The folks at Dodge seemed determined to undermine traditional thinking in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The Challenger was another historic nameplate that got dragged through the mud. The compact version was a far cry from the original car in every sense of the word. Dodge eliminated the need for a V8 engine out of the lineup, and the Challenger evoked that change. The performance was poor and the reliability even worse.
The interior quality also lost points with the new car as this was a transitional period for Chrysler. The hatchback design looked fairly similar to what else was being sold at the time. The 1978 Dodge Challenger was an oddball when it comes to a sports car. Dodge had a few duds during this generation and this Challenger is a small blip in history.
The Spirit was the family sedan that the Dodge brand sold during the early ’90s. Based on the K-Car design, the Spirit was a boxy, compact car. The older design of the car made it seem dated compared to other models that were on the market. The V6 engine did give the Spirit a good amount of performance for the price. But the styling was just so dated that most buyers couldn’t get over it (via All Par).
The rare R/T version of the Spirit was decked out in red paint with matching rims. Although you wouldn’t think of the Spirit as a performance car, it did a great job of it. The Spirit ended up being phased out by the Intrepid in 1993. The Spirit was one of the worst Dodge sedans to hit the market. Its boxy shape didn’t do anything to further the brand image and the competition from Honda and Toyota was fierce.
The Shelby CSX was another useless Dodge that somehow went to production. Chrysler found it appealing to take the standard Shadow compact and slap a Shelby makeover onto it. The CSX is a highly sought-after collectors car, due to the rarity and the Shelby nameplate. Performance-wise, the CSX didn’t produce any spectacular numbers on the track (via Road and Track).
The styling of the car is unique with ground effects and a different look to it. But deep down you can still tell this is a Shadow. The Shadow, in general, was not an amazing car by any stretch of the imagination. We have to wonder why Chrysler would choose the Shadow as the starting point for a Shelby makeover.
Did you know that Dodge had their own version of the El Camino? That’s right, it was called the Rampage. The underpowered Rampage utilized a four-cylinder engine. Not ideal for a pickup truck but the bed was useful enough for transporting wood and other important cargo around (via Driving Line).
The design of the Rampage was controversial at the time of its release. A compact car-based pickup truck had no place in the segment at the time. The versatility of the Rampage was questioned by the automotive press. There were better alternatives that were available on the market. Still, the Rampage has since become a sort of relic from this era of Chrysler design.
The Dodge Intrepid had a lot of potential as it was the first “cab forward” sedan. The Intrepid had a new design, which was a departure from the norm. Generally, the automotive industry was still stuck in the “boxy” era. The V6 engine was an excellent power plant and gave the original Intrepid a lot of power to spare (via Motor Biscuit).
Unfortunately, the second-generation Intrepid, which was released in 1999, had the notoriously inadequate 2.7L V6 engine. The 2.7L is one of the worst engines ever to come out of Chrysler. The engine would clog due to an issue with the oil pump design, causing sludge and ultimately catastrophic engine failure.
The Nitro was released at the height of the economic downturn of 2008. The Dodge brand needed a compact SUV model. Unfortunately, the Nitro was far from being a quality product, and it had many shortcomings. The engine was among the worst to be used in a crossover SUV at the time (via The Truth About Cars.
The Nitro was underpowered and critically panned for its boxy design. There was an R/T model that failed to catch any traction. The Nitro is a failure marquee for the Dodge brand and one of the worst Dodge models. Since it was discontinued, the Nitro has not been replaced by another vehicle in the Dodge lineup.
The Omni was a compact car sold before the K-Car. The compact Dodge had many similarities to other compact cars from this era. The boxy design was cheap to build and cheap to buy. Initially, the Omni was a hot seller for Dodge until there were reports of gas tank fires. This chain of events negatively affected the sales of the Omni (via Car and Driver).
The Omni had a special-edition Shelby model, but that wasn’t enough to save the nameplate. Dodge moved on after the success of the K-Car era. The Omni is seldom seen on roadways anymore and with good reason. Between the build quality and the lack of reliability, the Omni was a less-than-stellar choice.
Released during the cheap car phase of the ’90s, the Neon was an attempt to beat out Honda. The design of the Neon was distinguished from an exterior standpoint. There was plenty of interior space, and the car seemed modern. But that was where things ended, and the rest of the Neon was a rough product (via Repair Pal).
