It’s 19:28, I’m watching NCIS on DVD, floating on a cocktail of paracetamol and ibuprofen and surrounded by ample supplies of three-ply tissues. Much of my face is red raw through repeated nose-blowing endeavours, I’m deaf in my right ear and the room spins gently whenever I raise my eyes anywhere above the horizon. Welcome To The Carchive.
Last week for whatever reason I chose to showcase the third generation Chevrolet Corvette. Well, now for something completely different. This time around we’re looking at something even less exotic, even if its interesting Anglo-American recipe has a unique flavour. It’s the Dodge 50.
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“The Dodge 50 Series is a comprehensive range of non-HGV vehicles. In all there are ten basic models, five vans, five chassis-cabs-covering gross weights from 3.5 to 7.5 tonnes”
Interesting breed, this. The story goes that, towards the end of the ’70s, Chrylser Europe were growing increasingly aware that their home-spun commercial vehicle range, including such bulbous oddities as The Spacevan, were looking embarrassingly old, and were only really surviving on the back of being practically given away to the nationalised utility companies of the day. What they needed was a replacement that they could sell to people. Companies. Customers.
The 50 Series was their answer.
“The Chassis-cabs are a cost-effective and reliable base vehicle for all light transport operations.”
Fans of the American Dodge Tradesman van will recognise the doors, windscreen and front fender pressings. These parts, and a number more were shipped across the Atlantic to the UK, where they were united with a bunch of unique, new, English bits in the Dodge Truck factory in Dunstable, Bedfordshire.
Of course, just shipping the Tradesman itself over would have been a terrible idea, I mean, a proven, ready made, Ford Transit sized van. But there was method in the madness; doing that would have limited the scope of the range a little and made it too directly comparable to the Transit. Instead, the S50 slotted in just a little way further up the truck ladder, looking after gross vehicle weights a little greater than the Ford could muster.
“These 50 Series vans make a virtue out of simplicity. In concept, the design is a box on wheels: the ideal delivery van”
The High Capacity vans pretty much aligned with such forbidden fruit as the Grumman or the GMC Value Van, albeit with a touch more styling to it.
There was far more internal volume to it than you’d have found in any of its rivals. In this specification the 50 was never really intended for heavy duties, but was very adept at carrying parcels and other high-bulk, low density items. In later life horribly clapped-out examples of the breed became popular as mobile tattoo parlours or off-road residences for stereotypical folk with excessive body odour who wore garments made from unbleached hemp and are found smoking the same.
“On the S35 and S46 models, a Dodge inline four petrol engine is the standard power unit…… Optional on all models except the S75 is a Chrysler in-line six petrol engine. Ideal for high-speed work, this is a well proven unit”
Yes, the old slant-six in its 225ci incarnation could be had here, down-rated to a lazy 3200rpm 88hp for this application, if the 72.5hp of the car-derived 1981cc engine didn’t quite cut it for you. There were a pair of Perkins diesels if you wanted them, the 236ci 4 cylinder, or the 247ci 6, (named 4.236 and 6.247, fact fans) from which could be made to grind 72.6 or 93.7hp respectively. So the “Big” diesel was the most powerful offering, yet not even that managed a hundred horsepower.
“In standard form, it offers superb accommodation with comprehensive instrumentation”
Curiously, this actually looks quite a pleasing design, though I have heard accounts that time in the cabin of an S50 was time spent having your senses pummelled into confused oblivion by vibratory overload.
But these were all complaints from people who were probably overworked, underpaid, under-appreciated and overruled. They were primarily places of work- I’ve not found much evidence of motorhome conversions like you’d find with the Transit or Bedford CF. And yeah, I know American campsites in the ‘seventies resonated to the burble of Tradesman-based Class C RVs and dayvans, they just didn’t really make it over here.
The UK military loved them, though. The army were attracted by the load capacity capabilities of the the 4×4 version, modified by Reynolds-Boughton as the RB44, and were no doubt encouraged by the British content. In fact the Dodge 50 lasted well into the Peugeot takoever of Chrysler Europe, with Renault helping to host production in place of Dunstable.
I saw one locally a few years ago. Hasn’t been back since.
(All images are of original manufacturers publicity materials, photographed by me. I like big vans and I cannot lie. There’s a song in that somewhere)