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1969 Dodge Coronet Super Bee

1969 Dodge Coronet Super Bee


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1970 Dodge Challenger Hardtop

1971 Dodge Challenger advertisement

1970 Dodge Challenger T/A

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1969 Dodge Charger

1968 Dodge Charger

1966 Dodge Charger

1969 Dodge Charger Daytona

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1990 Dodge Ram 150


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Dodge Brand Heritage Chronology

1901-1914: Brothers John and Horace Dodge, talented machinists and ambitious businessmen, rose from humble beginnings to become giants in the early American automobile industry. In 1901, after several years of building bicycles and piecework components for the budding auto industry, the brothers founded a machine shop in Detroit and began producing transmissions for the Olds Motor Works. Within a year, they agreed to build engines for Henry Ford, stopped building components for Olds, and accepted Ford’s offer of 10 percent of his company’s stock.

Success came quickly. The Dodges built all of the mechanical components for Ford’s early cars, and their firm soon became the largest automotive parts company in the world. But they sparred with Ford over finances and ended the relationship in frustration after 12 tumultuous years.

1914-1924: In 1914, the brothers formed a new company, Dodge Brothers, Inc., capitalized with $5 million in common stock, and began building their own vehicles — the world’s first mass-produced all-steel touring cars. In 1915, more than 45,000 Dodge cars were built and sold, the best first-year sales record for a new car in the industry at the time.

General John J. Pershing’s successful use of 250 Dodge touring cars during the 1916 Mexican border campaign against Pancho Villa further enhanced the brand’s reputation, and by 1920 Dodge was the second-best selling car in America.

Capitalizing on their products’ quickly established reputation for reliability and value, the Dodge Brothers firm began using the word “dependability” in advertising. Customers responded, and by 1925, one million Dodge cars had been manufactured and sold.

With their early passenger cars earning recognition for durability and value, the Dodge brothers soon began considering ways to convert their successful car platform to truck applications. During 1917, their firm began producing “commercial cars,” including military ambulances and screen-sided business trucks. Panel delivery trucks, fire trucks, pickups, chassis-cabs and other models were soon offered.

During 1920, the company lost its founding fathers. John Dodge died in January and his younger brother Horace succumbed the following December.

In 1921, Dodge Brothers agreed to market Graham Brothers medium-duty trucks through its dealerships; in turn, every Graham vehicle utilized a Dodge engine. This partnership provided Dodge dealers with a full line of trucks to sell in addition to the highly regarded Dodge passenger cars, and the resulting sales increases prompted Dodge to buy the Graham Brothers firm.

1925-1929: A New York investment banking firm paid the brothers’ widows, in a single cash payment, $146 million for the Dodge Brothers firm. Within three years, the bankers initiated negotiations with Walter Chrysler to buy Dodge. When the $170 million transaction was completed on July 31, 1928, Chrysler Corporation had grown fivefold overnight to become the third of Detroit’s “Big Three” automakers.

1930-1941: In 1930, “Dodge Brothers” became simply “Dodge,” and the brand’s first eight-cylinder engine was completed. The distinctive ram’s head hood ornament, designed by sculptor Avard T. Fairbanks, first appeared in 1932.

Through the 1930s, Dodge continued to expand its passenger car line, adding contemporary options like radios and straight-eight engines. A four-door sedan built in 1935 was the brand’s three-millionth car. But other vehicles in the Dodge lineup were gaining in popularity; the purchase of Graham Brothers had made Dodge one of the leading single-brand producers of light- and medium-duty trucks.

1942-1945: During World War II, Dodge-made war materials appeared in weapons, tanks, ships, aircraft and air raid sirens. Particularly notable among Dodge’s contributions were more than 500,000 military trucks and over 18,000 aircraft engines.

1946-1954: In the postwar years, Dodge vehicles evolved slowly from earlier designs and maintained a tall, boxy appearance. Prewar Dodge model designations like Custom and Deluxe were replaced with more colorful names like Meadowbrook, Coronet and Wayfarer.

Optional at extra cost in the 1953 Coronet was the new Red Ram “HEMI-Head” engine, the first Dodge V-8 in 20 years and first of the soon-to-be-legendary HEMI® engines that would equate the words “Dodge” and “speed” for generations. Lee Petty captured Dodge’s first NASCAR win, while another Dodge V-8 won the Mobil Economy Run.

