Baby Eight
Truck & Driver|December 2020
When you think about V8-powered trucks you probably tend to visualise big, heavy-duty long haulers. Well here’s one that’s small, but also perfectly formed
Dougie Rankine

At a glance

Make and Model: Dodge Commando G26T Engine: Perkins 8.540 8-8-litre V8 Power: 180hp @ 2600rpm Torque: 556nm @1650rpm Gearbox: Dodge five-speed synchomesh manual with overdrive Owner: Wilson’s Classics, Cumbria

This is a truck range with history that’s more complicated than most. Commonly known as the Dodge Commando, the range spanned from 1974 to 1989 and was badged as a Commer, a Dodge, a Renault Dodge and also simply Renault. This was due to the parent company changing hands over the years.

Dodge had a long history in the UK, with Chrysler producing imported American trucks in kit form as far back as the 1930s, these were known as Kew Dodges, Kew being the name of the plant in which they were built. Rootes Group, who made Commer trucks had – like many British manufacturers – found themselves in financial difficulty.

In stepped American giants Chrysler, who made an initial investment in 1965 to build trucks, then purchased the company in 1967 to produce cars, trucks, vans, the lot. The economy and industrial unrest of the 1970s meant this was not a successful venture. For all their grand plans and acquisitions, Chrysler Europe was short-lived, racked up big debt, was bailed out by the government and the company was sold off in bits; Peugeot took the cars while Renault took the trucks in 1981. Interestingly, Peugeot wanted the lot, but the French government didn’t want to create a competitor to the already established Renault operation.

Rebranding

This ultimately meant the loss of the Hillman and Humber car brands (which initially became Chrysler then Talbot), plus Commer commercials were no more by the end of the ‘70s. Chrysler had mostly standardised on the Dodge brand in the UK by 1976 and were to enter the heavy end of the truck market at 32 tonnes, as Ford did with its Transcontinental and Bedford with the TM. The original plan was to build a larger version of the Commando cab, but Chrysler had also bought Spanish manufacturer Barrerios and opted to utilise their truck and badge it as the Dodge 300 series, which were nicknamed Spanish Dodges.

The 300s were nowhere near as popular as the Commando aka the 100 series. Commandos were well-liked at the light end of the market as a 7.5-tonner. Breweries liked the artics for urban deliveries, and the heavier rigids proved capable as tippers. A big facelift in 1981 designated the range Commando 2 and there were a number of improvements to the comfort and refinement. There was a 24 tonne 6x4 version built later on in the life of the truck with a turbo version of the V8.

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