From pre-WWI humble beginnings in an automotive repair shop to the household brand it is today, Dodge has produced some of America’s favorite vehicles. Muscle cars, minivans, and everything in between—here are the old Dodge cars you should know.
Maybe you’re in the market for a new
Durango. Or maybe you’re like us and just think car history is pretty darn cool. Either way, read on for a
rundown of the best Dodge models ever made.
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What makes an old car great?
Not every car goes down in history as a great car, and Dodge has produced plenty of misses. While a walk down memory lane highlighting the worst cars Dodge ever made could be fun (we’d start with the Omni), today we’re taking a look at Dodge’s best builds.
These are vehicles that have stood the test of time as consumer favorites, broke boundaries in automotive technology, or otherwise carved out a spot in American car culture.
10. Dodge Neon (1995–2005)
Dodge Neon broke onto the scene with intention. Designed to compete with Japanese motor companies, it fulfilled its role—even selling in Japanese markets. It was cheaply made but beloved for its sporty handling and style.
The first generation of Neons was available in a two-door coupe or four-door sedan; the second generation came only as a four-door sedan. Sales of the Neon peaked during its first-generation production run, with more than 245,000 sold in the United States alone. From there, though, the numbers started to fizzle out—along with the Neon’s reputation.
It became clear, both from
crash testing and driver fatality statistics, that the Dodge Neon was not well equipped to protect its passengers in a crash. Even among small cars in its class, the Neon contributed to more driver fatalities than other cars. It was discontinued after the 2005 production year.
9. Dodge Coronet (1949–1976)
The Dodge Coronet’s first generation was the manufacturer’s top-of-the-line, post-war luxury offering. It even came as an optional eight-passenger stretch limo. But by its second generation, it was a souped-up sports car with one of the first Hemi engines, breaking 1953 land-speed records on the salt flats.
In 1968, the hard-top or convertible two-door Coronet boasted up to 390 horsepower, rivaling its contemporaries in the muscle-car market. Oddly, the Coronet was also produced with a station wagon body style—and it went over well.
From family station wagon to limousine to the
Scat Pack Coronet Super Bee, the Coronet successfully juggled many roles. And it eventually landed a place as a popular pick among law enforcement agencies.
The Coronet police car of the 1960s had a 440-cubic-inch V8 engine, but by the 1970s, sales tapered. In its last production year, 1976, the Coronet was available as a station wagon or a four-door sedan, as Dodge turned its muscle car focus to the
8. Dodge Dart (1960–1976)
What you get out of a classic
Dodge Dart depends on the year you’re considering. It’s been a full-size, midsize, and compact car at one point or another.
The Dart was offered as a sedan, a wagon, a coupe, a hardtop, and a convertible throughout its run. Adding to the confusion, the Dart name was resurrected for a newer, popular line of compact sedans, produced from 2012 to 2016.
But we’re focusing on the original Dart, and within that framework, its best build years—the third and fourth generations, produced from 1963 to 1976. These are the Dart’s
muscle car years, marked by the repurposing of the name to replace the Dodge Lancer, which had been upgraded with a new design and longer wheelbase.
The Dodge Dart experimented in 1968 with a ready-made drag racer. The 1968 Hemi Dart was a very limited production model, featuring a 426 Hemi that got the car going 130 miles per hour in 11 seconds or less.
The Dart was phased out in 1976 when it was marketed alongside its slated replacement, the Dodge Aspen.
7. Dodge Ram (1981–2010)
Ram isn’t built by Dodge—it’s been its own brand since 2010 when Dodge decided to focus on its line of cars instead. But from the 1981 to 2010 production years, Dodge ran with the Ram, which built up an outstanding reputation for performance.
The first generation of Dodge Ram pickups had a slant-six or V8 engine available, but things started to get really interesting in 1989 when Dodge introduced the Cummins Turbo Diesel. This engine gave the 1989 Ram 160 horsepower and an astounding 400 foot-pounds of torque.
By the mid-’90s, Dodge had taken a cue from popular comforts in its passenger car line and started introducing plush interior features for the Ram pickup trucks. This peaked with the
Dodge Ram Laramie, and Rams today feature similar luxury options.
6. Dodge Magnum (2005–2008)
In fairness, we should acknowledge the
Dodge Magnum name was initially applied to a two-door coupe sold in the United States in 1978 and 1979. It’s not that it wasn't a good car—we just like the more modern Magnum better.
In 2005, Dodge revamped the Magnum name for something entirely different. It was a rear-wheel-drive station wagon based on the Charger. It’s weird to use the words “sexy” and “station wagon” in the same sentence, but with the Dodge Magnum, it works.
