Dodge has been making trucks since 1917. For 98 years, Dodge has been providing America with trucks that have been on farms and ranches, mountains and dockside, oil fields and soccer fields.
They are part of the landscape. As our culture has changed, so have the needs and wants of the people. What hasn’t changed are the reasons why people still drive pickups.
Dodge Ram dealers have been smart enough to see that times do indeed change and to stay relevant, one much change with the times. They have shown that with their trucks.
In 1981 Dodge introduced their new line RAM. Donning the head of a ram as its logo on their grill as their nameplate, it serves as both their namesake as well as a warning.
They are impressive trucks and have continued to be since their birth 34 years ago. Just as the times have changed in the previous 34 years, so has the RAM.
Let’s take a look at how some of those changes have helped define and redefine the driver and truck.
1981: The Birth of the RAM
1981 wasn’t all that long ago. In fact, I’d say that your average Dodge Ram driver has clear and vivid memories of 1981. It was the year that Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as President.
Prince Charles and Lady Diana were married. Walter Cronkite ended his 19 year run as your TV anchor on CBS and MTV was launched.
It was also the same that Dodge introduce their new line of pickup trucks; the RAM. Bringing back the ram head as a hood ornament from the Dodge pickups of the 1930’s and 40’s and the Ram was officially born.
Like the Ram, I, too, was experiencing my youth in the 1980’s. I grew up in a very small residential community.
Even though there were a number of farms in my town, our community was a series of developments built in the 1970’s when housing prices were perfectly low. By the 1980’s everyone had moved in and settled down.
As I remember taking bike rides everywhere, I cannot remember ever seeing a pickup truck in any driveway. We were a commuter town and back then, pickups were most likely to be found on farms and construction sites. They weren’t in my neighbor’s driveway.
There are a couple reasons why this is. One, while my town certainly wasn’t affluent, it was residential and people were commuting.
The pickups of the 1980s and 1990’s lacked, among many things, fuel efficiency. Why would someone drive a truck that has a poor gas economy to their office job a couple towns over?
Another reason for this is that trucks of yesterday weren’t family friendly, lacked any luxury appeal and didn’t offer a comfortable ride. Pickup trucks were meant for one reason which is the reason for their shape and function: to haul, load and carry very heavy items.
The Dodge Ram
In 1981, the Ram had two drive options: D or W. “D” was for two wheel drive while “W” meant all wheel drive. There was a 150, which was the smallest meaning it could carry half a ton, 250 that could carry three-quarter ton and a 350 that could carry a full ton.
There were a couple different cab and bed configurations, but mostly these were your options. Any amount of luxury such as air conditioning was offered only in top trims.
Dodge Ram of the 1990’s
1994 saw an all new Dodge Ram. With its powerful engine, rugged appearance and car-like drive, it was an immediate hit. Changes in labeling took place: 150 (half-ton) now became 1500, 250 became 2500 and likewise the 350 became 3500.
Even though it’s a small change, that extra zero does a lot to not only change a number but a perception that this now is stronger and sturdier. It was a smart change for Ram.
The trim levels were also changed up. Including a basic Work Special, there was also an LT, ST and the luxurious Laramie SLT. Using the same setup as with all trims, the work special trim was bare bones; perfect for a fleet of trucks.
The LT and ST came with some extra goodies, but it was the Laramie SLT that was now stacked with extra luxuries. Moving ahead with the times, the center console/arm rest was now large enough that it could store your laptop.
The engines became more powerful as well. V6’s and V8’s powered these beasts, offering turbocharged as well as HEMI’s. There was even a V10 that became available belting out 300 horsepower and 450 lb/ft of torque.
Leading the pack in safety features, the Ram became the first full size pickup to have driver side airbags as well as offer four wheel ABS in the 1500 and 2500 models.
1997 Dodge Ram added detailed refinement to its full size trucks offering leather seats, wood trim on doors, a stereo as well as cassette and CD players.
Room for the whole Ram Fam Damily
The middle to late 1990’s America’s economy was doing very well. Home grown businesses were now thriving and that truck that mom and kids didn’t comfortably fit into before could now be traded in for a top trim model.
Extra money meant dads could now treat their families. Investments were being made and people were more comfortable to spend money on the extra goodies in life.
This was the beginning of creature comforts in the pickup market. Ram trucks now were getting cabins large enough to fit the whole family and comfortably.
Where ten years earlier, families would never have considered taking the Ram 2500 on a vacation, now with the trims offering such luxuries, it was a suitable truck to do so in.
By the 2000’s Ram had improved suspension, handling, steering and braking systems all of which improved the quality of the ride. While technology was taking off, so were the demands from the drivers.
Pickups were becoming ‘fashionable’ in some brands, while others, Ram, stayed true to the cause.
However, the market was calling for full size trucks with the latest technology, superior performance and they wanted it to look good. Edgier styling with a laundry list of amenities were being priced and sold accordingly. Ram delivered and sales were great.
By the late 2000’s the economy started falling and when another recession hit, sales once again dropped. Jobs were lost and people could no longer afford such luxuries as top trim model pickups.
While Ram was affected by this, like everyone else, they saw it as an opportunity to refigure their product.
The New RAM Wins
As the economy started turning around, they noticed their buyer had changed. This new buyer was focused; aware of what they now needed.
Fuel economy, performance and power were now the priorities. The V10’s and V8’s were great, but they wanted that power in a V6.
Stricter government regulations on emissions were being tested and manufacturers had to comply.
Again, Ram responded to these needs and met them all.
In 2013 and 2014 Ram was back to being on top and was voted Motor Trend’s Car of the Year.
Ram trucks have experienced quite a bit of changes in just 34 years. From the birth of a work truck, to a family car, fashionably trendy and then back to a good American pickup.
Ram has proven it can be both rugged and sturdy while also being civilized and refined.