From powerful muscle cars to ill-advised marketing missteps.
Dodge started life as the Dodge Brothers Company, a machine shop making parts for large automakers including Ford. Dodge Brothers started building whole cars in 1914, but both brothers died of the Spanish flu pandemic in 1920. It wasn't until 1928 that Chrysler bought Dodge. Since then, Dodge has either survived or thrived, and particularly thrived at the forefront of the muscle car era, which is where Dodge's rarest car was born. However, the rarest doesn't necessarily mean the best. Some are rare due to low production numbers, but some production runs ended early simply because nobody wanted the cars.
The Dodge Coronet sold fairly well, but it didn't work out when the brand tried to sell R/T Hemi versions. A large part of the reason could be down to Dodge not letting them go onto dealer lots or publicizing them enough. In 1967, only two were built, and American muscle car diehards went, "Meh." The same thing happened in 1970 when Dodge tried again, despite the Hemi V8 being upgraded to make a strong 425 horsepower. It's believed only 14 exist in total from 1970, and the last one we saw sold for $305,000.
Before Dodge coined the Daytona name, there was the Charger 500. There was a 1970 version, but the 1969 model was limited to 500 units, the amount needed to be sold to the public for homologation with Nascar. This was at the start of the aero wars in Nascar. The Coronet grille being set flush with the leading edge of the hood passed scrutiny, and Nascar was convinced to allow the front spoiler to pass as well. A rear window plug and chrome A-pillar covers also helped the car pass through the air and were installed on the road-going models.
It came with a 440 Magnum under the hood mated to a Torqueflite transmission, but 46 were of those were optioned with a 426 Hemi. In reality, it's generally agreed only 392 units of the 1969 Dodge Charger 500 models were built. It didn't perform particularly well on the track, but the aerodynamics advancement led the way for the legendary Dodge Charger Daytona and that famous nose cone and rear wing.
The 1969 Daytona Charger measured 18-feet long from the tip of its 18-inch nosecone to its 23-inch tall rear wing. It stuck to the track while cutting through the air with its 0.28 drag coefficient. The car dominated Nascar and was the first to turn a lap with a speed of 200 mph. It was offered as an option package to the public in 1969 with either a manual or Torqueflite transmission matched to a 440 cubic-inch Magnum V8, producing 375 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. The 426 Hemi motor was also an option, rated at 425 hp and 490 lb-ft of torque.
Surprisingly, considering the severance for the Daytona today, it didn't sell well for Dodge. It wasn't limited to 500 models, but only around 500-510 were built. The aero package was effective but considered ugly at the time. It was also unwieldy to drive, let alone park. However, it did sell enough to make homologation.
A 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T isn't crazy rare, but the car known as The Black Ghost has such a rare spec it just entered into Library of Congress through the National Historic Vehicle Register. It was known as The Black Ghost on Detroit's streets in its heyday of street racing, mainly due to its triple-black paint job. Black on black on black was rare enough considering the bright palate Dodge offered at the time, but other options include the four-speed manual gearbox and Hurst shifter, Bumble Bee stripes, houndstooth fabric seats, a gator grain top instead of venal roof, and, of all things, a trailer hitch.
The original owner, Godfrey Qualls, used it to tow his motorbikes before it was left idle for decades gathering dust and awaiting restoration by his son. Now Qualls has died, his son has got it running but plans to keep it as a survivor car rather than restore it. There's even a forty-minute documentary on the car, and it's well worth a watch below.
Nowhere near as cool as the rest of the cars on the list is the Dodge Durango Hybrid and its Chrysler sibling, the Aspen Hybrid. The twins went into production in 2008, but nobody wanted them. They managed 13/18 mpg city/highway, which was an improvement over the standard Hemi V8 powered versions at the time but far from ideal. They also weighed 5,700 lbs, which was 400 lbs more than the standard trucks. Only 400 were built, but exactly zero were sold with many cluttering up dealers' lots.
It's often thought that the Plymouth Scamp and Scamp GT are the rarest forms of the Dodge Rampage, but something even rarer exists. A special edition was created and sold through selected California Dodge dealerships in 1984, the final year of the Rampage truck. They were factory created trucks designed to mimic the Shelby Charger. Known as the Dodge California Shelby Rampage to Californians, the truck still used the stock 99-hp 2.2-liter engine but with a more aggressive exhaust, the front fascia from the Shelby Charger, a ground effects package, and 15-inch alloy wheels. Only 218 units were made.
The Ram SRT10 is an insane truck. Under the hood is the fearsome 8.3-liter V10 pulled from the Dodge Viper rated at 503 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque. It sold well for Dodge and Ram, but a special edition Night Runner trimmed model was slipped quietly into the options list in the final year. Even Dodge dealers didn't know of its existence, and the 400 built with a blacked-out paint job and black 22-inch wheels are still under most enthusiast's radar and don't come into the light very often.
The Super Bee Coupe was marketed as a low-priced but powerful muscle car. It was a rebadged Plymouth Road Runner, and the Super Bee name referenced the B body platform it was built on. Standard, it came with Dodge's 6.3-liter Magnum engine, and the 425-hp 7.0-liter Hemi V8 was an option. It was an expensive option, however, and as a result, only 125 were sold and, as far as we know, only six have survived.
In 1965, the new Coronet was one of Dodge's best selling vehicles. It was available as a two-door or four-door sedan, and as a station wagon. There were also modified versions of the two-door sedan available with a racing version of the 7.0-liter Hemi engine. In 1966, Dodge made the 7.0-liter Hemi engine available to order on any Coronet model, but it mainly was optioned on two-door models. There's no record of any station wagon models sold with the massive V8, but a few four-door models were built. It's believed four exist, and they're unicorns in the car collecting community. As far as we know, one went to Canada, one was exported to Finland, and the other two were ordered and sold domestically.
This is how we imagined it went down: It's Detroit, 1954. Six men in expensive grey suits are sitting in a beautifully furnished office. One of the men is drinking coffee served by a pretty secretary, and they watch her leave in silence. The other five are drinking their first whisky of the day and smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes.
"We need to sell cars to women," the coffee drinker says, "What do women like?"
"Pink," says one of the whisky drinkers.
"Makeup," says another.
"Gold," says a third.
"Purses," says the fourth.
The fifth just shakes his head. He is baffled by the question.
"Excellent," says the coffee drinker, "We'll call it La Femme. Now, let's get lunch. I need to use my expense account, or I'll lose it."
Thus, the Dodge La Femme was born with its two-tone white and pastel pink paint finish and fitted keystone-shaped pink calfskin purse with a gold badge. The purse contained a powder compact, lipstick case, comb, change purse, cigarette case, and a lighter. Around 60 exist from its two-year production run and it's thought that under 2,000 were made in total.