$1,600 4-Speed 4×4: 1985 Dodge Ramcharger

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I’m in Montana for a few days and this 1985 Dodge Ramcharger is in Kalispell, Montana, way up by Glacier National Park. The seller is asking $1,600 for this 4×4 on Craigslist. NADA lists the “low retail” value of a 1985 Ramcharger as being $1,825.

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This Ramcharger looks nice for $1,600 so far, doesn’t it?! This truck has a fresh oil change, a new battery, new starter, and even new wiper blades. Ok, none of those things are worth writing home about but it’s nice that they’re done so you don’t have to change them. The body looks solid, although it looks like something is going on at the bottom of the driver’s door. I had a 1976 Ramcharger and it was, by far, thee worst vehicle that I’ve ever owned; not even a contest. I got it when it was only 8 years old and the bottoms of the doors, fenders, quarter panels.. and everything, were flapping in the wind. I paid $1,500 for it, what a bonehead move that was. It was totally rusted out in just 8 years and the rust wasn’t even the worst part of that vehicle. Montana must not use road salt or they don’t use as much as Minnesota does.

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D’oh! Ok, there is some work to do here. Or not, just make sure that it’s working great and drive it. Who really cares if it has a few dents on it, it’s a perfect winter vehicle. This Ramcharger only has 72,000 miles on it after 31 years? Or, maybe that’s 172,000? It’s also missing the grille, possibly a deer (reindeer?..) hit up here in northern Montana.

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The seller says that the interior “is good with few issues.” I’m guessing that actually means that it’s good with few issues, not it’s good with a few issues. It’s hard to tell anymore with so many folks leaving out words in ads these days (“AC needs charged”, etc.). Other than some fading, the interior looks nice and the rear seat looks great. You can see that this Ramcharger has a 4-speed manual, I wish that mine would have had one instead of an automatic. There are no engine photos but this one has the 360 V8 with around 175 hp. I think? The seller says that it has a “360 engine 5.2” but the 5.2L is a 318 with 145 hp and the 360 is a 5.9L. Any guesses on the engine here? I’m guessing that it’s the 318. What would you do with this one: fix the dents and grille and every other cosmetic issue, or just keep it maintained and drive it as is?

 

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Comments

  1. Jim Mc

    I dig the greenhouse-style rear windows. But that also means you’ll probably need A/C on this truck and there’s no mention of that. ‘Course those same windows will help keep you toasty warm on sunny winter days.

    Gotta question for you Scotty: you say that your ’76 Ram was the worst you’ve ever owned. Was it the worst because of the condition it was in? Or was it in the condition it was in because it was the worst?
    And, if the latter, did the build quality increase enough in the intervening nine years that you feel confident featuring this truck?
    And if the former, well….it seems you’ve learned your lesson!

    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      That’s a good question, Jim! I think I just got a lemon and if it would have looked as good as this one does it may have been worth fixing every mechanical thing that was wrong with it. Plus, I’m a sucker for a manual transmission in a vehicle that I don’t expect to see one in!

  2. Joe T

    @Jim Mc
    I also owned a 1976 Dodge Ramcharger and it was one of the best utility vehicles I ever owned. I purchased it used in 1980 in Texas and drove it up to New England to visit family before driving to Fairbanks Alaska in Jan 1981. After 18 months in Alaska, I drove the truck to Denver and then on to South Carolina (military transfers). Put about 100,000 miles on the truck over 6 years and then traded it in on a Dodge D-50 4X4. Wished I had never done that. I didn’t baby my Ramcharger and IIRC I spent less than $1000 on repairs over my time of ownership which included replacing the U-joints and having the autobox rebuilt with a heavy duty shift kit (did a lot of off-road in Alaska and Colorado). The biggest downside to the Dodges of this period was the “full-time” NP 203 transfer box and lack of manual locking hubs. However there were kits to correct these issues available. If I was closer I’d be all over this truck.

    @Scotty
    The one picture shows AC controls on the dash (Max A/C setting) so there’s hope the parts are still there.

  3. American_Badaz

    Looks like a great deal to me. If it was closer I would have to check it out.
    I had a 78 with the 440 and it was a beast! The body was rusty and pretty well shot, but I used it for my wood hauling/off-roading truck. It got 8mpg whether it was empty or the interior completely filled with firewood.

  4. JW

    When I met my wife her dad bought a new 79 Ramcharger but being the tightwad he was it was stripped, 318/auto, no interior but the seats and dash ( rattled terribly ), our 80 Bronco XLT made it look like a junkyard dog. Now I will say that Ramcharger was dependable but her father was a strict maintenance guy but Chrysler was cheap with rust protection and using thin metal body panels so it rusted away before it stopped running, he also had a 78 Dodge 3/4 ton truck 4×4 and same deal but he gave it to my wife and I to plow our country drive way because it was not safe for the roads or could pass inspection. If I needed another 4×4 I would really be interested in taking a closer inspection of this Ramcharger.

