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by Patrick Rall
Since the Ram Rebel was shown with the new crosshair-free grille, there has been a lot of criticism over the new look.
Many of those folks who passionately and vocally dislike the new look insist that they are long-time Ram/Dodge truck fans or owners, and that the Ram trucks should have crosshairs because they have always had crosshairs. They also insist that anyone who likes the new look is not a real Dodge truck, Ram or Mopar lover.
That said, after spending a week driving a new Ram 1500 Laramie Limited with the chrome “RAM” grille, I have to say that I like the overall look of the new design.
First, given the critics, I have to state my qualifications as a lifelong Mopar, Dodge truck, and Ram fan. I own a 1994 Ram 1500 Sport and a 2006 Ram 1500 Laramie, both of which have crosshair grilles. I have also owned a 1998 Ram, which had the crosshairs, along with two trucks that did not — a 1984 Ramcharger and a 1978 Dodge D-150 pickup.
I also own a 1983 Dodge Mirada and a 1972 Dodge Demon 340, having recently sold a 1992 Plymouth Laser RS-T and a 1983 Dodge Aries coupe. My wife is also into Mopars, all of our pets are named after Chrysler vehicles, and we have a massive collection of Mopar collectables. Since I was old enough to be involved with the auto industry, I have been a Mopar guy, and while my job has me driving all sorts of new vehicles from different companies, I am still a hardcore Chrysler fan.
Let’s get into the idea that the Ram hasn’t always had a crosshair grille design. The people who are the unhappiest with the new crosshair-free grille design seem to think that the Dodge Ram has had the crosshairs since they first hit the street back in the early 1960s, during the D Series years (1961-1980).
While some of the classic Dodge D Series pickups had what we could call a crosshair design, most of the trucks up into the first generation of the Dodge Ram era (1981+) had more of a rectangular grid design. Both my 1978 Dodge D-150 and my 1984 Ramcharger had this grid rather than the crosshairs.
The crosshair grille, as we know it now, really didn’t hit the Dodge truck lineup until the 1986 model year. When you look through the history of the Dodge D Series and the Dodge Ram, there have been more trucks built without the crosshair design than there were trucks with the familiar design. In other words, no, the Ram hasn’t always had a crosshair grille.
If you look at old Dodge pickups expecting crosshairs, you can see them starting well after Chrysler Corporation bought Dodge Brothers. The early ones may not even have been meant to be crosshairs. You can see their development from 1940’s “non-crosshair” to 1941’s grille evolution. Were they meant to be crosshairs in the first place, or did that come later?
That early grille was soon replaced with straight bars. Other than an arguably, brief return for 1957, the “long tradition” likely began in 1986.
That being said, I am still a fan of the basic crosshair design, which is why I own two trucks and a car with this front end layout. At the same time, I understand the need for change. It is unrealistic to believe that the company will maintain the same basic grille design forever, especially where the competition is so hot. Both Ford and GM have refreshed their front end countless times since the Dodge Ram crosshair grille of 1986, so there is no question that the time has come to look at new designs.
Sensing that the hardcore Dodge and Ram fans wouldn’t love the shift away from the crosshair grille, the company implemented the new look slowly, giving us a choice. The company first rolled out the new RAM branded grille on the Ram 1500 Rebel, followed by the high-end Ram 1500 Laramie Limited, and most recently the new Ram 2500 Power Wagon. You can still get the familiar crosshair grille on the rest of the 1500 and 2500 trimlines, as well as on all of the 3500, 4500 and 5500 chassis trucks.
Chrysler made a smart move switching over gradually, as it allowed them to both test the waters on selling this new look while also seeing how angry the change made enthusiasts.
The change certainly angered some enthusiasts, but far more importantly, the Ram Rebel and Ram Limited with the new grille design are selling well. If you attempt to buy the new Ram Rebel grille online, you will find that it is demanding a much higher price than a traditional crosshair grille – meaning that lots of people are buying them to swap them onto their modern Ram pickups.
In other words, the Ram with the crosshair-free grille is selling well and even those folks with crosshairs are swapping to the new look. This is as clear a sign as any that this new look is one that will sell in today’s market, even though some long-time fans are unhappy with the change.
So, what do I, as a longtime Mopar and Dodge truck fan think of the new look? Well, as much as I like the crosshairs on my own trucks, I understand the need for change and I think that this new look is the best case scenario for replacing the crosshair grille. The RAM logo across this new grille is bold and in your face, declaring exactly what everyone is seeing in their rearview mirror.
We have seen other companies go to bigger, bolder branding in the past years and as a Ram fan, I am happy to see the Chrysler Group giving their trucks the same powerful attitude as the competitors. I think that the grille on the Rebel and Power Wagon is perfect for those performance minded offroad trucks.
I also think that the grille on the Ram Laramie Limited, with its chrome mesh filler, is the best-looking high end grille in the segment. There is no mistaking that the Ram Limited is a luxury model with all of that chrome, while the RAM across the middle leaves no question as to who built this bad, fancy and powerful pickup truck.
The Ram Rebel is an awesome truck and the Ram Power Wagon is easily the most capable truck in the 3/4 ton segment, both proudly wearing a grille that displays who is responsible for these mean looking pickups; and when it comes to the Ram Laramie Limited, this new grille provides a better canvas onto which the company can spread copious amounts of chrome.
Sure, as a longtime Dodge/Ram lover, it is hard to accept change as major as the face of the trucks, but when faced with the fact that the trucks will have to change sooner or later, I love the new direction of the Ram grille styling. When coupled with the huge “RAM” across the tailgate of all new Ram trucks, the pickups formerly known as Dodge trucks sport more branding attitude than the competitors, and I consider that to be a good thing.
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