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History Hits: 1987-1989 Dodge-Ram Raider

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It isn’t often that I see a relatively modern car that I don’t recognize. While saying I pride myself on my car recognition would be wrong—shame may be more appropriate—it is undeniable that I can recognize most cars. That made the above car a bit of a unicorn when I saw it parked outside my local vet. The above example is probably cleaner than a car right off the factory floor ever was, and the one I saw was (a much more typical) a bit worse for wear. That being said, despite some badging being illegible/gone, and paint that looked like Dodge-quality paint of yester-year, it was not awful looking. This missing badging made recognition from the front impossible besides a ‘Dodge’ badge, and the sides merely said ‘Ram’ in tiny text. It was only when driving away that I saw the ‘Raider’ badging, which, while not turning any lightbulbs on in my brain, certainly gave me ammo for Google.

Being influenced as I am by modern advertising, I Googled ‘Ram Raider’, which certainly does not bring up any results resembling a car. After refining my search to ‘Dodge Ram Raider’ I started getting some useful results. The Raider only existed for three years, and came to life as a result of the odd Mitsubishi-Dodge marriage in the 80’s. While this marriage brought arguably-good things over like the turbocharged Starrion (as the Dodge Conquest), the Raider was not as fortunate in its heritage. Starting life as a Mitsubishi Pajero (our Montero), the Raider was brought over after the Pajero had had five years of development time before gracing our shores as a Dodge.

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A 1984 JDM Mitsubishi Pajero Hardtop. These were often purchased by the UN as a budget off-roader.

These five years did not provide much benefit to the Raider. Early in its life in Japan, the Pajero was seen as a commercial vehicle, and to rectify this (as it is clearly a passenger SUV) Mitsubishi added such luxuries as a heated front seat and ‘Genuine Leather Headrests’. By 1987, these filtered into the Raider, to little effect. The base was still a three-door, leaf sprung, 4×4. While other trucks which followed the same formula—such as the Chevy Blazer or Ford Bronco—are remembered fondly, the example from Dodge is relegated to history’s sidelines for good reason: the engines. Offered with two engine choices, both with either a manual or automatic gear box, the Dodge Raider could be had with a 2.6L 4-cylinder or a 3.0L V6.

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A 2.6L unit as pictured in thetruthaboutcars.com article on the Dodge Raider.

The 2.6L was a normally aspirated version of the turbo-unit found in the Starrion, and produced a wheezy 109p and 142lb-ft of torque. The 3.0L V6 was not much better, producing 143hp and 168lb-ft of torque. Acceleration with any of the engine or gearbox combos was a glacial-sounding 12+ seconds to 60mph. The only way to save such a slow engine in the eyes of an enthusiast is to make it bedrock-solid unit: which neither engine is reputed to be. From the always reliable (…) message boards on the Raider/Montero/Pajero, most people tend to agree that the only thing less reliable than a Raider is an Enquirer article on Bigfoot. This is such an all-encompassing reputation, that apparently the Raider I saw was more of a unicorn than I knew, and I should count myself lucky for even seeing it.

The ‘Raider by Mitsubishi for Dodge’—an actual name I found used in advertising—only lasted for three years, and by nobody’s measure, is it fondly remembered. Google thinks it is a crime, and I had no idea it even existed. Now that I do, I certainly would like to see the one in my area again, and get a better look. As for any heritage the Raider might have, the name does actually live on, as a small truck sold in various world markets by Mitsubishi, called the Mitsubishi Raider.

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A modern (2009) Mitsubishi Raider for the US market.

Enjoy the article? Let me know! Didn’t enjoy the article? Let me know! (See what I did there?)

Stephen Hyden View All

I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.

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