Looking to its 100th anniversary in 2014, Dodge offered a glimpse of its centennial celebration at the L.A. Auto Show, with two anniversary-edition cars on display and an exhibit tracing the brand's history.
In 1900, brothers Horace and John Dodge founded Dodge Brothers in Detroit, but sold only parts until they produced their first full-scale car in 1914.
To commemorate the upcoming anniversary, artifacts of Dodge history were on display at the show, including a wrench used at Dodge Brothers, a patent the men received for bicycle wheel bearings, and a Wright Brothers' bicycle seat. Dodge also exhibited a letter written by the brothers that apparently prefaced a price sheet for auto parts, in addition to a timesheet from 1904 listing the hours Dodge Brothers employees worked one week.
Though the anniversary marks the company's beginnings, the celebration focuses most of its attention on the brand's heydey in the muscle car market of the late 1960s and 1970s. Dodge showcased the two 100th-anniversary editions of the muscle cars Charger and Challenger, which will be available at dealerships in the first quarter of 2014.
"Over the last century, the Dodge brand has seen its biggest success when we've combined head-turning designs with ingenious engineering and world-class performance. These two iconic muscle cars do all of that and more," said Dodge President and Chief Executive Tim Kuniskis in a statement. "They represent the Dodge brand's heart and soul."
The anniversary campaign is trying to transfer the appeal and popularity of Dodge muscle cars 50 years ago to a younger audience.
The company's 100th-anniversary Web page features these slogans: "Your grandfather wanted one, your father wanted one, now you want one," and "Muscle never goes out of style."
The limited-edition anniversary cars are adorned with a special 100th-anniversary logo on the wheel center caps, the front seatbacks and the floor mats. The "100" on the odometer is written in red to stand out from the other numbers written in white. The appearance "draws inspiration from the machinist heritage of John and Horace Dodge," according to the company statement. The 100th-anniversary Charger and Challenger are also offered in a new color that the company calls a "'High Octane' red pearl coat paint," that's on display at the L.A. Auto Show.
The Dodge exhibit at the L.A. Auto Show also gives attention to that time period with relics from pop culture, like leather jackets with the Dodge insignia, baseball caps and vintage T-shirts with images of the yellow muscle car Super Bee on display. Visitors can also see a model of the 1969 Dodge Challenger that was featured in the movie "Dukes of Hazzard," and two instrument clusters from a 1971 Challenger and Charger
A poster from a 1969 Seattle Times with a photo of a Challenger reads: "America's only all-new 1970 car is here! New Dodge Challenger. See it this week!"