One year later, a Dodge Royal 500 paced the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, HEMI-powered Dodges set 196 speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats – and the Dodge Firearrow idea car, produced by Carrozzeria Ghia in Italy, offered a dramatic hint of changes to come in Dodge product design.

1955-1960: The much-needed restyling came in 1955, part of Chrysler design chief Virgil Exner’s heralded Forward Look makeover, an overnight transformation of all the company’s products. Notable among the longer, lower and wider Dodge redesigns were the luxurious Custom Royal models, which offered push-button transmission selectors, three-tone paint schemes, a variety of trim options and V-8 power.

With these high-powered, high-style cars, Dodge began to establish its reputation as Chrysler’s performance brand. In 1955, Dodge built 237,000 V-8s in a 273,000-unit model year. Dodge upped the horsepower stakes in 1956 with the D-500 HEMI V-8; the manual transmission-equipped version boasted 295 horsepower, compared to the 189-horsepower rating of that year’s standard Dodge V-8. Dodges won 11 NASCAR races in 1956, a number that wouldn’t be matched until 1964.

Another one-of-a-kind Dodge in this era was the LaFemme, a car specifically marketed to women. Clad in special Heather Rose and Sapphire White colors, the HEMI-powered LaFemme featured special interior tapestry with pink rose buds, pink trim and a matching umbrella, rain bonnet and make-up case.

Beginning with the 1957 models, Dodges became even lower and longer, giving emphasis to their dramatic tailfins, an iconic Chrysler design feature of the era. The light-filled, curved-glass cabins and broad, flat surfaces reflected a fundamental change, quickly copied by competitors, in the proportions of the American automobile.

1961-1968: Dodge entered the small-car (or “compact”) field for the first time in 1961 with the Lancer, a uniquely styled car that was almost two feet shorter and 700 pounds lighter than a full-size Dodge. This platform provided the basis for a series of Chrysler cars that were to capture 40 percent of the total American compact market in the early 1970s. Subsequent Dodge spin-offs included the 1963-76 Dart, the 1970-76 Swinger and the 1971-72 Demon.

Even so, full-size cars were still very much in demand throughout the 1960s. The 1965 Dodge large-car lineup contained 13 models, including the sporty Polara and the plush new Monaco with bucket seats front and back. A remarkable array of optional convenience, trim and powertrain choices, including no fewer than 10 different engines, kept car shoppers busy.

To maintain Dodge’s performance image, the 413-cubic-inch Ramcharger Max-Wedge engine was introduced in 1962. One year later, the larger 426-A Ramcharger appeared; it boasted 425 horsepower and quickly found appreciative audiences at drag strips nationwide.

New on showroom floors in 1966 was the first Dodge Charger, a fastback auto show concept car brought to life using the underpinnings of the mid-size Dodge Coronet. Dramatically restyled two years later, the 1968 Charger sold three times as well as its 1966 predecessor and became one of the company’s most memorable and successful vehicles.

During the mid-1960s, Dodge expanded its reputation as a performance brand with high-powered products for both racing and street applications. Roger Linamood drove the “Color Me Gone” Dodge to the National Hot Rod Association’s Top Eliminator title, and a Ramcharger-equipped rail dragster set a new national speed record of 190.26 mph.

1969-1981: For NASCAR racing, Dodge resurrected the hemispherical-head concept in a new 426-cubic-inch HEMI-Charger engine for competition use only, which soon proved capable of generating some 500 horsepower. A special Daytona Charger race car equipped with a HEMI-Charger, an elongated nose piece and a roof-high spoiler attached at the rear took the checkered flag at the 1969 Daytona 500.

America’s fondness for fast cars was effusively addressed by Dodge during the “muscle car” era of the late '60s and early 1970s. Placing large V-8 engines in intermediate-size cars with optional levels of accessorizing brought drag strip-style performance to street racers and distinctive collector cars to thousands of other buyers. Notable Dodge nameplates from the muscle car period include the Charger R/T (for Road and Track), the Coronet R/T, with a 440-cubic-inch Magnum V-8 engine as standard equipment, the Super Bee and, after 1970, the Challenger.

