Dodge 50 / Renault 50 / DeSoto 50 trucks and vans of the UK
The Dodge 50, built starting in 1979, used a British truck chassis to support a cab similar to that of the American Tradesman van, modified for European operation with different lights and features (including headlight wipers). The name was similar to the later North American Ram 50, a rebadged Mitsubishi pickup, but the two bore no common parts or designs.
The Dodge 50 vans and chassis cabs were sold in capacities from 3½ to 7½ tons, with different wheelbases, capacities, and left or right hand drive; like the domestically engineered Spacevan, they were popular in the commercial trade, and like the Spacevan, they lasted longer than one might have expected. In various markets and at various times, the Dodge 50 was sold as the Renault 50 and the DeSoto 50.
Engines included 4 and 6 cylinder Perkins and a new one, the 6/247, sourced from Japan by Perkins. The four cylinder Perkins 4.236 generated 80 hp and 182 lb-ft of torque, with a redline of just under 3,000 rpm; the Perkins 6.247 generated 93 hp and 160 lb-ft, with a redline around 3,600 rpm. The Perkins diesel engines were reliable, though not especially well-known, and had been successfully used in Dodge trucks for years; there were also Perkins retrofits for Chrysler, Dodge, DeSoto, and Plymouth cars sold throughout Europe.
Burton Bouwkamp, product leader of Chrysler Europe from 1975 to 1979, wrote:
At the Dunstable Plant we were building an obsolete van called the “PB Van.” Chrysler-Europe desperately needed a new van but did not have the money to design and tool one. So we planned a vehicle that adapted Dodge USA van body parts (front doors, windshield, instrument panel, dash panel, floor pan, etc.) to a European truck chassis.
From the front bumper to the back of the front door, the Dodge 50 and Tradesman van looked the same. From there back, the two vehicles looked completely different, because the USA product was a van while the 50 Series was a truck. The 50 Series had a separate cab with a separate box - or bed - mounted on the truck frame. Chrysler UK had to design and tool a roof, back of cab, backlight, etc. for the 50 Series because these body parts did not exist for the USA product. These parts were sourced in England.
The new UK sourced parts did not fit the old USA sourced body parts, and that was a significant problem. The problem was caused by the USA letting the body parts “drift” from original design specifications. This would never have happened in Japan because design specifications were always “the Bible!” I don't remember how we worked our way through those problems but I suspect that we ignored design specifications and made it work - making whatever adjustments to carryover and/or new parts that were fastest and cheapest.
Chrysler - Europe was sold to PSA in the middle of this project and I transferred to Detroit - so I did not see the completion of the 50 Series program.
Derek Phethean was the Chrysler UK Truck Product Planner at the time the project was given the go-ahead. Marc Honoré, Director of Chrysler Europe Product Planning, said he saw an Army version of the 50 series.
Electric Dodge 50 vans/trucks
A 1981 (the same year Renault took over) electric-powered Dodge 50 series brochure was turned up by Daniel Stern; the truck was a joint project between Dodge Trucks and Chloride. Under the hood was a 50 kW compound-wound DC electric motor, powered by lead-acid batteries with a total voltage of 160 volts and 67 kilowatt-hours of capacity. Top speed was 40 mph with what they called “good acceleration” (0-30 in 19 seconds), and a claimed range of 45-55 miles between charges. The company claimed that 75% of all urban delivery vehicles travelled less than that. Maintenance was eased with the Chloride “Autofil” battery water refill system.
The setup used an automatic transmission and regenerative braking; the 420-amp-hour Chloride batteries were kept in rubber-lined steel trays. An automatic charger provided a full charge in eight hours, with overcharge prevention. The batteries were guaranteed for four years. An electronic control system varied the voltage and current, using a system similar to “advanced forklift trucks,” with high-speed electronic switches that varied the percentage of time the battery was directly connected to the motor; the switches were rapidly opened and closed, up to 500 times per second, to vary the voltage supplied.
The electric Dodge 50 trucks were based on the Dodge Silent Karrier, the largest trial program of modern high-performance electric vehicles in the UK, with over 70 produced.
Based on the Dodge 50 Series S66, the truck weighed 4.2 UK tons (around 9,400 lb), with around 2.4 tons (around 5,400 lb) cargo capacity. The curb weight of a conventional S66 chassis cab with a comparable wheelbase was 5,100 pounds, with a payload of around 4,400 lb.
0-30 mph (0-50 kp/h) was listed as taking 19 seconds. A paraffin/diesel heater was included, along with power brakes and 7.00 x 16 inch wheels. The truck was available in 144 inch or 159 inch wheelbases, and in left or right hand drive, and chassis front end or chassis cab form; the Battery Electric was available with numerous body types.