any truck is challenging, but probably none more so than the Dodge
Ram. Its dropped headlights and raised hood are iconic. When those
traits first appeared in 1994 they opened the modern era of pickup
truck style and created what’s arguably the most recognizable
rig of any brand. Veteran Chrysler execs still talk about the positive
impact the 1994 Dodge Ram had on the company and industry.
So you can
imagine how much pressure and enthusiasm top auto designer Ralph
Gilles and his team must have felt when they were tapped
in 2005 to design the all
new 2009 Dodge Ram. They had the responsibility to
reinvent a legend, but how were they going to maintain what made it
legendary in the first place?
Ram was a daunting project," says Mr. Gilles. "We
wanted to remain true to what originally made the Ram popular but still
bring it forward (in design)."
Mr. Gilles and company looked at the current Ram and Dodge’s concept trucks from the past decade.
Power Wagon Concept debuted at the 1999 North American International
Auto Show. Its edgy design combined the crosshair grille from the 1994
Ram with exterior cues and proportions taken from the historic 1946
Dodge Power Wagon heavy hauler. The Power Wagon Concept instantly became
another styling win for Chrysler but its shape was never realized in
a production truck. The name was eventually attached to an off-road
version of the Dodge Ram 2500 in 2005, that’s still made today.
Dodge unveiled its MAXXcab Concept. The four door snub-nosed pickup
with cab forward styling was at the opposite end of the design spectrum
from the retro Power Wagon. The MAXXcab prioritized moving people over
cargo. For a time it was rumored that the MAXXcab would appear in production
as a next-generation Dodge Dakota mid-size truck, which never happened.
concepts got attention but small rigs didn't have to
be boring either. The Dodge
M80 made a big splash in 2002. Its retro
style was also influenced by the 1946 Power Wagon. But instead of being
sleek like the 1999 Concept, the M80 was squared off and looked like
a bulldog. It didn't reach production but major portions of its
design were reused in the 2007 Dodge Nitro SUV.
while work on the 2009 Dodge Ram was well underway, the Dodge
Rampage Concept appeared at the Chicago Auto Show. It offered a
sneak peak at one of the major themes the designers were considering.
The Rampage evolved the MAXXcab Concept into a bigger, more functional
yet decidedly unconventional half-ton pickup. The Rampage didn't surrender
as much utility as the MAXXcab had to give its passengers extra
space and comfort. And the Rampage broke full size truck tradition
by using unibody construction instead of body-on-frame, front
wheel drive instead of rear wheel drive and an independent rear suspension
instead of leaf springs.