The effects of the 1973 oil crisis, which spawned skyrocketing prices for both crude oil and retail gasoline, were new government emissions regulations and rising insurance rates that combined to bring the muscle-car era to a close and generate new interest in smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. Dodge responded with the subcompact Omni, one of the first American-made cars with front-wheel drive.

1982-1991: In 1982, Dodge introduced the compact Aries, its version of the famous Chrysler K-car that would prove instrumental to the company’s financial recovery following a series of financial reverses.

Perhaps the best-known — and certainly the most popular — of Dodge’s recent products is the Caravan front-wheel-drive minivan. Introduced in the 1984 model year, the Caravan combined the comfort of a car with the space of a van and yet it fit in a standard garage.

1992-1998: Resurrecting its performance-brand heritage, Dodge in 1992 created a stir with the launch of the Viper, a V-10-powered, two-seat sports car that set the stage for an all-new mid-'90s Dodge product lineup, including the large Intrepid, the mid-size Stratus, the compact Neon and the unmistakable new Ram pickup truck.

In 1996, the new Viper coupe paced the Indianapolis 500, driven by Chrysler president Bob Lutz.

1998-2007: On the occasion of the Dodge brand’s 90th anniversary in 2004, it could be said that the brothers’ vision for their enterprise had been fulfilled. Millions of customers still appreciated the dependable Dodge difference in passenger cars. Dodge remained a leader in the modern-day truck market, producing a variety of models with numerous powertrain options, including a diesel-electric hybrid. Dodges were again taking the checkered flag at NASCAR events. And the Viper, having won at LeMans and other international venues, maintained the brand’s high-performance reputation on both the race track and the street. What other brand can reflect on such a rich legacy?

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Discussion Starter #6

1971 Dodge Dart Demon

1970 Dodge Dart Swinger

1971 Dodge Charger R/T

1971 Dodge Charger Super Bee

Before the re-introduction of the Super Bee designation on the 2007 Dodge Charger SRT8, the only previous Dodge Charger available as a Super Bee was a 1971 model. Immaculately restored examples now sell for $80,000 to $100,000.

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Discussion Starter #7
Dodge Challenger: Forty Years of a Dodge Muscle-car Legend

February 10, 2010 , Chicago - When the Dodge Challenger first entered in the muscle car ranks of Detroit’s Big Three, it arrived with something its competitors didn’t have: the greatest range of powertrain choices in the industry, from the small but durable 225-cubic-inch “Slant Six” to the fearsome “Elephant Motor” — the 426 HEMI®. With the best muscle-car powertrains in the business, Dodge Challenger has added, and continues to add, to its rich legacy, creating one of the most storied nameplates in automotive history.

Dodge Challenger’s 40-year legacy includes:

The Dodge Challenger made its debut in the fall of 1969 as a 1970 model. While it shared Chrysler’s “E-body” short-deck, long-hood platform with the third-generation Plymouth Barracuda, Dodge Challenger’s wheelbase was 2 inches longer, creating more interior space.

The Dodge Challenger was originally offered as a two-door hardtop or convertible, in base, SE (Special Edition), R/T (Road/Track) and T/A (Trans-Am) trim. But it was the range of powertrain choices that was truly remarkable:

225-cubic-inch I-6; 145 horsepower
318-cubic-inch V-8; 230 horsepower
340-cubic-inch V-8; 275 horsepower (290 horsepower in the T/A)
383-cubic-inch V-8; 290 horsepower
383-cubic-inch V-8; 330 horsepower
383-cubic-inch V-8; 335 horsepower
426-cubic-inch HEMI V-8; 425 horsepower
440-cubic-inch V-8; 375 horsepower
440-cubic-inch V-8; 390 horsepower

Driveline choices for various engines included Chrysler’s TorqueFlite automatic transmission and a three- or four-speed manual transmission, which could be equipped with a Hurst “pistol-grip” shifter. Big-block Challengers could be ordered with a heavy-duty Dana 60 differential equipped with a limited-slip differential.

Even the paint schemes said “performance,” with colors, including Plum Crazy and HEMI Orange, accented with “bumblebee” stripes. Customers could further customize their cars with twin-scooped hoods, “shaker” hoods and deck-lid wings.