  5. geomechs geomechs Member

    Montana uses very little salt on the roads; maybe the odd bridge deck in the dead of winter. But then, so often winters in Big Sky Country (and upwards toward Calgary, AB) are relatively clear with the snow being blown all the way to Scotty’s doorstep by the numerous chinook winds. I’ve seen 64 degrees on Christmas Day, and I’ve also seen 40 below on that same day a year later. It isn’t uncommon to have a cold snap where it’s 30 below in the morning, then a chinook blows in to warm things up to 50 above by mid-afternoon. Don’t like the weather in the Chinook Belt? Wait five minutes. I’ve seen snow in every month of the year except July and rain in EVERY month of the year.

    Now for the Ramcharger. Very typical for one of this vintage in MT, although I saw one by Yellowstone that was pretty much ate up. I agree on the grill wiped out by a deer (not a Reindeer–got to go way up NORTH to see them). Overall, a good buy. Not as common as a Blazer/Jimmy or Bronco but still made their mark. Looks like it has A-C (or had it at one time). Chrysler Airtemp is as reliable as any other. Can be expensive to fix, but then, so can the other systems. Probably running a New Process 435 transmission so you’ll have Granny low and reverse. But your chances of breaking it are very slim.

    • CarNut from Winnipeg Member

      The one time I have ever been to Calgary was July. It snowed lightly at noon on July 1.

  6. Howard A Member

    This is a great example of this truck, and perhaps, Scotty’s bad luck was partly because of the rusty climate we live in, just as my Jeep Cherokee, was a good truck, but my particular Cherokee was a POS, mostly because of the rust. These weren’t any different, and many in snowy climates, now sit behind a barn and have been relegated to plow duty with most of the body gone, but the mechanical’s continue to chug along. The farm I live on has a same vintage Dodge pickup that you can see what you just plowed by looking through the floor. Probably a 318 if they say 5.2. Nice truck, but as mentioned, better carry a few gas cards with you.

  7. Todd Zuercher

    Great rig for the price – even with the dents. And I like the 4 speed too. Fix it up and drive it!

  8. Norm

    I’D hang a plow on it & make it earn it’s keep ..Bet the seller dos not care what we think ,just wants it sold >>

  9. whippeteer

    At that price, if it were nearer to me I’d already be driving it.

  10. seth karpen

    Had an 85 ramcharger snowcommander. Odometer only goes up 99,999 so mileage is over 100,000 miles. Unstoppable in the snow. If it was closer to me I would buy it.

  11. Greg Member

    Personally, I’d pass on it. I bought a 1978 Plymouth Trailduster Sport in 85 out here in California, and it was the funest truck I’ve ever owned. I didn’t know a lot about these, but I lucked out. It had the 440 with a/c, and being California it spent a lot of time with its top off, often pulling my boat. It never rusted, and I wish I never sold it! The only reason I say “pass” on this one is the low hp engine, top doesn’t come off, and it probably does have rust issues. But for the little money he’s asking, could be a fun hunting truck.

  12. John

    That looks like a former National Park Service car. They had about a quadrillion of them in that color combo. If so, it was likely a pretty well maintained vehicle for much of its early life.

    • Rod_Munch

      I was thinking the same thing — a possible fleet vehicle owned by a government agency. If it was, the mileage could be correct.

      The one piece that threw me was the carpet. I would have expected a rubber mat instead.

      It still looks to be a good buy.

  13. guggie

    I had an 87 Ramcharger SE 318 auto 4×4 for 9 years , one of the best vehicles I ever had , plowed snow , pulled boats and campers and just about any thing I could hook on to . Never let me down , not the best on gas got 15 on a road trip one time , just plain Ram Tough !!

  14. Mark PRND

    My Parents had a 1975 RamCharger 400 4bbl and it was a tough reliable truck..

    5 digit odometer ,it rolled over 3 times !! They sold it in 1990 with 312,000 miles and it was advertised at a dealer with 112,000 original miles..

    Like all old cars every 99,999 they go to 0..So determining actual mileage is impossible.

    You could have a driven hard vehicle at 70,000 and it looks like hell and it is a lemon.. You could have a taken reasonably good care of with 270,000 miles and it looks better than a hard driven 70,000 mile car..

    My Dad washed it, waxed it twice over the years, he did change the oil around every 4000 miles, spark plugs, wires twice in 312,000 miles…Water pump, alternator and carb were the only repairs he did, besides brakes/tires..

    In 1999 I bought a 1993 RamCharger 360 magnum it had 105,000 miles but was in perfect condition,not 1 scratch,interior looked like no one was in it..I stupidly sold it in 2003 when I bought a new Ram 1500 QuadCab …I am always looking for a RamCharger,will buy another one day..

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