Showing posts with label Dodge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dodge. Show all posts

Dodge Firearrow

Dodge Firearrow 1950s American classic concept car

The Dodge Firearrow was an American-Italian collaboration. Coachbuilders Carrozzeria Ghia - based in Turin - finessed the fine details. Their craftsmanship was second to none. Resplendent in red - and sporting a polished metal belt-line - the Firearrow was an elegant, well-proportioned automobile.

Ghia liaised with Virgil Exner. He was chief stylist for the Firearrow. Exner - and his colleagues in the Chrysler art department - came up with a clean and tidy design. Restrained and tastefully-placed lines were the backdrop for a plethora of neat features. The way the bodywork overhung the wheels was a sweet touch. Inside, the wooden steering wheel bespoke class. Twin seats were sumptuously upholstered.

The Dodge's engine was an all-American V8. 152bhp shot the Firearrow III coupé up to 143mph. The Firearrow timeline was a long one. It started out as a show car mock-up. A working prototype duly followed. Decked out in yellow - and with wire wheels - it featured in '54's 'Harmony on Wheels' extravaganza. After that - along with the coupé - came the Firearrow and Firebomb convertibles. The idea was just to whack a bit of wow factor back into the jaded Dodge brand. But - so big a hit were they with the public - that a limited production run was soon mooted. It was privately funded - by Detroit's Dual Motors. 117 Firebomb replicas were built. They went under the name of the Dual-Ghia. Virgil Exner - and his feverish work ethic - had delivered on two fronts. Dodge received its much-needed facelift. And the Firearrow lit up the landscape, in its own right!

Dodge Viper

Dodge Viper 1990s American sports car

Chrysler recruited Carroll Shelby as consultant for their Dodge Viper project. Previously, he had been linchpin of the AC Cobra. Shelby lavished what he had learned from the Cobra onto the Viper - in terms both of its venom-spitting power and serpentine lines. On its début - at the '89 Detroit Motor Show - the Viper mesmerised all who saw it. Such was the frenzy that the concept car created, that Chrysler hastily hatched plans to put it into production. Fast-forward two and a half years - and the Viper was sliding onto the highway. Its 8-litre V10 gave 400bhp. Top speed was 180mph. Its wheels featured wide 13″ rims - helping transfer torque to tarmac. And torque there most certainly was - a churning 450 lb ft of it.

Indeed, the Viper's motor began life in a truck. That was before Lamborghini got hold of it, though. They re-cast the iron block to aluminium. And topped that off with a bright-red cylinder-head. Even so, it was far from a cutting edge engine - comprising just two valves per cylinder, plus hydraulic lifters and pushrods. Which is when Carroll Shelby came in. Basic though the set-up was, he coaxed big numbers out of it. Thankfully, the transmission, at least, was state-of-the-art. A 6-speed 'box was still a rarity, in the early '90s.

Styling-wise, the Viper hit the spot. Its sinuous bodywork was seriously aerodynamic. 'Enthusiastic' drivers loved it. Seals of approval do not come much bigger than selection as pace car for the Indy 500. Stateside, the sports car sector had been in the doldrums. The Viper reinvigorated it. As for Carroll Shelby - the Cobra was always going to be a tough act to top. Tribute to him, then, that the Dodge Viper had 'em dancing in the aisles. Well, in the passenger seats, at any rate!

Dodge Charger Daytona 500

Dodge Charger Daytona 500 1960s American classic sports car

The Charger Daytona 500 was Dodge's response to Ford dominance. Specifically, in the form of NASCAR racing. The Charger car had been competitive in terms of outright power. But, it had been held back by an excess of speed-sapping drag. The Charger '500' version was an attempt to redress the balance. The Charger's nose was duly enclosed. Its rear window fitment now sat flush with its surrounds. Those two changes alone made a big difference. In the '69 season, the 500 won 18 races. Unfortunately for Dodge, its biggest rival - the Ford Torino - won 30! More was clearly needed. In short order, the 500's nose grew 18″. Most noticeably, the car sprouted a huge rear wing. The updated model was 20% more aerodynamically efficient. It was duly dubbed the Daytona. NASCAR's tables had turned!

505 Daytona road cars were built. Racing homologation rules required it. Sadly - from a Dodge point of view - they did not sell well. But - just as the showroom dust was starting to settle - TV rode to the rescue. The Dukes of Hazzard series turned the Charger tide. Indeed, for many - in the guise of the General Lee - the Charger was the star of the show. Week after nerve-racking week, the Sheriff seemed in perpetual pursuit of the Dodge-borne Dukes. Though, thanks to its GM Magnum V8 engine - and the 375bhp it provided - the good ol' boys were able to stay out ahead! For real-life drivers, there was the choice of a 4-speed manual - or 3-speed TorqueFlite - gearbox. Suspension was by torsion bars, upfront - and leaf springs, at the rear. Respectively, they were connected to disc brakes and boosted drums.

Ironically, the new nose and rear wing - game-changing for the Daytona racer - hindered the roadster. The added weight slowed it down. And it was not travelling fast enough for the aerodynamic package to really kick in. That said - if performance took a tumble - turned heads and double-takes turned up by the shedload. But, it was on the oval banking that the Charger truly came into its own. Buddy Baker, for instance, drove a Daytona to NASCAR's first 200mph lap. That was in 1970 - at Talladega, Alabama. The car was, after all, named after one of the most iconic of race-tracks. The Dodge Charger Daytona 500, though, fully lived up to the legend!

Dodge Charger

Dodge Charger 1960s American classic sports car

There have been few cars as iconic as the Dodge Charger! Since Steve McQueen found himself followed by one - in the movie Bullitt - it has been the stuff of legend. The Ford Mustang and Dodge Charger squared up to each other in the showrooms, too. Between the pair of them - in their battle for muscle car pre-eminence - they put Detroit on the world map. Before that, some Stateside cars were getting just a tad gaudy. There is a limit to how much chrome - and how many fins - a car can take, before it starts to become borderline kitsch. Cars like the Charger stripped things back to basics. Simple lines defined a new, no-nonsense approach to styling. The Charger was built to, well, charge - and not much more. Its only concession to design décor was the buttressed rear window.

There could be only one engine for this masterclass in American machismo. A V8 was a shoo-in for the Charger's powerplant. All that 'grunt', though - piledriving rear wheels into the tarmac - meant handling could be hairy. That was best illustrated by the R/T - Road and Track - model. Released in '68, it was the most uncompromising version of the Charger. Delivering 375bhp - and 150mph - the R/T was a heady brew of torque and speed. 0-60 arrived in 6s. This time round, rock-solid suspension - and anti-roll bars - enabled the R/T to handle as well as it went. It came with a 4-speed Hurst 'box. Powerful front disc brakes were optional. Well, according to the spec list, anyway!

The Charger would be one of the last of the muscle car breed. It was produced until '78. After that, the automotive industry took a more leisurely, safety-oriented tack. Never again would the roads of America echo with such ear-splitting gear-driven crescendos. Of course - in Bullitt - the Dodge Charger was driven by the bad guys. Certainly, it is among the most dramatic cars ever to have turned a wheel. And anyway ... we all secretly love a good baddie, don't we?