Befitting the brand’s performance heritage, Dodge raced the Challenger in its first year on the market. For the street, it was offered in the limited-edition T/A model to meet homologation requirements for Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Trans-Am racing. The T/A was one of the first production vehicles to offer staggered size tires in the front and back; E60 x 15-inch front and G60 x 15-inch rear.

In 1970, Sam Posey drove the lone Trans-Am racing Challenger, prepared and run by Ray Caldwell’s Autodynamics Race Shop. While he didn’t win a race in the No. 77 car, Posey finished fourth overall in points.

Drag racers, including Dick Landy and Ted Spehar, also campaigned Challengers in the National Hot Rod Association’s new Pro Stock class. In 1970 and 1971, the HEMI-powered Challengers (and Plymouth ‘Cudas) virtually ruled the class.

On the big screen, a 1970 Challenger R/T starred in the film Vanishing Point, a high-speed pursuit movie that has become a cult favorite with muscle-car fans. The movie was remade for television in 1997.

Other 1970 Dodge Challengers have been seen in films, including Used Cars, Natural Born Killers and Phantasm I and II; and in television shows, including Mod Squad.

For the 1970 model year, more than 83,000 Dodge Challengers were sold.

In 1971, designers made subtle styling changes to the Dodge Challenger, providing new treatments to the taillamps and grille. The single-taillamp design from 1970 became two distinct lights for 1971, and a new-for-1971 twin-inlet Challenger grille was painted silver on standard models and black on R/Ts.

Challenger R/T models also received a set of fiberglass quarter-panel louvers. An additional coupe model with fixed quarter windows was added to the lineup.

As in 1970, a wide range of trim levels, exterior colors and striping options made the Dodge Challenger easy for customers to create a special car. However, for 1971, Dodge dropped the T/A (it was no longer racing in Trans-Am), SE models and R/T convertible.

New EPA emission standards led to some powertrain changes; the optional 375 horsepower 440-cubic-inch was eliminated, as was the Six Pack-equipped 340-cubic-inch powerplant. The 383-cubic-inch Magnum engine was detuned to 300 horsepower by lowering the compression ratio for improved emissions. However, a 390 horsepower six-pack 440 V-8 was available, and the 425 horsepower 426-cubic-inch HEMI still topped the vast engine offerings.

A Dodge Challenger paced the Indianapolis 500 race in 1971. Dodge produced 50 Challenger convertible pace car replicas — all painted HEMI Orange with white tops and interiors.

With escalating insurance rates and new EPA emissions mandates, more changes came to the Dodge Challenger in 1972. Also, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) revised the torque and horsepower rating test from a “gross” to a “net” as installed in the cars. This reduced all ratings 20 to 30 percent, making them non-comparable to previous ratings.

Only three engines were available in the 1972 Dodge Challenger: the 225-cubic-inch Slant Six with 110 horsepower, the 318-cubic-inch V-8 with 150 horsepower and the 340-cubic-inch V-8 with 240 horsepower. All were equipped to use the then-new unleaded fuel.

With convertible sales in steady decline over several years, the 1972 Dodge Challenger was offered in hardtop form only. The sun roof had become a more popular alternative and was offered as an option for more than $400.

New front-end styling in 1972 featured a larger “egg-crate” grille. It was painted argent for standard Challengers and black on the Challenger Rallye performance model, which replaced the R/T. The Challenger’s taillamp design included twin lights on each side, with the center panel painted the same color as the grille. The Rallye model also was equipped with four small scoops on the front fenders.

Beginning in 1973, the federal government mandated new bumper-impact standards that resulted in the only changes to the Dodge Challenger exterior — five-miles-per-hour bumpers equipped with large rubber guards that extended out from the bodywork.

Inside, grained vinyl was the only available seating material, but a new instrument-cluster design was part of the Rallye option package. The Rallye was eliminated as a separate model, although customers could create one with options.

Under the hood, the six-cylinder engine was no longer available; the 150 horsepower 318-cubic-inch V-8 was standard, with the 240 horsepower 340-cubic-inch V-8 as the only option.

With performance car insurance rates skyrocketing, more safety equipment led the short list of changes for the 1974 model-year Dodge Challengers.

Inside, lap and shoulder belts were equipped with an inertia reel. In addition, there was a federally mandated seat belt-ignition interlock, which prevented the car from being started if the driver or passenger didn’t buckle up.

