Right when Chrysler had already cut its ties with its small car design providers—SIMCA and Rootes group—the automaker realized that there was a kind of a gap in its pickup truck line. That gap was created when production of A-series pickup trucks and vans ended in 1970 and only B-series vans were manufactured as replacements.
Its desire to fill that void in its truck line up and its lack of experience in producing vehicles had led Chrysler to the doors of Mitsubishi Corporation, which was already importing small cars bearing its own nameplate. In short, Chrysler turned to Mitsubishi to provide them with a small pickup. And that’s when the Dodge D50 was born.
In essence, the D50 was manufactured by Mitsubishi and marketed by Chrysler under its Dodge marquee. The D-50 was marketed only for a couple of years, and then it was redesigned and sold as the Dodge Ram 50. While auto buyers know that it wasn’t a Chrysler-built model, this truck gained many followers and fared well in the market until its final years in the industry.
1979: launching of the Dodge D50
The first D50s were introduced in 1979, riding on a 109-inch wheelbase, which made them longer than the A-series trucks by one inch. They were outfitted with a 6.5 ft long bed and can transport up to 1,400 pounds of payload. This Dodge truck derived its power from Mitsubishi’s 2-liter and 2.6-liter four-cylinder engines. Base models came with a four-speed manual transmission while higher trim levels received five-speed manual; automatic was offered as an option on all trims.
It may seem unusual for trucks during that time, but the Dodge D50 was able to deliver a car-like ride—all thanks to its A-arm front suspension. It was also stable even under load due to its traditional leaf spring rear suspension. Standard features for the cabin were bucket seats and carpet.
For 1980 model year, the standard engine was the 2.0-liter four-cylinder paired with a four-speed manual transmission. The Sport model got the 2.6-liter power plant and five-speed manual. Both engines were carbureted using the MCA_JET system.
1987: redesigned D-50
The Dodge D50 was redesigned for the 1987 model year, but it was no longer sold as D-50. It was called Ram 50 instead. This new D50 derived its power from a carbureted 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that was able to crank out 92hp or a 2.6-liter with 109hp. A four-wheel-drive variant was available and the D50 was offered in various bed lengths as well as in double and extended cab options. Among the truck’s standard features were carpet, tinted glass, and an adjustable steering column.
Along the launching of the redesigned Ram 50, Chrysler also introduced its supposed-to-be-successor—the Dodge Dakota. But since the Dakota was a mid-size and the Ram 50 was a compact, the latter stayed in the market for another seven years.