Classic cars (well, utes): when the Mitsubishi Triton was also a Dodge Ram

David Linklater
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Looks like a Mitsubishi, drives like a Mitsubishi. It's not a Mitsubishi.

Looks like a Mitsubishi, drives like a Mitsubishi. It's not a Mitsubishi.

The ute we now know as the Mitsubishi Triton has had many lives and many different names since 1972. One of its most interesting was as a Dodge for the US market.

Dodge Ram 50.
Ram 50 lasted a long time in the US - even after Dodge created its own smaller ute.

In 1979, Chrysler could see an opportunity in the smaller pickup-truck market slipping away. The Toyota Hilux and Datsun Truck (yep, that’s what it was called) were already established and newer models like the Ford Courier and Chevrolet (Isuzu) LUV were doing well.

So it introduced a badge-engineered version of the Mitsubishi Forte (as Triton was called back then in Japan), callled the Dodge Ram 50; sister brand Plymouth also got its own version, the Arrow Truck. The Dodge version was also known as the D-50 and when it gained 4WD, the Power Ram 50.

As if that wasn’t confusing enough, Mitsubishi decided to sell the Forte in the US itself from 1982; it was renamed the Mighty Max. That move essentially killed the Plymouth version after only three years on sale.

The Dodge was distinguished by its quad headlights, whereas the Mitsubishi had single units (although four-headlight versions were still available outside the US).

Chrysler introduced its own compact pickup in 1987, the Dodge Dakota. However, it was still slightly larger than the Ram 50 and the Mitsubishi-based model (now in its second generation) continued until 1994. The Mighty Max lasted even longer, disappearing from US showrooms in 1996.

Mitsubishi Triton.
Triton has real history. Some of it is weird history, too.

In an unrelated but still-interesting note, that’s the same generation of ute that introduced the Triton name to New Zealand and Australia in 1986.

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