The Dodge Challenger offered a different engine option for 1974. With the 318-cubic-inch V-8 still standard, a 360-cubic-inch V-8 producing 245 horsepower replaced the 340-cubic-inch V-8 as the only engine option.

In April 1974, Challenger production ceased. During a five-year span, approximately 188,600 Dodge Challengers were sold.

Beginning in 1978 — the year the U.S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard took effect — Dodge offered a new Challenger two-door coupe imported from Mitsubishi. It was offered with a standard 1.6-liter, 77 horsepower I-4 engine, with a 2.6-liter, 105 horsepower four-cylinder as an option.

Slightly restyled in 1981, the Dodge Challenger soldiered on until 1984, replaced by the growing stable of Chrysler Corporation’s K-platform compacts and a new import from Mitsubishi: the Dodge/Plymouth Conquest.

During its six-year run, sales of the imported Dodge Challenger averaged between 12,000 and 14,000 units per year.

At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2006, Dodge unveiled the Challenger concept to immediate acclaim. Based on the Dodge Charger’s advanced rear-wheel-drive platform and legendary HEMI V-8 engine, the Dodge Challenger concept featured the long hood, short deck, wide stance and two-door coupe body-style that resembled the iconic Challengers of the 1970s. Over the next several months, the company received repeated pleas from consumers and the media to build the car.

The Dodge Challenger returned with the all-new 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8® at the Chicago Auto Show. The 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 offered all that pony-car fanatics crave: ground shaking performance, unmistakable design cues reminiscent of the original Challenger, world-class ride and handling characteristics and benchmark braking.

The Dodge Challenger SRT8’s 425 horsepower (317 kW) and 420 lb.-ft. of torque (569 N•m) were the result of SRT’s exclusive, proven 6.1-liter HEMI V-8 engine. Its 69.8 horsepower-per-liter rating exceeds even that of the legendary 1966 “Street HEMI.”

Dodge Challenger SRT8 sports a five-link independent rear suspension allowing for independent tuning of ride-and-handling characteristics. The Challenger SRT8 featured SRT-exclusive 20-inch fully-forged Alcoa aluminum wheels with four-season Goodyear Eagle RS-A or optional three-season Goodyear F1 Supercar tires. All four wheels were equipped with red painted Brembo calipers that feature four opposing pistons on a fixed caliper for even clamping performance.

The 6,400 Dodge Challenger SRT8 models built for the 2008 model year were available in HEMI Orange, Bright Silver Metallic and Brilliant Black Crystal Pearl exterior paint colors. Interior highlights included race-inspired leather seats with added bolstering and an exclusive red accent stripe, exclusive stitched accents on the seats and steering wheel, four-bomb gauges with tachometer and 180-mph speedometer in the center. An SRT-exclusive Reconfigurable Display (RCD) with Performance Pages provided drivers instant feedback on zero to 60 mph time, 60 to zero mph braking, g-forces and 1/4-mile time, and limited-edition numbered dash plaque.

The first production 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 was sold at the 37th annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction with a winning bid placed by Craig Jackson, Chairman/CEO of the Barrett-Jackson Auction Company of $400,000. All of the proceeds went to charity.

The introduction of the all-new 2009 Dodge Challenger SE and R/T models at the New York International Auto Show delivered the full lineup of Dodge Challengers to the marketplace. From the maximum Dodge Challenger SRT8, to the performance of the Challenger R/T with its 5.7-liter HEMI V-8, to the cutting-edge technology of Challenger SE with the efficient 3.5-liter V-6 engine, the 2009 Dodge Challenger offered a full menu of options for every customer.

Adding even more capability than the 2008 model, the 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8 with its powerful 6.1-liter HEMI V-8 offered a six-speed manual transmission, in addition to the proven five-speed automatic with Auto Stick. The six-speed—the Tremec TR-6060—was matched with a race-inspired dual-disc clutch that was first offered on the 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10.

The new 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T tucked its legendary 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine under a long, raised performance hood with functional hood scoops to increase engine cooling. The newest-generation 5.7-liter HEMI® V-8 engine featured dual Variable-cam Timing (VCT) and dual ignition (two spark plugs per cylinder) to increase power and torque, while improving refinement and efficiency.

