Junkyard Find: 1978 Dodge Ramcharger

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1978 dodge ramcharger

Even though Denver wrecking yards are always full of old trucks, the Dodge Ramcharger isn’t quite as common as its GM, Ford, and Jeep rivals. In fact, this Royal SE ’83 Ramcharger is the only example we’ve seen in this series, prior to today’s find. This tan Dodge is every bit as Malaise-y as the yellow ’76 Wagoneer we saw last month, so let’s look at these photos and imagine what it was like driving a 9 MPG truck during a period of high inflation and steep gas prices.

Tan with brown and orange stripes. I think the library— wait, I mean “media center”— in my junior high school was done up in very similar colors, back in 1979.

You don’t want to know what kind of horsepower the 318 (or 360) made in 1978. The torque was enough, let’s leave it at that.

At least it has a real transmission.

You don’t see many of these engine-coolant heaters these days.

It’s a bit rusty, but probably still had some life left.

An all-around family car!

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4 of 33 comments
  • Jim brewer Jim brewer on Dec 04, 2013

    I bought a 1989 new and kept it for almost twenty years. They upgraded the 318 that year with the Magnum. I think it had 180 hp. The roll bar is factory, because I ordered one. (I ordered it less than a month after seeing two separate fatal accidents about fifteen miles apart claiming four lives on the infamous US 666). They were careful to call it a sport bar for liability reasons, although it was bolted to the frame. They were kind of a cosmetic affectation back in the 1970's, sort of like fog lights. I had the manual An old Dodge Ramcharger in double low four wheel drive is an awesome thing. The original full time four wheel drive was quite problematic. Mine could engage in high range at highway speeds which was kind of surprising in those days, and handy for snow. Dodge did 4X4 before it was cool. The suspension was primitive even for the late 1980s. The thing got around 14-15 mpg, but I think that was before ethanol was prevalent. I bought it because the S-10 Blazers and Bronco IIs were wildly popular back then, (hard to believe, I know) and Chrysler had nothing to compete. So they discounted the Ramcharger as a Ramcharger 100 built in their excellent Lago Alberto plant in Mexico. It only cost $13,500, and I had limited slip, the sport bar, heavy duty alternator and I believe skid plates. It was nice looking, too. Better than a Bronco and at least the equal of a full size Blazer.

    • See 1 previous
    • MRF 95 T-Bird MRF 95 T-Bird on Dec 07, 2013

      Yes, S-10 Blazers and Bronco II's were quite popular back then. Chrysler was supposed to build a SUV version of the Dakota but ended up selling a rebadged 2 dr version of the Mitsubishi Montero, the Raider. Additionally the purchase of the Jeep division and models like the TJ would have Chrysler competing against itself.

  • Allan850glt Allan850glt on Feb 25, 2014

    Back in the early '80s my parents had one of these, a black '78, 360 auto, air, FM, funhouse-red vinyl interior (what little wasn't black painted metal), lots of red pinstripes with dips and swirls and big white "wagon wheels" with equally big white letter tires. This, along with a early '70s Scout (orange) made up our "winter vehicle squad" living in snowy/salty suburban Buffalo and nice weather cars consisting of a '74 Roadrunner and '75 Camaro type LT. The Ramcharger was acquired in '81 and after the first year it was a total bucket. The weather sure took its toll on the floorboards and eventually the doors went swiss-cheesesque as well. It rattled and banged and the heat was far from adequate but it did get through anything that Lake Erie and Lake Ontario threw us weatherwise...as long as it was frozen! Damp days made starting almost an exercise in futility. Once running it had a nasty tendency to die and not start back up. Rain, no Ramcharger. Damp days, no Ramcharger. My dad, uncles, our mechanic, nobody couldn't chase down whatever it was. There were many days where she'd sit dormant due to wet Buffalo conditions and either the Camaro would come out or we'd borrow Gram's Aspen. Eventually my dad had enough after a few years of dumping cash to no avail and bought himself a new '86 Accord which was leaps and bounds ahead of this awful SUV, if you can really call it that.

  • Wolfwagen I always thought the HRV and CHR looked similar and ugly and unuseful
  • DedBull How much of that debt is directly tied to their purchase of ADESA? While wholesale volumes are down, the dealer auction is still a backbone of the used automotive industry. I assume ADESA was a functional and profitable business before it's acquisition. Break it back off, with some amount of it's debt following, and start shrinking the retail side until it is stable.
  • Jon This does not seem like anything new for Oxford. In my one visit to England 10 years ago I received a random bill from the rental car agency for a ticket long after I had come home. I was driving in Oxford, made a wrong turn, and needed to turn around. The street ended at a cross street so the only way to do so was to cross over a "bus gate" which was just some lettering painted on the street. I think it was a weekend and there was no traffic, no busses around, etc. I drove over it made my u-turn and drove back down the road I was on. I did not continue on in a bus lane or cause harm or danger to anyone. One of their cameras caught my error and sent a hefty fine. After I received it I did some research and found many folks complaining of the same thing after visits to Oxford.
  • SCE to AUX Probably couldn't afford it - happens all the time.
  • MaintenanceCosts An ugly-a$s Challenger with poor equipment choices and an ugly Dealership Default color combination, not even a manual to redeem it, still no sale.