Think Dodge and one thinks Charger, Challenger or the Demon. But expand the mind a bit, and you remember the Dodge RAM. While Ford may be leading the pickup truck bandwagon in the US with Chevrolet nipping at its heels, a long time back it was Dodge that people turned to if they wanted a hardy truck.
Now with Dodge and RAM splitting off into two different trajectories after Fiat and Chrysler merged into FCA, we hope to see RAM become the great that Dodge once was. While Dodge may have given us a few misses down the road, today we talk about its hits. Here go the best Dodge trucks ever to hit the road, ranked according to our preference. What’s yours?
10 1989 Dodge Shelby Dakota: Performance Pickup
After the golden muscle car era of the 60s, and the downright depressing oil embargo of the 70s – the 80s burst in with performance flavor. The Vette jetted 250 horses while the Mustang GT was no less. This was the time of the muscle car, tuned to pure performance. So why should a truck not join in the fun?
Perhaps the inspiration of the GMC Syclone and the Ford Raptors of today was the 1989 Dodge Shelby Dakota. A tie-up between Carroll Shelby and the Dodge Dakota, the truck was fitted with a 5.2-liter V8 that spat out 175 horses, married to a four-speed automatic. It became one fast truck and set the trend of the performance pickup.
9 1946-1968 Dodge Power Wagon: The First 4WD
Important because of its legacy, the Dodge Power Wagon was the very first four-wheel-drive civvy truck in America. Frankly, it was a thinly-disguised military vehicle only, heavily based upon the WC-Series Dodge three-quarter-ton trucks put to hard use in WWII. Of course, the Power Wagon wasn’t all that powerful.
The engine was a 4.0-liter inline-six that spurted only 94 ponies. How they got the job done was because of the low-axle gearing, strong transmission and of course, the four-wheel drive. With huge tires, they had great ground clearance and hauling ability which is why they served the civilians for a good 20-year plus.
8 1989-1993 Dodge Power RAM Cummins Turbodiesel: Torque War
How do you outsell a heavy-duty Ford or Chevy? Chrysler’s idea was to take a normal pickup and install in it the same six-cylinder Cummins turbodiesel engine that made its full-size commercial trucks a success.
And so entered the Dodge Power RAM Cummins Turbodiesel engine so installed in W-250 and W-350. The trucks were nothing much to look at, but the utter power they provided made them a runaway success. At 400 ft-lb torque, they were more powerful than the Ford and Chevy variants of the day. And so started the torque wars between Ford, Chevy and (Dodge) RAM that are on to date.
7 1994-2001 Dodge RAM 1500: Size Matters
Even before 1994, Dodge had introduced the Cummins diesel engine to its heavy-duty line. And people did buy Dodge trucks because of that engine but certainly not for those boring looks. In 1994, Dodge changed that and introduced the new line of Dodge RAM trucks that told everyone, “mine’s bigger”.
While that may not be better, the 90s was the time of the big trucks with people eschewing sedans. Of course, the 90s was also the time of really bad sports cars, but that’s another matter. The fact is, the all-new muscular range of the Dodge RAM trucks made sales quadruple in just a few years. And Ford and GM soon copied bits and pieces of the same, albeit their sales still top Dodge RAMs.
6 1961 Dodge Ram D/W Series: RAM’s Dad
The D/W may be lost in time, but this is the truck that set the course for future Dodge RAM trucks. And much like the Power Wagon, it set many precedents. This was Dodge’s first pickup to have an alternator for electric power, rather than a generator.
It also became the first pickup, and not just from Dodge, to introduce the intensely popular four-door body style – the kind we see in most adventure pickup trucks of today from RAM, Ford, GM, and other brands. This is the truck that laid the groundwork for the Dodge RAM, and now just the RAM.
5 1978 Dodge Power Wagon Top Hand: Boys And Toys
During the late 70s and the 80s, there were plenty of boy toys that Dodge launched – think Warlock, the Lil' Express Red or the Midnite Express. And the rarest of them all has to be the Power Wagon Top Hand so made in collaboration with off-road legend Vic Hickey.
Of course, the Top Hands package wasn’t limited only to the Power Wagon – it had its hold on the Dodge Ramcharger and the Plymouth Trail Duster as well. Only 500 of these were ever made, with perhaps only 200 of them being Power Wagon Top Hands. These muscle trucks are super rare today and recognized only by the true aficionados.
4 2005-2014 Dodge Power Wagon: The Legacy Continues
Other than the various Raptors from Ford that keep hitting the market, the 2005 Dodge Power Wagon remains a favorite for any religious off-roader. This one is a dream truck for which Dodge used the heavy chassis of the RAM 2500 and added electric-locking differentials for better traction.
Extra suspension flex was given by an electrical-sway bar and the gearing was lowered the way it was in the original Power Wagon. So as long as the Power Wagon can fit on a trail, it can conquer it. And in case it still manages to get stuck, there’s the beauty of that 12,000-pound load-bearing electric Warn winch on the front bumper. As we said, a hardcore off-roader's dream machine.
3 2019 Dodge RAM 2500: A Powerful Beast
They may be more RAM than Dodge now, but remnants of Dodge’s truck legacy continues in the latest RAM trucks. The 2019 RAM 2500 is lighter than before and boasts a redesign that makes it look even more menacing and capable than before.
With the top trim of a 6.7-liter V6 diesel engine, the RAM 2500 jets 370 horses and a massive 850 ft-lb torque. Meaning this beast can tow almost 20,000 pounds or carry a payload of more than 3,250 pounds. With a good amount of trims that slowly build up the luxury, this can be a heavy hauling vehicle, or a family pickup, as per your needs.
2 1978-1979 Dodge Lil' Red Express Truck: An Icon
For 1979, this truck did the quickest 0-100mph of any vehicle that year, and we don’t mean just trucks. With its neo-noir styling in red, and those 18-wheeler exhaust stacks, the Lil’ Red Express was the truck to have if you had the pockets and the gumption to buy it.
The 5.9-liter V8 that was used in the Dodge police interceptor was used for this, and the 225 horses it spurted made it more potent than the Corvette of that year. Plus the torque was also more at 295 ft-lb, making it one of the biggest and baddest of all cars of that year. And it’s a rare find to treasure till today.
1 2004-2006 Dodge Ram SRT-10
The SRT-10 was absolute lunacy, so packed in the form of a truck. It became the fastest and wildest truck of that time, with records that hold even now. To make this awesome machine, Dodge took the Viper’s V10 engine and its six-speed manual transmission – and they installed it in a regular RAM 1500.
The truck spat out an amazing 500 horses, ran at almost 155mph and went 0-60mph in less than 5 seconds. This was a Guinness record level. To make it even more badass, the manual transmission came with a long Hurst shifter, so topped with a ball. It may not be the fastest truck now, but it will remain the most fun to drive, forever.