When paired with the automatic transmission, the new-generation 5.7-liter HEMI® V-8 included the fuel-saving Multi-displacement System (MDS) allowing Dodge Challenger R/T Classic to operate economically on four cylinders, or produce 372 horsepower (277 kW) and 401 lb.-ft. of torque (544 N•m) when all eight cylinders are needed.

With its “pistol grip” shifter, the six-speed manual transmission Dodge Challenger R/T featured a performance-tuned dual exhaust with optimized engine back pressure and two low-restriction bottle resonators for maximum “throatiness.” The result, even more power at tap with 376 horsepower (280 kW) and 410 lb.-ft. of torque (556 N•m) ready to accelerate the Dodge Challenger R/T from zero to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds.

The new 2009 Dodge Challenger SE powered by the 3.5-liter High Output V-6 with a four-speed automatic transmission produced 250 horsepower (186 kW) and 250 lb.-ft. of torque (339 N•m).

Halfway through the 2009 model year, the Dodge Challenger R/T Classic offered menacing looks and, combined with the 5.7-liter V-8 engine, an unforgettable punch. Based on the Challenger R/T, the Challenger R/T Classic featured dual throwback A-line body-side R/T stripes in matte black, ‘Challenger’ fender badging in classic script, large 20-inch polished-chrome heritage wheels, classic egg-crate grille with heritage ‘R/T’ badge, body-color rear spoiler and bright racing style fuel filler door.

The 2009 Dodge Challenger SE Rallye added even more pony-car excitement with a more responsive five-speed automatic transmission (implemented as standard equipment on all mid-year Challenger SEs), throw-back hood and deck-lid dual stripes with accent color outer stripes, bright racing style fuel filler door, 18-inch rallye wheels with all-season performance tires, body-color deck-lid spoiler and Micro Carbon interior accents.

Original B5 Blue returned from the Dodge paint code archive for a limited-edition run of Challenger R/T Classic and Challenger SRT8 models.

Based on the production Dodge Challenger SRT8, Mopar® offered a modern factory-prepped Challenger Drag Race Package Car (as a special body-in-white). To reduce vehicle weight, major production component and systems were eliminated, including windshield wiper assembly, complete HVAC system, all airbag components, rear seats, power steering system, exhaust system and underbody heat shields, cross-car and side-impact door beams, rear-bumper beam and rear deck-lid spoiler. The drag racer offered three engine options — 6.1-liter or 5.7-liter HEMI or 5.9-liter Magnum® Wedge — as well as manual or automatic transmission options.

The 2010 Dodge Challenger R/T and Challenger R/T Classic add even more performance and excitement with the Super Track Pack for the 2010 model years. This handling package includes 20-inch Goodyear Eagle F1 Super Car tires, front and rear Nivomat self-leveling shock-absorbers, a larger rear stabilizer bar, a 3.06 rear-axle ratio, performance brake linings and enthusiast-desired “ESC-off” stability calibration.

Even more exclusive, and true to Challenger’s high-performance history are the 2010 Dodge Challenger R/T Classic and SRT8 Detonator Yellow and Plum Crazy editions. The Dodge Challenger R/T Classic in Plum Crazy Pearl Coat is the first limited-edition to offer dual throwback A-line body-side R/T stripes in matte black or new bright white, while the SRT8 editions feature unique SRT-designed appointments and unique SRT performance seats with accented stripe.

Two of the wildest and rarest 2010 Dodge Challenger special editions will soon be available to Dodge fans and collectors to celebrate 40 years of Dodge Challenger performance: the 2010 Dodge Challenger R/T Classic and Challenger SRT8 Furious Fuchsia editions. With Furious Fuchsia Pearl Coat exterior paint and all-new Pearl White leather performance seats, these limited-edition Dodge Challengers deliver the best of modern American muscle-car characteristics — now in one of the most significant hues.

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Discussion Starter #8
2008 Dodge Grand Caravan Product Heritage

First-generation Dodge Caravan joins Smithsonian Collection. The world‘s best-selling minivan, which was originally introduced in 1983 and revolutionized family transportation, will be featured in the museum‘s exhibition, ‘America on the Move‘. The exhibit provides a multi-media educational experience on the role transportation played in the nation’s development from 1876 to present. Since November of 1983, Chrysler Group has sold more than 10 million minivans worldwide, introduced 50 minivan-first features, and earned more than 150 awards industry-wide. Pictured is a 1984 Dodge Caravan.

