Little Survivor: 1980 Dodge D-50 Sport

Captive imports were big sellers in the 1970s as American manufacturers scrambled to take on imports in certain genres, such as small, fuel-efficient cars and small trucks. This Mitsubishi-based 1980 Dodge D-50 Sport pickup can be found here on eBay in beautiful Boise, Idaho and they’re asking an eye-watering $7,900 or you can make an offer. Here is the original listing.

I’m a big fan of these trucks as I have the same thing only in orange. I found one on craigslist a few hours away and wrote about it here on Barn Finds. Once I saw it in person, that was it. Mine is much nicer than this yellow example and I got it for $2,000, but that was back in 2017 when the world was more normal than it is now. This does look like a solid truck, though.

The Dodge D-50 was made for the 1979 and 1980 model years after which point it was known as the Dodge Ram 50 for a time. The 1987 Ram 50 was redesigned and would eventually go away in favor of the new “small” Dodge Dakota. You can see that this truck is a little rough around the edges with lots of chipped and worn-off paint and surface rust and general wear from being used, you know, as a truck. The underside looks good to me, being a few decades old and having the usual surface rust. The bumper appears to have been pulled away in the center as if someone tried to pull a house or something. It shows up on a YouTube video here at around the 15-second mark.

The seller has provided dozens of photos but there isn’t one overall interior photo that I could find. My interior is tan and it should be the same as this one but this truck has a missing badge on the glove box door.  My dash has a small split in the far left top corner and I don’t see a photo of that area here. You can see the dash split at the 2:20 mark in that YouTube video above. The driver’s seat has a crack in the vinyl, again, as does mine and that’s an easy fix. There were two D-50 models, this one is the upgraded “Sport” which came with extra gauges, bucket seats, and a 5-speed, not to mention a bigger engine.

The engine looks like mine does, with a Weber carb conversion. This is Mitsubishi’s 4G54, a 2.6L inline-four with 105 horsepower. My truck seems to have more than enough power, although at 65 mph the RPM is high enough for me that I don’t like to push it too much over that. Maybe some lower gearing in 5th gear would take care of that. The seller gives a YouTube driving video here and in keeping with Boise, ID tradition, he appears to be a good, courteous driver. Boise is an island of driving sanity for me, I don’t know why there are so many courteous drivers there. This looks like a fun little truck, any thoughts on this one?

Comments

  1. Todd Fitch Staff

    LS swap? Just joking of course! Nice find, Scotty, and thanks for the expert Buyer’s Guide. Back before the Internet I remember thinking this 2.6 had to be the biggest I4 in my limited sphere of knowledge. Of course Fiat’s Beast of Turin comes in around 16L, but that’s just showing off. Back before making a truck fuel-efficient required twin turbos, direct injection, and hybrid technology, you could just, you know, buy a smaller truck… brilliant! That option is pretty much gone now, at least in the U.S. of A. But you can have this one for $7900 and grin every time you fill it up. Thanks for giving this sunrise-colored Mitsudodgei (Dodgeubishi?) some attention.

    Like 6
    • SubGothius

      I’ve got basically the same 2.6L in my ’87 Ram 50; it’s surprisingly smooth, thanks to counter-rotating balance shafts as originally patented by Frederick Lanchester. Mitsubishi bought those patents, so then Porsche, Fiat, Saab and any others who wanted to use balance shafts had to pay them to license the patent.

      Like 4
      • Beaner

        The balance shafts were a godsend for larger displacement four cylinder engines. I remember driving a Chrysler 2.2 without them and later getting to drive a Chrysler 2.5 with them. What a great difference. of course, part of the allure might have been the longer stroke giving more useable low end pull, but I still think the better balance made all the difference. Just an all around smoother engine. They should have made those 2.5s with 16 valve heads and made almost the perfect engine of its day. Would have had the same HP as the 2.2 turbo with better reliability and no crazy (and often dangerous) turbo lag.

        Like 5
  2. Daryl Roe Daryl Roe Member

    Boy that paint factory paint job surely represents the 80s as I remember them. I think I recall a buddy of mine driving one of these growing up. It was often seen crossing over the sea wall with a keg of beer and bonfire wood bouncing around the back and a cheerleader bouncing around the front. Those were the days.

    Like 5
  3. Daryl Roe Daryl Member

    I hate it when I misread a comment. At first I thought you were a sack of squirrel dicks…. silly me. enjoy your truck man

    Like 7
  4. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Thanks for the pep talk, Ray! I was just trying to say how much things have changed in five short years, price-wise, and I thought that folks would agree about that, but I guess you’re not one of them. Feel free to turn in your application to be a writer here, I’m sure you’d do a much better job than I do.

    Like 15
  5. 53gmc

    Its a great write up scott and its nice to hear first hand experience from someone who owns one of these,( i cant personally remember the last time ive even seen one). Pay no attention to the critics.

