Back in the 1960’s, auto manufacturers found that a youthful image along with high performance sold cars. The vehicles didn’t necessarily need to be performance cars, but they did have to have a performance image.
Every manufacturer had its performance image cars but in actuality, there weren’t very many true high performance cars made. For one thing, they were expensive and because they were so highly tuned, few could be used as a daily driver. But there were lots and lots of look-alikes using smaller engines that were indeed more practical (and profitable for the car makers.)
Dodge first used R/T (which stands for Road and Track) on the 1967 Dodge Coronet. The standard engine was a 375 horsepower (hp) 440 cubic inch V-8 with the ultimate 1960’s engine — the 426 c.i. Hemi, optional. Besides the R/T badging, the car got a heavy duty suspension, bigger brakes and tires and special stripes. Dodge went on to offer R/T models in 1968 with the Dodge Charger, and in 1970 on the Dodge Challenger. After the supercar era died down, Dodge did use the R/T name on several cars in the 1970s and 80s but these cars certainly weren’t performance cars.
Dodge has recently resurrected its R/T with the goal of applying it to every Dodge car and truck. The following is a brief rundown of what is currently available and what Dodge’s plans are for the future.
• Dodge Viper R/T 10: This is the flagship of the Dodge line, introduced in 1992. With an eight liter 450 hp V-10 engine, the Viper is the ultimate American sports car. The car never fails to turn heads, and some of its aggressive styling has found its way to other Dodge cars and trucks.
• Dodge Neon R/T: The second car to get the R/T badge was the Neon in 1998. The most obvious styling differences were the Viper-like hood and roof and rear deck stripes. In addition to special wheels and a firmer suspension, the Neon R/T was equipped with a 150 hp four cylinder engine. The package was very reasonable priced. The new design 2000 model year Neon R/T will be similar but with 16 inch aluminum wheels, front and rear air dams, sill extensions, a rear spoiler and a unique grille to help it stand out from other less well endowed Neons.
• Dodge Dakota R/T: This is probably the fastest pick-up truck around. Available only in two-wheel-drive form on the short-bed regular and Club Cab Dakotas, the R/T model comes with a 250 hp version of the Dodge 5.9l V-8. The truck really flies. Also included in the R/T is a lowered suspension, a limited slip rear axle, a bigger front and a large rear sway bar, 17" wheels and body colored front and rear bumpers along with fender flares. The usual Dakota options are also available.
• Dodge Intrepid R/T: Building on the R/T model muscle car heritage, the Intrepid R/T comes with a 242 hp version of the Dodge 3.5l V-6 coupled to the Autostick transaxle. The suspension has been fine tuned for better handling and the R/T model is equipped with larger disc brakes and unique wheels. Also included are fog lamps, a rear spoiler, unique rear tail lights — and the Intrepid comes only in Viper red.
• Dodge Caravan R/T: Extending the R/T concept to minivans, the result is the Caravan R/T. Currently, the Caravan is a concept vehicle, but it is likely that the performance van will be built. Featuring the most powerful V-6 in the van class, the R/T model boasts 225 hp from the 3.5l V-6. The van certainly has an aggressive look as it features Viper hood scoops, a different off-set grille, a rear spoiler and big 18" wheels. The van is painted Viper Red. It’s interior is equipped with black leather with embroidered R/T logo on the headrests, dual center consoles, an overhead console and, unlike other vans, the entire floor is covered with black rubber that has a raised tread texture.
• Dodge Charger R/T: Another car in the concept stage, this is a very muscular looking car that borrows a lot of styling cues from the Viper. The car bears a family resemblance to the Intrepid but it is 15 inches shorter and comes only in a two door version. The unique thing about the Charger is its 4.7l supercharged V-8 that puts out 325 hp and uses compressed natural gas for fuel. The rear wheel drive car comes with a five-speed manual transmission which is mounted on the rear axle. The Charger is equipped with 19 inch front and 20 inch rear wheels.
So it’s obvious that Dodge engineers have been working to produce cars that not only look good but also drive well. They may not have (except for the Viper) the raw macho of a 1960s muscle car, but are in every other respect better cars and trucks.
[Peter C. Sessler is the author of 25 books on cars, published by Motorbooks International, Tab Books, Smithmark Publishers, and HP Books. Some of his titles include "Ford Pickup Red Book," "Muscle Car Greats," and "Car Collector’s Handbook." Publication is pending on his latest book, "Model Car Handbook," to be published by Scale Sports.]
© 1998 by the author(s) Duplication without permission is prohibited.
Entire contents © 1998, Stuart Communications, Inc.