In the late 1970s, Baby Boomers were reaching adulthood and starting families in large numbers. But sedans and station wagons, the traditional standard-bearers among family transportation vehicles, were becoming smaller in response to concerns about pollution and fuel efficiency – and their passenger and cargo capacity was being reduced. Vans created for the commercial delivery market were being customized as passenger vehicles, but their large size, inefficiency and front-engine, rear-wheel drive configurations made them unsatisfactory substitutes for wagons and sedans as family transportation vehicles. Under the leadership of executives Lee Iacocca and Hal Sperlich, Chrysler initiated development of a new type of vehicle that would offer considerable passenger and cargo-carrying space in a family-friendly package.

Despite the apparent advantages of the concept — a small van with front-wheel drive that could offer consumers more space and greater fuel economy — many obstacles had to be overcome. The final design needed to be low enough to fit in a typical home garage and travel through a standard car wash. The proposed front-wheel drivetrain, which permitted a flat floor and created more interior room, also required special front-end styling considerations, including a functional “nose” to house the engine and offer “crush space” in case of accident. Once all those criteria were met, the new concept – not really a car, not really a truck — had to be styled as an attractive, family vehicle that would appeal to a broad spectrum of potential buyers.

The result was referred to within Chrysler as the “T-115” – but ultimately branded as the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. Prior to launch, these distinctive but untested vehicles would compete with Chrysler’s successful new K-car platforms for technical and financial resources. But, following its runaway success, it would be this new product, soon popularly described as the “minivan,” that brought consumers – lots of them – into Chrysler dealerships.

The launch of the minivan in 1983 as a 1984 model year vehicle created an all-new product segment. Car and Driver described it as “the only American-built van that’s not a truck,” noting that the T-115 was ten inches narrower, 15 inches lower and about four feet shorter than the most popular conventional vans. Observed Road & Track, “Chrysler is betting there’s a big market for a van of this size and is aiming it at current station wagon owners; those who already own larger, less efficient club wagons; growing families; those who need station wagons but hate the stodgy suburban image; women who aren’t comfortable driving large conventional vans; people who used to own full-sized sedans and like plenty of interior room, and those who just enjoy the sheer novelty of the vehicle.”

The company’s bet was well placed. One day in 1983, when members of Chrysler’s Houston zone office drove to lunch in a newly-delivered minivan, a lady approached them in the restaurant’s parking lot and unhesitatingly asked, “What is this and where can I buy one?” The initial marketing, featuring popular magician Doug Henning, aptly described the vehicle as “The Magic Wagon.”

The Chrysler minivan was an instant success and, despite spirited competition from other automakers over three decades, has always been the best-selling minivan in the United States.

1984-1990 model years: The first-generation Chrysler minivans were based on the S platform, a derivative of the Chrysler K platform used for the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant passenger cars. Three trim levels were available on the first Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager models – a base level, the “mainstream” SE and the “upscale” LE, which featured vinyl “woodgrain” side panels. The standard four-cylinder engine could be mated with a three-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission or a five-speed manual. An early Chrysler minivan featuring the rare turbocharged 2.5-liter engine (available only in 1989 and 1990) is now considered a collector’s item by many.

Both the Caravan and the Voyager were on Car and Driver magazine’s “Ten Best” list for 1985.

The Mini-Ram Van, a cargo version of the Caravan, also appeared in 1984. Renamed the Caravan C/V in 1989, it was discontinued after the 1995 model year.

In 1987, the Caravan and Voyager received some cosmetic updates – and new, longer-wheelbase Grand Caravan and Grand Voyager models were introduced.

1990 model year: The Chrysler Town & Country, a luxury version of the Chrysler minivan, was introduced (see the Town & Country Heritage section). The Town & Country nameplate dated to 1941 and had been used on a variety of Chrysler vehicles until 1988.

The standard Town & Country minivan was considered “loaded,” with no optional trim levels. Power locks, windows, mirrors and driver’s seat, front and rear air conditioning and leather seats were all standard. The 3.8-liter V-6 engine was made standard in the Town & Country in 1994.

