Historic Truck Brands
The history of Dodge is complicated by the fact that the brand was taken over by Chrysler way back in 1928. From then on, the brand was applied globally, to vehicles that were sometimes wildly different.
In the UK ‘Dodge’ appeared on decidedly British trucks, while US Dodges were very American. Australia had both and one stream even shared a cab with International Harvester.
Founded as a machine-shop by brothers Horace Elgin Dodge and John Francis Dodge in the early 1900s, the Dodge Brothers Company originally supplied parts and assemblies for Detroit-based automakers
The company began building complete automobiles under the ‘Dodge Brothers’ brand in 1914 and had shot to number two in the US car market by 2016.
Around 11,000 Dodge cars and light trucks served with the US military during World War One
Tragedy struck in 1920, however, when both brothers died suddenly. Their widows ran the company for five years, but by then Dodge cars had slipped to fifth place in the market, although the light truck line sold well. A tie-up with bodybuilding company Graham saw Dodge truck chassis branded ‘Graham’, until 1928.
Dodge Brothers was bought by an investment group that sold out to Chrysler in 1928.
Truck development continued under Chrysler and export markets boomed, with additional ‘badge-engineered’ Fargo and DeSoto brands in some markets.
In the lead-up to World War Two, Chrysler sold pretty much US-oriented products around the world, but local components began to be introduced, such as a Perkins P6 diesel in the UK’s snub-nosed Major model.
Dodge built thousands of military 4×4 and 6×6 vehicles for the US War effort.
Post-War Dodges became progressively different. In the USA, bonneted, petrol-powered trucks flourished, while in the UK, diesel-powered COEs were preferred for heavy rigid and prime mover duties.
In 1964 Chrysler took over Rootes and the lighter-duty bonneted Dodge offering had a Commer Superpoise cab. After 1976 the Commer brand name was dropped and Chrysler’s British trucks were all branded ‘Dodge’.
The Rootes takeover had no influence in the US market, where Dodges grew in size to Class 7 and 8, in conventional and COE L, C and Bighorn models; initially with petrol power, until Cummins diesels were progressively introduced from the 1960s.
Dodge cars and light trucks were imported from the 1920s and in 1939 Chrysler Australia Ltd started assembling Dodge trucks in Adelaide. In 1958 a new bonneted range was released, with petrol six and V8 power. Also the ‘pommie’ Kew-Dodge was released.
In the early 1960s both International Harvester and Chrysler had a dilemma: the need for a new bonnetted cab, but not enough individual market share to justify tooling up. The companies agreed to share development of a new cab and bonnet that both brands would use, with their own powertrains.
Inter scored an updated AB lineup and Dodge, the D1 to D7 models.
This range was launched in 1966, with 212hp petrol V8 or 130hp Perkins power. Later, 6x4s were released, initially with Cummins V185 diesel engines and then with Detroit Diesel 6V53s.
The Dodge D3F arrived in the early 1970s, using a COE cab that was originally designed by Commer. It had petrol V8 or Perkins 6.354 power.
However, the writing was on the wall for US- and UK-derived medium and medium-heavy trucks, thanks to the arrival of the Japanese. Chrysler had access to the Fuso brand… and the rest is history.