Junkyard Find: 1983 Dodge Ram 50 Prospector

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Small pickups sold pretty well in the United States during the Malaise Era, and Ford and GM cashed in by importing and rebadging Mazda and Isuzu trucks, respectively. Chrysler, late to the party, turned to longtime partner Mitsubishi and began bringing in first-generation Forte pickups, starting in the 1979 model year.

Here’s a Dodge-badged version I found last week in a Denver self-service yard.

The Dodge Ram 50 (aka Dodge D50) and Plymouth Arrow pickup were cheap, fairly reliable, and got the job done. Once Mitsubishi started selling vehicles in the United States under its own badging, small-truck shoppers could buy a Mighty Max version as well.

The 2.6-liter Astron four-cylinder engine powered a bewildering assortment of US-market vehicles, from the K-Cars with “Hemi 2.6” engines to the exquisitely 1980s Mitsubishi Starion.

This truck has plenty of body filler and general hooptieness, but doesn’t seem rusty.

A very simple little truck, with simple controls and not much to go wrong. And now its constituent materials will reenter the commodities food chain.

The best EPA fuel economy of all small pickups with optional automatic transmissions? Yes, the D50 and its optimistic 28 highway miles per gallon.

You don’t have to look tough to be tough.

By 1983, the Ram 50 had to compete with the identical Mighty Max.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Nichodemus Nichodemus on Oct 13, 2016

    I still have an 87 D50 in my driveway. It ran until a few years ago. No power steering, no a/c, no radio, no cupholders, no tint at the top of the windshield, no power anything. Something happened with the stupid Mikuni carb. I took it off, and managed to break it. Yes. The bottom half was plastic. You can buy a Weber carb kit for it.

  • Ogre Backwash Ogre Backwash on Mar 08, 2017

    Great little truck and very tough. There is still a demand for small trucks but for some reasons they aren't being built anymore as far as I can tell.

  • Akear I just wish GM could produce a vehicle 80% as good as the crown.I sat in a Trax at a Chevrolet dealership this weekend and was shocked how cheap it felt. GM does not care.GM - what a disgrace!
  • Akear I like the grill treatment of all Mitsubishi products. It is an interesting and original design.
  • El scotto Some rambling thoughts; Elon is pulling billions in cash out of Tesla. Tesla will be around, Elon won't let them fail. Mitsubishi is an odd place, you can't sell vehicles if you don't have dealers. Out of all the "Automalls" near you, how many have a Mitsubishi dealership? The Agnellis owned Fiat, Fiat got sold to Stellantis. The Agnellis control Exor. How much of Stellantis does Exor own? I really should be drinking beer with Billy Ford and talking Big-10 trash with him. Ford and Lucid should work out a partnership. You want an electric Lincoln? Have Lucid build it and slap a Lincoln name plate on it. BTW, kick Farley's butt to the curb.
  • Akear US contentChevrolet Trax - 5%Honda Pilot - 52%What a disgrace!I glad Consumer Reports panned the Trax, and put it on its avoid list.
  • Akear This is similar to what lazy GM and Ford used to do.