Project Pickup: 1981 Dodge Ram 50 Sport

I have basically this same pickup and while driving it on the highway at 60 mph today, I was reminded just how tiny they really are. Not to mention that at 6′-5″ tall, I’m basically six to eight inches too tall to really be comfortable driving it. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t eyeing this one up, a guy can always use another tiny pickup. This 1981 Dodge Ram 50 Sport is listed here on eBay in San Bernadino, California and the current bid price is just $1,150.

The Mitsubishi Triton was also sold by Chrysler as the Dodge D-50 for 1979 and 1980 – mine is a 1980 D-50 Sport – and in 1981 they were the Dodge Ram. In 1982, a 4×4 model was available which would really be a find. These trucks are pretty rare in any form but a 4×4 would be fantastic to own.

The seller says that this truck is rock solid other than a couple of spots in the bed where water collected. Otherwise, supposedly it’s original and other than a dent in the driver’s door, it really does look like a nice example. I prefer the simple, single-headlight (on each side, of course) front end treatment over the quad headlights in 1983 through 1986 trucks. They were redesigned for the 1987 year at which point Dodge also offered the mid-sized Dakota.

The interior looks great in this truck. The seats are toned down a lot compared to the ones in the 1979-1980 Dodge D-50 Sport trucks like mine. The Sport model added a tach, amp and oil pressure gauges, and a 5-speed rather than a 4-speed transmission. Mine cruises at 2,800 RPM at 60 mph so that extra gear comes in handy.

The engine is Mitsubishi’s 4G54, a great 2.6L inline-four with around 105 hp. Mine has a Weber carb and it has a decent amount of oomph, but I’d rather have a little less oomph and have a nice of an original looking engine compartment as on this truck. Unfortunately, this is why the price is lower than it should be, the seller says that this one has a knock and will need to be rebuilt or replaced. That’s bad news as it looks so great under the hood. Have any of you ever owned a Dodge D-50 or Dodge Ram 50 pickup?


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  1. Howard A Member

    Nice find, but like Scotty sez, cab is just too small. This is the 2nd Cal. Asian vehicle to come through with a bad motor. Again, these were bulletproof motors. The only thing I can think of, is in Cal. they overheated it, kiss of death for an Asian motor. If it was 4×4, be a lot more wanted and worth rebuilding. Like this, not much interest, despite a rare rust free example. Maybe, certainly worth the price for one.
    Scotty complains of poor drivability with his. Stalling, hard starting, high idle. He has asked me for advice, and the 1st thing I can say, is unbolt that Weber carb, and throw it into one of Minnesotas beautiful 10,000 lakes.( don’t let the tree huggers see you, tho) Weber carbs are great performance carbs, and for some reason, everybody thinks, “oh, replacement carb? Get a Weber”,,no, don’t,, they are some of the most finicky carbs on the planet, and I’ve always had great results with a stock, standard replacement carb. Scotty, lose the Weber, get a stock carb. Not cheap, ($450 bucks) but will make all the difference.

    Like 3
    • Motoman

      We had several of these D-50s on the farm over the years and we beat the crap out of them. Prob 5 total. My 1st vehicle too and I’m 50 now. The stock carb is absolute junk! All had dgev Webers installed and ran perfect. They are super easy to tune and not finicky at all. Set and forget. We would usually get 125k + out of an engine before they would fail, either loss of oil pressure/balancer shaft or a jet valve would break. Just order up a used Japanese engine delete balance shaft, pull jet valves out of the head and install brass plugs. Then by the time that engine failed the rest of the pickup was worn out! We still have 3 of them, 2 in the bone yard and 1 still runs great and it has over 250k mi. The weber on it was installed prob around 80k mi. And that carb came off another D-50 that was wrecked. It’s still not finicky, turn on key pump throttle 2x and it fires right up…

      Like 5
      • boxdin

        That 3 barrell card was good when new but many got replaced later w webers. I had 3 of these trucks when new and at the time they were the fastest thing around and lots of fun. They make a great convertible also as we used a kit to cut the top off making a real sleek ride.

        Like 2
      • SubGothius

        I can see how Webers might seem “finicky” if one only worked with the cheap Weber clones made in China and sold by Empi and others, which are notoriously impossible to tune properly. The only thing “licensed” about them is the general blueprint and the Weber name/logo, but they’re not made to the same exacting tolerances as genuine made-in-Spain Webers, which is necessary for them to function as designed throughout their full operating range. Beware Webers with a shiny/smooth finish,Weber branding only on a decal or tag, and a black plastic electric choke cover; genuine Webers have a dull/rough finish, with the Weber name/logo and “Made in Spain” cast right into the body, and a translucent off-white choke cover.

        The stock Mikuni carb was already an ancient, inefficient design by the time they even started making these trucks, made worse over the following years as they started adding electronic feedback gizmos to help it pass tightening US smog regs, which then become failure-prone over their ensuing 30-40 years of service, tho’ at least this truck’s early enough it doesn’t have much of that.

        The Weber DF-/DG-series carbs are a thoroughly modern design (as “modern” as old-tech like carbs can be, anyway), engineered for fuel efficiency and clean emissions while also performing better than the stock Mikuni. Getting the jetting right may be a bit tricky if you get a used carb, but new genuine Webers from legit vendors are provided with the right jets out of the box, and the MightyRam50 forum has a thread with good jetting specs tuned with a wideband O2 sensor.

