Tough Choices: Other Designs Chrysler Considered for the 2009 Dodge
Redesigning 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?
"The 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 "We wanted to remain true to what originally made the Ram popular but still bring it forward (in design)."
For inspiration, Mr. Gilles and company looked at the current Ram and Dodge’s concept trucks from the past decade.
The Dodge 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.
In 2000 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.
Big truck 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.
In 2006, 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.