By on December 4, 2013

15 - 1978 Dodge Ramcharger Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinEven 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.
03 - 1978 Dodge Ramcharger Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinTan 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.
12 - 1978 Dodge Ramcharger Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinYou 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.
05 - 1978 Dodge Ramcharger Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinAt least it has a real transmission.
13 - 1978 Dodge Ramcharger Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinYou don’t see many of these engine-coolant heaters these days.
10 - 1978 Dodge Ramcharger Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s a bit rusty, but probably still had some life left.

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33 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1978 Dodge Ramcharger...”

  • avatar

    Wow, it’s pretty used up.

    Mopar question: The white panel van next to the Ramcharger! Is this just a “Dodge Ram Van?” And when did this particular style of headlamps/grille debut on said van?

    • 0 avatar

      Looks like a mid 90’s Ram Van. I believe that front end debuted in ’94 to go along with the new look of the Ram pickup.

      The Ram Van was built in my home town and you still see quite a lot of high mileage examples in service, long after they stopped making them in ’03.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, Ram Van. That rounded-edge look was introduced for ’94. For ’98, a new dashboard (replacing the square disco-era one), a slightly lengthened – though nearly identically styled, just slightly pointier – nose (allowing the engine to be shoved forward a bit for more room), and modern sideview mirrors were implemented, which makes that van a ’94-97 model unless there’s some exception of which I’m unaware.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey thanks. I was thinking 93 or 94 potentially. Guess that’s the same as the first year of the new style Ram truck. I always thought that version Ram Van looked modern for it’s time – compared to the other offerings from GM and Ford (especially).

  • avatar

    I had one of these years ago. A 1978 that was blue, had a 318, no A/C and a 3+1 manual. It got an honest 12mpg mixed driving. The shifter was the opposite of a short throw as you had to reach to the next county when you shifted gears. It was a good truck really and we beat the snot out of it and it just kept going. We did have to drain all the fluids after it sat overnight in a lake, but other than oil changes and a timing chain at 130k miles we didn’t do much to it.

  • avatar

    Does that roll bar indicate a possibly exciting life? The vehicles that have lived a sedate life last the longest. The ones that have been places and “seen” things have pretty much given their all by the time they end up in a junkyard. I suspect this one was kept for a time for sentimental reasons before making her final journey.

    • 0 avatar

      I have a feeling that the roll bar was installed at the factory, this generation of Ramcharger had a completely removable roof and rear shell so was likely needed to protect the rear passengers.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know if the rollbars were factory installed or not, but that style roll bar would not have provided much protection for a rear seat occupant. The only overhead bar is located at the rear of the fixed roof, which is directly behind the driver’s head. The rear mount is centered above the wheel well which is nearly in-line with the rear seat’s hip point. Any rear seat passenger whose head is above the top of the low-back bench would not be protected by that roll bar. That bar was more than likely a structural stiffener intended for those who do off-roading without the removable top in place, and as such it might have been optional or even factory aftermarket (not third-party aftermarket as the body stampings are prepped for this item). I knew a guy in college who had a 79 with a removable top but I cannot recall if he had this roll bar or not. My 1988 has a fixed roof, but still has the visible locating marks in the sheet metal stampings on the floor pan and wheel wells to locate this roll bar. Even my vinyl rear floor covering has a punched circle on each side intended to fit around the tube.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “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.”

    IIRC trucks in those days had a lot more leeway re: emissions controls, so the output of that V8 was probably about the same as it was in the ’60s, versus the smog-strangled stuff that went in the cars.

  • avatar

    I’ve heard Ramchargers, just like their pickup brethren, didn’t sell nearly as much as the K5 Blazers and full-size Broncos did…I believe it, I can’t remember the last time I saw a Ramcharger.

  • avatar

    Since when is “library” an unacceptable term anymore? Are the little mush-brains afraid someone is going to force them to read a book?

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Back in the ’70s and ’80s the school “library” was also the place where the hand-cranked filmstrips (bong!), the TV cart, and cassette tapes were stored, so “media center” became the trendy name for that room.

      These days the kids read and watch everything on tablets anyway, so the “library” is just the legacy book depository.

  • avatar

    Very true. Ford, Chevy/GMC and to a lesser extent Jeep got there first and sold more. Plus those three makers were better at exploiting the marketing potential of these SUVs as “lifestyle” vehicles than the Dodge boys.

    Kudos as usual to Murilee. I’d love to see its corporate twin, a Plymouth TrailDuster some time. Even fewer of those were sold.

    Chrysler was perpetually broke and except for engines/transmissions had the worst quality control. Many of these things came out of the factory with no real consumer demand, especially in 1974-75 and 1978-81. They sat in the infamous Chrysler “sales banks” where they rusted away. I think it took Joe Garigiola hawking the first automaker rebates to get these things moving somewhat along with the full-sized metal, but even that was sporadic.

  • avatar

    I well remember these , our fleet had close to a tho9usand Dodge trucks of various sizes back then . sturdy but incredibly cheapo on the electrical system and interior plastics .

    Bullet proof if slow drive trains .


  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Lone Wolf McQuade approves.

    Chuck Norris doesn’t need a license to drive the Ramcharger. The Ramcharger needs a license to be driven by Chuck Norris.

  • avatar

    I don’t think the bar code on the valve cover existed back in ’78. That’s probably a junkyard sourced 360 from a 90’s pickup or something.

  • avatar

    I drove one of these for a while. It was an ex-Forest Service vehicle. We could beat the snot out of it, it would ask for more. I think “agricultural” is an apt description. Simple and durable is what I think of with this thing. Mileage was shocking compared with current, to fill the tank would be ~$100, and last for 200 some odd miles. And that was 10ish years ago. Also, that shifter was something else. It was a full arm swing to go from 1st to 2nd, but the v8 didn’t have enough torque to generally start in 2nd, so it was always a quick 1-2 shift at a light. It was a great truck, but totally impractical for anyone that wasn’t going 4 wheeling daily.

  • avatar

    An awesome off-roader in their day, and this particular one had the added benefit of a New Process 435 4 speed manual, a cast iron transmission with a really deep first gear. Probably a 360 by virture of the (missing) Carter Thermo-Quad 4bbl. (though a few 318’s were so equipped). Once in a great while you would see one of these with a 440 in it.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      The full size Blazers were no better, worse in my opinion due to the single engine option, the wheezy 350. I believe the hp on this monster was rated at 130 or so but the 318 and 360 were always tried and true truck engines, plenty of torque where you needed it and simple and reliable as an anvil. My buddies lasted 16years in the snow belt before the rust made it undriveable, original engine transfer case and transmission though

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      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.

  • avatar

    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.

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