One hundred years ago this month, Horace and John Dodge stopped making parts for Henry Ford as they had done earlier for Ransom E. Olds. They started building entire cars bearing their name and continued to do so, quite successfully, until they both died in 1920. Their widows sold the company to Wall Street’s Dillon, Read & Co. which, in turn, sold Dodge to Walter P. Chrysler in 1927. Dodge has continued as a mainstay of Chrysler’s stable of brands even as Plymouth, DeSoto and Imperial have all come and gone. Our celebration of Dodge’s centennial coincides with a FeralCars.com milestone. This is our 100th post since we got up and running ten months ago which equates to 20 minutes in Dodge years.
Dodge has been considered Chrysler’s performance division since the mid-1950s and this ’69 Coronet with cast aluminum racing wheels and hood pins underscores that muscle car image.
Dodge’s analog to Plymouth’s cartoon-inspired Road Runner was the Super Bee. We admit that the tail band and feisty bumble bee graphic on this ’69 Super Bee are goofy but muscle car aficionados take this kind of stuff very seriously, especially when the Bee is backed by the sting of a 426 cubic inch Hemi V8.
Dodge’s post war offerings, essentially carryovers from pre-Pearl Harbor days, were on the dowdy and bulbous side as evidenced by this ’48 sedan, still plying the streets of old Havana.
Dodge’s compact size Dart was introduced in 1963 as a step up from Plymouth’s Valiant, much as Mercury’s Comet was to Ford’s Falcon. Dodge fielded Lancer, a re-badged Valiant in 1961 and 1962 which didn’t have much of an impact but the stylish-for-its-size Dart that followed was a huge hit.
Over its 14 year run, the Dart became synonymous with durability and reliability, thanks in large part to Chrysler’s unbreakable “Slant 6” motor. Old Darts were symbolic of the anti-materialist “slacker” sensibility back in the pre-gentrification days that preceded today’s pretentious hipster movement. So resonant is the name that Fiat Chrysler recently revived it for Dodge’s contemporary compact which, truth be told, is based on an Alfa Romeo design.
We’re thinking that this very presentable 1970 Dart hardtop, photographed at speed on a busy freeway, may very well be piloted by its original owner, irony be damned. We offer a gallery of Darts, shot in the wild, as evidence of the car’s lasting presence. We’re especially taken with the tail-banded Swinger. Yes, that was an actual model designation for most Dart 2-door hardtops and, please, no key party jokes. Thanks to Feral Cars Field Scout “TV” Tom Vickers for the shot of the nice dusty ’63 convertible.
Dodge’s Aries was one of the famous Lee Iacocca- championed ‘K Cars,’ introduced in 1981. With front wheel drive, seating for six and a thrifty 4 cylinder motor, these were a far cry from Dodge’s muscle car days but were extremely popular and profitable. They sold so well that Chrysler was able to pay back its government guaranteed loans in advance of the actual due date. Though on the drawing boards well prior to Iacocca’s tenure, Chairman Lee took much of the credit for their success, as one would expect.
Almost from the beginning, Dodge offered a line of trucks such as this ’67 step side finished in Creamsicle®-inspired vanilla and orange. Since 2011, for some unfathomable reason, Chrysler-built trucks are branded RAM, rather than Dodge. Horace and John would not be pleased.
Dodge was a huge player in the van movement (insert rockin’/knockin’ limerick here) of the ’60s and ’70s. This Family Wagon camper conversion by Travco from ’66 or ’67 features a non-OEM wooden bumper but is otherwise stock, observation deck-style roof and all.
Dodge supplanted the Dart with the Aspen (twin of Plymouth’s Volare) which was not a stellar effort. A later iteration, yclept Diplomat, offered luxury pretentions, including a padded vinyl roof, fender-mounted turn signal indicators and a stand-up hood ornament. Classy! This ’78 Diplomat, so impressively preserved, is literally driven by a little old lady. We’ve included a profile portrait of the Aspen on which it’s based. Lipstick on a pig, anyone?
Lastly, we return to Dodge’s performance roots with a Challenger, dating from 1970. It was Dodge’s (very) late entry into the “pony car” field that was pioneered by Mustang and, soon thereafter, Camaro. We like everything about this un-restored example — the roof rack, the dent in the door and the dulled paint. Truly, it’s a fitting final entry in this, Feral Cars’ centennial post. Happy birthday to us and to Dodge. As its Fiat overlords might say, cent‘anni!
Catch the Dodge Rebellion-themed commercials from ’67 with Dodge’s “it” girl Pamela Austin starring right here.
While you’re at it, check out this ’67 Dart GT convertible that’s for sale in nearby Riverhead, NY. It’s never too late to Join the Dodge Rebellion!
If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us: info (at) feralcars (dot)com. Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted