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Dodge D-series pickups, 1972-1980: newer and tougher

The 1972 trucks carried the same names as the 1971s, but the bodies were completely new. They were the last to carry the “D series” name, which lasted until 1993.

1972 dodge ram

The look of the new D series would remain fairly constant; the real reason was probably cost, but Dodge claimed that truck buyers wanted reliability and durability rather than fashion changes, which rather flew in the face of their past styling efforts. There would be many changes to the Dodge pickups, but the basic look, outside of grilles and paintwork, stayed fairly unchanged for two decades.

first generation dakota pickup

The 1972 rear wheel drive Dodge pickups debuted with new independent front suspension (IFS) using coil springs, keeping the usual leaf-springs in back; the 4x4s retained their past front suspensions. The front and rear track both increased with wheelbase for better handling, while brake sizes were increased for lower maintenance and better stopping power; the hand-brake was replaced with a foot-brake for more reliable hill-holding.

1973 dodge ram club cab

The 1972 D series added comfort, convenience, visibility, load capacity, shoulder room, and longer doors that could open further, for better cab access. Fuses were moved for easier servicing, full width sun visors and anti-glare dashboards were added, and more sound insulation was added. The wiper motors were moved to the engine bay, also cutting noise, and airflow was increased. New features, including power assisted disc brakes, cruise control, and integrated air conditioning, were added to the options list.

1972 (1973 in Canada) brought the Club Cab, to carry people in more comfort, or to store valuable equipment inside the truck; it had transverse seating for a third passenger, or two small passengers. Chrysler Corporation’s Burton Bouwkamp wrote (in 2016), “The club cab was a great innovation, but it was tooled on temporary tools (Kirksite) because Dodge Truck did not have enough money for permanent steel dies. When management became aware of the dealer orders for the club cab, they approved the money for permanent tools.”

Tim Vincent added, “The only difference I’ve come across so far [in the Club and regular cab] is the way the front spring hangers are connected to the frame, instead of rivets, there are bolts holding on the leading spring hanger.”

1974 dodge d-600


In 1974, the Ramcharger option was created by taking a short-wheelbase full-size pickup and adding an optional hard or soft bed top, with two rows of seats. It lasted through to 1993 (the Plymouth version, Trailduster, only lasted to 1981).

See 1975 Dodge truck details

Power Wagon ambulance

Blue Dodge

The truck above is a 1975 Dodge Bighorn CNT950; according to Kyle Youngblood, it was bought new by Prouse, and is low mileage, with just around 200,000 miles now. Around 115 of the 261 built are still around.

Dodge heavy duty

1975 Dodge LFN truck

In 1976 and 1977, new custom-van and "specialty truck" options were added; 1977 saw minor changes. These specialty trucks and other contemporary information are in our 1977 Dodge trucks page.

dodge trucks growth

1977 Dodge pickup trucks

dodge warlock and d100 adventurer

Steering column repairs: turn signal switch, ignition switch, horn switch

The tough years: fuel crisis and beyond

When the fuel crisis hit, Dodge was not prepared, and it took some time to fit pickups with a Mitsubishi diesel; that rare model appeared in 1978, the same year the D-150 and D-250 were introduced. Some mid-1970s D-100s had already been fitted by an aftermarket firm with Mitsubishi diesels, but this was probably unrelated, since Chrysler was, at the time, working on taking over Mitsubishi.

mitsubishi diesel

The 1978 D150s, D250s, and Power Wagons had a factory-optional (VIN code H) Mitsubishi 6DR5, 3950 cc (243 cubic inches), with 105 hp at 3500 rpm, also supplied to Toyota for the Land Cruiser (which may be why it came with a Denso injection pump). A straight-six, it came without a turbocharger; gas mileage was good, at roughly 20 mpg. While the engine had more power and torque than the D-series’ slant six engines, the range of a diesel is far smaller than that of a gasoline engine, limiting top speed. This option would stay into the 1980s, finding few takers.

Lil Red Express Truck

The L’il Red Truck was introduced by Dodge in March 1978, following the release of such self-proclaimed “adult toys” as the Dodge Warlock. Engineered for speed, the Little Red Truck was built on the short-wheelbase (115 inch) Utiline-style half-ton D150 with a 6,050 pound gross vehicle weight, but the real attraction was the high performance 360 V8 breathing through a four-barrel carburetor.

dodge d50

For 1979, a Mitsubishi pickup was imported, finally replacing the A-trucks which had been gone since 1971. The Mitsubishi, sold as the D-50 and later as the Ram 50, was just an inch longer in wheelbase than the old A-series pickups, but used a technologically advanced four cylinder in place of the slant six.

1978 Dodge trucks brochure

The B-series V8s, the 383, 400, and 440 left production in 1979, the end of an era. Dodge, caught up in Chrysler's economic crisis, leaned on Mitsubishi for a compact pickup, selling the D50 as a Dodge even though it was designed and built entirely by the Japanese auto firm. The plan was originally for Chrysler to eventually buy Mitsubishi but this never materialized, despite efforts by Daimler to bring the two together.

The 1980 Dodge Power Wagon was the last truck to have that name until 2005.

1981 would bring major changes to the line — though not nearly as comprehensive as the complete 1994 model-year redesign. Perhaps the most important addition to the Dodge truck lineup, though, was the Cummins diesel engine, starting in 1989. Continue on to our 1981-1993 Dodge D-series pickup truck section...

Dodge D-Series Trucks (Detail Pages): 1966197519771983

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