In Part One of this minitruckin’ history, we covered how the Big 3 provided their dealers with “captive import” minitrucks from Mazda, Isuzu, and Mitsubishi during the Seventies. By 1975 or thereabouts, both GM and Ford were convinced that the small-pickup market was not a fad and began digging their own products out of the parts bin.
The Chevrolet S-10/GMC S-15 was a sort of truck version of the A-body (later G-body) intermediate. While it’s not dimensionally identical to the older sedans, it’s possible to swap much of the running gear between those two vehicles, particularly ahead of the firewall. The Ford Ranger arrived a few months after the S-10, a few inches smaller in most dimensions and looking remarkably ungainly compared to its sleek GM competitor. Those of you who followed the minitrucking hobby in the Nineties will recall that the Ranger was conspicuous by its absence; “domestic” minitruckers were almost exclusively loyal to the S-10/S-15. Part of that was due to the Twin-I-Beam’s reluctance to accept a lowering kit and/or airbags, but much of it was the Ranger’s hokey, hick-ish appearance compared to the S-10.
So what did that mean for the captive import trucks?
Sometime around 2012, a Ram Trucks source told TTAC about an investigation into a smaller pickup for the brand, one that could have even turned out to be a front-drive pickup. “We won’t do another Dakota,” said our source, “but maybe something else.”. By all accounts, that truck would have been based on one of Fiat’s small, unibody front-drive pickups. But now, Fiat seems to want a Dakota of its own.
The small pickup market may be dwindling, but Chrysler may be looking at getting back in to the segment – though their next small or mid-size pickup won’t be a body-on-frame vehicle like the now-cancelled Dakota.
The good old Chrysler 318 engine has been around since, oh, around the start of the Iron Age. From about 1,000 BC to 2002 AD, the 318 and its LA engine relatives were installed in Chrysler products, and they did a fine job. If it hadn’t been for the cockroach-grade immortality of the Chrysler Slant Six, in fact, we’d probably be talking about the 318 as the most unkillable engine Detroit ever made. In 1992, Chrysler updated the 318 (which had gone to a roller cam a few years before) with high-pressure multi-point fuel injection and more emission-friendly heads… and they called it the 5.2 Magnum, no doubt because the original Dodge Magnum hadn’t been good enough to justify such a cool name. As I discovered in a Denver wrecking yard last week, at least one Dakota owner was proud enough of his Magnum to apply a full-body vinyl wrap to his truck. (Read More…)