Buy/Drive/Burn: Compact and Captive Pickup Trucks From 1982

buy drive burn compact and captive pickup trucks from 1982

In the last edition of Buy/Drive/Burn we pitted three compact pickup trucks from Japan against one another. The year was 1972 — still fairly early in Japan’s truck presence on North American shores. The distant year caused many commenters to shout “We are young!” and then claim a lack of familiarity.

Fine! Today we’ll move it forward a decade, and talk trucks in 1982.

All of today’s trucks have one thing in common: They’re Japanese and wear domestic branding. The Big Three was caught out by the big Japanese players’ small trucks, so its members turned to second-tier Japanese manufacturers and created captive imports. That bought some time while Ford, GM, and Chrysler worked behind the scenes to develop their own compact offerings.

In 1982, the small truck captive import party was about over.

Chevrolet LUV

General Motors offered Isuzu’s Faster as the LUV between 1972 and 1982. Feeling the heat from Datsun, Toyota, and Ford (see below), the LUV started out with an inline-four of 75 horsepower as its only engine offering. A facelift in 1974 was followed with an automatic transmission offering in 1976, and four-wheel drive (the first on a compact truck) in 1979. 1981 brought the arrival of a second-generation LUV, though Isuzu renamed the truck Pick Up in other markets. More power was finally available, too. Today’s engine is the largest 2.3-liter four, paired to a manual transmission and 4×4.

LUV was replaced in 1983 by the S-10.

Dodge Ram 50

Dodge was late to the game with its small truck offering, introducing the new D-50 in 1979. Underneath the logos was the first-generation Mitsubishi Triton, or Mighty Max if it feels more comfortable. The name switched to Ram 50 in 1981, and it was sold alongside its twin, the Plymouth Arrow. 1982 was a year of change for the Ram 50: The Arrow went away as Mitsubishi offered the Mighty Max under its badge for the first time. Meanwhile, four-wheel drive became available. Said versions carried the Power Ram 50 moniker. The largest gasoline engine available (and our pick today) was the 2.6-liter four-cylinder from other Mitsubishi truck products.

Today’s Power Ram 50 is also paired with a five-speed manual. Though Chrysler introduced the Dakota as the Ram 50’s replacement in 1987, it continued to sell both trucks together through 1994.

Ford Courier

Ford hired Mazda to import its gen two B-Series truck, then sold it through its North American dealerships starting in 1972. Its first iteration was saddled with a 1.8-liter engine of 74 horsepower, mated to a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic. Ford wasn’t sure how to badge the Courier, switching placement and names three or four times in the first generation. A second gen debuted in 1977 and carried notable upgrades in power and drivability. The base engine was enlarged to two full liters, and disc brakes appeared at the front. Optional was a 2.3-liter Pinto engine. Critically, the Courier was never available with four-wheel drive. That means today’s Courier pairs the larger Pinto engine with a five-speed manual and 4×2. The Ranger was ready for 1983, though Ford and Mazda’s truck times were far from over.

Three compact captives, two of them on their deathbeds in 1982. Which is worth a Buy?

[Images: Ford, GM, Dodge]

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  • Lne937s Lne937s on Feb 16, 2020

    LS swap the LUV Hemi swap the Ram Coyote/Godzilla swap the Courier

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Feb 17, 2020

    My 99 S10 that I gave to my nephew is still going strong after 21 years. Mine has the 5 speed manual with the I-4. Having a manual in a truck like this makes a huge difference compared to the automatic.

  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!
  • Bryan Raab Davis I actually did use the P of D trope, but it was only gentle chiding, for I love old British cars of every sort.
  • ScarecrowRepair The 1907 Panic had several causes of increased demand for money:[list][*]The semi-annual shift of money between farms and cities (to buy for planting and selling harvests)[/*][*]Britain and Germany borrowing for their naval arms race[/*][*]San Francisco reconstruction borrowing after the 1906 earthquake and fire[/*][/list]Two things made it worse:[list][*]Idiotic bans on branch banking, which prevented urban, rural, and other state branches from shifting funds to match demands. This same problem made the Great Depression far worse. Canada, which allowed branch banking, had no bank failures; the US had 9000 failures.[/*][*]Idiotic reserve requirements left over from the Civil War which prevented banks from loaning money; they eventually started honoring IOUs illegally and started the recovery.[/*][/list]Been a while since I read up on it, so I may have some of the details wrong. But it was an amazing clusterfart which could have been avoided or at least tamed sooner if states and the feds hadn't been so ham handed.
  • FreedMike Maybe this explains all the “Idiots wrecking exotic cars” YouTube videos.
  • FreedMike Good article! And I salute the author for not using the classic “Lucas - prince of darkness” trope, well earned as it may be. We all know the rap on BL cars, but on the flip side, they’re apparently pretty easy to work on (at least that’s the impression I’ve picked up). On the other hand, check the panel fits on the driver’s and passenger’s doors. Clearly, BL wasn’t much concerned with things like structural integrity when it chopped the roof off a car designed as a coupe.