Dodge’s Useless Import Vehicles (Half I)

Dodge’s Useless Import Vehicles (Half I)


Just lately on Deserted Historical past, we realized concerning the Colt, a captive import Dodge/Plymouth/Eagle/AMC/Renault bought courtesy of a badge swap on some compact automobiles from Mitsubishi. Throughout that collection’ tenure, considered one of our readers had an amazing thought: A separate Deserted Historical past dialogue of the captive import vans and SUVs within the Dodge portfolio. The time has come!

As we mentioned beforehand, the collaboration between Chrysler and Mitsubishi began in 1971 when Chrysler purchased a stake within the Japanese conglomerate. Mitsubishi would use Chrysler as an outlet for a few of its fashions in North America, a spot the place it had no distribution in any respect. For its funding, Chrysler gained entry to small economical automobiles from Japan and didn’t need to spend any {dollars} on their improvement. It was a win-win.

The primary Colts arrived in North America in 1971, however a truck import was to not observe for a while. The idea of a extra environment friendly compact truck was not one the North American public was prepared to simply accept with out some convincing, and it took fairly a while. A quick compact truck dissertation is so as.

Datsun was the primary to supply its compact truck within the U.S. and began importation in 1959 with the Datsun 1000. Datsun owned the compact truck marketplace for just a few years and had the one providing till Toyota joined in 1964 with the Stout. Mazda was the third to market with a B1600 in 1972.

By then, home producers observed the Japanese imports have been promoting effectively sufficient to warrant some competitors, and halfway via 1972 Chevy started gross sales of the Isuzu P’up, badged because the LUV. That very same yr, Ford rebadged a Mazda B and supplied the Courier. Each these home choices hit proper earlier than the 1973 oil disaster, which noticed gross sales of smaller automobiles (particularly Japanese) skyrocket given their effectivity.

Chrysler was left empty-handed. Within the mid-Seventies, the Dodge truck lineup consisted of the D collection full dimension, the Ramcharger SUV (additionally supplied as Plymouth Trailduster for a short time), and the Tradesman van collection.

A part of the dearth of compact truck entry was because of their selection of Japanese accomplice: Mitsubishi didn’t make a compact truck in any respect. The corporate’s largest utility automobile was the Delica, on provide since 1969. However Delica didn’t translate right into a pickup model; the one truck the corporate bought was a Kei class one. It was referred to as Minicab and was primarily based on the Minica sedan. Mitsubishi was nonetheless ramping up and filling in its product lineup all through the Seventies and early Eighties, turning into the worldwide large it’s at the moment.

The primary compact truck Mitsubishi ever made was the Forte. It entered manufacturing in 1978 for the Japanese market and went on sale for the ’79 mannequin yr. As was normal working process for Mitsubishi, the Forte wore many various names dependent upon market. It was often known as the L200 in lots of locations, and that identify, specifically, proved an enduring one.

Different market identify variations included Mighty Max and numerous adjectives added to L200 like Categorical, and Energy X. Most examples have been inbuilt Japan at Mitsubishi’s Nagoya plant, however there was further manufacturing in Thailand and the Philippines. Mitsubishi’s vans shortly proved themselves as dependable, inexpensive work automobiles in lots of components of the world.

All examples had two doorways, because it was not but the age of the crew-cab truck. Numerous engines have been used across the globe, however all of them had 4 cylinders. They ranged from a base 1.6-liter, via two completely different 2.0-liter mills. The most important gasoline engine was the two.6, a 4G54 that made its method into many Mitsubishi and Chrysler merchandise via the late Eighties. There have been additionally two diesels, of two.3- and a pair of.5-liter persuasions. The smaller one had a turbo. An indication of the instances, all transmissions have been guide and had both 4 or 5 speeds.

Three completely different wheelbases have been supplied, which began at 109.4 inches for a short-wheelbase and two-wheel drive. With four-wheel drive, that wheelbase grew to 110 inches. The longest wheelbase was solely two-wheel drive and measured 119.5 inches. Total size was round 184.6 inches, with 65 inches of width, and between 61 and 65 inches general top dependent upon what number of wheels have been pushed. 4-wheel drive was not out there on the outset however was added to Mitsubishi-branded fashions internationally in 1981.

