History originally published in AutoWeek October 29, 1978
Dodge advertised “Adult Toys” in the late 70s. To Dodge dealers, this meant trucks: 4×4 Ramcharger SUVs (though the term wasn’t in use yet), the gaudy Macho Power Wagons, and the Street Van, based on the commercial Dodge Tradesmen, the source, Dodge suggested, for your own custom van, America’s weird response to the oil crisis of that decade.
And there was the Warlock. The Warlock was Dodge’s original factory customized pickup, first appearing in 1976 as a collection of options for the Custom D-100 2wd or W-100 4×4 stepside “Utiline” pickup. There was no “Warlock package,” but merely a gaggle of options, including extensive gold tape striping inside and out, bucket seats, gold-painted spoke steel wheels, chromed “mini running boards,” oak bed sideboards and tinted glass. Goodyear Polyglas H70-15 tires went on the D-100s, while the 4x4s were shod with on-off road light truck tires. With all that, your Dodge pickup was a Warlock, a name Dodge used in advertising and dealership promotion. Any engine, from slant six to the 440-cubic-inch V-8, was available, but it was offered only in Bright Red, Medium Green Sunfire Metallic and Black Sunfire Metallic. The latter was by far the most popular, with red being very rare.
Dodge codified things in 1978, however, making it possible to order a Warlock with a single checkmark on the order form. More colors were offered – though black continued to be the most popular – and for the first time the model was identified externally, with large “Warlock by Dodge” decals applied to the tailgate. The full range of engines was again offered. (That’s unlike the little Red Express – introduced in 1978 – which, along with its vertical stack exhaust, was offered only with the 360-cid V8.) In 1979, the model morphed into the Warlock II, perhaps in response to new hood, headlight and grill treatments, and with the sideboards gaining a wood panel emblazoned “Warlock II.” Advertising, borrowing from Saturday Night Live’s popularity, called Dodge’s the Adult Toys “some wild and crazy machines.”
In the 1978 model year, a mere 74 D-series pickups were powered by the big 440 V8. Records don’t show how many were Warlocks, much less in red or how many 440 red Warlocks there were, but it’s possible that one owned by Terry Schmeltzle, Pennsylvania, was the only one made. Among the usual black Warlocks it’s certainly an oddity. Found in sad shape by Schmeltzle, it was restored to its original condition, with the exception of the Dodge Ram hood ornament, added because Terry likes it, and headers and loud muffler, ditto.
Otherwise Schmeltzle’s Warlock is big and square just as Dodge made it, and still a step up into the cab. Fancy striping festoons the painted metal of the window sills, and there’s not a hint of a headliner, just painted metal overhead. Vinyl door panels and vinyl-covered bucket seats are matched by a sports-style steering wheel, along with an instrument panel that could have been filched from a midline Dodge automobile. An 85-mph speedometer is centered on the instrument panel, with wings that could have housed an optional clock and tachometer.
The latter is not necessary, however, with the three-speed automatic and its column shifter. Pop it into “D” and push the pedal. It’s surprisingly docile, due to the spread-bore four-barrel carburetor’s pair of little primary throats. Press harder for acceleration, but the action doesn’t really happen until the vacuum-operated secondaries swing open. Still, there is no explosiveness, just the rumpety demeanor of a big-block tamed by smog -controlled strategies. Not that is emasculated, just more locomotive than rocket sled. It’s what one might expect from something advertised with pictures of blondes wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “The Adult Toys from Dodge” across their chests.
Ram revisited the 1970s by rechanneling the Dodge Warlock as the 2019 Ram 1500 Classic Warlock. Well, it worked for the Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger, the Fiat 124 Spider and Fiat 500, and, well, not so much the Fiats, so why not throw a package together for 40-year old nostalgia’s sake, not to mention 2019 sales, and call it Warlock. Nothing like a little paganism revised. I wonder how many good ol’ boys drive one to church on Sunday morning.
Church or not, the Warlock trim package has old well enough for Ram to keep it around at least through the 2022 model year. Like its Dodge automobile classmates, its retro is the same only different. The current Warlock is available only with a quad cam but a choice between 4×2 or 4×4 drivetrain ane either a 3.6-liter V-6 or the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. The 2022 Warlock has an optional all-terrain suspension and “decor” package that includes a hood decal and Warlock decal. And although the Warlock is available only on the Classic trim, which starts with the sub-$30,000 Tradesman work truck, the Warlock starts at $41,240 as this is written. And checking all the boxes raises the bottom line to $56,255. All very non-retro, perhaps, but they don’t build them like they used to.