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Explosive Dodge M80 Concept Car - Off-Road Insider

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Posted June 1, 2002

Last month, we introduced Ford's latest concept truck, the F-350 Tonka. This month, we continue the concept truck theme and showcase Dodge's M80 Concept Truck. We guess it shouldn't be surprising that the company which manufactures the uniquely styled '02 Ram would introduce a thought-provoking futuristic truck with styling that builds - and goes way beyond - the trends set by the new Ram.

Much of the M80 Concept's styling came as a result of the vehicles that Chrysler Group Designer John Opfer drove during his early years, including a '70s Jeep Wagoneer and a Dodge Raider mini-truck. "I was always looking for a stylish, low-cost four-wheel-drive vehicle to accommodate ever-changing activities," says Opfer. "That is exactly what I had in mind while sketching the Dodge M80 Concept, which is geared toward active young people. I also looked to the '49 Dodge TC and the '41 Dodge WC for inspiration, creating a modernist interpretation of those classic Dodge trucks."

Dave McKinnon, Vice President for design at the Chrysler Group, added: "We found that one of the products that the market lacks for this group (young enthusiasts) is what they call '...a real hot-rod pickup truck, just for me, a friend, and our gear'." Thus, the M80 Concept followed that theme, "'s an in-your-face truck that is light, lean, and agile, with four-wheel drive and a powerful engine."

The styling of the Dodge M80 Concept boasts several standout design elements, including the satin-finish crosshair grille insert, the metallic-gray plastic fenders, and the integrated bumper and tow hooks. The fender vent vanes, the push-button door handles, the dual spin-off fuel-filler caps, and the large-diameter wheels and tires nicely enhance the M80's basic, chiseled body lines. Stylists didn't forget the M80's tail: An oversized, performance-tuned dual exhaust system and jewel-like round taillights complete the radical look.

Opfer charged Jeff Gale with the creation of a practical yet stylish M80 interior. "This concept asked for a no-frills, rugged, and durable interior," said Gale. "And it should offer unexpected and youthful features." Those design goals are why Detonator Yellow-colored sheetmetal and satin-silver plastic panels dominate the M80's interior, and features such as a center console that doubles as a portable cooler and removable seats for outdoor use make a strong showing. The interior also uses basic, easy-to-understand gauges and large rotary knobs for audio and HVAC systems, but adds accents in the form of billet-aluminum foot pedals.

The chassis isn't wild; rather, the M80 Concept Truck rides atop a Dodge Dakota frame, with front independent suspension and a solid rear axle. The use of existing Dodge components was intentional, making the M80 Concept easier and more affordable to build. Dodge did swap in Chrysler's all-new 3.7L V-6 engine and coupled it to the Dakota's existing five-speed manual gearbox and T-case.

"All of these features and the M80's functionality are what we expect millennial kids (active youngsters) to be looking for," said Dave McKinnon. "This truck is something totally new out of Detroit. The M80 offers style, utility, performance, and economy," continued McKinnon.

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