Dodge 50 Series

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Dodge 50 with refrigeration unit for "Benna"-Milk in Malta
Not to be confused with Dodge D50.
Renault Dodge 50 "B56" (5600kg) with crew-cab and box body, formerly of British Gas, seen here working for Aid Convoy on a humanitarian project to the former Yugoslavia.

The Dodge 50 Series, later known as the Renault 50 Series were light commercial vehicles produced in the UK by Chrysler Europe and later Renault Véhicules Industriels (at that time part of Renault, now Volvo) between 1979 and 1993.

The 50 series included a wide range of chassis and body configurations, including two distinctly different cab designs, and spanned the 3,500–7,500 kg (7,700–16,500 lb) revenue weight range. Various engines were offered, including the Perkins Phaser and 4.236,[1] and there was also a four-wheel-drive version. Bodybuilding companies converted many into various configurations from tipper trucks to buses.

Versions[edit]

Many were built as "chassis cabs" to have box bodies fitted; these were widely used by utility companies in the UK. They often came fitted with compressors and generators. Gradually this kind of vehicle fell out of favour, partly due to reliability issues relating to combining plant equipment with the vehicle drivetrain. The vehicle is otherwise toughly built. The utility companies today favour smaller vans with towed generators. The four-wheel-drive version saw some use with the British army since it was one of very few British-built trucks of the class, and it could carry considerably more stores and equipment than even the largest Land Rover models.

Chrysler received financial assistance from the British Government which was desperate to support the ailing British motor industry. However, having inherited various struggling car and commercial vehicle marques (and factories) from the Rootes Group, notably the commercial marques Commer and Karrier, in addition to various French concerns, Chrysler Europe struggled to return a profit. In 1978, Chrysler pulled out of their European operations altogether, selling them to Peugeot. The cars and small vans became known as Talbots.

Peugeot takeover[edit]

4x4 Renault 50 series of the British Army

However, Peugeot had little interest in commercial vehicles and the factory for the heavier models was run in partnership with Renault Véhicules Industriels, who sought a UK production site for engines for their existing Renault-branded models. They continued to manufacture the 50 Series, along with the small Dodge (formerly Commer) Spacevan, and the large Dodge 100 / Commando 2 Series of 7,500–23,000 kg (16,500–50,700 lb) trucks. The transition to Renault branding was slightly muddied by some vehicles bearing both a Dodge name and a Renault-diamond badge.

Renault 50[edit]

By 1987, the 50 Series had been updated and was badged as the Renault 50 Series or Desoto 50 Series in Bermuda; the UK incarnation of the Dodge marque ceased to be used for new vehicles. (Chrysler maintained an entirely separate Dodge brand in the U.S., and in 2006 began re-introducing Dodge car models from the USA into the UK market.) Renault continued to manufacture the 50 Series until 1993, but it was never a great sales success, even being forced to compete with other Renault products, in the form of the Master van, which Renault favoured in its export markets.

In 1994, Renault — keen to clear the factory for large-scale engine production — sold the production tooling to a Chinese manufacturer. The 50 series is still being produced in China under a different name, details are scarce but there are two pictures of them with accompanying text from the website of the company who performed the transition (link to website in external links)

The vehicle is still a common sight on British roads, having become a popular choice for conversion to live-in vehicles including professionally built campers and workshops. There are also a number still in service as horseboxes, and a few remain in active service with the army. There is a friendly community amongst the owners and users of these vehicles.

Update Dec 2013: The 4x4 MOD version Designated RB44 pictured above are now out of active service and being sold through MOD surplus vendors.

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