Dodge Ram: Redefining America’s Workhorse

Dodge has been making trucks since 1917 and since then they’ve been providing America with the workhorse that would help define the pickup truck and solidify its place in American culture. Today, you see that while culture has changed a bit since Ram’s birth, its place in our lives hasn’t. Ram truck dealers still are providing America with trucks they need to work and play. They are part of the landscape, part of the American culture.

As a workhorse it’s been on every dude ranch, every cattle farm and every construction site across this land. As a part of the culture, the Dodge Ram pickups have seen every high school football game, every drive in movie and transported way too many friends in the bed of its truck.

Changing With Our Culture

As society has changed, so have the needs and wants of the people. What hasn’t changed are the reasons why people still drive pickups.  

Not Just for Work, But Play

55a50480a39148c7e31c0edfc502d9c8xIn 1981 Dodge introduced their new line RAM. Donning the head of a ram as its logo on their grill as their nameplate suggests, it served as both their namesake as well as a warning. Since then Ram’s having continued to be mighty impressive trucks.

Just as the landscape of America has changed in the last 34 years, so has the Ram; growing and changing along with us.

Where once large pickups were just the part of the cowboy, farm and ranch culture. Now they are nestled comfortably into more driveways in neighborhoods across America. They are signs of prosperity and wealth.

No longer are Ram trucks only for work. They are now for play, as well. Ram trucks are towing your boat to the lake house for the summer. They’re hauling your snowmobiles up north to the mountains for a great weekend ride. Truly, a lot of great weekend memories are owed to Ram trucks. For we, have a lot to be thankful for their ever growing and changing presence in our lives.  

Let’s take a look back at how Ram trucks started, grown and how some of those changes have helped redefine the driver and truck.  

A Brief History

While 1981 was 34 years ago, I’d be willing to say that your average Dodge Ram driver has clear 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 America’s favorite TV anchor on CBS and it was also the year that launched MTV.  

It was also in 1981 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, the Ram was officially born.

Humble Beginnings

It’s only been in the last couple decades that trucks have been thought of as family friendly. Trucks of yesteryear lacked any luxury appeal and didn’t offer a comfortable ride, let alone room for your family. Pickup trucks were meant for one reason which is the reason for their shape and function: to haul, load and carry very heavy items.  

In 1981, the Ram had only 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 and could carry half a ton, 250 could carry three-quarter ton and a 350 carried a full ton. There were a couple different cab and bed configurations offered, but mostly these were your options.

While we tend to take items like air conditioning for granted now, expecting it’ll just come with the car, like an engine or windows, back then air conditioning was a luxury item that could only be found in top trims. It wasn’t until a full decade had passed that air conditioning became standard in most vehicles.

1990’s: Smart Changes for RAM


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 vehicle. It was a smart change for Ram.  

The trim levels were also changed up. Including a basic Work Special which was bare bones, there was also an LT, ST and the luxurious Laramie SLT. The LT and ST came with some extra amenities, but it was the Laramie SLT that was now stacked with options like a center console large enough to store your 1990’s 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.  

Finally, Fit for a Family

2002 RAMThe middle to late 1990’s saw a thriving American economy. Home grown businesses were now thriving and that truck that mom didn’t comfortably fit into before could now be traded in for a model that was sure to have all the extra room she required.

A good economy also meant families had extra money. This was the beginning of creature comforts in the pickup market. These trucks were getting cabins large enough to fit the whole family, 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 being demanded. Wanting to stay competitive, Ram delivered and sales soared.   

Ram Truck: Opportunistic

By the time another economic slump hit in the 2000’s, the buyer had once again 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. Buyers who were looking for safety, power and durability needn’t look anywhere else. They found all they wanted in a Ram truck.

By 2013 and 2014 Ram was back to being on top and was voted Motor Trend’s Car of the Year.  Ram trucks have completed a full circle of being a work truck, a family car, fashionably trendy and then back to a good American truck that is both rugged and sturdy while also being civilized and refined.  


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