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The Meaning of Mopar

It Wasn't Always About Power

Jim Maxwell - December 01, 2011 10:00 AM

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This is the original logo for the Chrysler Motor Parts Division that was used from 1933-’36. The D is for “Dodge,” the P is for “Plymouth,” the C is for “Chrysler” and the other D is for “DeSoto.” Because there were Imperial models in the Chrysler line between the years 1933-’36, some historians believe the long “I” as seen on the oversized P letter was a way to include the use of the Imperial in the logo. Even though this DPCD logo was replaced with the MoPar insignia, the lettering remained on bolt heads and other items such as fan blades, manifolds, etc. for a number of years of Chrysler vehicle production.

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This early “MoPar Power Punch Piston Rings” ad appeared in Motor Magazine from the 1940s, featuring the words “buy war bonds” and a message to “replace parts only when necessary” and the logo dates the ad somewhere around 1948 (based on Chrysler records of logos used).

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 Factory quality control was the basic theme used in this late 1940s-early 1950s MoPar ad talking about the company’s polarized light that is used for metal testing of MoPar replacement parts. Dodge trucks of this era were marketed as “Job-Rated” trucks as listed in the brand breakdowns.

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Featuring a 1950 Plymouth stopped at a school crosswalk and the notification that October is MoPar Brake System Check-Up Month, this re-hued ad encourages Chrysler vehicle owners to make sure to use factory-engineered Cyclebond brake shoes and linings when they visit their MoPar dealer. 

 

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The artsy ad ran in the August 15, 1953 edition of the Saturday Evening Post and stated that the MoPar sign leads to where your car will get the best service and also to “make it a practice to ask for MoPar parts and accessories by name.” Interestingly, the logo in this August ‘53 ad placement is the new-for-1954 logo but with 1953 examples of Chrysler vehicles.

 

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Dated November 28, 1953, this MoPar Parts ad said that “Chrysler takes care of its own” and suggested that readers always ask for MoPar for owners of its cars and trucks. “Look for this sign. You’ll find it displayed, almost everywhere, by thousands of Plymouth, Dodge, De Soto and Chrysler dealers and many general service and repair shops.”

 

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Depicting two men admiring the big and bold “MoPar Parts” sign attached to a Chrysler dealership, this March 20, 1954 ad tells the reader that the MoPar sign is their guide to satisfaction. “Be certain of the best with MoPar!”

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Promoting various MoPar products such as bottles of the “MoPar Kar Klean” cleaning solution that was said to amazingly clean away stains, spots, and dirt like magic, this full-page automotive trade ad ran in April 1955. Parts countermen were told to be on the lookout for an influx of customers that were going to visit their place of business as a result of full-page consumer ads that MoPar had placed. The readers were made aware that April was officially “MoPar Car-Care Month!” The lovely lass in the photo seems to be cleaning away a ½-inch layer of heavy dust with a sponge from the front seat of a Chrysler product of the era.

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“Going North, South, East or West? Drive Carefree with a MoPar Checkup!” This 1955 ad hyping the MoPar Parts Division shows a rather happy family in their new 1955 Plymouth Hardtop with the message “Wherever you go, there’s MoPar.”

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In 1962, Peter Dawson, an employee of the Marine and Industrial Engine Division, came up with the idea of placing a mail-order ad as a means of reaching out to consumers who wanted to learn about and buy factory-engineered high-performance parts for Chrysler engines.

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During 1965, car magazine ads were placed by the factory promoting the Dodge Ramchargers. While the crew was icing down a mighty 1965 A990 race Hemi engine, there appeared some fan wearing a “MoPar” T-shirt and this ad helped jump-start the use of the MoPar word to promote Chrysler high-performance vehicles in general.

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In the late months of 1967, somebody in the promotions department at MoPar arranged for curvaceous hostess Judi (from the Detroit Playboy Club) to use a windage tray for Chrysler big block engines as a drink holder in the club. The sheet metal tray restricts oil foaming and was good for 10 extra horsepower in dynamometer tests. Cost? Just $1.95 and it requires two pan gaskets.

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Running one of the rare 1968 Hemi Barracuda Super Stock package cars in the SS/A Automatic class, Colorado-based Judy Lilly ran out of NHRA Division 5, and was always a contender on the track with her quick reactions and husband Dennis Mauer’s Hemi-engine building talents. The pictured car is circa-1973 after she obtained sponsorship from Chrysler as “Miss Mighty Mopar”.

