Junkyard Find: 1987 Dodge Raider, Sawzall Roadster Edition

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1987 dodge raider sawzall roadster edition
Even after the Mitsubishi Overlords began selling vehicles under their own badging in North America in the early 1980s, Chrysler continued selling those very same vehicles with Dodge, Plymouth, Eagle, and Chrysler emblems. One of these machines didn’t stay on sale for long, but captured the hearts of a devoted American following: the Dodge Raider, twin to the Mitsubishi Montero (aka Pajero).Here’s one that acquired some mean-looking modifications before meeting its demise in Colorado Springs.
Dodge Raiders sold here for just the 1987 through 1989 model years, but I still see quite a few of them here in Colorado (along with their near-identical Montero counterparts). Having a strong enthusiast base doesn’t keep all of them out of the jaws of The Crusher, however; so far I’ve documented this ’87 Raider, this ’87 Raider, this ’88 Raider, this ’88 Raider, and this ’90 Montero. I can see that I need to go shoot some discarded second-generation Monteros soon.
Chrysler did away with these “IMPORTED BY” badges a few years later. Mitsubishi recycled the Raider name later on, with the Mitsu-badged Dodge Dakota of the middle 2000s.
At some point, the owner of this truck decided that open-air off-roading would be more fun and Sawzalled off the roof.
The rollbar may or may not have replaced the lost structural solidity, but at least the diamond-plate covers over the raw edges of sliced metal kept passenger lacerations to a minimum.
Using steel instead of duct tape (or nothing at all) on the sliced-off portions of a Sawzall Roadster makes the difference between a vehicle that you’ll keep for another few years and one that you’ll dump after a few weeks. I know of a Plymouth Belvedere Sawzall Roadster that has been driving with no roof since the middle 1980s.
We can assume this truck did its share of legal off-road driving, given the Stay the Trail sticker on the back.
This is the first junkyard Raider I’ve found with an automatic transmission. Nearly all US-market Monteros had two-pedal rigs by the middle 1990s, once the Pajero began the inexorable transition from jouncy off-roader to truck-shaped commuter.
Some junkyard shopper grabbed the Astron engine and most of the front bodywork.
With everything from automatic locking hubs Toyota’s base 4Runner won’t give you to an inclinometer Nissan doesn’t have.
Japanese-market TV ads for the first-gen Pajero had some funky soundtracks.
Pajeros sold all over the world, including Germany.
If you wanted four doors to make your conquest of the suburban jungle more comfortable, you had to get the Mitsubishi version.For links to better than 2,000 additional Junkyard Finds, visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.
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3 of 12 comments
  • Gearhead77 Gearhead77 on Jun 29, 2020

    I’m no body guy, but the diamond plate work looks good, almost like it’s supposed to be there.

  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Jun 29, 2020

    One of my neighbors had one of these. A Wrangler is no comparison - the Raider was MUCH narrower, and as tall as me - 6 feet. I think that was close to a Model-T. My neighbor tipped his over a couple times, and after replacing the glass the first time, put homemade plexi on it after the second time. He ended up selling it for parts, and bought a well-used '74 Bronco with a 302, smog exempt in CA. I'd tell you what he thought of the 2.6 4-banger in the Raider, but kids might read it.

    • CombiNation CombiNation on Jul 01, 2020

      I had a Montero with the 2.6. I thought it was okay, very smooth for a four-cylinder. The fuel mileage wasn't great for the power, but the smoothness was a revelation. Also, the 4wd engagement was very good compared to the Jeep SJ I had before. The engine had some weaknesses—the balance-shaft tensioner had to be manually adjusted and needed to be checked because the oil pump ran off the same chain. And the MCA-jet valves would get clogged, reducing compression.

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