By on September 10, 2020

Dodge fielded a full-size, truck-based SUV for many years and called it Ramcharger. Eventually for Some Good Reasons, ChryCo abandoned the segment and let Ford and General Motors rake in the dough instead. Today we check out a beautiful truck from the later period of the Ramcharger’s run.

Hope you really like brown.

The Ramcharger entered production in 1974, as a development of Chrysler’s AD truck platform that debuted for 1972. The full-size, two-door SUV was in its heyday in the mid-Seventies, and demanded the first and only debut of a Plymouth SUV, a twin to Ramcharger called Trail Duster. Both SUVs utilized a wheelbase nine inches shorter than the D Series trucks on the AD platform.

Things were still settling in the first year of the Ramcharger. For that year only, all examples were equipped with four-wheel drive. The earliest trucks also had door pillars attached to the removable roof. The door design was changed halfway through the production year, and the earlier half doors were swapped for the standard doors of the D Series. Early trucks were also the most basic; through 1976 all seats beyond the driver’s were optional extras. Dodge dealers installed fabric and metal roofs on Ramchargers through 1980.

1981 saw the debut of the second generation Ramcharger and Trail Duster, as the SUVs followed a new D Series truck design. There was more available power equipment and fancier trim levels than the outgoing generation, but engine choices were more limited. Just two V8 engines were used in the second gen model, both familiar: the 318 (5.2L) and the 360 (5.9L). Transmissions included three-, four-, and five-speed manuals depending on the year, or a singular three-speed automatic. Throttle-body injection did not arrive until 1988 for the 318, and 1989 for the 360. Roofs of all second generation Ramchargers were welded in place, and made of steel. 1981 created a Rare Ride for Plymouth, as the Trail Duster was cancelled after a single gen two model year.

Gen two Ramchargers were slow to evolve, and only minimal changes occurred between 1981 and the end of the US line in 1993. Notably, the egg-crate grille was replaced by the more familiar Dodge crosshair design for model year 1986. One final grille changed arrived for 1991, which carried through to the end of US sales. Even though Dodge changed the truck game with the 1994 Ram 1500, it kept a Mexican-produced Ramcharger on sale in Mexico through 1996. And between 1999 and 2001, there was a two-door Ram-based Ramcharger sold only in the Mexican market.

Today’s Rare Ride is absolutely pristine and in high-trim Royale guise. It sold with no reserve at the end of August via Mecum and fetched $17,050.

[Images: seller]

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30 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 1986 Dodge Ramcharger, All Kinds of Awesome...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    That’s sweet, and Dodge should revive the Ramcharger name.

  • avatar

    The Mexican Dodge Ramcharger was based on the Ram, not the Durango, and it used the tailgate from the same era Caravan. Also, I would argue that this really isn’t a “second generation” Ramcharger, as it really was just a heavy facelift.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    I saw this one sell, it was funny listening to Bill Stephens whining about the name.
    I’ve never figured out why ChryCo didn’t leverage the beefy 90’s Ram into a ‘Burban/’Sclade fighter. Seems like it would’ve been easy money.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX


      Besides, the SUV craze really hadn’t hit its stride back then.

    • 0 avatar

      Iacocca is to blame. Everything fullsize was on the chopping block or ran until the generation could go no more. I’m not sure Dodge trucks would’ve survived without Cummins.

      Until the early ’90s, SUVs were subject to the passenger car Gas Guzzler Tax, so Iacocca sorta had a point. This CAFE change led to the SUV craze, but I’ll bet it was too late for a 2nd gen Ram Charger or 4-door variant.

    • 0 avatar

      Officially in 94 Chrysler said CAFE was to blame. They claimed GM could only get away with making the suburban due to the Geo tracker offsetting the Suburban, of course that doesn’t quite explain Ford and the expedition.

      • 0 avatar

        The RamCharger’s run ended when the big block V8 engines were dropped. Those big pushrod V8’s couldn’t be cleaned up enough to pass future emissions standards AND improve fuel economy.

