Road Test: 2004 Dodge Ram Rumble Bee
By: Mike MagdaPosted: 10-31-04 21:48 PT
© 2004

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Dodge has targeted its image trucks and special packages with deadly accuracy in the past few years. The Ram SRT-10 blew away the Ford Lightning in spectacular fashion with its world-record speed runs. Dodge didn’t flinch when it came time to offering its most powerful engine in a regular cab and equip it only with a 6-speed manual. This configuration took guts because the marketing department must have balked at the thought of such a narrow customer base. But Dodge has also hit the bull’s eye with the Quad Cab SRT-10. The family-hauling, trailer-towing approach is a perfect stablemate to the speedy and powerful regular cab model. This strategy should be a lesson to all manufacturers who wish to offer a special edition: If you want to broaden the appeal to serve a larger market, then build two models so you don’t dilute either one.

And the new Power Wagon took even more backbone. The real truckers at Dodge didn’t let the accounting department overrule the pricey package. If a truck is worth building, and the goal is to build the best off-road pickup, then let the engineers do their job. The consumer will recognize quality and buy it when it’s the best.

I can’t wait to see what special packages or editions will be coming from the just-introduced Dakota line. It seems natural that the Hemi engine will fit in somewhere. Just think of rocket-ship possibilities; a supercharged SRT-8, perhaps? Maybe that will make up for the embarrassment the Hemi is getting in the Rumble Bee.

There isn’t a pickup in any showroom with a more ridiculous name than the Dodge Ram Rumble Bee. It’s a woefully misdirected attempt to draw on the proud history of the ‘60s musclecar era when Dodge had the exciting but affordable Super Bee midsize coupe. If you’re going to bring back a name, then bring back the original. What is a Rumble Bee? If change is necessary, how about Killer Bee? I’d rather see a truck just for girls called Queen Bee. Or one for seniors called Aunt Bee.

Dodge is promoting the Rumble Bee around the famed bumble bee stripes looping around the rear of the cargo box, but then they paste this silly name on those iconic graphics. In a real slap at the musclecar heritage, the package is being offered on 4x4 pickups. That’s how I can tell that no one was serious about building solid credentials for this truck. It appears to me as nothing more than a marketing exercise led by an uninspired committee of MBA interns who probably never drove a Super Bee, Challenger T/A or Hemi-powered Charger and have absolutely no understanding of the excitement, passion and impact those vehicles had on psyche of American performance enthusiasts in the ‘60s.

But the name isn’t all that’s wrong with this truck. It’s an expensive, cheesy cosmetic makeover that Dodge is trying to pass off as being collectible, promoting the overused and often undeserved “limited edition” label. In a show of mercy, only 3700 units will be produced. Hopefully all the owners will think of them as a collectible and lock them in the garage, keeping the streets safe from this rolling tribute to schlock.

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