Return of the Ramcharger: Could Dodge Build a Retro 4x4 SUV Fight the Ford Bronco?
With the debut of the 2021 Ford Bronco generating a ton of hype over the last couple of weeks, there’s been a lot of talk about the vehicles the Bronco will compete against and what their makers might do to battle the retro-styled Ford.
We recently took a look at the Jeep Wrangler and speculated on some of the tricks that FCA might be rolling out to give it an edge against the Bronco—including upcoming hybrid powertrains and a likely Hemi V8 option.
With all of the attention on the Wrangler vs Bronco, there's also another off-road vehicle from Chrysler’s history that was designed as a rival to the Bronco and had a long and successful sales run. That vehicle was the Dodge Ramcharger and today one can’t help but wonder if that nameplate is worthy of a comeback.
The Ramcharger, and its sibling the Plymouth Trailduster, first appeared in a 1974, riding on a version of the Dodge D-series pickup platform and designed to compete against both the Bronco and the Chevy Blazer.
Like the Bronco, the Ramcharger had two doors and was built to have a removable roof in either cloth or steel form. It could be had in either 2WD or 4x4 and was powered by either small block V8 engines along with the occasional big block.
A second generation Ramcharger was introduced in 1981 looking a lot like the first generation but with a number of improvements under the skin. It’s production ran until 1993 when the D-series platform was replaced by the the all new, modern looking Ram truck in 1994.
Interestingly, there was a third generation Ramcharger built off of the 1990s Ram pickup platform, but it was only sold in the Mexico market. In some ways the space left by the Ramcharger was picked up filled with the introduction of the Dodge Durango SUV in 1998, but subsequent generations have transformed the Durango into a spacious family hauler rather than an “adventurous” SUV.
There’s an argument to be made that there’s room in the current market for a revived version of the Ramcharger aimed at the same market the Bronco is, perhaps borrowing the Bronco’s squared off, retro look.
Today, a modern Ramcharger would likely fall under the RAM brand rather than the Dodge brand, and there’s certainly no shortage proven components that could be used to underpin a new Ramcharger.
The RAM pickup line offers plenty to borrow from, especially from the off-road oriented RAM Rebel pickup which comes outfitted with a number of special touches aimed for off-pavement adventuring. Could a new Ramcharger simply work with an SUV body over a shortened RAM pickup platform?
On the other hand, the Jeep brand also has plenty of hardware that a potential new Ramcharger could draw from. Could it be as simple as a using the Wrangler/Gladiator platform with different styling? It seems like Jeep is getting ready to offer the 6.4 liter Hemi V8 in the Wrangler, and this engine would also be a perfect fit for a new Ramcharger.
Whether a theoretical new Ramcharger would use the RAM truck or a Jeep platform, the biggest obstacle to building it would likely be the possibility that it would just draw from existing Jeep buyers rather than a new market. Then again Ford doesn’t seem to have any issue offering both a Bronco and a Ranger pickup on the same platform.
Whatever the case, the new Bronco is looking like it’s going to be a big hit for Ford and it’s only natural for other makers to want in on the fun. We think a reborn version of the classic Ramcharger would be a great way to do that.
Click here to see how the new Bronco stacks-up against the competition.