1983 Dodge trucks and vans
The 1983 lineup of Dodge trucks included light duty pickups, Ram wagons and vans, the Ramcharger SUV, and the Ram 50 (imported from Mitsubishi); Dodge said they “accentuate traditional durability and quality while offering improved performance, attractive styling, and added value with new standard equipment.” New features included the only turbodiesel powered compact pickup, the Ram 50, a feature that would be highly desirable in 2006; and updated gear ratios and trim for the Rampage, America's first front-wheel-drive domestic small pickup.
The Dodge Ram pickups were basically carryovers from the 1981 redesign, which was mainly cosmetic in nature, replacing sheet metal and interiors but keeping the same powertrain and chassis. Body panels were galvanized, and four wheel drive models got automatic locking hubs developed at Chrysler (and made by Borg Warner) as standard equipment. The Ram symbol (dating back to the 1930s) was adopted to symbolize the entire lineup, with the slogan "Ram Tough."
Two interesting new pickups for 1982 included the Rampage, the first front-wheel drive pickup built by a member of the Big Three. Rampage was built on the FWD Dodge Omni's 104.2 inch wheelbase chassis and boasted of a payload capacity of 1,140 pounds. It was powered by the company's 84 horsepower 2.2 liter four cylinder engine. The other new pickup for 1982 was the imported Power Ram 50. It was powered by a 2.6 liter four cylinder overhead cam Hemi engine. All other pickup models continued without significant change from 1981.
Dodge Ram pickups
A four-wheel-drive version of the popular Ram Miser was new for 1983. Conventional Ram pickup models included a three-man cab on a 115 or 131-inch wheelbase with two box styles and the Crew Cab for six passenger capacity. Ram pickups were available in two or four-wheel-drive versions (the four wheel drive models were called Power Rams), and with single or dual rear wheels. New 1983 standard features included upgraded vinyl bench seat, and a new bright front bumper. The Ram and Power Ram were available in 115 and 131 inch wheelbases (six and a half foot or eight foot beds); real Dodge-made Rams started at the D150 full-sized pickup (W150 with four wheel drive) and continued (based on capacity) with the D250 and D350 (two wheel drive) or W250 and W350 (four wheel drive); chassis cabs (medium duty trucks) were also sold as the D450/W450.
In 1982, Dodge had introduced the D150 Miser, with a slant six engine and manual 4-speed overdrive transmission to be a "gas miser." In 1983, the W150 Miser, a four wheel drive version, was introduced (it would be called the D100/W100 in 1984).
The 250/350 were available with crew cabs. All were available with a 115- or the 131-inch wheelbase (either a 6 1/2- or 8-foot bed). The club cab was eliminated in the 1983 model year as Dodge started working on getting the factory ready to build Dodge Dakotas in 1986.
Engines were the usual suspects: 225 cubic inch slant six (3.7 liters) with single barrel carburetor, 318 V8 with two-barrel carb, and 360 V8 with four-barrel carb. The slant six would not continue much longer, but the two V8s would carry on in various forms well into the 1990s. [No Super Six is listed in the literature, but Jack Bishop wrote to say he had a 1983 D150 Miser with 225 two-barrel and Lean Burn backed up by a four-speed overdrive.)
Ram 50 included a turbo-charged diesel engine, an automatic transmission option on the four-wheel-drive Power Ram 50, and a redesigned front end with a more massive front bumper. Ram 50 had a 109.4 inch wheelbase; the base economy model (new for 1983) and Ram 50 Custom had a payload of 1,503 pounds, while the Royal had a payload of 1,556 pounds and the Sport had a payload of 1,534 pounds.
The Ram 50 was an interesting vehicle in some ways: loved by many of its owners, it was one of the best Asian pickups, and it was carried by Chrysler until 1993; to date it has not been replaced by a Chrysler vehicle (though it was augmented by the mid-sized Dakota in 1987, the Dakota was by no means a replacement for the compact-even-for-a-compact D50).
Even in 1993, its replacement was more of a morale/policy decision, part of the phase-out of Mitsubishi and “we can do it!” mentality, than a product decision, especially since the Dakota itself was made bigger and heftier shortly afterwards. There was talk of a successor to the Ram 50 in 2005, with the M80’s appearance, but an actual replacement had to wait beyond 2013.
Power Ram and Ramcharger sport-utility vehicles; Dodge Rampage
The Ramcharger SUV, essentially a pickup with a built-in bed cap, had two and four-wheel drive, with more standard equipment. A new high back deluxe vinyl back seat was standard in the Ramcharger Custom; high-back buckets in Tuscon cloth and vinyl were standard on the Royal SE. Other standard features included a 35-gallon fuel tank, radial tires, new bright front bumpers, and automatic locking hubs on all four-wheel-drive models, and a maintenance free battery.
The Rampage, a pickup truck based on the Omni/Horizon platform with an optional 2.2 liter engine, continued into its second year, with a five-speed manual transmission providing better performance and economy than the prior four-speed. The Rampage was built for those who needed to carry bulky, but not especially heavy, items with good gas mileage and comfort.
Dodge Ram wagons and vans
Leading Dodge's fleet of Ram Tough wagons in both price and economy of operation was the 109-inch wheelbase Mini-Ram. It featured a 36-gallon fuel tank, chrome outside mirrors, bright wheel covers, and chrome bumpers. Dodge's Ram Wagons had extra seating capacity and trailer-hauling ability in a space-efficient design that was shorter than traditional station wagons. They had the industry's only single rear door. Vinyl high back bucket seats, a deluxe heater, bright surround moldings on all vented rear quarter windows, and tinted glass in all Ram Wagons were among new standard equipment. On the Ram Van, tinted glass and a vinyl low back bucket seat for the driver were standard.
At the time, Dodge’s full-size van sales were quite strong, pulling in massive market share. Dodge would neglect the Ram Van and Wagon until finally, after being acquired by Daimler, the vehicles — now with a negligible market share — would be discontinued and their factory torn down. In 1983, there was still a big market for these vehicles, and Dodge had a big chunk of it.
The 225 ClD Slant Six engine was the basic power plant for most domestic truck models for 1983. The 2.3 liter four-cylinder turbodiesel from Mitsubishi was available on the Ram 50 and Power Ram 50 Royal premium models, with a new standard 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine that increased city gas mileage by roughly 8%. The Rampage 2.2 had a standard Chrysler-built five-speed manual transaxle.