By Patrick Rall
On July 1st 1914, John and Horace Dodge ended their manufacturing partnership with Henry Ford and upon doing so, they decided to launch their own car company – and the Dodge Brothers Corporation was born. John and Horace both died in 1920 after catching pneumonia at the New York Auto Show, but the brand that wears their name lived on in a very big way, becoming one of the longest running and most groundbreaking brands in the American auto industry.
Throughout the years, the Dodge brand has touched nearly every segment of the auto industry from super efficient compact cars to cutting edge pickups to the most powerful performance cars sold in America. Of course, while vehicles like the K cars and the little Neon helped Dodge to post big sales numbers over the years, the Dodge brand has become best known for the high performance cars that they have delivered in the past century.
The Dodge brand first propelled itself into the high performance world in 1966 when they rolled out the first Dodge Charger with the 426 cubic inch Hemi engine. The Charger was later joined by the likes of the Challenger, the Coronet, the Dart, the Demon and a variety of Super Bee models through the 1960s and 1970s.
When rising fuel prices and concerns about fuel efficiency hit the performance segment hard, Dodge changed their approach – bringing about the turbocharged 4-cylinder performance models that put the power to the front wheels. Models like the Shadow, the Daytona, the Charger, the Omni and even the Caravan offered shocking performance that allowed those models to compete with the likes of the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang so while the crosstown rivals continued to try to squeeze power out of heavily restricted V8s – Dodge called upon smaller forced induction engines to make big power.
As the front wheel drive turbo Dodge models faded away in the early 1990s, the Dodge brand reminded everyone how the company built their reputation for high performance when they rolled out the mighty Viper in 1992. Packing a V10 engine that was designed with the folks from Lamborghini, the Viper was unlike any American performance car before it and honestly, no other American car since then has offered the same power and the same wow factor as the Viper. Dodge even put that awesome V10 in a Dodge Ram 1500 – creating the most powerful and fastest road going truck ever.
Dodge returned to its front wheel drive turbo 4 roots in 2003 when the Dodge Neon SRT4 hit the market, calling on the old turbo K car models for inspiration as the brand once again battled the Ford Mustang with a front wheel drive 4-cylinder.
Finally, the world of Dodge performance arrived at where it is today with the introduction of the rear wheel drive Dodge Charger, Magnum and Challenger in the 2000s. Along with the revival of the Hemi with the new 5.7L V8, those three cars offered power like few other vehicles sold in America. Dodge trumped their own V8 with a new 6.1L Hemi for the SRT lineup in the last 2000s and in 2012, the 6.4L, 392 cubic inch V8 was introduced with 470 horsepower in both the Charger and Challenger.
And then today, the Chrysler Group announced that the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat would pack 707 horsepower and 650lb-ft of torque – making it the most powerful American production road car ever. Not the Mustang, not the Camaro, not the Corvette…no other American production car has ever offered as much power as the Challenger’s Hellcat Hemi.
So, Dodge lovers, celebrate the 100th birthday of the Dodge brand by enjoying your car or truck while you cherish the fact that the Dodge brand is once again the purveyor of the most powerful American muscle car of all time. After 100 years, the Dodge brand continues to be a name which John and Horace would proud to see wearing their last name.
Happy 100th Birthday to my favorite cars and trucks in the world.