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Dodge's Most Important Vehicles

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 8/13/2014 Megan Stewart

While the Dodge brand may have started from humble beginnings in the early 1900s as a parts supplier for Detroit-based automakers, it quickly joined them, turning out some of the top cars in its day. Today, the brand continues with its success with new versions of classics, and brand-new models. Here are some key cars and trucks in Dodge's history


Dodge Model 30

The first vehicle ever produced by the Dodge brothers, the Model 30 rolled off the assembly plant in November 1914. This marked a shift in the automotive industry as the noted engine manufacturers took a step in a new direction. This model directly competed with the likes of the Ford Model T, but offered more upscale features like a full-steel body, sliding-gear transmission, as well as 35 horsepower. That may not seem like much, but compared to the Model T's 20 horses, it was one hot car.

1930 Dodge DD

1930 Dodge DD© Provided by MotorTrend 1930 Dodge DD With the unfortunate passing of the Dodge brothers, ownership of the company moved around quite a bit until bought by Chrysler. Leadership also took a dive during this time. It wasn't until the late 1920s-early 1930s that the brand finally found its footing. The 1930 Dodge DD, complete with wood-spoke wheels and a six-cylinder L-head engine, had enough juice to pump out 61 horsepower, and for its time, that was saying something. These cars were highly regarded for their engineering, construction, and could run for thousands of miles without needing repairs. Thanks to their strong reputation, the DD was sought after by cab companies.

1955 Dodge Lancer/1960 Dodge Dart

1960 Dodge Dart© Provided by MotorTrend 1960 Dodge Dart After the war, the Dodge brand started to evolve once again, as the company's leadership wanted a more forward-looking style. So in 1955, the Dodge Lancer lineup was introduced. Available in a two- or four-door configuration, these hardtop models didn't sell well, and its successor, the Dart, took its place. With a shorter wheelbase and lower price, the Dart was an instant hit, and continued to sell through 1976 as one of the brand's most popular models. It would also become an in-house competitor for Plymouth, something that corporate didn't seem to mind.

1966 Dodge Charger

1966 Dodge Charger© Provided by MotorTrend 1966 Dodge Charger By the mid-1960s, muscle cars had become all the rage. For Dodge, that came in the form of the Charger. It would go up against the Ford Mustang, Plymouth Barracuda, and AMC Marlin, and would really set itself apart from the rest of the Dodge lineup. The Coronet-based fastback may have been slightly more expensive than its competition, but it offered more interior versatility via folding rear seats. The 1966 and 1967 Dodge Chargers were also the only vehicles under the Dodge brand that showed off the Fratzog Emblem on the grille and trunk latch.

1969 Dodge Challenger

1970 Dodge Challenger© Provided by MotorTrend 1970 Dodge Challenger As Dodge's first entry into the "Pony Car" segment, the Challenger is often described as the brand's answer to the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. Dodge's target audience for the Challenger comprised affluent young American buyers who wanted a bigger, more luxurious, and more expensive pony car. The high performance R/T model came with three engine choices, with horsepower starting at 375. Available as a two-door hardtop coupe or convertible, the Challenger turned heads everywhere and was an instant classic.

1977 Dodge Diplomat

1978 Dodge Diplomat© Provided by MotorTrend 1978 Dodge Diplomat Thanks to the oil crisis happening in the 1970s, automakers had to switch gears from performance to efficiency, which led Dodge to introduce the Diplomat. This midsize sedan was offered as either a coupe or sedan, and in 1978, a station wagon variant was introduced. The Diplomat was the luxury version of the F-body Aspen. By the 1980s the Diplomat became the largest sedan in the Dodge lineup, as the EPA continued to breathe down the necks of all automakers.

1981 Dodge Ram

1981 Dodge Ram© Provided by MotorTrend 1981 Dodge Ram Going back to its roots, the Dodge brand produced the Ram pickup truck, named for the hood ornament that first appeared on Dodge-branded vehicles (a 1981 Dodge Power Ram Custom SE is shown above). While these trucks were popular among with fleets, they didn't do well with the retail market. Ford's F-Series and GM's C/K trucks dominated the segment. However, this wasn't the only reason it didn't sell well. The Ram had a dated cab and chassis design and lagged behind the competition. But despite these setbacks, it continued to sell and gain traction, and would later be named Motor Trend 's Truck of the Year five different times.

1992 Dodge Viper

1992 Dodge Viper© Provided by MotorTrend 1992 Dodge Viper With the end of the oil crisis, Dodge was once again able to focus on performance-minded vehicles. The revamped Dodge brand introduced the Viper RT/10 back in the early 1990s, and while it may have looked incredible, it was all about the engine. Based off the Chrysler LA design, the Viper featured an aluminum alloy 8.0-liter V10 that delivered 400 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. of torque. Paired with a six-speed manual, and it was hell on wheels. Literally. It was known as one of the hardest sports cars to drive at the time when at high speeds, but in the hands of an experienced or professional driver, it became an elite vehicle.

2006 Dodge Charger

2006 Dodge Charger© Provided by MotorTrend 2006 Dodge Charger Dodge came back with a vengeance into the sports car game with the revival of the Charger nameplate. For the 2006 model year, there were three high-performance variants to choose from: the Daytona R/T, SRT8, and Super Bee. Making its official debut at the Chicago Auto Show, the new Charger gave enthusiasts of the original model a new obsession, and introduced a new generation to an iconic vehicle, one that would continue to sell well and carve out a new home in both the Dodge lineup, but in the sport sedan segment.

2008 Dodge Challenger

2008 Dodge Challenger© Provided by MotorTrend 2008 Dodge Challenger The Dodge Challenger came back in a big way in 2008, with styling reminiscent of the classic models, appealing to enthusiasts and sports car junkies alike. Now in its third generation, the iconic two-door coupe turned heads. While Chevrolet's Camaro offered a more modern design with minor design elements of past models, the Dodge Challenger offered almost the same design and shape, just with modern lines, materials, and more refinement inside. However, it was priced significantly higher than Chevy's offering.

2013 Dodge Dart

2013 Dodge Dart© Provided by MotorTrend 2013 Dodge Dart Like the Charger and Challenger, the Dart nameplate made a comeback for the 2013 model year. It was unveiled at the 2012 North American International Auto Show and based off the Alfa Romeo Giulietta platform, but with a wider and longer wheelbase. The 2013 Dart was the brand's first offering of a compact sedan since the discontinuation of the Neon back in 2005. It was also one of the finalists for the 2013 Green Car of the Year award and sales for the new model continue to rise.

1981 Dodge Aries

1981 Dodge Aries© Provided by MotorTrend 1981 Dodge Aries An example of when badge engineering works (the Plymouth Reliant was the Aries' twin), the K-Car platform was Lee Iacocca's effort to move Chrysler out of bankruptcy, with Iacocca rolling out a preview of the platform in 1979 for Congress, as a show of things to come if the government could secure guaranteed loans. Chrysler was given a lifeline, and the versatile K-platform provided the success they needed. In some form or another, the K-Platform was implemented on a staggering 35 United States model variants over four Chrysler brands, and was used from 1981 until 1995.

1984 Dodge Caravan

1984 Dodge Caravan© Provided by MotorTrend 1984 Dodge Caravan Emboldened by the success of the K-Car, Iacocca introduced a radical new type of vehicle in 1984 with the production of the Dodge Caravan and the Plymouth Voyager. The concept of a minivan existed before Iacocca got it passed through Chrysler, as the initial concept was rejected during Iacocca's residence with Ford in 1975. The Caravan became a runaway success for Chrysler, and established the minivan segment as we know it. Over the course of 30 years, more than 11 million Chrysler minivans have been sold.

What are your favorite Dodges?

2008 Dodge Challenger© Provided by MotorTrend 2008 Dodge Challenger

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