The Ram is built at Saltillo Truck Assembly in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico; Saint Louis Assembly North in Fenton, Missouri, United States; and Warren Truck Assembly in Warren, Michigan, United States.
The first-generation Ram trucks, named for the Ram hood ornament that first graced Dodge cars in the 1930s, was introduced in 1981. Dodge kept the previous generation's model designations: "D" or Ram meant two wheel drive while the "W" or Power Ram meant four wheel drive. Like Ford, Dodge used 150 to indicate a half-ton truck, 250 for a three quarter-ton, and 350 for one-tons. Standard cab, "Club" extended cab, and crew cab versions were offered along with 6.5ft (2.0m) and 8ft (2.4m) bed lengths and "Utiline" and "Sweptline" styled boxes. Externally, the first-generation Rams were facelifted versions of the previous generation Dodge D-Series pickups introduced in 1972. The new model introduced larger wraparound tail lamps, single rectangular headlamps, and squared-off body lines. The interior was updated and included a newer style bench seat, and a completely new dashboard and instrument cluster. Available engines for these trucks were the 225cuin (3.7L) slant six, the 318cuin (5.2L) V8, and the 360cuin (5.9L) V8 with a variety of carburetors available for each engine. Among the other options offered on the Ram were front bumper guards, a sliding rear cab window, power locks & windows, and a plowing package for the 4-wheel drive version (referred to as the Sno Commander).
D100 models were added for 1984, replacing the previous "Miser" trim level available on the D150. The D100 model was a pickup for the average user who needed a pickup, but didn't use it all the time. A "Ram-Trac" shift-on-the-fly transfer case was added for 1985's Power Rams, and both the crew cab and Utiline flared bed were dropped for 1986. Also for 1986, a new crossbar grille and front end freshening appeared which was carried until the 1991 models came out. Engines were updated for the 1988 model year. The Slant-6 was dropped in favor of a 3.9 L fuel injected V6 with 25% more power. The 5.2 L engine also received electronic fuel injection in 1988. Because EFI was added, a computer was used to control ignition, fuel, and manage other areas of the engine and in some cases, the automatic transmission lockup function depending on the model. Inside the cab where a small compartment was once located on the dash, a new "message center" contained the check-engine light, brake warning light, and the warning light for the ABS if the truck was so equipped. Diagnostic fault codes were stored in the computer's memory, and cycling the ignition key three times would allow the computer to flash the trouble codes through the check-engine light for diagnosis of some problems.