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The Carchive: The 1990 Dodge Ram 50

Chris Haining April 29, 2014 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 7 Comments


Welcome to the first of two weekly opportunities to sift through the rummage sale of automotive history, in the hope of uncovering something even vaguely of interest.

This week we’re taking a brief look at what Dodge Truck could offer you for the 1990 model year. We’re taking the Ram by the horns and taking a look at the Not-Quite-American Ram 50.

This late ’89 brochure deals with the 2nd generation model; having been introduced in 1987, replacing the original 1978 machine.The Ram 50 was supposed to have been replaced by the Dodge Dakota, but in fact it was still in production until 1996. The Dakota was far too big to have been seen as a direct replacement really, mind you, the diddy 50 looks ridiculous parked next to the full-size Ram.

Of course, if the Dodge identity didn’t appeal to you, you could plump for the Mitsubishi Mighty Max, which, of course, was the same machine, although the literature tends to play that down a bit. Elsewhere you could buy it as the Mitsubishi L200, the name under which the vehicle was beloved by builders and farmers in the UK, and those who needed an ad-hoc military machine in certain less politically stable parts of the world.


“Dodge Ram 50 4×2 is a quick change artist that takes the challenge- whatever you throw at it.”

As with so many pickups, the Ram 50 represented a relatively open book as far as features were concerned. The standard off-the-shelf truck didn’t give you much, but optionally you could go for “Sassy body graphics” or outrageously tacky ground effects kits. You could buy your Ram 50 as a regular or a “Sports Cab” with an extension behind the driver for extra interior storage space.


“Ram 50 gives you tough-truck features like the double-wall cargo box, power brakes, 2.4 power with electronic ignition”

The Ram 50 pretty well matched the then cutting-edge for small trucks across the globe. A double-wall load compartment was a must for preventing external lumps and bumps forming when clobber slides around on the load bed, and car manufacturers had given up boasting about Power Brakes and electronic ignition years before. But they seemed to think it was worth reminding Ram 50 buyers in ’90.


Standard motivation on two-wheel drive examples came from a “Dynamic” 2.4 litre four, but if you chose a 4×4 “Power Ram” you’d receive a more exotic 3.0 litre V6, assuming you didn’t go for the base standard wheelbase model, in which case you were still saddled with the 2.4, which would be further burdened by its four-wheel drive. The V6 netted 143 hp, for some reason no power was quoted for the 2.4. Maybe there wasn’t any.

Whatever model you went for, if you yearned for more than just a bare-bones package, there was an upscale SE trim or a more luxurious LE line on either 4×2 or 4×4 models. Although the Dodge definition of luxury or comfort was probably different to yours or mine; a clock was still extra-cost even on the SE. However, moving from a bench seat was one notable step forward:


“Travel first class. These reclining bucket seats in velour fabrics are trimmed with vinyl and feature new see-through headrests. They’re standard in Ram and Power Ram LE models”

You could also have them on an SE if you ordered bucket seats.

“Who said off-roading has to be down and dirty?”

To be honest, a lot of the spec that could be ticked was pretty alien compared to the configurations found on the L200’s driven by the Cornish hill-farmers. Your lucky Dodge Ram 50 purchaser could have cruise control, air conditioning, not to mention the “racy” tachometer.

Furthermore, US buyers had access to a veritable Aladdin’s cave of MOPAR accessories including light bars and off-road lights (which surely you just had to have to complete the rough, tough look) and running boards. Indeed you could specify a car-phone if your stockbroker advised you to spend your bonus on a rebadged Japanese truck.

This all said, in this brochure you have to concentrate hard to seek evidence of the Ram 50 being anything but a pure, root-beer supping, ball game viewing, apple pie devouring American, but there it is, in a little panel on the back page; “Ram 50 built by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation”. If you look at the interior photos the stereo equipment fitted carries the Mitsubishi name on it, too.

But none of that really mattered. America took both Max and the 50 to heart, and the little Oriental pick-up with the American attitude proved itself to a great many, often young owners. In the UK, nobody really thought of marketing pickups to junior drivers, and I can’t help but think that our motoring landscape might have been more interesting if they had.

(Disclaimer: All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me with a camera that doesn’t really like sunlight. Copyright remains property of RAM trucks. Or Fiat)

  • I never realized that these things overlapped the Dakota from 1987 to 1993! Dodge Trucks available in small, medium, and large.

  • beefpile

    My first vehicle was a 1991 Dodge Ram 50, 2WD 5-spd regular cab with the anaemic 2.4L 4 Cyl engine. Truth be told, I loved that truck. It was as base as base could be, manual everything, only power steering and power brakes, heck not even a rear bumper. But it was reliable, I put over 100,000kms on the truck in the years I owned it, smashed it up twice and it still ran for 10 years after I sold it before the timing belt/chain went and caused some significant damage. IIRC the rated horsepower on the 2.4L was just under 100, 89 or 98 rings a bell. If Darthair is still around these parts he'd definitely remember the truck as he was in it one of the times I wrecked it. For reference the headlights are the same hight as a full-size RAM bumper.

  • Excellent. I never liked the next-gen D50 as a long-time owner of the first-gens (lots of them). The 2.4 was a bit of an improvement over the old G54B, which I stubbornly have kept running in my Arrow.

    Thanks for this post.

  • FuzzyPlushroom

    I didn't see one of these for a few years in New England, but just this week, I spotted two within a couple of miles of each other – both this generation, one Ram and one that I I think was a Mitsubishi.

    It's nice to know that they're still out there.

  • SaaberJon

    I would buy a small truck like this if one was available today.
    It's a shame the Mahindra deal never came to be.

    • Drzhivago138

      Any new compact truck would almost certainly have to be a FWD/AWD unibody platform just to meet CAFE MPG standards.
      Not That There's Anything Wrong With That. Chevy Montana, anyone?


    My good friend's Dad bought one of these new in 1987 and ran it until he passed in 2011. The bumpers rusted thru after only 3 years and he had them replaced after a protracted fight with Chrysler but the truck didnt miss a beat even with some of his "HOMEMADE" repairs!