Model: 1996 Dodge Ram
Line: Mint Edition Issue #12
eBay Link: Racing Champions Mint Edition 1996 Dodge Ram
Why I am featuring it: When was the last time you saw a factory Dodge Ram with stripes? Think about it.
The other day I spotted something I hadn’t seen in quite some time. It was a dark green and silver striped Dodge Ram SS/T and it was hard at work towing a landscaping trailer. When was the last time you saw one of those?
As an auto enthusiast, I have an ever growing list of obscure and forgotten cars and trucks I would be happy to own. But since I disappointingly haven’t struck it rich yet, my means to satiating those wants lies in the miniature world of diecast cars. Not only is it easier on my budget, but my garage space as well.
And as is often the case when I see a vehicle that hasn’t crossed my mind in some time, I immediately think “is there a 1/64 diecast version and do I have it already?” In the case of the Dodge Ram SS/T, sort of.
The second generation Dodge Ram, making its debut for the 1994 model year, was revolutionary. I still recall seeing it and thinking – wow, I’d love to own one of these some day. That day hasn’t arrived yet, but I have countless diecast versions to divert my attention for now. More on those at another time, because today’s focus relies solely on the Racing Champions Mint 1996 Dodge Ram, specifically the one released in blue with white stripes.
As soon as I saw that green SS/T, I knew I had the blue one in my collection. It was just a matter of finding it, which sometimes requires an expedition into the many uncharted totes in my garage. Coincidentally, one popped up for sale on The Toy Peddler for a few bucks. I decided that was the elevator to the 96th floor versus the stairs.
It arrived two days later, still secured in the package it was placed in 24 years ago. After cracking it open, I was reminded why it’s sometimes not a good idea to repurchase your diecast “heroes.” While the paint was perfect and the wheels were shiny, the hood was wonky and the chassis in the front wasn’t fully seated, allowing the axle to be arbitrarily aligned towards the rear of the fender well. Poor QC for an otherwise stunning model. Additionally, the rubber tires had some sort of reaction with the plastic base and the metal shield was green, rather than blue (at least that’s how my original one was).
I had also found my original Ram in a bin of miscellaneous brands (with very little effort, mind you) and time in confinement was not kind to it. Gone were both side view mirrors and the stripes were showing cracks. Years of dust in the hard to clean crannies recalled its time of being a display piece on a shelf. Memories came rushing back.
Overall, it’s a well proportioned 1/61 scale model of a well designed American pickup. The single cab short box was offered in various color schemes, as well as a lowered chassis or larger tires (depending on the series). None of the releases are badged as an SS/T, but with a little imagination this fits the bill. The stripes run the length of the body, starting at the color-matched front bumper, proceeding through the painted grille, then over the hood and roof, continuing onto the tonneau cover, down the tailgate and ending at the painted roll pan. Underneath, the diecast chassis is fairly detailed, with control arms, oil pan and transmission housing up front connected to the rear differential via an accurate driveshaft. Headers lead to a dual exhaust system that meets up for twin pipes exiting under the far back of the driver’s side bed. They also included the massive gas tank to probably emphasize the poor MPG.
It wasn’t until I began with the macro shots that something unusual stuck out. With the naked eye, I could just about make out the badging cast into the doors. On any given 1500, even the SS/T, it would have just said ‘RAM 1500’ and whatever the motor was. But RAM was only followed by three characters – VTS.
A quick search of a Ram VTS and the motor under the opening hood now made sense – a Viper V10. The Ram VTS was a concept that preceded the Ram SRT-10 by a decade. Except Racing Champions made no mention of it anywhere on the packaging.
In fact, in every picture I’ve seen, whether it was a Motor Trend, Hot Rod or Police USA issue, it was only listed as a 1996 Dodge Ram. And the only release I saw with tampo door badging was the Motor Trend – RAM 1500 V8. I double-checked two others I have and they both had monster V10s stuffed between the fenders, albeit not painted red. And the doors were cast exactly like the blue one. So why didn’t the VTS ever gets its day in the sun?
I reached out to a known authority on diecast, Mac Ragan, to see if he could shed some light on the mystery. So far, he only knew of the Johnny Lightning Ram VTS. The castings appear similar, but there are enough discrepancies to determine they’re different molds. Maybe it was created as a promotional model that never left the drawing board? Maybe a designer was having a little fun? Or maybe a licensing deal fell through, as they sometimes do. Racing Champions’ legacy hangs on the hallowed pegs in the sky, so its origin remains a mystery, never to be narrated by Robert Stack.
Can anyone out there in the Lamley readership drop some knowledge in the comments? I’d love to learn more.