It’s a lofty milestone to hit the big One-Oh-Oh. For humans, the whole event can seem a little forced, with way too many candles on too small of a cake, with a lop-sided party hat on the guest of honor, who could break into a nap, at any minute. The Dodge brand is anything but sleepy these days, with Supercharged Challengers and Vipers running about.
So instead of listening to a litany of boring congratulatory telegrams, here’s some highlights from the last 100 years, the kind that might actually perk up an ear or three at your next car-based bash.
There’s a lot of Dodge, in a Ford: The Dodge Brothers, Horace and John, were already a going concern for automotive things in 1902, producing parts such as transmissions for curved-dash Oldsmobiles.
It was around this time that Henry Ford came calling, with a great idea, and no money to get it off the ground. Dodge assumed the financial risks, and produced Ford cars and Ford components for years. By 1914, Ford was prosperous enough that he could afford to operate his own factories, such as Highland Park, the birthplace of the modern assembly line.
The Dodge Brothers saw the writing on the wall, and in July of 1914, announced that they would discontinue business with Ford, and produce their own car. The first Dodge car rolled it’s wheels on November 14th, 1914, with an all-steel body, when cars like the Model T were still using plenty of wood bracing in their skins. Both brothers passed away in 1920, victims of influenza.
Walter P. comes calling: While the Dodge Brothers were no longer of this Earth, their company continued to prosper, reaching the one million production mark just five years after their death. Speaking of millions, a gaggle of New York bankers purchased Dodge from the widows in 1925, for a cool $146 million. The Chrysler Corporation acquired the Dodge brand in 1928, for $170 million.
1929: Dodge introduces the first downdraft carburetor.
1950: The first year that Dodge ran in a NASCAR race.
1952: Dodge gets its first V8, the Red Ram HEMI.
1955: Introduction of the Dodge LaFemme, a vehicle marketed specifically to women, with a host of fashionable accessories.
1965: If you were at the dragstrip, you would have seen the wheel-standing stylings of the Dodge Little Red Wagon, an A100 cabover pickup, with a 426 cubic-inch HEMI, mounted in the cargo box, behind the cab.
1967: The Dodge Deora show truck, a heavily-modified A100 pickup, receiving it’s name in a contest by the plastic model company AMT. If you didn’t have it as a model, you may have had it in your pocket, as part of the debut Hot Wheels line-up for the 1968 model year. You can find decent examples online, ranging from $29.00 and up, depending on condition, and if the surfboards are original.
1983: Lee Iacocca and his old pal Carroll Shelby hook up, with the Dodge Shelby Charger. The insanity continues through the 80’s, with such fun wagons as the Dodge Omni GLH, an acronym for Goes Like Hell.
1992: The production version of the Dodge Viper goes on sale.
2008: The Dodge Challenger returns.
Songs in the key of Dodge
Joe Walsh: Ordinary Average Guy
“Take out the garbage and clean out the garage,
My friend’s got a Chrysler, I’ve got a Dodge…”
Bruce Springsteen: Jungleland
“Barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge, drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain…”
Jan & Dean: Little Old Lady From Pasadena
“But parked in her rickety old garage,
Is a brand new, shiny red, Super Stock Dodge…”
Harry Chapin: Taxi
“We learned about love in the back of a Dodge,
The lesson hadn’t gone too far…”
Frank Zappa: Joe’s Garage
“It wasn’t very large, there was just enough room to cram the drums,
In the corner over by the Dodge, it was a’54 with a mashed-up door…”
Dodge in film and tv
Breaking Bad: I can’t believe I still find people who haven’t seen the series through a half-dozen times like me. Suffice it to say, there is plenty of current Challenger and Charger going on.
The Blues Brothers: 1974 Dodge Monaco
Elwood Blues: “It’s a model built before catalytic converters, so it’ll run good on regular gas.”
This ex-Mount Prospect, Illinois police unit is on a mission from God, with a 440 cubic inch plant, cop tires, and cop shocks.
The Fast and The Furious. 1970 Dodge Charger
What’s Vin Diesel scared of? Driving this blown Charger.
Vanishing Point: 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T
We’re not sure, to this day, as to what Kowalski is so cheesed about during his full-throttled adventure, but it’s probably the most interesting full-length car chase movie you’re ever going to watch. (“We have reason to believe it’s supercharged.“) Does make you think twice about using a car courier service, doesn’t it?
Bullitt: 1968 Dodge Charger R/T
We know it’s the bad guys car, but what a bad guys car! The original car from the movie was reportedly found a few years back and restored, sporting attachment holes that may have been drilled for camera mounts during the filming of the movie. The late great Bill Hickman was the wheelman.