Rare Rides: A 1986 Dodge Ramcharger, All Kinds of Awesome

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • Mopar4wd Mopar4wd on Sep 11, 2020

    I have an 88 4x4 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.

    • IHateCars IHateCars on Sep 11, 2020

      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.

  • Teddyc73 Teddyc73 on Sep 15, 2020

    "...all kinds of awesome"? Was this written by a teenage girl? What does that even mean?

  • Carson D I hadn't seen a second-generation Courier with a Mazda engine before. I've seen a few with Ford engines. There was one at the Cox Driving Range that they used to collect golf balls. Golf would definitely be more entertaining to watch if they used moving targets.
  • Tassos ooops, Tim, you missed this one. Would make a lovely "Tim's used car of the day". It satisfies all the prerequisites except the wildly overpriced bit.
  • Tassos ASTON AND BOND BY A MILE. While Aston Martin sells a TINY FRACTION of what even the rarified Ferrari and Lambo sell, it is unbelievably well known. Credit the idiotic, but hugely successful and sometimes entertaining James Bond Movies.
  • Tassos 1988? Too young for me. It's all yours, Tim... BAHAHAHAHA!
  • Gray Awesome. Love these. But, if I had the money for a Fox-body, there is a clean '84 GT 350 here for little more than half the price.