By on December 18, 2012

There was a time, when American truck shoppers were willing to tolerate the shame of driving small pickups, when the members of the Detroit Big Three couldn’t/wouldn’t build their own and thus sold rebadged Japanese trucks. GM had the Isuzu-built Chevy LUV, Ford had the Mazda-built Ford Courier, and Chrysler had various flavors of the Mitsubishi Forte aka Mighty Max. In 1982, you could get your Forte as a Mighty Max, a Plymouth Arrow, or a Dodge Ram 50. Though you could buy the Ram 50 until 1986, examples of this truck are very rare these days. Here’s one that I spotted in a Denver yard last week.
There was no mistaking this truck for a luxury vehicle. Cloth bench seat, manual transmission, no air conditioning.
Power came from the 2-liter Mitsubishi Astron L4 engine, which wasn’t quite up to, say, Toyota R reliability but made decent power.
The tape-stripe graphics were very much of their time.

Whitewall tires standard, in the “Ram 50 Royal,” whatever that was. One of the weirder ads of the Late Malaise Era.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

28 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1982 Dodge Ram 50...”

  • avatar

    Makes me wish for the BRAT-like compact Fiat Strada to come to the states as some kind of RAM, like the upcoming Ducato and Doblo vans.

    • 0 avatar


      The Strada is an awesome-looking little trucklet. I hope Chrysler has sense enough to give it a chance here. I’ll give it a nice, hard look if they price it like these little trucks used to be priced (which is to say, well below the full-sizers.) A 35 MPG Strada with air conditioning and manual transmission at $15,000 would be a very compelling choice in the market.

      • 0 avatar

        Not to mention going a long way toward helping their CAFE numbers. It might be worth selling it at barely breakeven to allow them to continue building ever larger and ever burlier big Rams, without having to pay for Ford’s level of expensive technological development RE turbocharging and aluminum construction.

  • avatar

    The contrasting piping on the cloth seats in the advert there looks kinda nice!

  • avatar

    Cool truck! BTW, 1986 marked the end of the first generation of D-50 / Ram 50. The second generation ran from 1987 through the early/mid 90s. The second gen trucks looked more like, well, trucks than the car-like 1979-86 models. Mitsubishi might have kept selling them here under their own label after the Dodge version dropped out.

    • 0 avatar

      My father had an ’85 D50 first generation and parts were a pain since the most always defaulted to 1986. Maybe not many produced in 1985 or something.

      Mitsubishi did keep selling them as Mighty Max’s through 1996 with the D50 version selling to 1993.

      The diesel is a particular good one for the fuel savings.

      There are more than a few of the second generation still in use in non-rust prone areas of the USA. I have seen a couple on the road in the last several months. A bunch in junk yards because I have been in searching for parts as a relative is fixing up a D50 4wd version. The relative has just bought a D50 2wd long bed to, light fix, paint, and flip since it is the same silver color as his 4wd fixer upper.

      That said I have even seen one of this first generation on the road in the last six months.

  • avatar

    Always had a soft spot for these, especially in Arrow trim (as I owned two Arrows)…would have loved to have had one in the same burnt orange paint and Arrow graphics scheme to match my 1978 Arrow GT…

  • avatar

    Anyone else notice the sunroof @ 2:11?

    That’s Ram tough!

  • avatar

    Drove one of these in my first job after retirement. Put a tonneau cover on it and drove all over Guam. Seemed reliable. Proved to be economical at close to 30mpg. Should have taken off big time but always seemed to lag behind Datsun/Toyota. Knew someone who built a one ton. Had the mitsu diesel. He really didn’t need one as he worked in a liquor store but he really liked it. So did I.

  • avatar

    I love it in the ad when the big meathead punches a hole in his hard hat! I wonder if that ad subtly revealed the attitudes of the manufacturer towards its customers.

  • avatar

    “Detroit Big Three couldn’t/wouldn’t build their own and thus sold rebadged Japanese trucks.”

    I can’t believe you overlooked the Dodge Rampage, but then again, I suppose that’s not a REAL truck.

  • avatar

    I wonder if a brand like Hyundai sold a small, no frills pickup like this for under $14k how well it would do in the US.

    • 0 avatar

      Hyundai has delusions of grandeur. They even want to move Kia upmarket. I think that if someone did offer a no-frills small truck, it would primarily sell to the same people that bought stripped, discounted Ford Rangers towards the end. It wasn’t enough for Ford to keep making Rangers, even when the tooling was free.

      • 0 avatar

        The Grandeur is one of the most popular Korean market Hyundai models, ha. We just know it as the Azera.