        Like 2
      • Don

        I have a Mitsubichi Mighty Max, which is about the same as the Ram 50..264K on her & she still runs like a little German clock..Any chance your selling any parts off of that one you have in your boneyard?

    • JoeNYWF64

      I wonder if you could adapt a simple as pie non hesitatng 60’s 1 barrel on a slant 6, or even a rochester monojet carb. Bought my monojet 30 years ago for $35(1/2 price sale!) at former Strauss discount auto & the carb still works perfectly. You can drive off immediately right after starting!

  2. Rabbit

    My brother had a Mitsu Mighty Max, can’t remember the year… His had a knock too. As I recall, he disabled the balance shaft & solved the issue.

    Like 3
  3. Tim

    Be nice if small pickups like this were still being made. One can still fit them into most any garage!

    Like 3
  4. AZVanMan

    Dad’s D-50 Sport was a great little truck for him, he was just a hair under 6′ and he never complained about the fit as he drove it back and forth across the country. These are tight for me at 6’3, but that didnt stop me from taking a midnight run in a brand new one in 79 to get some badly-needed parts out of state for a new Snap-on tool van we were building. My friend Greg and I flew over the highways and turnpikes, that 2.6L would cruise all night at 90 no problem. Hope this one finds a good home!

    Like 4
  5. nlpnt

    They changed the bucket seats’ upholstery almost every year, the ’79s have a black all-vinyl interior with yellow or orange “bumblebee” stripes, your ’80 model’s tan and beige was one year only and the only colors offered that year, the ’82 Sport models had full-face corduroy cloth in maroon and beige with dark red vinyl sides, back, vinyl areas of the door panels (same sew pattern as ’81) and at some point they changed the color to gray but kept the full-face cord through into the next generation.

    Like 6
  6. Paul

    My uncle had a ’78 (I think) D-50 Sport. 2.6, 5-speed. I got to drive it a couple of times, and it was a blast. He later had a mid-80’s Mitsu Mighty Max 4×4, I think it was the same drivetrain, just didn’t have the same “guts” to it. Later, my dad bought a late 80’s Ram-50, I think it was the 2.0 and a 4-speed. That was a nice little truck, but the ’78 was the best.

    Like 2
  7. Sherminator

    My dad had the Plymouth version, the Arrow. A sporty little truck but the tin worm crept in around year three thanks to the salty roads in WNY.

    Like 4

    The only brand new vehicle I ever purchased, 1980 d-50. Not the sport model. Custom painted stripes, aluminum wheels,bf goodrich belted ta’s, custom interior using ford pinto high back bucket seats. Imo better than the sport model except the power. I changed that up a up a little also with a good de smogging. Living in Ma. I stored it in a dry garage November thru April, I had it six years and it had 30k on it when we reluctantly parted ways. Awesome memories,,,

    Like 2

    Back in August of 1986, I accompanied my parents to the Dodge dealer in Fresno. My hope was that my Dad would buy the yellow ’87 Ram 50 that caught my eye, but he instead selected a gray ’86 Ram 50 (similar to this ’81 but for the quad headlights). I later learned how to drive in that truck. It stood up to two kids learning how to drive, and It had just enough room for my inch or two over six feet. Dad sold it a little over ten years later. I hope it’s still around. I wouldn’t mind having another if I didn’t presently live in the land of salty winter roads.

    Like 2
  10. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Auction update; this great looking truck sold for $1,150. Ouch.

    Like 7

    Ugh, the gold.

  12. Surf61

    Had a red ’81 D50 Sport in the mid-80’s when it was a nice slightly used truck. Fun to drive and hauled everything that I need. Pulled the wheel arch pinstripes off to tone it down a bit. 6′-3″ was a bit tight but I added some spacers to tilt the seat back some which helped. Wife had a Plymouth (Mitsubishi) Sapporo at the same time with the same drivetrain. It was a nice driver as well. Drove the D-50 for a couple of years and sold it for a bit more than I paid. Not a bad ride for a few years.

  13. Richard j Martin

    I bought a 1987 D-50, 2.0 L. Great little truck for a 5ft. 6in. person. Wish that I still had it.

  14. chrlsful Member

    don’t worry bout size. My fav vehicle for looks (inc cars) is the ’73/9 F-series Ford p/u. I don’t have one due to ‘cramped cab’. Would go for the rare extended cab (don’t want a crew). That lrg vehicle – U sit in like at a kitchen table but tight (I’m only 5, 10).Same w/these guys. R E A L L Y nice idea, can;t fit. But again – just extend that cab (‘King Cab’ 1st ’83 w/Datsun) a lill, “all set”. They look like dukie 2 me, but there ya go…

    Like 1
  15. Stevieg

    A friend from the other side of the block had one of these when I was growing up, high school years. His was a 4×4, reddish orange with a tan bench seat interior. It was about 4 or 5 years old when he bought it.
    I remember it being a very reliable and economical driver for him.
    He was restoring a first generation Camaro at the time. This truck went to Iola & the spring and fall Jefferson meets (those from the midwest will probably know these meets) many times for parts.
    Sadly, that tomato colored truck eventually rusted to nothing and he junked it. Last I knew he still has the Camaro, but it has been a long time since I heard from or about him.

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