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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.

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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.

  • Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.