The Dodge Brothers, who were Jewish, used a blue and white double triangle which resembled a Star of David as an early badge. This was later put on a gold winged shield and used until 1938. What we now know as the Dodge Ram first appeared as a hood ornament in the early 1930s on both cars and trucks, appearing in stylized form on cars as late as 1954 and trucks a few years after that.
After the founding of the Dodge Brothers Company by Horace and John Dodge in 1900, the Detroit-based company quickly found work producing precision engine and chassis components for the citys burgeoning number of automobile firms. Chief among these customers were the established Olds Motor Vehicle Company and the then-new Ford Motor Company. Dodge Brothers enjoyed much success in this field, but the brothers' growing wish to build complete vehicles was exemplified by John Dodge's 1913 exclamation that he was "tired of being carried around in Henry Ford's vest pocket."
By 1914, he and Horace had fixed that, by creating the new four-cylinder Dodge Model 30. Pitched as a slightly more upscale competitor to the ubiquitous Ford Model T, it pioneered or made standard many features later taken for granted: all-steel body construction, 12-volt electrical system, and sliding-gear transmission. As a result of all this, as well as the brothers' well-earned reputation for quality through the parts they had made for other successful vehicles, Dodge cars were ranked at second place for US sales as early as 1916.
Dodge cars continued to rank second place in American sales in 1920. After the deaths of the Dodge brothers, the Company fell into the hands of the brothers' widows, who promoted long-time employee Frederick Haynes to the company presidency. Stagnation in development was becoming apparent, however, and the public responded by dropping Dodge to fifth place in the industry by 1925.
That year, the Dodge Brothers Company was sold by the widows to the well-known investment group Dillon, Read and Company for no less than US$146 million (at the time, the largest cash transaction in history). Dillon, Read quickly installed one of their own men at the company, one E.G. Wilmer, who set about trying to keep the firm on an even keel. The company coninued to struggle and Chrysler eventually took it over in July of 1928.
Production of existing models continued, with minor changes here and there into 1929. To fit better in the Chrysler Corporation lineup, alongside low-priced Plymouth and medium-priced DeSoto, Dodges lineup for early 1930 was trimmed down to a core group of two lines and thirteen models. For late 1930, Dodge added a new eight-cylinder line to complement the existing Senior six-cylinder. This basic format of a dual line with Six and Eight models continued through 1934, and the cars were gradually streamlined and lengthened in step with prevailing trends of the day. The Dodge line, along with most of the Corporations output, was restyled in the so-called Wind Stream look for 1935. This was a mild form of streamlining, which saw sales jump remarkably over the previous year. Another major restyle arrived for the 25th anniversary 1939 models and these were once again completely redesigned for 1942. However, just after these models were introduced, Japans attack on Pearl Harbor forced the shutdown of Dodges passenger car assembly lines in favor of war production.
During WW II Chrysler was prolific in its production of war materiel from 1942 to 1945, and Dodge in particular was well-known to both average citizens and thankful soldiers for their tough military-spec truck models. Dodge built a strong reputation for itself that readily carried over into civilian models after the war.
Civilian production was restarted by late 1945, in time for the 1946 model year. The sellers market of the early postwar years, brought on by the lack of any new cars throughout the war, meant that every automaker found it easy to sell vehicles regardless of any drawbacks they might have. Like almost every other automaker, Dodge sold lightly facelifted revisions of its 1942 design through the 1948 season.
Styling was not initially Dodge's strong point during this period, though that began to change by 1953 under the direction of corporate design chief Virgil Exner. At the same time, Dodge also introduced its first V8 enginethe original design of the famed Hemi. With steadily upgraded styling and ever-stronger engines every year through 1960, Dodge found a ready market for its products as America discovered the joys of freeway travel. This situation improved when Chrysler phased the failing DeSoto brand out of its lineup after 1961, leaving Dodge as the company's only line in the middle of the market. Dodge entered the compact car field for 1961 with their new Lancer sedan. Though it was not initially successful, the Dart range that came after it in 1963 would prove to be one of the division's top sellers for many years.
Chrysler did make an ill-advised move to downsize the Dodge and Plymouth full-size lines for 1962, which resulted in a loss of sales. However, they turned this around in 1965 by turning those former full-sizes into "new" mid-size models. Dodge revived the Coronet nameplate in this way and later added a sporty fastback version called the Charger that became both a sales leader and a winner on the NASCAR circuit.
Full-size models evolved gradually during this time. After being restored to their former dimensions for 1965, the Polara and Monaco were changed mostly in appearance for the next ten years or so. Unique "fuselage" styling was employed for 1969, then was toned down again for 1974.
Dodge is well-known today for being a big player in the muscle car market of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Along with the Charger, models like the Coronet R/T and Super Bee were popular with buyers seeking performance. The pinnacle of this effort was the introduction of the compact Challenger sports coupe in 1970, which offered everything from mild economy engines up to the wild race-ready Hemi V8 in the same sleek package.