Mopar® Dodge Lowliner Concept to Debut at SEMA
Each year around this time,our friends at Mopar® invite us to the Design Dome located in the FCA North America complex outside Detroit to show us their latest creations. Here, the FCA designers take us through some very cool concepts that include current production vehicles and even some iconic vintage Mopar iron that has been resurrected. In the dome, we see cool custom vehicles the team has built that will soon be on display in Mopar’s 15,000-square-foot SEMA Show exhibit during the week-long event in Las Vegas. For Mopar, it’s like show ‘n tell just before the aftermarket industry’s premiere trade show. Held in the massive Las Vegas Convention Center, it’s hard to describe if you haven’t attended SEMA. It’s like a candy store for gearheads like us with over-the-top custom cars, trucks, Jeep® Brand vehicles and other things that motivate this billion-dollar industry. With over 162,000 attendees and 2,400 exhibiting companies, the SEMA Show should be on your bucket list if you claim to be a car junkie who has high-octane fuel pumping though your veins.
While everything Mopar touches is cool, one vehicle they showed made us stop dead in our tracks and say “woah!” It was a stunning vintage Dodge D200 pickup truck lowered to the ground and painted in “Candied Delmonico Red” with a touch of “Dairy Cream.” It grabbed our eyeballs, and if the paint and mean stance weren’t cool enough, the custom-designed “smoothie” wheels looked like stamped steel wheel units from another era and had us spinning in our tracks. Even though we dig all things Mopar, including vintage trucks, the air suspension had the D200 practically slammed on the ground when it was parked in the styling dome and had us gawking all over this beast.
When Joe Dehner, head of Ram Truck and Mopar Design, and his cohort, Jeremy Rolfs, Lead Creative Product Designer – Mopar Brand, opened the custom power-tilt front end that had been crafted on the D200, our head exploded. Instead of using the truck’s original 383 big block and 727 automatic transmission, Dehner and Rolfs had their team procure a 5.9-liter Cummins 24-valve Turbo-Diesel engine and six-speed manual transmission to install between the truck’s frame rails. Now, the Mopar Lowliner Concept has the low end grunt to match its awesome good looks and stunning paint job. “When it came time to power this thing, we wanted to do something different. We’ve seen [SRT®] Hellcat and 392 HEMI® crate engines in many builds to date, but we wanted to come up with a cool story. So we grabbed a service engine from Cummins, reinforced the frame and boxed it in, made a custom K-Member, and added independent front suspension,” said Jeremy.
Being different is an understatement when it comes to the Mopar Lowliner Concept truck. The fact it’s two-wheel drive and not some Monster Truck that requires a step ladder to get into is quite a change from the usual assortment of massive rigs one sees at the SEMA Show.
“We wanted to do something that would really represent the Dodge truck history. We’ve seen numerous 1940s and ’50s era Power Wagons customized and done up on quite a few occasions. So we thought about what other cool trucks did we have in the lineup throughout the decades,” said Jeremy. “We decided to pay some love to the Dodge Sweptline trucks that were made from 1961 to 1971. We in the design studio felt the 1968 model looked best, so we went out and found one. It had the cleanest grille and we felt the execution of doing a slammed truck would be great.”
The search was on for a donor for the Mopar Lowliner Concept and soon a 1968 Dodge D200 Camper Special was located. It may have started life as a humble three-quarter-ton work truck whose origins were traced to Washington state, but that quickly changed when Joe and Jeremy got their hands on it. The old D200 was a clean truck when the FCA design team began its transformation. With no rust and just a little patina to show its age, this D200 was the perfect canvas to start from. The design team went through the truck to see what they could preserve, which was most of the items except for the bed floor, which had been changed at one time. The FCA fabricators installed the bed floor out of a current Ram 1500 in the D200 and it looks right at home.
On the inside of the Mopar Lowliner Concept, the original bench seat got covered in an orange-amber Blazing Saddle (love the movie reference!) tan leather with a distressed look. They even addressed the D200’s utilitarian steel door interior panels and added the same tan leather treatment that includes a padded armrest. The FCA designers also created a leather headliner with the Mopar Omega M logo stitched into it. The guys also went on eBay and found a NOS (New Old Stock) 1968 steering wheel with the original Dodge fratzog emblem on the horn ring cap. Because of the modern engine transplant, the instrumentation had to be reworked to include seven custom Mopar gauges mounted to an “engine turned” aluminum panel. Even the floor-mounted shifter is topped by a cool translucent metal-flake retro shift ball with the Cummins logo.
On the outside, the FCA designers held nothing back and took some liberties by widening the wheel wells to accommodate the massive 285/35-22 front tires and 325/35-22 rear tires. The designers also cleaned up the exterior by streamlining or eliminating certain items such as door handles, badging, fuel-filler cap and radio antenna. Sitting where the original headlamps were once housed are seven-inch LED headlamps that really enhance the looks when illuminated. Out back, the Mopar Lowliner Concept features custom tail lights with integrated backup lights, reinforcing the modern take on a classic truck. The Mopar Omega M logo has been ghosted onto the front fenders and a vintage Dodge graphic is ghosted onto the truck’s tailgate.
To give the Mopar Lowliner that “in-your-face” look, the team went ahead and moved the front axle three inches forward on the frame, pushing the front wheels closer to the front corners of the truck to achieve better proportions. And if you’re going to “slam” a truck, a custom three-mode air suspension was installed in the front and rear axles. Speaking of axles, the Mopar Lowliner has a bulletproof Dana axle that turns the rear wheels.
For Joe and Jeremy, the Mopar Lowliner Concept will always stand out and it’s just one of many reasons the guys and gals in the FCA Design Studios enjoy coming into work every day.
Check out more pics of the Mopar Lowliner Concept truck!