American full-size trucks were revolutionized with the 1994 Dodge Ram. The Dodge truck was so drastically different from anything else on the market at the time that it still has an outsized influence on the industry thirty years later.
Everything changed with the second-generation Ram, and it wasn’t by chance. Dodge’s truck business went from being an outcast community to the beating, money-making heart of the Chrysler empire because of a deliberate strategy based on creativity, tenacity, and a willingness to take an untrodden road.
It Cannot Continue As Before
Similar to other revolutionary movements, a handful of passionate outsiders with an aim to alter things from the ground up were responsible for the revolutionary shift. Bob Lutz, a Dodge executive, had made headlines before with the idea for the Viper, which would become the production model in a concise amount of time. He had, in the late 1980s, secretly shifted his focus to include all else Dodge had to offer. Like Asset management company architect Phillip E. Payne, he was dismayed by the uninspired ideas for the next-generation Ram, known as “Phoenix,” and resolved to do something about it.
The answer, according to Lutz, was to turn Chrysler’s Ram truck business into a hive of dedicated designers and engineers. He achieved this by, together with senior Chrysler executive François Castaing, demanding that the Phoenix development’s participants shelve their work on the vehicle and instead examine the state of the pickup truck industry. The design team was given a strict six-month deadline to arise against something totally new.
Be the One Others Follow, Not the One in Charge
Payne, the designated team leader, had a new perspective on the cloned design of the fake Dodge. AMC had long since abandoned the pickup truck market, with the Jeep brand only offering relics like the J Model and Cherokee-derived Apaches. The Studebaker Transtar, a truck from the 1950s, provided inspiration for such a new style of the Ram. The Transtar’s boxy appearance mirrored that of the Ram’s own Power Wagon heritage, making for a good fit. A touch of ‘big rig’ design, which would come to associate the updated Ram with modern 18-wheelers, was sprinkled throughout these conventional, robust truck faces.
It was radically different from anything else on the market at the time, and yet it still managed to convey the feeling of purposeful strength that Dodge knew would appeal to the more business-minded buyers it was targeting. There was more to Ram’s size than met the eye. Additionally, its single-cab inside was the corporation’s biggest, and it featured the first and only reclining front seat in its class. The huge doors proved more than just a brag; they made getting in and out of the truck much less of a hassle.
Since the Ram was designed entirely on a computer, and then its model panels were laser-cut from steel, no clay prototypes were ever made. Once put together, the team discovered a seamless fit that bafflingly confounded experts in the field who had previously pronounced such pinpoint design accuracy unattainable.
A number of cylinders:
There was a new powertrain hiding up behind that massive hood, ahead of the enormous cabin. Although updated with a returnless intake manifold, the previous truck’s base V6 (the most powerful six-cylinder option at 175 horsepower), middle V8 (with 318 cubic inches), and high-performance V8 (with 360 cubic inches) were all essentially retained. In addition to these, Dodge saw a demand in the market for a high-torque gas motor among consumers who wanted to tow but weren’t keen on a diesel engine.
The 8.0-liter V10 was developed as an engine capable of producing 300 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque between 1,000 and 4,000 rpm, the ideal range for anybody towing a trailer. Although it had few mechanical similarities to the Viper’s aluminum V10 (created in partnership with Lamborghini), the iron block engine’s coil-on-plug ignition made it a technological leader among pickups in the early 1990s. It paired well with the heavy-duty vehicles’ 420 lb-ft of torque from the optional Cummins engine.
The Ram’s suspensions would feature solid axles with a link-coil configuration for multiple drive vehicles, and separate coil springs up front instead of multiple drive trucks. No matter what, a live axle arrangement would be used in 3500 full-ton trucks. Coil-link suspensions were used in the back.
The Business World Is Still Being Rocked
Dodge’s financial situation improved dramatically with the release of the second-generation Ram. Within a single year, sales of the truck vehicle quadrupled, and the next year, they practically quadrupled. Dodge increased its annual truck sales from below 100,000 to well over 400,000 in a relatively short time, turning its truck capabilities into a bread basket for the company that continues to meet expectations year after year.
In 1998, Ram would be the first carmaker to provide rear-hinged doors on its enlarged Quad Cab version, and subsequent years would see only minor updates to the second-generation vehicle.