The base 2.7-liter V6 engine had a respectable 186 horsepower, but the Magnum SRT8 had an available 6.1-liter Hemi V8 with up to 425 horsepower. The school carpool was never quite as fun after the Magnum was discontinued in 2008 (along with the
PT Cruiser and
5. Dodge Avenger Sedan (2008–2014)
After marketing a two-door sport compact coupe in the 1990s, Dodge discontinued the old Avenger in 2000 before reintroducing the new
Dodge Avenger as a midsize sedan in 2008. The Avenger has a reputation for being powerful, reliable, long-living, and comfortable.
It was even Dodge’s pick for the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup and gained recognition as a smooth-handling family car with the power of a muscle car.
But, after sales peaked in 2012 with almost 97,000 cars sold, the Avenger began its decline. Other cars in its class blew right past it with classier interior materials, better infotainment options, and more cargo space. The Avenger was discontinued in 2014.
4. Dodge Viper (1991–2010; 2013–2017)
The Dodge Viper was designed with one thing in mind: speed. The vehicle’s design focus was so intent on its awesome capability for acceleration and power that in its first generation, the Viper lacked even the most basic standards for comfort.
Its roof was made of canvas. The front windows were vinyl and could be zipped down. And, even more strangely, there were no exterior door handles. You had to unzip the window first to gain entry…
That said, the first-generation Viper roadster wasn’t for everyone (or most people). But without anti-lock brakes, airbags, or air conditioning, the Viper R/T 10 hit a 0 to 60 time of 4.2 seconds and could go over 160 mph. That was in 1992.
In its second generation, Viper carried on the roadster’s need-for-speed legacy but also introduced the Viper GTS coupe, which offered a few basic amenities—like actual glass windows, airbags, and climate control. Despite being the “softer” version of the Viper, the GTS coupe still hit 450 horsepower.
The coupe continued developing through five generations of Vipers, even adding standards like airbags and headrests along the way, before its final production year in 2017, when the Dodge Viper VX-I reached 645 horsepower and 600 foot-pounds of torque.
3. Dodge Caravan (1984–2020)
It’s argued that the
Dodge Caravan—and its longer wheelbase sibling, the
Dodge Grand Caravan—both brought on and brought to an end the age of the American minivan.
The Dodge Caravan broke out in 1984, selling an unbelievable 209,000 minivans in its first production year alone. The Caravan was ubiquitous, squeezing out its station wagon competitors with more room and more power.
The Caravan even came with an optional 2.5-liter, four-cylinder
turbocharged engine for a couple of years during the 1980s. Add in the available clutch pedal and five-speed manual transmission, and you’ve got more vanimal than van.
But, as with most other minivans, sales for the Caravan peaked around 2000 to 2001 and steadily declined as the market shifted to SUVs and crossovers. The last several years of the Dodge Caravan's production line garnered largely negative reviews until its discontinuation in 2020.
2. Dodge Challenger (1969–1974; 1977–1983; 2008–present)
Dodge Challenger was born out of the Dodge Coronet Challenger, which debuted in the 1959 Coronet model line. Produced as a pony car in its first generation, the Dodge Challenger has enjoyed a long run of sports car success (if you don’t count the awkward years from 1977 to '83 when it was a subcompact coupe).
The third-generation Dodge Challenger got back to its roots, as a full-size muscle car running on a range of powerful engines, from a 3.5-liter V6 to a 6.4-liter Hemi overhead-valve V8.
Most critics agree that the Dodge Challenger’s best years are in its first and third generations. The first generation boasts the 426 Hemi and classic pony car performance and styling. The latest generation is more reliable and more powerful, and time will tell if it goes down in history as a classic.
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1. Dodge Charger (1966–1978; 1981–1987; 2005–present)
It’s a hard pick between the Dodge Challenger and
Dodge Charger, but ultimately, the Charger lands in the No. 1 spot because its versatility, size, and power all outdo the Challenger.
The Charger was introduced as a larger two-door pony car in 1966, and despite a few enhancements and modifications, it retained its fastback two-door build through the 1978 model year, when production was halted for the first time.
Much like the Challenger, the Charger also had an awkward era in the 1980s. From 1981 to 1987, it was produced as a more economical subcompact hatchback coupe. A Shelby version of the Charger upped the cool factor, especially with an added turbo in 1984.
Finally, with its third inception starting in 2005, the Dodge Charger returned to the road as a powerful four-door sedan with enhanced performance and a luxurious feel, all powered by a big V8 engine.
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