sport pickup, purchased in Denver in the latter half of ’83. All told it was a good little truck and absolutely loved it because it was the “perfect” size for a single young male. The only thing I would have changed is to take the extended-cab version that came out the next year (IIRC). A lot of people besides myself would like to see THIS size of truck come back.

  • avatar
    Luke

    My grandparents owned a D50 Sport much like the one featured in the second video. It was black with gold tape stripes and wheels with sport seats and the manual transmission. My grandfather was partially paralyzed by a stroke in the mid-80’s, and he loved how comfortable the seat was and how easily he could get in and out with his bad leg. The commercial doesn’t lie – they were roomy little trucks and a 6’+ guy could get very comfortable with all the leg room offered in the passenger seat.

    My grandmother drove and rather enjoyed putting all 2.6 liters to work while rowing through the gears. I got to ride in the bed when Grandpa was with. You could do that in a small town in the ’80’s. It was their favorite little truck and it never gave them a bit of trouble. God, what fond memories I have of that truck and those bygone days. Thank you for finding this and posting the pictures and video…it brought a tear to my eye.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    I had one of the first turbo diesel 4×4’s in the northwest for a demo in ’82(?). Did everything I asked of it, including towing a loaded up Fiberform Tahiti to Pend Oreille Lake, while getting 25 mpg. Later, I would see it with the mayor of Rathdrum on occasional trips to C’dA. Since they would wave with their whole hand, I assume it was reliable for them as well.

  • avatar
    zipper69

    That rear bumper wouldn’t shame an F350 !

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    It looks like someone grabbed the wiper motor. I guess it fits other vehicles or there is some lost soul keeping their Ram 50 on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Given Chrysler’s habit of re-using the small stuff – and Mitsubishi doing the same – that wiper motor probably fits a half dozen different cars/trucks over a 12-15 year span.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I had an 85 Mighty Max in European Silver with a 2.0 I-4 4 speed manual for 14 years. It was a very good truck.

  • avatar
    Wildroot

    I used to really like these when I was doing new car prep at the Chry/Ply/Dodge dealer. This was the last model year I worked on before moving on. It seemed like it had a pretty stout ladder frame and I always daydreamed about putting a 340 in one. The assembly was jewel like compared to the domestic products. Prep wasn’t much more than a fluid/tire pressure check.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Vulpine-I read your website. Your Ranger is a nice truck and in really good shape. If I had it I would keep it even if it is a regular cab. It is hard to find a smaller truck with low miles and in good condition. As I have said before my 99 S-10 is going on 18 years old with 109k miles and is in excellent shape except a rocker panel below the driver’s side extended cab is starting to bubble and I might have that repaired. I had an 84 Might Max similar to the one in your picture except mine was silver.

  • avatar
    Nichodemus

    I still have an 87 D50 in my driveway. It ran until a few years ago. No power steering, no a/c, no radio, no cupholders, no tint at the top of the windshield, no power anything. Something happened with the stupid Mikuni carb. I took it off, and managed to break it. Yes. The bottom half was plastic. You can buy a Weber carb kit for it.

  • avatar
    Ogre Backwash

    Great little truck and very tough. There is still a demand for small trucks but for some reasons they aren’t being built anymore as far as I can tell.


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