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, "...it'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.
Mercedes' '04 M-Class
Although the current generation of Mercedes' M-Class wonder trucks remain state-of-the-off-road-art, DaimlerChrysler designers aren't resting - the next generation of M-Class has been spotted undergoing testing by the lens of Brenda Priddy & Company. Shown heavily disguised and undergoing cold-weather testing in Sweden, the new M-Class will feature unibody construction, optional computer-controlled air suspension, and a sophisticated brake-by-wire braking system.
Power for the five-seat M-Class will include the 3.0L (231 hp) or 3.6L (258 hp) V-6s and a pair of V-6 diesels with 190 hp (2.6L) or 218 hp (3.0L). When production gets up to full speed, DaimlerChrysler will introduce a 5.0L V-8 with 300 hp for the new SUV; if you have money to burn, AMG will build a special M-Class with a 5.5L 350hp V-8 under the hood. As with the current M-Class, the new Mercedes will be built in Tuscaloosa, Alabama - AMG versions will be shipped to Germany for installation of the AMG performance goodies, and then sent back to the USA for sale.
Automakers Seek Changes To Instrument Panel Control Regulations
As most enthusiasts would reason, the government places regulations on every part and segment of the vehicles we drive. While some of these regulations have stood the test of time and remain viable despite advances in technology, many regulations are outdated and could use an update to take advantage of current high-tech designs.
Such is the case with instrument panel controls. The existing government regulation requires automakers to place a label or symbol identifying a control "...on or adjacent to the control." The 30-year-old rule creates clutter on a modern vehicle's dashboard and can cause driver confusion, according to automakers. An alliance of 13 automakers is requesting that the federal rules governing the design of controls be revised so the industry can take greater advantage of advances in the electronics industry. Basically, the automakers want the rule to read: "...the identification of a control be visible to a seated and restrained driver".
When you think of it, requiring that controls be labeled near the actual control isn't always a good idea. Placing the control images on a small remote screen or in the center of the dash pod makes better sense than having the control images scattered about the dash face.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into the automakers' request for rule changes, and we will know later this year if automakers will be permitted to design dash layouts with remote status images.
|3.7L 90-degree V-6 with alloy cylinder heads |
|210 hp and 235 lb-ft torque |
|Five-speed manual/two-speed transfer case |
with Low- and High-range
|Steel, body-on-frame design |
|IFS with upper and lower A-arms; torsion |
bars; gas-charged dampers; antisway bar
(front); solid axle with two-stage leaf springs;
gas-charged dampers (rear)
|20x9-inch alloy/P265/50R20 Goodyear |
|Length: ||166.5 in |
|Width: ||64.2 in |
|Height: ||66.4 in |
|Wheelbase: ||112 in |
|Track width: ||60.5 in (front & rear) |
|Ground clearance: ||9.7 in |
|Bed length: ||5 ft |
|Weight: ||2,500 lb (estimated) |