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August 2012 Trail's End Editorial

Posted in Features on August 1, 2012
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Last month in Trail’s End we highlighted the ’83 Ford Ranger road test from the December ’82 issue of Four Wheeler . This month we take a look at this fascinating Dodge ad that ran in the same issue.

As you can see, the ad is for the ’83 Ram 50 4x4 pickup truck fitted with the optional 2.3L four-cylinder turbodiesel engine. This engine produced 80 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque, which interestingly is almost identical to the horsepower and torque produced by the 140ci four-cylinder gasoline engine in the ’83 Ranger. The 4D55T diesel engine found in the Ram 50 was part of the 4D5 “Astron” family of engines produced by Mitsubishi. It used a belt-driven overhead camshaft, had a compression ratio of 21:1, and a TC05 non-wastegate turbo. At a time when the Toyota pickup was using a solid front axle, the Ram 50 had an independent torsion-bar front suspension. Out back was a solid rear axle with leaf-spring suspension. Payload capacity was 1,470 pounds, the transmission was a five-speed manual, and the truck had an 18-gallon fuel tank.

The Ram 50 wasn’t the only compact truck in 1983 to offer a diesel engine option. Some of the others included the Ford Ranger with a 2.2L Mazda/Perkins I-4 diesel, and the Nissan pickup, with a 2.5L four-cylinder diesel in 2WD trucks. The Ram 50 diesel and these other aforementioned engines were clearly not power demons. The Ranger engine produced 59 horsepower, while the Nissan engine made 73 horsepower. As we mentioned last month, manufacturers in the early ’80s were scrambling to find fuel efficient options for the truck-buying public as fuel prices soared.

How did they do on fuel efficiency with the Ram 50? Well, pretty darn good it seems. In this ad, the four-wheel-drive turbodiesel had an EPA rating of 40 mpg highway. With 40 mpg and an 18-gallon fuel tank the Ram 50 would’ve had a cruising range of 720 miles. That’s pretty impressive.

This Ram 50 ad got us thinking about how cool it would be, now that fuel prices are climbing to absurd levels here in 2012, if the manufacturers offered a compact pickup powered by an economical turbodiesel engine. It would be dandy if buyers had the option of a body-on-frame, diesel-powered, small pickup truck that gets 40 mpg. Heck, even 35 mpg would be welcome. We hope that a pickup truck like this is in our future. After all, there’s already one in our past.

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