Dodge Ramcharger

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Dodge Ramcharger
Dodge Ramcharger -- 07-20-2009.jpg
Manufacturer Chrysler Corporation
Production 1974–2001
Body and chassis
Class Full-size SUV
Body style 2-door SUV
Platform Front engine, rear-wheel drive / four-wheel drive
Successor Dodge Durango (2004)

The Dodge Ramcharger is a large sport utility vehicle built by Dodge from 1974 to 1993 (and from at least 1986 until 2001 in Mexico) based on the shortened wheelbase of the Dodge D Series/Ram pickup truck chassis. A Plymouth version, named the Trailduster was offered from 1974 to 1981, the brand's only SUV, though one can argue that with similar classifications of early Plymouth station wagons, and the Plymouth Voyager minivan.

First and second generations[edit]

First generation
Plymouth Trail Duster.jpg
Also called Plymouth Trailduster (1974–1981)
Production 1974–1980
Body and chassis
Platform Chrysler AD platform
Related Dodge D Series
Dodge Ram
Engine 225 cu in (3.7 L) I6
318 cu in (5.2 L) V8
360 cu in (5.9 L) V8
400 cu in (6.6 L) V8
440 cu in (7.2 L) V8
Transmission 4-speed manual
3-speed TorqueFlite automatic
Second generation
Production 1981–1993 (1988–1996 In Mexico)
Body and chassis
Platform Chrysler AD platform
Related Dodge Ram
Engine 318 cu in (5.2 L) V8
360 cu in (5.9 L) V8
Transmission 3-speed automatic
4-speed manual
Wheelbase 106.0 in (2,692 mm)
Length 1988–1990: 184.6 in (4,689 mm)
1991–93: 188.0 in (4,775 mm)
Width 79.5 in (2,019 mm)
Height 1988–1990 2WD: 69.7 in (1,770 mm)
1988–1990 4WD: 73.1 in (1,857 mm)
1991–93 4WD: 74.1 in (1,882 mm)
1991–93 2WD: 70.6 in (1,793 mm)

The Ramcharger was primarily produced as a full-time four wheel drive vehicle, although a two-wheel drive version was available starting in 1975. During development, it was known as the "Rhino".[1] 1974 through 1980 models have a removable hard top, although dealer-installed soft tops were available. The first year model differs from the others in that its door pillars are attached to the removable roof.

Like many vehicles, the Ramcharger was used in rallying, although its use was very limited. It did have some success, as demonstrated by achieving first place at Sno*Drift in 1975. In 1978 and 1979 the 360 CID's horsepower was bumped up to 195 horsepower (145 kW). 1978 was the last year for the 440 CID, which by then only put out 215 horsepower (160 kW).

The Ramcharger and Trailduster followed the D-series pickup's 1981 redesign into the Ram and is considered the second generation. These models had a non-removable welded steel top instead of the removable top. The Trailduster was only available for one year with the Ram design and steel non-removable top, as it was dropped after 1981.


The vehicle was usually powered by a Chrysler LA engine, the most common being the 318 cu in (5.2 L) V8. Optional was the 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8 and even big-block B series 400 cu in (6.6 L) V8 and RB 440 cu in (7.2 L) V8 were offered in the early years. Initially a normally aspirated carburetor, in 1988 the 318 gained throttle-body fuel injection with the 360 following in 1989. Power output for the TBI 318 was 230 horsepower (170 kW) and 280 lb·ft (380 N·m) of torque. The TBI 360 had 240 hp (180 kW) and 283 to 295 lb·ft (400 N·m). In 1992 the multiport fuel injected Magnum 318 was the standard engine while the LA 360 with TBI was still offered. In 1993 the Magnum 360 replaced the LA engine version.

Many manual transmissions were offered throughout the years, starting with the A-230 three-speed and ending with the A-535 five-speed in 1992. The NP435 "granny gear" 4 speed was the most common in 4WD models, as well as the close ratio version, the NP445. In 1988 the clutch was converted from a mechanical linkage to a hydraulic system. Automatic transmission models had the Chrysler Loadflite TF-727A or B until, in 1991, it was replaced with the A-500/A-518 four-speed.

A full-time four-wheel drive NP-203 transfer case was standard until 1980, when it was replaced with the part-time NP-208. This was supplanted by the NP-241 in 1988.

Axles were Dana 44 front and 9¼" rear. Full time 4WD models (1973–1979) were equipped with the full time version of the Dana 44 that had no provision for locking hubs and had a front wheel bearing design with a somewhat dubious reputation. In 1980 when the part time 4WD system was introduced, the front Dana 44 was equipped with a more conventional front wheel bearing design and automatic locking hubs. Late in the 1984 model year the Dana 44 was switched to a CAD (Center Axle Disconnect) version. The CAD Dana 44 was vacuum actuated by a switch on the transfer case and powered by engine vacuum. The CAD Dana 44 was carried on until the end of Ramcharger production in 1993. Users often ran into problems with the CAD system. The vacuum switch on the transfer case would occasionally fail and either leave the CAD engaged or not engage the CAD at all. Limited slip differentials were available for the 9¼" rear axle. The full-time 4WD versions used a 5 on 4½" wheel bolt circle and the part time models used a 5 on 5½" bolt circle.

First generation Dodge Ramcharger equipped with an aftermarket lift kit

Third generation[edit]

Third generation
Dodge Ram Charger 2005.jpg
Production 1999–2001
Assembly Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico
Body and chassis
Related Dodge Ram
Engine 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8
318 cu in (5.2 L) V8
Transmission 4-speed automatic
4-speed manual
Wheelbase 113.7 in (2,888 mm)
Length 198 in (5,029 mm)
Curb weight 5,300 lb (2,404.0 kg)

In 1999, a new Ramcharger was produced in Mexico based on the second generation Ram pickup and using parts from the Dodge Ram pickups and other Chrysler vehicles. Sold only in Mexico, where the previous generation Ramcharger had been quite successful, it was not offered in the U.S. Because of this and other issues, this generation never enjoyed the sales of the previous generations of Ramchargers. Powered by the 5.9 and 5.2 Liter (360 CID and 318 CID) Magnum V8 and offered only in 2WD versions, it was discontinued around 2002. One of the most interesting features of this generation was a small folding seat in the cargo area, facing sideways, not a full-sized seat, making it uncomfortable for long trips. The rear hatch door was borrowed from 1996–2000 model Dodge Caravan. The Mexican-market Ramcharger was probably not marketed in the U.S.because the SUV market was favoring 4 or 5-door SUVs as opposed to 2-doors. Also, DaimlerChrysler already had two successful mid-sized SUVs (Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango). Two-door SUV sales had been declining, to which GM ended production of its 2-door Tahoe and Yukon, and Ford replaced the long-running 2-door only Ford Bronco around the same time with the 4-door only Ford Expedition.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Off-Road Adventures, June 2007: page 90

External links[edit]

Media related to Dodge Ramcharger at Wikimedia Commons