News Column

Dodge Celebrates 100th Anniversary

June 27, 2014

Brent Snavely, Detroit Free Press

1971 Dodge Challenger photographed in St. Lambert, Quebec (Bull-Doser, Creative Commons)
1971 Dodge Challenger photographed in St. Lambert, Quebec (Bull-Doser, Creative Commons)

June 27--Engines of 26 historic Dodge cars, trucks and minivans roared, rumbled and sputtered today at Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester Hills as the brand started by brothers John and Horace in 1914 celebrated its 100th anniversary.

The cars included muscle cars from the 60's and 70's with throaty V8 engines -- the 1966 "Lawman" Charger and a purple 1970 Dodge Challenger convertible.

But that was balanced by vehicles less celebrated by enthusiasts, such as the 1984 Dodge Caravan minivan, 1986 Dodge Omni and 1993 Dodge Intrepid.

And then there were historic cars such as the 1915 Dodge Brothers Touring, one of the very first Dodges built in in November 1914.

Tim Kuniskis, Dodge brand CEO, said John and Horace's irreverent spirit has survived through the generations.

"These brothers were really cool visionary guys. They had a larger than life personality," Kuniskis said. "They were only alive for five years after founding the company and yet their attitude and personality carries through ... what the brand stands for today."

When the Dodge brothers died in 1920, they employed 22,000 workers and produced 140,000 cars per year. Chrysler bought Dodge in 1928.

Meadow Brook is the mansion built by Matilda Dodge Wilson, widow of John Dodge, and her second husband, lumber broker Alfred Wilson.

"It was important for us to bring you here, it was important for us to be on this property," Kuniskis said. "This is the story of Dodge, right here -- this land."

Beyond the roaring engines and groundbreaking designs, the Dodge cars also exemplify how much the entire auto industry has changed.

The black 1972 Dodge Charger, for example, has a 440 cubic inch V-8 engine that kicks out 280 horsepower. But its steering wheel is pencil thin and feels like it could be broken easily in an accident, or even by an angry driver. It also has a separate belts for the lap and the shoulder and only one exterior mirror on the driver's side.

Both the 1984 Dodge Caravan and the 1985 Shelby Charger are equipped with AM/FM stereos with cassette players, rather than the push-button AM radios of earlier years. Neither had cup holders, but both had ashtrays.

The first Caravan provided families with new found flexibility, storage capacity and the ability to haul kids with ease. But the van offered just 96 horsepower, a fraction of today's minivans.

In recent years, Dodge's product portfolio has been pared back. After Fiat took control of Chrysler in July 2009 its pickup trucks were spunoff into the Ram brand. The next minivan likely will only be sold as a Chrysler.

In May the company said it would refocus Dodge from a mainstream into a performance brand, folding the new SRT special edition models inside Dodge.

"Dodge is the American performance brand. This is not a new strategy. This is a purification of the brand," Kuniskis said.

Contact Brent Snavely: 313-222-6512 or Follow him on Twitter @BrentSnavely


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Original headline: Dodge celebrates 100th anniversary at Meadow Brook Hall

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