The Dodge Brothers did not actually build a truck until World War I, and it was really a panel van and not a pickup. It did have half-ton capacity and featured a 35 horsepower (gross) four cylinder engine. With the deaths of the Dodge brothers in 1920, the Graham Brothers started selling 1-1/2 ton pickups through Dodge dealers. They featured Graham bodies with Dodge parts. It was not till the late 1920s that a one ton model showed up and it was still powered by that same four cylinder engine. The Dodge Company bought a controlling interest in Graham Brothers in 1925 and picked up the rest in 1926.
Walter Chrysler purchased the Dodge Brothers company in 1928, just after it had launched the DeSoto and Fargo truck brands, which competed directly with the Dodge Brothers. Fargo trucks were sold in the US from 1928 through 1930, and continued for decades as an export brand. They had nothing in common with Dodge trucks, sharing parts with Plymouth and DeSoto instead. Dodge introduced a half-ton pickup for 1929 just after its acquisition by Chrysler, which was the last "original" Dodge Brothers-designed truck. For this year, three engines were available - two Dodge engines (63 and 78 hp six cylinders), and a Maxwell four cylinder that was substantially smaller than the Dodge engine, but produced more power. The trucks had four wheel hydraulic brakes, a significant safety feature by no means standard on competing pickups. For 1933, Chrysler engineered the Dodge replacement truck and equipped them with Chrysler Corporation engines across the board, borrowing from Plymouth, DeSoto, and Chrysler, but modified them for better durability. The six cylinder engine was the flat-head six used in Plymouths, which continued through 1960. The 1933 Dodge trucks were designated HC; the second letter, C, remained up until World War II, culminating in the WC. In 1936, Dodge entered the large truck arena. Those models were given the designation D, as in MD.
The new 1936 D trucks brought "Fore-Point load distribution" – like Cab Forward, in that the front axles were moved forward so they carried more weight, increasing stability and decreasing overall length. In addition, a modern truck-style frame was adopted in half-ton pickups for the first time whereas previous models, like competitors, used car chassis. Moving the engine and cab forward increased the usable bed space. The six cylinder engine was unchanged, producing 70 horsepower from 201 cubic inches, coupled to an optional synchronized three-speed manual floor shift. Performance was aided by using steep rear axle ratios. The 3/4 and one-ton pickups stayed in production, moving to the new platform, and selling for the same price as the big truck.
1937 saw the introduction of a "safe" instrument panel, so nothing was sticking out to stab the driver during a crash. It also saw a new 3/4 and one ton truck series, which shared the same styling as the half-ton trucks, but with two available wheelbases. The six cylinder engine was expanded to 218 cubic inches, producing 75 horsepower. 1939 brought a complete redesign, with streamlined styling. After that, prewar changes started. In 1940, engineering started on a military four wheel drive truck, leading to the first stock light-duty four wheel drive pickup in 1946; these were made in a new, massive truck plant. Dodge also made their first diesel truck, using their own diesel engines. While some competitors upgraded their smaller, lighter vehicles to create two-ton-and-up models, Dodge made many more changes to make their bigger trucks tougher and more durable, thus adding to their reputation of durability. In 1939, Dodge introduced the concept of Job Rated. This was no gimmick or styling exercise. It was aimed at getting the customer the truck that fit the job that he was buying it for. Dodge Truck production lines barely stopped as military orders poured in. Since Dodge had established itself as a durable four wheel drive combination in 1934, for the war effort they built some 255,195 T model military trucks. This chassis became the basis for the largely unchanged civilian version called the Power Wagon. The 1939 styling continued through 1947. These were job rated as WC for 1/2 ton and WD for one ton. Not to be left out were the Dodge Power Ram trucks, which came with pickup beds. These were not part of the regular progression of Dodge pickups, but rather from the military efforts. These legendary tough trucks directly descended from the design parameters used to handle China's horrific Burma Road.
At the same time that Dodge was selling the tough, relatively unchanging Power Wagons, they also moved to meet customer tastes with styling and comfort features. So in 1948 Dodge created a styling studio for trucks. This studio brought the "pilot house" styling with the B-1 model. These were popular, well-thought-out and very stylish small trucks. Now, even the big trucks looked good. These postwar B-trucks were introduced at the same time as GM and Ford pickups, yet managed to beat both those larger companies in sales. Just like the 1993 Ram, which also leapfrogged GM and Ford, the B-series had a superior cab with taller seats and larger glass areas. Rear quarter windows became optional to avoid other blind spots. The front axles, wheels, and engine also moved, shifting payload to the front axle so the truck could carry more on the same axle and springs. Dodge took advantage of their increased capacity by deepening the cargo boxes.
In addition, cross steering was introduced, allowing for much tighter turns; and longer springs and shocks made the ride more comfortable while improving handling. Many favor these trucks because of their appearance, as well; while the 1993 and newer Rams took many cues from big rigs, they also resemble the B series in many ways. The B series continued through 1953. After that, was the 1954- 1956 C series which featured V-8 engines. The thoroughly modern lightweight, compact 241 cubic inch Power-Dome V-8 engine featured overhead valves, 145 horsepower and 215 lb/ft of gross torque at only 2,400 rpm. It was optional equipment for all light-duty trucks. The dependable Dodge L-head 218-inch, 100 horsepower six continued as standard equipment for half- and 3/4-ton models. The 230-inch, 110 horsepower L-head six was the standard engine for one-ton trucks. C-Series trucks featured all-new modern styling. The cab sat lower on the frame for easier entry and exit and featured vastly increased glass areas for excellent driver visibility. The single piece curved windshield was a modern styling touch.