Chrysler’s Mopar brand, launched on 11 August 1937 as a shortened form of the words “Motor Parts”, celebrates its 80th birthday in 2017, marking an amazing history extending over eight decades. First introduced as the name of a line of antifreeze products, the Mopar brand has since transformed to encompass total service, parts and customer care for FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) vehicle owners around the globe.
After its introduction in 1937, the Mopar brand quickly began to stand for more than just antifreeze. The brand made a name for itself in the muscle-car era of the 1960s, cementing a legacy on the streets and at the dragstrip that, by decade’s end, would have owners referring to their vehicles as Mopar cars.
In 1937, six years after the creation of the Chrysler Motors Parts Corporation plant at the corporate complex in Michigan, an in-house team of marketing experts was asked to invent a name for the antifreeze used in Chrysler cars. Mopar was that name.
The war years in the 1940s saw Mopar and Chrysler shift production to military parts, weapons and vehicles. Like all major American manufacturers, resources were dedicated to victory in World War II.
By mid-decade, after the war, Mopar moved into a building on Jefferson Avenue in Detroit, and soon after in 1947, the Master Tech training program was launched to give Chrysler technicians the best skills possible.
With the birth of the HEMI engine, Chrysler Group racecars hit racetracks, launching the high-performance theme that would soon set the tone for the next “personality” of the Mopar brand.
As the 1960s progressed, so did Mopar. Electrical items and glass products were added to the Mopar parts line, and racing was becoming the measure of production cars. Chrysler introduced the 1962-1964 Max Wedge performance engines and package cars, and America’s love for horsepower took off.
Meanwhile, a group of Chrysler engineers calling themselves the Ramchargers had been working nights and weekends to make their project cars faster at the track. The high-performance parts they developed led to the Mopar Direct Connection brand of racing parts. Direct Connection parts were first given only to professional racers, but later sold to anyone who wanted to dominate at the track.
Winning at the track meant sales in the showroom, and Chrysler and its package cars were winners. The ultimate racing engine, the 426 HEMI, took tracks by storm in 1964, followed by a takeover of the streets with the 426 Street HEMI in 1966.
By the late ’60s and early ’70s, proud Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth performance enthusiasts had adopted the word Mopar to describe any and all of their vehicles. And the competition learned to fear the name.
The 1970s and 1980s led to many changes in the auto industry with tightening emissions controls, gas shortages and the end of the muscle-car era. The Direct Connection line of Mopar performance parts was launched for all performance enthusiasts, not just racers, and was later changed to Mopar Performance to capitalise on the strong Mopar heritage.
In 1987, Chrysler had purchased the assets of American Motors and the Jeep brand came into the family, resulting in the addition of Jeep parts and accessories to the expanding Mopar portfolio.
By the time the new millennium rolled in, training and technology were keywords at Mopar. The era also ushered in an updated design of the Mopar Omega M logo, cylinders fired on the new Gen III HEMI engine and Mopar deepened its motorsports participation.
Mopar stayed busy, working on technological innovations designed to improve the customer experience. A number of industry firsts were introduced, including the first smartphone vehicle-information apps for owners, and wiTECH, a dealer software diagnosis programme used by Mopar technicians to simplify the repair process.
In 2008, paying homage to its performance heritage, Mopar introduced its first factory-built “package car” in 40 years, called the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak. The 100 package cars sold out quickly, and new Drag Pak models sold out in subsequent years.
In 2010, the brand produced the first of an ongoing series of limited-edition factory vehicles, the Mopar ’10 Challenger. Production was limited to 500 of the vehicles, modified at the factory with Mopar parts and accessories. Other low-run, factory-produced Mopar rides would follow: the Mopar ’11 Charger, Mopar ’12 300, Mopar ’13 Dart, Mopar ’14 Challenger, Mopar ’15 Dodge Charger R/T and Mopar ’16 Ram Rebel.
From its birth 80 years ago, Mopar now serves customers in more than 150 markets, provides total customer care and offers a portfolio of more than 500,000 parts and accessories – a long journey from its humble origins as an antifreeze brand.
General Motors’ Chevy Camaro turns 50 in 2017.