1976 Plymouth Trail Duster Sport
2dr Sport Utility Vehicle
8-cyl. 360cid/185hp 2bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
Those who kept up with the burgeoning multiurpose vehicle market in the early 1970s (before the term SUV was coined) knew that GM had a winner in its Blazer/Jimmy full-sized two-door, off-road truck-based wagon. While sales of it were growing, Ford Bronco sales were spiraling downward. Watching from a distance, Chrysler knew which way to go to tap the MPV market, introducing their own line of full-size off-roaders. And not just one, but two – the AW100 Dodge Ramcharger and the PW100 Plymouth Trail Duster.
Like the Blazer, it was based on the half-ton pickup. In Chrysler’s case, it was the Dodge W100 four-wheel drive (with the Plymouth being the purest example of a badge engineered copy of the Dodge). Introduced midway in the 1974 model year, one big difference that they had from the Blazer/Jimmy combo was that the Mopar’s came standard with a collapsible soft top, with a hard top as an option.
1975 saw the addition of two-wheel drive (series AD100 and PD100 respectively) and the 225 cid slant-six as the standard engine. Both could easily be reasoned as the Ramcharger/Trailduster was introduced during the first oil crisis, so something more fuel efficient than the all-wheel drive ‘74’s standard 318 cid V-8 was deemed necessary. By the end of 1975, however, America was getting back to normal, albeit with more expensive gasoline. Yet the country was experiencing a boom in recreational light truck sales, so Chrysler was in the right place at the right time with their twin MPVs. For once, they were number two in sales for a truck market segment. That changed, though, when Ford introduced their full-sized Bronco in 1978. 1979 then saw a reversal in roof availability for the Chryslers. The hardtop became standard, with the soft top now an extra-cost option.
1980 saw a revised front fascia for Dodge trucks, which carried over to the Ramcharger/Trail Duster. 1981 saw a new hardtop for the pair, but this was to be the last year for the Trail Duster. On the other hand, the Ramcharger lasted as long as the generation of pickups it was mated to (1993).