Junkyard Find: 1978 Dodge Ramcharger

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
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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!

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Writer d'Elegance Brougham Landau.

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  • 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.

  • Clay Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60 had manual choke through 1987.Also, just started daily driving my 1992 Volvo 240 that I picked up in September and brought back to the road. Some fresh studded tires + RWD, bring on the snow!! Old Volvos make me smile
  • Lou_BC My son already has a Scout EV. Well, okay, RC....
  • The Oracle I was in WNY when this went down and it is likely a medical issue and/or some type of rolling domestic. That car was flat out with air bags deployed before it even left the ground. It was a spectacular wreck. The couple made a 7-minute stop at the Seneca Niagara Casino before the fiery launch, and something went terribly wrong in those 7 minutes.
  • Lorenzo A union in itself doesn't mean failure, collective bargaining would mean failure.
  • Ajla Why did pedestrian fatalities hit their nadir in 2009 and overall road fatalities hit their lowest since 1949 in 2011? Sedans were more popular back then but a lot of 300hp trucks and SUVs were on the road starting around 2000. And the sedans weren't getting smaller and slower either. The correlation between the the size and power of the fleet with more road deaths seems to be a more recent occurrence.