      • 0 avatar

        I think it has more to do with Ford wanting people to step up into an F-150 than the Ranger not selling. Also, the price had risen on Rangers to the point where it was almost the same price for the same options on a really dated Ford Ranger vs latest and greatest F-150 that got nearly the same fuel economy.

        There really is no longer a compact, economical pickup being sold in the US anymore.

        I think it’s more fear of cannibalizing the bigger, more profitable trucks than it is fear of not selling the compact pickups. Let’s be honest, full size trucks are what keep the lights on at the Big 3 (and my tax dollars)

        A compact pickup would be a perfect market for a brand like hyundai that doesn’t have a full-size truck line.

      • 0 avatar

        Tooling was paid for, but UAW was not doing it pro-bono. Also, needed to be upgraded for new crash standards. And one other thing, plants don’t run on thin air. The MN plant was far from supply lines and certainly was far from ‘free’ to operate.

  • avatar

    Gotta Shazam that kitchy background music. Seem to remember that tune being in a lot of doofy ads of the time.

  • avatar

    That ad is *fantastic*. In contrast it to today’s ads, they spend a lot of time actually talking about the truck’s mechanical features.

  • avatar

    The neighbor across the alley daily drives one of these — probably newer than 1982.

  • avatar

    I spent a lot of time as a passenger in a D-50 back in 1986-7. A friend with a window washing business drove one of these all over town, and he hired me and another fellow as helpers.

    It was an economical and reliable little truck, but cold in the winter and noisy all the time. He liked the low bed in it because it was much easier to load and unload ladders and full 5-gallon buckets than any full-size pickup, or even a Ranger.

  • avatar

    I owned 2 of these, an ’82 Base with 2.0/4spd and A/C and an ’86 Spring Sport Special, also with a 2.0/5spd with A/C. I wrecked the ’82 in a side-rollover accident—I was unhurt, tow truck flipped it onto its wheels, restarted it and went on my way. It was totaled, so I bought the ’86 and drove it til 1998, when I upgraded to a Dakota Club Cab. I have nothing but fond memories about these economical, easy handling trucks.

  • avatar

    I remember seeing these Mitsu pickups all over LA and Orange Co. in summer 1986. Lowered, jacked up, many bed covers and graphics added. Along with Nissan and Toyota, Mitsu seemed to cover small pickups in CA.

    I liked them since they were ‘car-like’, but the 1987’s were just another blocky truck, didn’t have the cool look anymore.

  • avatar

    I still remember the goofy radio advertisements for these trucks. They included a mock interview of a Japanese speaking person by an English speaking person about the details of the truck. At the end, the tag line was “Dodge Ram – It’s all the Japanese you need to know”.

  • avatar

    I remember when I was in college back in the early 1980s in Houston that small pickups like this were very common as personal transport. I had inherited my Dad’s 1972 Toyota (a terrible vehicle in retrospect, aside from its reliable drive train), and my friends drove a mix of Dodge, Nissan, and Toyota small trucks. Cheap, practical and cheerful – I almost bought a Nissan Hardbody (great name for a truck) when I finished my masters degree.

    I later had a Chevy LUV 4×4 when I got my first teaching job and had to drive in snow. It took a lot of abuse off-roading – I was sad to see it go when I traded it in.

    When I drive my Dad’s current F-150, I really miss those small trucks – it seems huge by comparison. They were much more practical as personal transport if you are not hauling big loads on a regular basis. We currently use my friend’s 1992 Toyota pickup as a dump-run vehicle – if it had better crash ratings I’d drive it more often.

  • avatar

    I drive an ’87 2wd, long bed model regularly, with just over 200k miles. It was my grandfather’s, and he ordered it with no power steering, no A/C, no radio, nothing. Vinyl seats, no visor mirrors or tint at the top of the windshield. It’s as basic as it gets. I learned how to drive a manual using it. I still haul a riding mower in the back a lot (also from 1987) because of that low bed. I can do stuff with that truck that I can’t do on my ’97 F150 because of its smaller size. It’s been a great truck and I hope it will keep going a long time. Only current problem with it is it needs a set of lifters pretty bad. Sounds like a diesel now.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    The trouble with Rangers was they got about the same MPG as the F150. other than that, I love my ’94.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • SoCalMikester: a good 3rd of ukraine might as well be russia, so who cares?
  • ToolGuy: Are the two dozen sheep in the background of the larger picture there against their will?...
  • Arthur Dailey: CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Dec. 29 that unvaccinated people are about 10 times more...
  • Carlson Fan: If it doesn’t enhance towing ability I could care less. If I had money to burn I’d much...
  • slavuta: I’ve read a lot of stupid things and this just one more of them.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber