The Dodge RAM is a full-size pickup first available as a 1981 model year, after the retirement and rebadging of the previous Dodge B-series pickup trucks. It was marketed as a Dodge Ram until 2010, when Dodge separated their trucks to the Ram Trucks brand. The Dodge Ram was produced in four different generations generations (and now is in its fifth as the rebranded Ram truck). It won the Motor Trend Truck of the Year award twice in 1994 and 2003 (and another six times since under the Ram name).
1981: The Introduction of the Dodge Ram
While Dodge had been producing B-series pickup trucks for decades, 1981 was the beginning of the Ram lineup. The distinctive ram’s head hood ornament was brought into production under the leadership of then Chrysler President and CEO, Lee Iacocca. Dodge Ram trucks were available as the 150 half-ton, 250 three-quarter-ton, and 350 one-ton, with three different engine sizes: 3.7 L slant-6 with 95-horsepower, a 5.2 L V-8 with 140 horsepower, and a 5.9 L V-8 that produced 170 horsepower. Cab sizes included the standard, “club” extended, and crew. 6.5 foot and 8 foot bed lengths were available. The first generation featured wraparound taillights, dual rectangular headlamps, and square lines, with available options including a cab rear window, air-conditioning, cruise control, and power locks/windows. A new transfer case allowing shifting on the fly was added in 1985, known as the “Ram-Trac.” In 1988, the slant-6 engine was replaced with a 3.9L V-6. That same year, the 5.2L engine received new computer-controlled ignition and fuel injection. Perhaps the most notable change in the later years of the first-generation Dodge Ram was the addition of the Cummins B-series diesel engine in 1989. This turbocharged, direct-injection straight-6 beat out the competitor options (mainly V-8 naturally aspirated diesels) and quickly became a Dodge Ram favorite, allowing production to ramp up in 1991.
Second Generation Gamble That Paid Off
It took a long time for the second-generation Dodge Ram to get through the design phase. What first started out as a truck/van modular platform in 1986 was eventually redesigned and finally released in 1994 with a front end similar to a semi truck. The large grille was untested in the public eye, yet proved to be popular. The 1994 Dodge Ram earned the Motor Trend Truck of the Year award. Sales boomed in the mid 90s, going from over 200,000 units in 1994 to more than 400,000 in both 1995 and 1996. Engine offerings for the second-generation included the previous 3.9L V-6, 5.2L V-8, 5.9L V-8, and 5.9L I-6 Cummins turbo diesel, plus a new 8.0L V10 available on the 2500 and above. The Dana 44 (for light-duty version) and Dana 60 (for heavy-duty version) front axels were used on the four-wheel drive Dodge Ram trucks. Special edition packages included the Indy Race featuring the 5.9L engine with upgraded exhaust and special decals, and an SS/T package with similar features but different decals.
Big Changes for the 2002 Model Year and Third Generation
With all-new frame, suspension, powertrains, interiors, and sheet metal, the third-generation Dodge Ram truck was completely redesigned, yet the exterior still remained quite similar to the second-generation Rams. They sold over 400,000 units per year, significantly lower than competitors’ 850,000 to 900,000 units. In 2006, the Dodge Ram received a redesign and the “mega-cab” with a 6.25 foot cargo box and an extra 22 inches of cargo space with seating for six was released. In 2008, class-4 and class-5 versions of the Dodge Ram were introduced with a 6.7L Cummins diesel engine.
Fourth Generation: The End of the Dodge Ram Name
2009 saw the release of the forth-generation Dodge Ram truck with a new four-door cab style, suspension, and hemi engine option. But shortly after, in 2010, Ram trucks became their own entity and separated from Dodge. While essentially the same truck, the Dodge name no longer applied.