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Don Carlton is boiling the hides of the Mopar Missile Pro Stock Duster from the 1973 racing season. This car was constructed by Ron Butler and was a test car for Chrysler and fitted with data sensors during test sessions. It also received a great deal of aerodynamic testing (using cotton tufts attached to the car and high speed photography on rented drag strips). Even though there was a lot of R&D done with the car, it also was raced competitively and won the NHRA SummerNationals plus IHRA events it was entered in.

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In order to race with cars that represented the production versions available in the showrooms, Mopar put “Miss Mighty Mopar” Judy Lilly in current-year 360ci Duster in 1974 and she was successful with the small-block powered car by winning the ’75 NHRA GatorNationals and the NHRA FallNationals.

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A trio of messages in the 1959 MoPar consumer ads that ran in various mainstream American publications, promoting visits to the “MoPar Man” with your Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler or Imperial cars or Dodge Truck for service to the vehicle. It seems the point that was being driven hard was to see your MoPar Man often! “He’s a good man to call on anytime.”

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A trio of messages in the 1959 MoPar consumer ads that ran in various mainstream American publications, promoting visits to the “MoPar Man” with your Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler or Imperial cars or Dodge Truck for service to the vehicle. It seems the point that was being driven hard was to see your MoPar Man often! “He’s a good man to call on anytime.”

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A trio of messages in the 1959 MoPar consumer ads that ran in various mainstream American publications, promoting visits to the “MoPar Man” with your Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler or Imperial cars or Dodge Truck for service to the vehicle. It seems the point that was being driven hard was to see your MoPar Man often! “He’s a good man to call on anytime.”

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Mopar is a commonly used word in today’s motorsports and high-performance car scenes, but the origins of the term Mopar had absolutely nothing to do with high horsepower or checkered flags.

Chrysler was a young and growing company in the 1920s. It had bought out the Dodge car company in 1928 and the need for a dedicated parts supplier led to the formation of the Chrysler Motor Parts Division.

As the company continued to grow, Motor Parts Division featured a simple logo with the letters C, D, D and P (Chrysler, Dodge, De Soto and Plymouth) from the years 1933 to 1937.

Nelson L. Farley, a sales promotion manager, decided there had to be a better way of promoting the replacement parts. An “Activities Council” was created. Company records show the results of the Activities Council came to light in the spring of 1937. The group came up with “MoPar,” (a simple contraction of the words MOtor and PARts). The first order of business was coming up with a logo to put the name on cans of antifreeze.

The first MoPar logo was oval and used yellow and red. The new logo and the new name were a big move forward in communicating to the customers. If you needed something for a Chrysler product and got it from the garage that sells the vehicles, it came marked as a MoPar item.

The original brand and trademark logo remained the same from 1937 to 1947. It was slightly changed in 1948. The second logo did not change for six years. MoPar parts were still factory replacement items, nothing more and nothing less.

The release of the Chrysler Hemi engines in the early 1950s and the discovery by racers about how much power they developed started changing the landscape. A Chrysler employee named Brian L. Schram became involved in distributing MoPar parts to racers.

NASCAR racers needed a supply of parts. Racing greats like driver Lee Petty and owner Carl Kiekhaefer received parts, so it was important that they get the correct parts in a timely manner. If the factory made some improvement in the design or construction of the components, the racers got them and Schram got a reputation as the guy that could get it done.

The 1960s saw Schram become more and more involved in supplying parts to racers. The introduction of the new 413ci “Max Wedge” engines saw the Chrysler Corporation active in motorsports circles. This activity was encouraged by company president Lynn Townsend. His (Townsend’s) teenaged sons had told him Dodges and Plymouths were not considered “cool” cars on the boulevard by the youth market (this was circa 1961). Pontiac was the big player for those that knew and understood horsepower. Townsend wanted that to change.

The story of the MoPar division and its impact into the world of high-performance takes a twist, thanks to the “Marine and Industrial Engine Division.”

Peter Dawson worked as an engineer of the Marine and Industrial Division. Dawson was active with fast cars. Marine and Industrial was where the special 413 mills were built and eventually distributed to the racers.

Dawson knew that street warriors would also want to get their hands on these hot 413ci engines. He started to think about getting the message to regular guys. He brainstormed the idea of running a mail-order type ad in a popular magazine to get the word out.

