The Ram 1500, or Ram Pickup, has been around in one form or another for more than 40 years, as it was released as a 1981 model to replace the previous Dodge D Series trucks. Despite such a lengthy production run, the Ram 1500 has only gone through five generations, with the most recent one kicking off in the 2019 model year. That should tell you something about the quality of these trucks and the kind of work that developers put into the design of each new iteration of this truck. When you go to your favorite Ram dealer, you’ll see several different models available to meet a wide range of needs.
One of the most interesting ones, which has become a favorite among many Ram truck fans, is the current Ram 1500 Classic. If you haven’t looked into the back story on this truck, you might think that it’s a special edition made for the 40th anniversary of the Ram Pickup. However, the Ram 1500 Classic has actually been available for a couple of years now, starting with the model year 2019. To get a sense of why the Ram 1500 Classic is available and what sets it apart for Ram fans, let’s take a brief look at the history of this pickup.
The Ram Pickup Gets Its Start
The story of the Ram Pickup (eventually the 1500) starts in 1980, which was when Chrysler first introduced a new truck to follow the Dodge D Series: the Ram. At that time, two models were available: the standard Ram with two-wheel drive and the Power Ram with four-wheel drive. There was a standard cab, an extended club cab, and a crew cab, with both 6-foot and 8-foot boxes available. You could also choose from different engines and transmissions, including a couple of different V8 options and a Cummins I-6 Diesel engine.
Altogether, it was a popular introduction, and the Dodge Ram (as it was called at the time) was quite successful with a number of drivers. It was not without its criticisms, however, including the fact that the overall design had not been revolutionary enough. In particular, the interior wasn’t upgraded as much as it should’ve been throughout its early years, and the cab and chassis design in general really wasn’t updated compared to previous models from the 1970s. By 1986, Chrysler’s engineers and developers were already hard at work on a second-generation that would learn from the initial Dodge Ram release and have numerous improvements.
Subsequent Ram 1500 Generations
To get a sense of why there’s a Ram 1500 Classic at your favorite Ram dealer, we need to look at the different generations for this truck. The guiding principle for the development of the second generation of the Ram Pickup was a real overhaul and major upgrades to the interior and pretty much every part of the truck. This took quite a while, but the second generation of the Ram 1500 launched in October of 1993 as a 1994 model year pickup. It was massively successful: MotorTrend named it the Truck of the Year for 1994, and sales increased from about 95,000 in 1993 to more than 232,000 in 1994 and more than 410,000 in 1995. With this second generation, the Ram Pickup became the Ram 1500, with heavy-duty Ram 2500 and Ram 3500 models becoming available for those who needed more power.
Following the success of this second generation, the third generation of the Dodge Ram 1500 kicked off in 2001 as a 2002 model, with the Ram 2500 and Ram 3500 following it in 2003. The third generation for the Ram 1500 included major upgrades and changes, including a new frame, engines, and interior design for the truck. This generation was quite popular, and Ram dealers received an updated version for 2006 with an exterior facelift and upgraded interior options.
A fourth generation for the Ram 1500 kicked off toward the end of 2008 as a 2009 model. This was when the “Dodge” name was dropped, and it simply became the Ram 1500 (it was decided that “Dodge” should focus on performance vehicles like the Charger and Challenger and Ram split into a separate brand). For its fourth generation, the Ram 1500 was once again significantly upgraded and received four-door cab options, a HEMI engine, and more. During this generation, the Ram 1500 retained its option for a manual transmission, as the Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado became available only with automatics.
The 2019 Change Over
The fifth generation for the Ram 1500 began with the model year 2019 and has a wide range of interior upgrades, including a 12-inch infotainment display, available engines with an eTorque mild hybrid system, and much more. The fifth-generation models also offer improved capabilities, including greater towing and payload capacities than were possible with previous models. For its fifth generation, the regular cab was dropped from the Ram 1500, however, which is now available with either a quad cab or a crew cab that both come with four doors.
Yet, this fifth-generation Ram 1500 was not the only full-size light-duty truck available at Ram dealers in 2019. That’s because a Ram 1500 Classic became available that same year and was sold alongside the all-new Ram 1500 model. So what’s the difference? The Ram 1500 Classic is the fourth-generation version of the Ram pickup, while the Ram 1500 refers to the latest fifth generation of the truck.
What Makes the Ram 1500 Classic Unique?
So why keep the previous generation around? Well, there are actually a few things the Ram 1500 Classic has to offer that you won’t find on the updated 1500 at your Ram dealer. For starters, while the regular cab was dropped from the new generation, it remains as an option for the Classic, which includes a two-door cab. If you check out the updated Ram 1500, you’ll only find four-door cabs available, which makes the Classic a bit unique in Ram’s lineup.
This might make you think that Ram is just trying to get rid of models it had already made, but that’s not the case. The Ram 1500 Classic is still actively in production, with new models being made. In fact, a new Warlock All-Terrain Package was introduced for the Classic with the 2021 model year, which includes 17-inch matte black wheels, all-terrain tires, and Mopar front and rear rubber floor mats that are durable and easy to wash. So it’s not simply a matter of trying to rebrand something to move old models. Stellantis (of which Chrysler and Ram are subsidiaries) is still supporting the previous generation of the Ram pickup.
Why Does Ram Keep the 1500 Classic Alive?
Companies in the auto industry are run like any other business: profits guide their decisions. The fact that the Ram 1500 Classic is still around tells us that it’s selling well. And, at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to decide the fate of the Ram 1500, both Classic and latest-generation models alike: how well they sell. So, as long as Ram fans keep buying the 1500 Classic, they’ll probably keep making it.
That tells us one last thing about the auto market and, more specifically, about the fans of Ram trucks: you all like the 1500 Classic. Whether you want a truck with a regular cab and two doors, or you like the lower price that the Classic has compared to the latest model, it’s clear that it’s a winner. That’s as good an argument as any for keeping this truck on the road.