15 Surprising Facts About Dodge You Probably Didn't Know

Written by Jim Belt in Trucks

Dodge is an iconic American automotive brand known for building powerful, bold and aggressive vehicles. But the story behind this performance car legend goes far beyond just muscle cars and rumbling V8s. Think you know Dodge?

> Pop quiz: What did the Dodge Brothers originally manufacture before getting into cars?
> - A) Bicycles
> - B) Horse Carriages
> - C) Farm Equipment
> - D) Wagons

If you answered A) Bicycles - you're right! Long before cars, the Dodge Brothers Company started out making bicycles in the late 1800s.

With that surprise out of the way, here are 15 more fascinating insights about Dodge that you may not know:

15. It All Started in a Basement

The humble beginnings of the Dodge brand can be traced back to a basement in Detroit in 1900 where the Dodge Brothers Company was founded by brothers John and Horace Dodge to manufacture precision engine and chassis components.

14. They Were Early Supplier Pioneers

Before building complete cars, the Dodge brothers supplied engines and transmissions to many early automakers including Ford. This made them pioneers of the automotive supplier business model.

13. Ram Trucks Origins

While Dodge is renowned today for its Ram pickup trucks, the Ram name was actually born from a separate truck model first introduced in 1981 before later becoming the brand for all Dodge trucks in 2010.

12. Pioneered All-Steel Bodies

In an era when many cars still used wood body frames, Dodge was an early pioneer of implementing revolutionary all-steel body construction as early as 1914 for improved strength and durability.

11. Helped Win World War II

During World War II, Dodge contributed to the Allied war effort by repurposing its factories to build over 400,000 trucks, ambulances, weapons carriers and other military vehicles for the U.S. Army.

10. Origins of the Viper

The genesis of the iconic Dodge Viper sports car dates back to the late 1980s when Chrysler engineers reportedly started development after desperately wanting a modern Cobra. With its massive V10, the Viper delivered incredible performance.

9. Early Electric Vehicle Pioneer

Long before Tesla, Dodge helped pioneer early electric vehicle technology by offering an electric model wagon as far back as 1914. While rudimentary, it showed an early willingness to embrace EV tech.

8. Tie-Up with Graham Brothers

In the 1920s, Dodge formed a partnership with the Graham Brothers truck manufacturers before later acquiring the company which ultimately became the basis for Dodge's truck operations.

7. SRT Began as a Skunkworks Project

The Dodge SRT (Street and Racing Technology) high-performance division can trace its roots back to a small dedicated "skunkworks" group of passionate engineers in the 1980s who hot-rodded Vipers and other models in secret projects.

6. Winged Warrior Origins

The origin of Dodge's iconic "ram" logo with the slanted winged warrior emblem actually dates back to the 1930s when it was first used on Dodge trucks as a symbol of the brand's power and durability.

5. Built Tanks for WWI

In addition to trucks in WWII, Dodge has a long history supplying the military dating back to World War 1 when the company manufactured just under 40,000 helmet-shaped Dodge Brothers trucks which were used by U.S. forces and modified into tank-like armored vehicles.

4. Owned Part of Boeing

Outside of the automotive realm, Dodge once owned a portion of the Boeing Company through investments and acquisitions made in the 1920s and 1930s related to airplane manufacturing technology and operations.

3. Invented the Modern Multi-Speed Transmission

While they didn't invent the automatic transmission concept, engineers at Dodge are credited with designing and patenting the modern automatic transmission with a hydraulic fluid coupling and planetary gear set in the early 1900s.

2. Firsts in NASCAR

Dodge has a long history in NASCAR racing with many "firsts" including the first automobile manufacturer with a factory-sponsored team in 1949, the first to use semi-monocoque unibody construction in 1966, and the first non-GM/Ford brand to win a NASCAR championship in 1970.

1. Challenger Origins

The Dodge Challenger wasn't originally conceived as a direct Mustang competitor. It was initially developed in the late 1960s with a different concept - a low-cost compact "pony car" to take on models like the AMC Javelin before being reworked into the larger muscle car icons we know today.

From pioneering early electric vehicles to building tanks and owning part of Boeing, Dodge has had a far more diverse and innovative history than many realize. This quintessential American performance brand has left an indelible mark not just on automotive culture, but manufacturing and technology as well over its 100+ year existence.