Old Iron - 1984 Dodge W-150 Miser

Story & Photos by Jim Allen

You could be moderately snazzy in this Graphic Red W-150 Miser for under 8 grand back in 1983. A few aftermarket items could turn this truck into a very capable 'wheeler.

The Power Wagon name had died after 1980, replaced by Power Ram. The trucks themselves didn't change all that much but they did acquire the Ram's head hood ornament. That detail was either scorned vehemently and used for target practice, or loved as if it were a work of art.

By 1983, Chrysler was off life support after the '70s so-called government "bailout" (it was really considered a quasi-bankruptcy) and were doing quite well with new lines of small cars and trucks. New options packages also appeared for the legacy vehicles, some of them geared towards fuel economy or a low buy-in. Anything to bring more customers! Even the 4x4s did not escape the attention of the Mopar market analysts who tried to dream up packages that appealed to all levels of the market. Thus was born the Dodge W-150 Miser package that retailed for a Happy Meal under $8,000.
The "Miser" name had been used in a couple of other venues previously, including a version of the Omni/Horizon car platform and a previous year D-150 4x2 pickup. While the Misers were marketed as "economy" models, both in the sense of fuel economy and purchase price, they did offer a few items to dress the truck up, make it more useful and less like a bottom dollar rig.

The slant six was a marvel when it debuted in 1960. It's shown here in early '70s trim but it hadn't changed internally by the time '83 had rolled around. The long intake runners and well designed head made it torquey and economical. In '83, it was already due for the chopping block. By then, the 3.9L V6 (a 318 short two cylinders) was already on the drawing boards. The last year for the slant six was 1987.

Unless you lived in California, the standard Miser engine was the venerable 225ci Slant-Six. In Sunny California, the six was not available in the W-150 and the truck came with a 318 V8 (which you had to pay extra for, making it not-so-miserly). The six was backed up by an NP435 wide ratio manual transmission (6.68:1 first gear) an NP-208 transfer case, Dana 44 front axle, Chrysler 9.25 rear axle and 3.55:1 gears. You could add a V8 or an automatic trans to the Miser package if you wanted.
According to the books, the Miser was offered in both the shortbed (115 inch) and longbed (131 inch). Unlike the Miser two-wheelers, the W-150 Miser 4x4 came standard with power steering and disk brakes, but no air conditioning (though it was optional). Interestingly, the package did include full carpeting, AM radio, woodgrain instrument panel, the "Deluxe" bench seat, exterior pinstripes, the Ram hood ornament and snazzy Deluxe wheel covers. Just enough stuff that your friends didn't think you were on the financial skids.
For '83, the Miser was given a 16 mpg "estimated" rating by the EPA, with up to 20 mpg on the highway and 18 in combined city/highway driving. Period testers claimed 16.2-17.5 in everyday use, with 14.1 on the trail. The 4x2 Miser, with its overdrive manual trans, yielded 28 mpg at a steady 60 mph and 22 mpg combined in

You can see why the engine was so economical from this power and torque graph. The torque band is broad and flat from 1200 to 3200 rpms. The early engines that were not choked with the abysmal emissions controls of that era had the same lower curve but it extended even higher.

Pickup, Van and 4WD tests. While doing 0-60 runs of 13 seconds, no less. The 4x4 version was about 600 pounds heavier, with more rolling and wind resistance but it seems likely the 20 mpg number, or slightly higher, was attainable on the highway by a careful driver.
On the trail, the torquey six was matched well with the granny NP-435, a decent 2.61:1 low range from the NP208 and standard 3.55 gears. The OE Goodyear Viva all-season tires were universally panned by testers. A new set of off-highway skins, a rear limited slip (optional on the Miser) and the truck was capable of fair-to-middling trail performance while remaining street friendly. The drivetrain, which was virtually the same as used with the top-option 360ci 4-barrel, was virtually indestructible with the six up front.

Not a bad looking dash. This is a higher option than the Miser, with AC and a high-end stereo, but you get the idea.
The Miser package was only offered for '83 in the 4x4s. It's unclear how many they sold and being that it was not clearly marked with a "Miser" emblem, the owners of the remaining trucks are probably not sure of what they have. Still, it was an interesting package that delivered a lot of bang for not a lot of bucks. Though the Miser name did not live on... and you don't have to wonder too hard why... nearly the same truck was available afterwards. These trucks harkened back to something Dodge had always done well, building the bottom-line basic truck that offered great value and lots of potential.

Other Specifications: 1983 Dodge W-150 Miser                                                                                                        Power(hp): 95 @ 3600
Torque (lbs-ft): 170 @ 1200
Comp. Ratio: 8.4:1
Tires:  P35/75R-15
L x W x H: 190.8 x 79.5 x 62.5 (SWB)
 213.6 x 79.5 x 62.5 (LWB)
GVW: 6,010 lbs.
Curb Weight: 3,990 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 20 gal.
MSRP: $7,997

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