1991-1996 model years: Chrysler’s hot-selling minivans were freshened for the 1991 model year, and more option packages became available. Innovations included “Quad Command” bucket seating (standard on the Town & Country beginning in 1992); integrated child safety seats (1992), available anti-lock brakes (1992), the first driver’s side airbag in a minivan (1991, made standard in 1992), and the first dual front airbags (1994). This was the first minivan to meet 1998 U.S. federal safety standards (1994).

The 1991-1995 minivans used the AS platform, the last to be derived from the Chrysler K platform. Special “10-Year Anniversary Edition” trim packages were offered in 1994.

1996-2000 model years: Completely redesigned, the 1996 Chrysler minivans debuted in an elaborate program at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, during which Chrysler Chairman Bob Eaton and President Bob Lutz, dressed in Mr. Rogers-style cardigan sweaters, delivered the story of the new minivan from giant storybooks, then watched as one – with television character Kermit the Frog in the driver’s window – soared over an artificial pond. It was Chrysler’s way of giving notice that this new NS minivan would “leapfrog” all competitors.

Spectacularly upgraded from its predecessor models, the NS was named Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year for 1996 – and appeared on the Car and Driver “Ten Best” list for 1996 and 1997.

An industry-first driver’s side sliding door proved so popular it was made standard. The manual transmission was dropped and all-wheel drive added. Base models were offered in most states with either a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine or a Mitsubishi 3.0-liter V-6. In California and several northeastern states with stringent emissions standards, a 3.3-liter engine was offered as a V-6 option between 1997 and 2000. Options added over the life of the NS included CD players, grocery-bag hooks and a rear-seat video entertainment system.

With the demise of the Plymouth brand, the Voyager was rebadged as the Chrysler Voyager after 2001, later becoming the short-wheelbase version of the Town & Country in 2004.

2001-2007 model years: The most recent generation of Chrysler minivans rode on the RS platform. Another benchmark of modern-day Chrysler engineering innovation, the Stow ‘n Go second- and third-row foldable seating system, was introduced in 2005. Power sliding doors and a power hatch, options beginning in 2001, later became standard.

Freshening the exterior, continually adding new safety features and providing additional cargo space, better entertainment systems, more cupholders, grocery hooks and other family-friendly features has kept Chrysler’s minivans at the top of their segment in popularity and sales.

2008 model year: Chrysler is now positioned to again make minivan history. In addition to thoroughly updating the many successful features of their predecessors, the new Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans offer one-of-a-kind available features like Swivel ‘n Go second-row seats, which revolve to face the rear seats. A table can be placed between the second- and third-row seats, providing a convenient place for passengers to read, work or enjoy meals and games.

Both these features reflect well on Chrysler’s proud heritage of innovative engineering: swivel bucket seats were standard on top-of-the-line Chrysler passenger cars in the late 1950s, and in the 1960s the Chrysler Imperial featured a “Mobile Director” option, in which the front passenger’s bucket seat swiveled 180 degrees to the rear and the center rear armrest unfolded to create a three-position conference table. The all-new 2008 minivan effectively updates these once-revolutionary ideas for the 21st Century, writing the latest chapter in Chrysler’s continuing saga of industry-leading engineering.

Then & Now:

1984 MY Dodge Grand Caravan

2008 MY Dodge Grand Caravan
Wheelbase: 112 in. (284 cm) 121.2 in. (307.8 cm)
Weight: 3,100 lbs. (1,408 kg) 4,483 lbs. (2,038 kg)
Engine (as equipped): OHC inline four-cylinder Single OHC V-6 (one example)
Horsepower: 96 hp (72 kw) 197 hp (147 kw)
Displacement: 135 cu. in. (2.2 L) 230.5 cu. in. (3.8 L)
Bore/Stroke: 3.44 in. x 3.63 in. 3.78 in. x 3.43 in.
(8.8 cm x 9.2 cm) (9.6 cm x 8.7 cm)
Compression ratio: 9.0:1 9.6:1
Transmission: Torqueflite three-speed transaxle Six-speed automatic, adaptive electronic control
Suspension: Front independent MacPherson struts, rear coil springs Front independent MacPherson struts, rear twist-beam axle with coil springs
Brakes: Front disc, rear drum, power assist Front and rear: disc brakes, anti-loc

1984 Dodge Caravan

1989 Dodge Caravan

1996 Dodge Grand Caravan LE
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