Iconic Trucks of the 80s: The Quarter Trucks

Thank you for continuing our journey with the next edition entitled The Iconic Trucks of the 80s: The Quarters.  Where would we be without our precious pick-up trucks hauling any and everything around.  Many of us can remember modifying them too from the off-roaders, the lowriders, and the near monster truck mods, they were a fan favorite for many of us.  Join the Rediscover the 80s crew as we delve into these iconic vehicles.


Debuting in 1981, GM introduced us to the S-class trucks known as the Chevrolet S-10 and the GMC S-15 trucks.  These compact pickups were part of the Big-Three's marketing answer post the oil embargo during the 1970s.  They were initially equipped with Isuzu built 1.9L 4-cylindars and the 2.8L V-6 gasoline engines.  Later, a 2.0L 4-cylindar and 2.5L 4-cylindar gasoline engines along with a 2.2L 4-cylindar diesel engines were added to the available engine options.  Before the end of the decade, a welcomed 4.3L V-6 was added as it gave the sluggish quarter truck a much need boost, literally.  Naturally, there were varieties of transmissions and appearance packages to suit the buyers needs and wants.

Although small in size, these trucks were very popular and gave any buyer the economical hauling, with some sporty looks, as they desired.


The Ford Ranger was introduced a couple years after GM's quarter trucks.  It's interesting to note that the Ranger name began from the Edsel division back in the late 50s, then was tagged onto the full-size Ford trucks and Broncos as a trim package.  Nonetheless, Ford entered the economical ring with 3 engine choices: 2.0L 4-cylindar and 2.8L V-6 gasoline engines along with a 2.3L 4-cylindar diesel engine each with a corresponding choice of either a 5-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission.  In the mid 1980s, Ford swapped the carbureted V-6 with a 2.9L fuel injected V-6 engine while adding an extended cab into the body options.

Before the decade closed, the Ford Ranger was given an updated facelift with sealed beam lights along with striping and wheel packages to spruce up the look of Ford's quarter truck.

Although both GM and Ford had not been alone in the quarter truck world, they did pause for a short time between trucks; GM with its Luv from the 1970s and Ford with its Courier from the 1970s.  However, Chrysler continued to offer 4 quarter truck options without a stop in design or production.

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The Dodge D-50 or Ram 50 and the Plymouth Arrow began in 1978 with Mitsubishi being the builder of Dodge's trucks.  Between the Dodge and the Mitsubishi variants, there were 5, 4-cylindar gasoline engine options available with 2 diesel engine options along with only 2 manual transmission options; a four or 5 speed.  It wasn't until the later 1980s Chrysler/Mitsubishi would offer a 3.0L V-6 gasoline engine and provide a 4-speed automatic transmission as an option for these trucks.

These mighty trucks were given a mighty option to compete with another Japanese competitor, Toyota, by adding a 1-ton suspension package for the regular cab, long bed version making these quarter trucks very versatile and not so "quarterly."

In 1982, Chrysler offered an economical car/truck unibody in the form of the Dodge Rampage and the Plymouth Scamp to compete with the larger Chevrolet El Camino and Ford Ranchero.  Much like their hatchback cousins, these trucks were within the subcompact category of vehicles and only offered the 2.2L 4-cylindar gasoline engine.  However, the trucks did offer a 2 manual transmissions and an automatic transmission with the 5-speed manual giving it a half-ton truck rating to compete with the El Camino and Ranchero.  However, try as they might, the Rampage and Scamp sales did not take off as expected, thus were discontinued after only 3 years on the market.


The Toyota pickup truck was also a common fixture along neighborhood streets and roadways.  Although it seemingly did not have a formal, well-advertised name, the Toyota 20R or the sporty SR5 were the models that began production in 1979 through 1983.  Depending on the research, one may find it classified as either a straight work truck or a sport truck.  Nonetheless, this compact truck packed a payload punch as it's payload was just under the Dodge Rampage/Plymouth Scamp with a maximum payload of 1,400 pounds.

Initially, this truck only had a 2.2L 4-cylindar gasoline engine with either a 4 or 5-speed manual transmission and the should of 2 or 4 wheel drive drive-trains.  After 1980, Toyota continued to improve upon this high seller upgrading the gasoline 4-cylinder to a 2.4L, a 2.2L diesel 4-cylindar engine, adding more options for the body, and even getting the payload bumped up to nearly a full 1-ton capability (1,950 lbs and classified as a 3/4 ton truck).

It wasn't until the mid 80s where the truck was classified as simply a Toyota Truck, yet more options arose amongst the body to include an extended (Xtra) cab, a turbo diesel, and a 3.0L V-6 gasoline engine upping the payload to a true 1-ton status (2,655 lbs).  However, we never did get the unicorn Toyota truck we saw in Back to the Future ("things that make you go hmmm").

What a Brat Subaru made?  This joyful unibody truck enjoyed a long run beginning in 1978 to 1994 and sold with either a part-time 4 wheel drive or the all wheel drive power train.  These sporty trucks were powered by either an early 1.6L H-4 cylinder gasoline engine (1978-1981) or the non-turbo and turbo versions of the 1.8L H-4 cylinder gasoline engines.  Transmission choices were only the 4-speed manual or a 3-speed automatic.

What was fascinating about these Bi-Drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter (BRAT) vehicles was the captivating options that Subaru offered.  There were options for T-tops as well as the rear-facing jump seats in the bed making these that much more enticing to purchase.  However, the payload was very meager, only 350 lbs.


Who can forget about Datsun?  Yes, the Datsun 720 trucks was another favorite quarter truck for the entire decade with a brand name change to Nissan in the mid-80s.  These small trucks offered 9 variations of the 4-cylinder gasoline engines as well as 3 diesel variations during this model run.  Offering a regular or king cabs with a choice of 2 truck beds along with a couple transmission choices, yet this truck offered 8 trim packages to take it from drab to fab as the customer desired.


That silly Volkswagon Rabbit truck equally entertained and carried a few of us along our day taking the unibody look mixed with the smaller Rabbit sedan that was produced.  Sadly, these economical trucks fell pray to falling gas prices and full-size wants thus only enjoyed a production from 1979 until 1985.  Powered with either a 1.6L gasoline or diesel engines and 4 or 5-speed manual or a 3-speed automatic transmission, these trucks were capable of hauling up to 1,100 lbs.

Which one of these were your favorite? Which did you remember seeing more of in your neighborhood or farm?  We'll continue to bring you more Iconic Trucks of the 80s with our Mid-Sizers.

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