  • avatar

    I have family that bought two 2nd gen Ramchargers in the late 80s or early 90s. Both stopped working in the mid to late 90s and have been rusting away in their final parking spots in a field since.

    I’ve never been in one, but as a kid I always thought they looked so cool.

  • avatar

    Nostalgia is great and all but if Stellantis actually built a Ramcharger today; no one would buy it.

    Hey, remember when you didn’t need a ladder to get into a truck?

    Anyway, crush it.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I read back when these were around that Mopar went to the fixed roofs on the second generation Ramcharger because they did customer surveys and found that few owners of the first gen vehicles bothered to remove the fiberglass roof. I find the curved side glass quite stylish and makes it less box like. There’s also a rear roof vent kind of like a RV or trailer for fresh air.

    • 0 avatar

      I had a 1978 and the roof took multiple people to remove or replace. And it would leak after many r&r. I believe you got a steel or fabric roof. I don’t remember any having fiberglass.

      The second gen you could get a cooler with a proper drain in the center console.

    • 0 avatar

      The only fiberglass that I know was used in Ramchargers was the post-refresh liftgate. I believe all of the liftgates were always fiberglass and the main problem is that the inlaid steel hinge plates rust and/or delaminate the fiberglass at the hinges.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I briefly worked at a transmission shop and the owner had one of these in 2-tone gold sitting on the forecourt. I briefly entertained the idea of buying and fixing it up. At the time it was in rough but still usable shape. This being 1998 it was virtually worthless as SUVs weren’t fully in favor yet, especially not “classic” SUVs. It might have only been about 10 years old, but it seemed used up and really old – especially on the inside.

    I ended up not pursuing it, similar to how I didn’t pursue the T-topped Monte Carlo or the ~’95 Buick Park Ave he tried to convince me to buy.

  • avatar

    I have one of these, a 1988 318 with TBI, albeit a D100 LE 4×2 base trim truck. Haven’t driven it in 12 years; ran when parked ($3-$4/gal gas and 14mpg on a 45 mile daily commute soured me).

    These trucks are probably among the last vehicles to retain a cowl vent that passes air through the quarter panel into the drivers’ footwell via a slide gate. The passenger side feeds the HVAC box. With the roof pop-up vent, the cowl foot vent, and both wing windows open the factory 2-speaker AM/FM radio was completely inaudible above 55 but the airflow was impressive.

    The V8s were upgraded to Magnum MPFI engines at the end of the product run. I think the 5.2 was updated for 1992 and the 5.9 for 1993, or maybe they were both updated for 92. I think the 3.9 Magnum V6 technically became a thing then too, but I’ve literally never seen one.

  • avatar

    I have an 88 4×4 Royal SE, similar this but 2 tone blue/ blue interior. 5.2 EFI throttle body. Great truck mine has been sitting for a few years needs a new radiator and some rust repair now. Surprised the values aren’t getting higher on these most years they made more corvettes then Ramchargers. The back seat is fairly comfortable and the flip up passenger seat is almost hilarious the first time you hit it. Really short wheelbase make them awesome offroad but a bit odd when towing. 35 gallon gas tank behind the rear axle doesn’t help much either. Mine used to get 15mpg on long drives.

    • 0 avatar

      Nice….I had a black 85 Royal SE with the 318 as well, whorehouse red velour interior….very comfortable. Before that, I had a ‘79 with the 360, full time NP203 t-case and a mild Rancho lift with 35s and a Bestop (I think?) soft top kit, which I left on most of the time as the steel roof was heeavy! Man, that thing was a pig on fuel and front axle u-joints due to the full time 4wd. Best investment on any Ramcharger (or W150 pick up) was to swap out the stock steering slip joint shaft for a Borgenson shaft with mini u-joints as the stock shaft wore out in a year and these things would really wander on the highway….especially with big tires. Great rigs tho….getting tough to find good examples.

  • avatar

    “…all kinds of awesome”? Was this written by a teenage girl? What does that even mean?

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