Dawson remembered, “There were a number of unique parts for the 413 drag race engine — the camshaft, the chrome valve covers, the two four-barrel manifold, headers, windage tray, a lotta stuff. I told them I needed to run an ad and I needed a little brochure. He called over the controller, a nice guy named Ken Templin. Ken wanted to know how we were going to pay for all this. I said, ‘Well, I’m going to charge a quarter for the brochure.’ He thought that was OK, but wanted to know what was going to happen to those quarters.”

In the meantime, the magazine got wind of these new engines and made the trip from California to Michigan to check out the new line. The visit resulted in a color cover shot of one of the highly detailed display engines.

Timing is everything. The ad drew a great response from the readers. As soon as that issue hit the stands, the postman entered the offices of the Marine and Industrial Division with a duffel bag full of letters of requests for that brochure: “Maximum Performance Packages” and along with them were the quarters — lots and lots of quarters!

“We had all the parts made up in groups, so that when a guy ordered a valve cover he also got a valve cover gasket and the chrome nuts and everything he needed. MoPar didn’t do things that way at the time. Now, we knew what he needed — and we were going to give instant service.”

In 1964, the word MoPar was changed to “Mopar” and the roundish Greek-type Omega M was added to the brand identification.

By the time 1968 rolled around, the Mopar “Performance Parts Service” was fully established and their “man in the know” was one of the original Ramchargers members: Dick Maxwell. He was the chief technical advisor for PPS and was assisted by Dave Koffel. Jerry Gross handled the PR and everywhere you looked Mopar was getting media play.

Guys like Richard Petty, Dick Landy, Sox & Martin and others were winning with Dodge and Plymouth race cars. On the streets, Road Runners, Chargers, Barracudas, Darts and Super Bees were running stoplight-to-stoplight action. Mopar started to mean more than just the name on the box; it had become slang for any car that was a product of Chrysler.

As the 1970s came, the catalog printed for these high-performance factory parts (and factory-approved parts) was called Hustle Stuff. They were geared at the dealership level, written for the countermen in the parts departments to deal with inquisitive parts buyers who wanted to get more performance out of their big block, small block, Hemi or Slant Six Dodge or Plymouth.

The opening page in the 1969 Hustle Stuff parts book read: “To help you sell performance parts, here are some excellent methods of modifying Chrysler, Plymouth or Dodge engines. Section I contains less extensive modifications, which will enable the owner to compete in sanctioned drag racing, but will retain the basic driving characteristics. In the words of the performance buff, the car will be still be ‘streetable.’ In Section II are more extensive modifications. These will further increase power for sanctioned drag racing, but will make the car totally inappropriate for street use. Chrysler Performance Engineers have evaluated these procedures in the field and laboratory as part of a continuing performance program. The actual results, of course, are the individual owner’s responsibility.”

It did not take much to read between the lines. A lot of street racers were buying Mopar parts to gain speed and performance. While the racing was great for exposure, the real reason for motorsports was to help sell cars. A lot of the hot cars on the streets were Chrysler products, with eager owners who wanted to burn even more rubber! Chrysler didn’t endorse street racing, but reality was what it was, and there was lots of street action going on.

The Mopar Chrysler Parts Division was making lots of waves in racing circles. There was still one guy, Brian Schram, who wanted to take it to the next level: offer a direct-connection to the consumer for them to get all the go-fast parts for Chrysler cars just like the factory-backed racers.

Schram stated that the performance parts program they had then was “essentially a speed shop”. There was a time when they used a slogan at the Lynch Road Garage that ran along the lines to “call these guys to get your direct connection to the company.” In other words, a real connection to the people that were supplying all the good parts that were used by the hero racers that were winning so much in the NHRA, AHRA, NASCAR and other forms of racing.

The name stuck and thus came the “Mopar: Direct Connection” Special Parts program. It was an instant hit with the customers that wanted these parts for their Mopar cars. The Chrysler Kit Car Program was launched around the same time (1974) and that consisted of a complete short-track circuit race car (with Dodge Challenger and Dart bodies available) using 340ci small blocks for power — a complete race car available through a special catalog and sold through Petty Enterprises. Chrysler and Mopar were making it easy to access the right parts to build racecars and enhance street machines.

Next month, the modern era.

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