    Like 1
  6. Howard A Member

    Now, now, there’s no need for grumbles, nobody has been ripped on more than me( poor me) we’ve determined these “one time posters” are idjits fresh from Facebook, but I say, this must make the author feel good, kind of like me with the squarebody shenanigans. Just think, in 4 short years, we’ve QUADRUPLED our investments( cough). What a great idea, almost beats the stock market today,,,,hardly, this person will be lucky to get half that, even with the gas prices. Americans will do without their health insurance payments so they can still drive their diesel duallys, rather than drive these puddle jumpers again. Anyone with half a memory knows, these were so-so vehicles, with their gas mileage, their only claim to fame, and das Vebber, will cut THAT down some. And don’t give me that “the Weber is a great carb”, and for wild V-12 Ferraris, they are, but for everyday use( especially below 40 degrees), finicky as an Italian super model, from what I’ve heard. The 5 speed keeps it from “hollerin” on the highway, but they were intended as a cheap, economical vehicle that could haul a bushel basket, not much more. It’s an okay find, if you don’t remember what 1980 mini-pickups were like.

    Like 8
    • SubGothius

      Weber made a wide array of different carb models. The ones used on a classic V12 or racing engine (which don’t have proper chokes, hence their poor behavior in the cold) aren’t the ones used for smaller “everyday use” street engines like this (which do have chokes) — just like the stock Mikuni carbs on these Mitsubishi engines have little in common with motorcycle or racing Mikunis.

      About all the various Webers have in common is that they’re tuned primarily by swapping out fuel/air jets, and a general engineering approach of using precision-metered air and fuel passages rather than a bunch of add-on gizmos to handle various special-case scenarios. They can be finicky to tune initially due to the hassle and principles of jet swapping, but once that’s done they never really go out of tune and perform reliably.

      Since I swapped my ’87 Ram 50 to a Weber, I’ve been enjoying far better performance, emissions and mileage, tho’ that may be somewhat related to the old stock Mikuni suffering age-related failures that led me to replace it in the first place (rebuilding this type of Mikuni is not for newbies or the faint of heart!).

      Alas, this one appears to have a Chinese-made Weber clone, going by the black electric-choke cover, tho’ those can appear on a genuine Weber if someone used a Chinese electric-choke element to convert from an original water choke. These clones were “licensed” to use the general Weber DGV carb design and name/logo but evidently weren’t finished to the same exacting tolerances as genuine Webers, leading to problems getting them tuned to run right in all conditions.

  7. DON

    The engines in these trucks were as dependable as lawn mowers , but boy these trucks didn’t hold up for beans here on the East Coast .The rust just ate these things up.

    Like 10
  8. Graham

    Had the same truck except a 79. Bought it as a demonstrator/ service loaner. Paid $7200 back then. Was a great truck, that 2.6 could pull pretty good. Over worked it many times.

    Like 2
  9. John W Kriegshauser

    My Dad owned one of these in this exact color combination with a manual trans. It was a 1979 model. The salt finally started to take it to a rusty grave, and the carburetor took a dump, finishing the truck’s fate. Thanks for posting this, brought back a few memories of my Dad.

    Like 5
  10. RexFox Member

    Until noticing the hood ornament, I thought this truck was overpriced, but not now! Actually, this could be a practical little errand runner if it were closer to $5,000 (in today’s market, $2,500 in more sane times).

    Like 2
  11. Howebrad460 Member

    Cool Pickup. Absolutely love the color scheme when contrasted with today’s boring egg shaped, dull colored choices. I very much remember these, especially since one of my first cars was a 78 Plymouth Arrow, which was a Mitsubishi captive import for Chrysler.

    Don’t even pay a 2nd notice to commenters who’s apparent jealousy means they can’t say anything constructive.

    I really enjoy this vintage of vehicles which I often call tape strip specials. If you can’t make it perform in real life, at least make it look like it can perform. Showing a photo here of my two tape strip specials. And, to keep Howard happy, I left my diesel dually out of the photo! What’s funny about these little trucks is that for the time, mileage was better than the larger half ton pickups, but today my 2018 Silverado 1500 with it’s 5.3LV8 is better on fuel even around town than my V6 Ranger, and about on par around town with the Toyota 4 cylinder. We’ve came a long way in that regard.

    I hope somebody preserves this nice yellow pickup. The colors and the fact that they used to be everywhere take me back to my growing up years.

    Like 3
  12. Wayne Thomas

    I had one of these with a Turbo Diesel. Had to sell when it blew a Head Gasket. Loved that size, ride and economy. Even put Dual Exhaust on it with no muffler. What a good combo. I know where another is parked with a Diesel. Would like to place that engine in one of my 47 chev’s. Good power and torque.

  13. ronald wroblewsky

    had few back when ,a few diesels,not all that great on fuel,but better than 460 or a 454

  14. Mike

    Scotty, pull the exhaust manifold off NOW! Take it apart, knock out the ceramic honeycomb. Carb problems solved!

    Like 1
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Hey, thanks for the info, Mike!

  15. Christopher Gentry

    That’s my kinda truck. I really miss truly compact (disappointed with the new ranger) basic trucks. I feel about the stripes like I do about dogs. Love empty , when other people have em. In other words a tad flashy for me , but yet admire em. Odd I know

    Like 1
  16. Gary Raymond Member

    I’ve got the exact same truck In the Plymouth ‘Sport’ version that I bought new (It was right around 8K as I recall!), mine has the roll bar. Still runs/drives but the rust worms have attacked a few spots. The interior is nice other than the dash is badly cracked….the damn thing refuses to die. The non-rusty spots still shine. At least now I know what range to price mine in, closer to the 2K range…

    Like 2

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