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Dodge Ram 50 and Plymouth Arrow: Japanese pickup

After the A-series pickup and van were dropped in 1970, replaced by the B-series van (and no pickup), a gap appeared in Chrysler's pickup truck line. Eventually that was filled by a Japanese import, the Dodge D-50 (later to be the Ram 50), created and built by Mitsubishi. At the same time, the company brought out the Plymouth Arrow, a similar truck whose name would later be used for a sporty car.

Chrysler was short on capital and its engineering staff was already stretched with the transition to K-cars and minivans, and had already sold the European SIMCA, Commer, and Rootes Group, which would have been able to fill the gap. They had a strong relationship with Mitsubishi, though, and the L200 was a good solid pickup. What's more, it shared some parts with the Mitsubishi cars being successfully sold by Chrysler already.

While the D-50 was not a true Chrysler product, it gained numerous followers over the years and filled its role well until its eventual retirement during Chrysler's short-lived 1990s renaissance.

The 1979 Dodge D-50 was 185 inches long, 65 inches wide, 61 inches high; the box was 81.5 inches long and 64.2 inches wide (inside, not counting the wheel-wells).

In 1979, then, the Dodge D-50 and Plymouth Arrow arrived, on a 109.4 inch wheelbase - about an inch longer than the A-trucks - and a 6.5 foot long bed, with a maximum payload of 1,400 pounds. The engines were Mitsubishi's 2-liter and 2.6 liter four-cylinders, the latter to become familiar to K-car and minivan owners, hooked up to a four-speed manual on base models, with a five-speed on higher trim levels and an optional automatic either way, all over 14-inch wheels with radial tires.

(122 cid)
(156 cid)
3.7 (225) V6
Horsepower93 @ 5200105 @ 500095 @ 3,600
Torque108 @ 3000139 @ 2500170 @ 1,600

The standard D-50 had the 2.0 liter engine, while the Sport had the 2.6. A four-speed manual was standard; a five-speed manual overdrive or three-speed automatic were standard. The truck rode on 14-inch wheels, with a 3.571:1 or 3.909:1 gear ratio, 109.4 inch wheelbase, and gross vehicle weight of 4,045 (2.0) or 4,120 (2.6) pounds. That wasn't too shabby, considering the heavier D-150 had a standard GVW of 4,800 pounds (max, 6,050).

The Dodge D-50 was kept walled off in brochures for a while. A 1980 "work trucks" brochure has a single paragraph of description, the only Dodge without an individual photo and detail section: "The latest addition to Dodge's pickup work force is the D-50 (shown above, right). Introduced last year, it is building a reputation as a nifty, thrifty workhorse. The efficiency-size pickup offers more two-passenger cab room than you might expect, as well as a pickup box that measures a full 81.5 inches long."

The specifications page did cover the truck, though.

For 1981, the D-50 was renamed to Ram 50 - with the four wheel drive version dubbed "Power Ram 50." Dodge's 1981 truck brochure covered the full-size pickups in detail, then had a single page for the Ram 50 - which is promotes as "designed and built by the Mitsubishi Motors Corporation... respected the world over for superb engineering, quality, and design." The brochure pointed out 4.6 cubic feet of storage behind the seat, an "almost" 7 foot by "more than" 5 foot box, tie-down bars, and a manual transmission; trim levels were Custom, Royal, Sport, and Big Horn.

The original Plymouth Arrow had been based on the Mitsubishi Colt Celeste car.

The A-arm front suspension helped to provide a car-like ride, while a traditional leaf spring rear suspension
helped it to maintain directional stability under load. The interior included standard bucket seats and carpet, a nice upgrade from the full-sized trucks of the time. The whole truck weighed a mere 2,410 pounds, compared with the lightest D100 at 3,490 pounds (to be fair, the D100 had a far higher payload).

In 1980, the base engine was the 2.0 liter four, with the Sport model getting the 2.6 liter engine; both were carbureted using the MCA-JET system. A four speed manual was standard (Sport got a five speed) with automatic optional in both cases. The base model weighed 2,518 lb, the Sport 2,563 lb (heavier than the 1979 models). In both cases the box was 81.5 inches long, 64.2 inches wide; maximum payload was just over 1,500 lb. The overall length of the D50 was a modest 184.6 inches, close to the Colt wagon; the width was just 65 inches, narrower than the Colt wagon. Inside, the two-passenger D50 had 38.2 inches of headroom, 41.1 inches of legroom, 52.8 inches of shoulder room, and 4.6 cubic feet of storage behind the seat.

In 1987, the Ram 50 line was redesigned; it had a 72-inch standard bed, with an optional bed 16 inches longer (both were 55.7 inches wide). Standard features included tinted glass, carpet, and an adjustable steering column; a Power Ram model had four wheel drive. They were joined by the Dodge Raider, with a standard 2.6 liter engine, automatically locking front hubs, front and rear tow hooks, skid plates, cargo hooks, and front and rear mud guards.


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