The History of Mopar: From the Beginning to Today

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What started as a clever way to give antifreeze a brand name became one of the most recognized automotive powerhouses ever.

Mopar is the OEM parts and service division of the former Chrysler Corporation. The term comes from the words “motor” and “parts” to form “Mopar.” Today, it is the generally recognized term for any part or vehicle made by Chrysler (Dodge, Ram, Chrysler, Plymouth, Desoto, or Jeep).

Recently, Dodge announced it would make the last Hemi engine ever. I don’t know what your reaction was, but the announcement saddened me. As more car companies move to electric (and it is essential that they do), I couldn’t help but feel that a little piece of my Mopar heart died. It’s not that I’m not excited to see what Mopar has to offer in the way EVs and the new speed records a battery-powered motor is likely to set, I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye to my favorite engine. I mean, look at the legacy the Hemi leaves. Born in the rich tradition of Mopar racing and muscle cars, this engine will be missed. I thought it might be fun to get nostalgic and peruse some Mopar history in honor of their recent announcement. How did it all get started? Let’s look at the Mopar performance parts legacy as we say goodbye to a dear friend and hope for a better tomorrow.

Table of Contents


Mopar Had Humble Beginnings

When Walter Chrysler formed his company in the mid-20s from the reorganization of the defunct Maxwell Motor Company, he aimed to make a car with modern technology but do so at an affordable price. His first car, the Chrysler 70, had innovative functions like a high-compression engine, oil filter, carburetor, and hydraulic braking systems. The next year, there were three more divisions or marques, Plymouth, Dodge, and Desoto, each designed to win over a specific market segment.

The cars (not just Chryslers, but everyone) kept breaking down. Soon, the Chrysler Motor parts corporation began supplying parts to help customers keep their cars running. (Families were struggling during the Depression). One area that Chrylser developed was a new antifreeze. The only problem was they didn’t know what to name it, and they wanted to market it so it would sell.

Chrysler debated about what to call the new product when an internal council suggested a mashup of the words “Motor” and “parts” to produce “MoPar.” (The term ChryCo was also in the running). The name was used on the sides of the cans of Chrysler antifreeze, and the stuff worked pretty well. The antifreeze was a success, and it wasn’t long before Mopar’s catalog began to grow as it offered waxes and cleaners, among other items.

Mopar Supports The War Effort

The Mopar brand and Chrysler, in particular, shifted their production lines to help the war effort. Chrysler made aircraft engines, tanks, parts, and ammunition for the military. Dodge made parts and trucks (over 400k) for use by the military during the war. Desoto made the nose and fuselages for the final assembly of the B-26 Maurader medium bombers.

Mopar Sets Its Sight To Expansion

The Mopar brand continued to expand in the years following World War II. Immediately following the war, Mopar issued a catalog of parts that was nearly 275 pages long. In 1953, Mopar introduced its first parts store in Centerline, Michigan. The original store was designed almost like a library, where parts for every conceivable piece of Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth, or Desoto vehicles could be found. The Centerline complex is still open today, and it employs over 1,300 employees and ships more than 16.5 million parts a year.

Mopar Gets “High And Mighty”

As the 1950s progressed, the desire for larger engines and more power became more relevant. Motor racing became more popular than ever before. A group of Chrysler engineers (who also loved to race) formed a club and called themselves the RamChargers. Their first car was a 1949 Plymouth Coupe called “The High and Mighty.” The Ramchargers equipped the car with a 353 Hemi, which was the strongest V8 at the time, did lots of modifications, and took it to the track.

The High and Mighty set NHRA records for both speed in the quarter mile and elapsed time. The fastest quarter-mile recorded for the car was 11.8 seconds at 117 mph. The car was parted out after the 1960 racing season.

Mopar And The RamChargers Keep Racing

As the early sixties dawned, the same group of RamChargers began working on their next project, taking a Max Wedge engine and designing it to race on the track. The team used a cross-induction system to equip their cars. The early Candymatics Ramchargers (named for their vibrant red and white paint schemes) were Max Wedge engines that ran on the strip. In 1963, a pair of them went on a national tour, racing each other and anyone else at sites across the country. In addition, the Ramchargers founded a performance company, Direct Connection, which was renamed Mopar Performance Parts. The company began mail ordering parts to gearheads itching to power their cars to match the speeds they saw on the track.

Mopar Loves The Hemi

In 1964, Chrysler brought back the Hemi engine and designed it exclusively for racing applications. The high-performance engine produces 425 hp and is an instant hit in NASCAR and NHRA events. Richard Petty wins the 1964 Daytona (the first ever), and 426 Hemi cars finish 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th. The engine would be banned for 1965 due to the fact that Plymouth had not made the Hemi available to the general public, but the company corrected the issue for ‘66 with a “Street Hemi” that could be purchased at a local dealer. Over the next several years, the Hemi engine would power many drag cars, like Dick Landy’s 68 Dodge, Ronnie Sox and Martin’s 70 ‘Hemi ‘Cuda, and Don Prudhomme’s Hot Wheels ‘Hemi ‘Cuda in 1970. Buddy Baker would go on to be the first car to break 200 mph in a Hemi-engine Charger Daytona, and Richard Petty would cement his legacy by winning time after time behind the wheel of a No 43 Plymouth Hemi-powered race car.

Mopar Grows In the 80s/90s

The Mopar brand continued to grow in the late eighties with the acquisition of Jeep, AMC, and Eagle brands. While Jeep might have been the only one of the three to survive to the present day, the acquisition increased Mopar’s part inventory significantly and improved its sales. In addition, Mopar committed to focus on service technician training in the 90s by developing the Mopar College Automotive Program. Currently, there are over 100 colleges that Mopar has partnered with to develop future technicians for their service centers.

Mopar Enters A New Century

Mopar continued its commitment to improving the customer experience by developing Mopar Express Lane in 2008 and harnessing new technology with its first service app in 2012.

Mopar resurrected its commitment to the muscle car era by reintroducing the Challenger and Charger in 2008. The cars were equipped with revamped Hemi engines, and in 2009, Dodge brought out the Challenger SRT Drag Pack, with a limited production of 100 vehicles.

In 2007, a ‘71 Hemi ‘Cuda Convertible with a 4-speed manual transmission sold for $2.2 million. (In 2014, another one sold for $3.5 million). They are considered to be the rarest Mopar muscle car on the market.

Mopar Is Still Busy Today

The Mopar brand is still active and busier than ever. Over the years, the Challenger and Charger have led the way with their ever-increasing horsepower. In 2018, The Dodge Challenger SRT Demon was equipped with a supercharged 6.2 Hemi engine, producing 840 hp and 797 lb-ft of torque. And it was fast, doing 0 - 60 mph in 2.3 seconds. The car was a limited production model with only 3300 units manufactured.

In 2023, Dodge announced the end of the Hemi engine, with the last rendition of the Dodge Charger and Challenger (at least one with an ICE). The 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170 has a 6.2 Hemi engine, which produces over 1,025 hp and has a 0 - 60 time of 1.6 seconds. The cars have already sold out for the year, so if you missed your chance, you’ll have to wait to see if one shows up on the used car lot. (We guess that it doesn’t).

Mopar looks forward to developing electric vehicles and continuing to provide parts and services for car enthusiasts everywhere. The future seems bright as customers wait for the exciting line of vehicles that future years will bring. Since we don't have access to official Mopar parts channels, here’s hoping for another long legacy as Mopar continues its journey forward.