For dimension comparability, a D Sequence full-size truck used numerous wheelbases of 115, 131, 133, 135, 149, and even 165 inches, with an general size of between 188 and 240 inches. Total width was 79.8″, two toes wider than the Mitsubishi. There have been many specs and mattress lengths on the full-size Dodge on the time, and it’s tough to search out size specifics. However the dimension differential was an enormous one.

Chrysler was fast to get some vans shipped over to North America, and with a simple badge swap, the brand new Dodge D-50 was prepared for 1979. The brand new truck additionally graced Plymouth sellers because the Arrow, to not be confused with the Hearth Arrow hatchback (Mitsubishi Lancer). Allowing for there weren’t any Mitsubishi sellers in North America on the time, the one option to get one of many vans was at your pleasant Dodge supplier.

The preliminary styling included single headlamps, a key to telling the age of a first-gen D-50. In different components of the world, single or double headlamps have been out there on the purchaser’s discretion, alongside double round headlamps. In Australia, the D-50 was bought as a Chrysler and featured round headlamps as a substitute.

All D-50s and Arrows have been two-wheel-drive via the ’81 mannequin yr. Preliminary trims included the bottom D-50 with a 2.0-liter engine and a four-speed guide and the D-50 Sport with the two.6-liter engine and a five-speed guide. Each engines included Mitsubishi’s new Silent Shaft balancing expertise. The Sport was the one to have, because it included niceties like a whole gauge bundle, tape stripes, white letter tires, and even an FM band for the radio.

Exterior additions have been few at introduction, and the large ones have been a roll bar, grille guard, and a sunroof referred to as “Sky Lite.” The D-50 and Arrow might be fitted with air-con, further tape stripes, black mirrors, energy steering, a rear step bumper, and extra sport cladding. Apparently, not like the Mitsubishi variations out there in the remainder of the world, an automated transmission was out there on the D-50. It will’ve been the identical three-speed TorqueFlite as supplied within the Colt.

Very like the opposite home manufacturers and their captive import compact vans, Dodge discovered success with the D-50 and Arrow. Modifications for the D-50 occurred regularly, the primary of which was a renaming after 1980 – to Ram 50. The Plymouth Arrow identify was not altered, although it was most actually a slower vendor than its Ram cousin; North American clients weren’t used to turning to Plymouth for vans.

Certainly gross sales of the Arrow have been such that it by no means made it via the primary era’s refresh: Arrow was canceled after the 1982 mannequin yr, which left Ram 50 to absorb the remaining clients. That very same yr, the four-wheel-drive system out there since 1981 on the L200 arrived in North America. The drive system warranted particular badging, as Energy Ram 50. The Energy Ram identify was the one Dodge traditionally used to indicate four-wheel drive.

In 1983 the Ram 50 was refreshed, seen most simply through the set of 4 rectangular headlamps. As Mitsubishi established its dealership community in the USA that yr, it started promoting its truck with its normal badging. For the U.S. market solely, the truck was referred to as Mighty Max. One wonders what number of would’ve bought the truck as a Dodge, however selected their Mitsubishi supplier as soon as the choice was out there. They’d have to love the one headlamp look, as Mitsubishis saved the outdated look whereas the Dodge acquired to improve to the quad lamps.

Additionally for 1983, Ram 50 consumers noticed a brand new engine seem as an optionally available further: a 2.3-liter turbocharged 4D55 diesel engine. That very same yr, the identical turbodiesel was an possibility on the brand new Ford Ranger, too. It was not utilized in some other North American automobiles. Preliminary horsepower on the turbodiesel was 80, however that elevated in 1984 with a brand new wastegate to 86 horses. The engine arrived towards the top of the first-generation Ram 50’s run and was out there solely via 1985.

That was the ultimate yr for the first-generation mannequin, as a brand new one arrived in 1986. The Ram 50 established itself as a sound compact truck selection for its first-gen run, however Seventies vans have been wanting fairly dated by the center of the subsequent decade. In Half II we’ll cowl Ram 50, quantity two.

[Images: Chrysler]

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September 2022