The Neon was notoriously cheap, and that made it a lackluster sales figure for Dodge. The doors didn’t even have a frame around the windows. On top of everything else, the Neon was vastly underpowered as time went on. Honda would continue to improve upon the Civic and so did Toyota with the Corolla.
The 1970s weren’t the best time for Dodge as you can probably tell. The Aspen was another failed attempt to downsize. The Aspen was downright ugly, and the exterior styling was not the only thing that killed it. The performance was also a sore spot for consumers (via Car Gurus).
Engine choices weren’t there, and the car performed so badly drivers were nervous merging onto the freeway. The interior quality was also lacking dramatically. Dodge went from a top brand all the way down to the bargain basement. The Aspen clearly shows why Lee Iacocca had to save the brand.
The Aries was a shabby little car that didn’t know which way it was going. Its design was lightweight and cheap. The Aries was going for a premium look and feel, but the end result was anything but that. The Aries drove like a shoebox, and dealerships had trouble selling the car (via Car Gurus).
Its performance was lackluster at best and the car would spend more time in the shop than on the road. From a design standpoint, the Aries was a shot in the dark for Dodge, and it didn’t fare that well. The brand would not have a true success until the 1990s with the Intrepid and the Stratus.
The Caliber was a letdown Dodge released to replace the Neon. Why the company would go for a hatchback as the only model is a mystery. Buyers didn’t flock toward the Caliber at all. The design was lackluster and cheap-feeling with plenty of hard plastics. The worst thing about the Caliber was that it shared a design with the Jeep Compass (via Car Fax).
Overall, there are few compact cars that have sold as bad as the Caliber did. The design was a nightmare to look at. In the grand scheme of things, Chrysler could have done better with the Dodge brand. But instead, drivers were ‘gifted’ with the obscene-looking caliber and its interestingly faulty design.
Surprisingly, the Dart is a brand name that you hear often. But we aren’t talking about the classic Dart, we’re talking about the failure from 2015. Dodge released a Dart model to much avail only to have it fall flat on its face. It was said Chrysler spent over a billion dollars on the Dart and the Chrysler 200, but consumer tastes had shifted (via Car and Driver).
The Dart was not an appealing buy to new car shoppers anymore. The performance wasn’t quite there, and the transmission was problematic at best. Dodge cars weren’t as reliable as they once were, and that was a problem.
When the Durango was redesigned for 2004, there was a lot of hoopla around it. The previous Durango was a groundbreaking SUV. It was the first midsize SUV with a V8 engine and three-row seating. Sadly, the Durango drivers got was lacking in every possible way. The design was a mixture of bug eyes and bulges that didn’t resonate with buyers (via Cars.com).
There was the addition of a Hemi V8, which was a nice touch, to say the least. But the lack of design credentials took away from it. The Durango would get a small redesign in 2008 that smoothed things out a bit. Yet by that point in time, the SUV market had tanked and buyers were looking for something else.
The Journey was a CUV released by the Dodge brand in 2008. The problem was that Dodge has been using the same design for over a decade without changing things up. Overall, the Journey was terrible and cheaply designed. The power plant was lackluster at best, and the interior seating space was limited, to say the least (via Car and Driver).
The Journey did come in some unique trim options later down the road. But for the most part, the Journey fell flat in many areas. Consumers simply weren’t feeling the design of the Journey, and it showed.
The Colt was created in partnership with Mitsubishi, and it was a carbon copy of their Colt. The car didn’t have anything unique to offer. The compact design was a departure from the norm for Dodge. The brand hopes to appeal to compact car buyers who would otherwise frequent Toyota and Honda showrooms (via Car Gurus).
The Colt was underpowered, and the design of the car was cheap. There was nothing remotely appealing about the Colt. Most car shoppers went the other way and sought out other competitors. You will seldom see a Colt on the road anymore, and that is because most of them ended up rusting away.
The Daytona was different than other sports cars from this era. Dodge already sold the Stealth, but they needed a cheaper offering. The Daytona had many different incarnations over its production run. Perhaps the most appealing were the Shelby and IROC models (via Automobile Catalog).
GM had given up the naming rights for the IROC at the start of the 1990s, and Dodge scooped it up. Other than that, though the Daytona was an inexpensive car, there wasn’t much in the way of unique to make it stand out. The Daytona had a common design, and that was only magnified by the fact it was vastly underpowered.
The compact Shadow was another excuse for the company to try and put out a compact. Based on the K-Car platform, the Shadow was a shorter wheelbase version of what was already there. Aside from that, the Shadow was lacking in quality, and that was its downfall. The interior was reduced with plenty of cheap parts (via All Par).
The performance was lethargic at best and the lower-end models were unreliable. The Shadow was a small car, and you could tell just by looking at it. There was a rare Shelby model that stood out from the crowd, yet that was about it.
Dodge had a lot of two-doors during the 1990s, and the Avenger was one of them. Based on the Chrysler Sebring, the Avenger had many unique features. Most notable was the interestingly designed body, which didn’t look like anything else. But when it came down to the performance, the Avenger was nothing special (via KBB).
In fact, the car was nothing more than a Sebring coupe with a Dodge grill. Which meant you were paying a premium for something that essentially looked sporty, and that was it. The Avenger was every bit a letdown, like many Chrysler products were around this time. The brand was later revived with a new Avenger sedan.
There was a time when Dodge sold a lot of obscure-looking cars. The Monaco was one of these cars. This sedan was released from 90-92 as a stop-gap until the Intrepid hit dealership lots. The problem is Monaco didn’t fare well in terms of sales, and there were many more appealing cars on the road (via Edmunds).
It did have a unique look and spacious interior, but that was about it. Everywhere else, the car suffered from a lack of quality. To this day, Monaco is seldom seen on roads anymore. The build quality wasn’t good enough, and the design was ridiculous when you compare it to other models.
The Dynasty was a square-bodied sedan that didn’t look like anything else on the road. There is a good reason for that, as Chrysler was trying to appeal to luxury shoppers. The problem is that the Dynastic was not the luxury car that most hoped for. In fact, the Dynastic was undersized when compared to the competition (via Consumer Guide).
It also didn’t help things out that Chrysler sold a carbon clone of the car. The Dynasty seemed to sell well initially, but things tapered off once buyers knew of the car. There were much better options drivers could purchase for a lot less money.
The Stratus was the replacement for the Spirit, and it was better in every way. Chrysler had moved onto a modern design, which was an important step for the nameplate. But the Stratus still fell short in many areas, most notably the reliability. The Stratus was not the most reliable car, and repairs were expensive (via Repair Pal).
Dodge would attempt to supplement this with a redesign, but it never did revive the nameplate. In the eyes of consumers, the Stratus was merely a cheap domestic nameplate. The car was sold to rental fleets, and you’d see them everywhere. Surprisingly, there was a police-issued version of the Stratus that proved widespread in the South.
The Magnum was released after the Intrepid, and there was a lot of fanfare around it. Dodge was taking a gamble by releasing a wagon, but it proved well. Initially, the Magnum was a hot seller for the Dodge brand. Although things cooled off as time went on, the Magnum stopped selling (via Cars For Sale).
Still, the V8 power behind the Magnum was an interesting touch in 2005. Although most automakers had abandoned the idea of a wagon, Dodge decided to go all-in. The Magnum is a popular choice in the used car world because of the Hemi V8. The fun design is easy to build on, although one of the worst Dodges ever sold.
The Dakota Convertible is the only truck ever made to look like this. We’re not sure what the folks at Dodge expected. Apparently, someone thought it would be a good idea to cut the roof off of a Dakota. The end result looked strange, and the sales for the thing were never enough to justify the project (via Hagerty).
Nowadays, the Dakota Convertible has become a rarity on the road. Drivers flock toward these for their attractive design. But you can find a better compact truck for the price and make it custom how you would like it. There were issues with the convertible top leaking and the questionable build quality in general.
Having a sport sedan is a fine thing, and they can be fun to drive. But when Dodge decided to sell the Dodge Intrepid R/T, it was a bit of a letdown. Released in partnership with NASCAR, the Intrepid R/T had a lot of fanfare behind it. Indeed, the end result was the attractive car, to say the least, but that was about it (via Car and Driver).
The Intrepid R/T didn’t have any performance upgrades, there was no V8. There was nothing different about the car, other than a rear decklid and a nicer set of wheels. Dodge did their fans dirty with this one, and as such, the sales were disappointing. The Intrepid R/T is truly a blemish in the otherwise storied reputation of Dodge.