With the modern-day midsize truck boom continuing to grow, we figured we would look back at one Dodge (or should we say RAM?) concept that went back-to-basics to the core of what a true pickup truck is all about. Its been 20 years since Dodge unveiled its M80 Concept, a minimalist pickup featuring a bold design that paid homage to the classic Dodge trucks of the past.
Designed to be a small and affordable truck that loaded with character, the M80 featured a design that stood out compared to pickups on the road then, and even now. Design elements included a satin-stainless steel look signature crosshair grille and headlamp surrounds, classic round lamps to give that heritage look, while metallic slate-gray molded-in-color PET-plastic fenders and bumpers that give the M80 a rugged look.
Not quite midsize, not quite compact, the “just-right” size of the M80 featured a spacious regular cab layout. A design that would later influence the larger fourth-generation full-size Ram Regular Cab design. The back of the cab features a full-width flipper-glass, which could assist with loading a surfboard or other long objects. The M80 was dreamt to be a truck that you could take to the beach to go surfing, to take to the snowy slopes to go skiing, and to be the perfect compact work truck.
Looking at its profile, the M80 offered simple, chiseled lines enhanced by the fender vent vanes, push-button door handles, integrated PET-plastic side-storage lockers, dual spin-off fuel-filler caps in a satin-stainless steel-look, and stamped-steel 20-inch wheels. The useful 5-foot bed was protected by a durable PET-plastic liner and bulkhead and incorporated tie-down cleats compatible with various Mopar bicycle, ski, and surfboard racks. The tailgate featured “stamped through” lettering for both the Dodge and 4×4 emblems. A pair of jewel-like round taillights rounded out the exterior.
Under the hood, the M80 featured a modest 3.7-liter Magnum V6 that produced 215 horsepower and 235 ft.-lb. of torque and was mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. The combination could be found on the 2002 Ram 1500 and later the 2004 Dodge Dakota midsize pickup. The combination could propel the M80 to 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) in 8-seconds flat. A pair of oversized, performance-tuned dual exhausts were mounted out the rear of the vehicle. Another feature that would be adopted by the full-size Ram 1500.
The interior was designed to be no-frills, rugged, and durable. There is an abundance of Detonator Yellow body-color panels inside the M80, which are enhanced by satin-silver hard-plastic covers and water-repelling Neoprene-look seat-trim. The center console doubled as a portable cooler while the lightweight seats could be removed and used outdoors. Behind the fold-flat seats was a vehicle-wide bin for wet goods such as shoes, an umbrella, or a snowboard. The instrument panel featured a large storage drawer for keeping items out of sight.
The Dodge M80 Concept went on to inspire the 2005 Dodge Nitro Concept, a midsized SUV that featured a lot of styling elements with the M80. The Nitro would later go on to production with a lot of those similar cues and even the same wheel design for the 2007 model year. The Dodge Nitro also utilized the 3.7-liter Magnum V6 just like the M80 as well and would stay in production until the 2012 model year.
Earlier this year during Stellantis’ EV Day 2021 presentation, it was announced that the RAM brand would be diving back into the midsize pickup market. This time the new midsized would offer an electrified powertrain and go against offerings like the upcoming Rivian R1T pickup.
2002 Dodge M80 Concept Image Gallery: