Mopar is one of the more confusing terms in the automotive world. You may have noticed the Mopar brand when buying parts for a modern charger. You may have heard motorheads refer to a vintage Plymouth Barracuda, Jeep, or even a Ram truck as a Mopar. Or you even saw that the company sponsors race cars and races. What the heck is a Mopar car? Read on for the word’s complex history, from its origins in the 1920s to its most common slang meaning to its modern trademarks.
In 1937, Chrysler Motor Parts became Mopar
In 1937, the Chrysler Corporation came up with a brilliant new product: antifreeze. You may laugh, but when car radiators were full of plain water, owners had to drain all this fluid on freezing nights and then pour in fresh water to start the vehicle. Engineers discovered that mixing ethylene glycol with water created a coolant that remained liquid below freezing, and antifreeze was born.
Since the late 1920s, Chrysler Corporation’s engine parts division sometimes shortened its own name to MoPar. In 1937, Chrysler acquired the MOPAR trademark and used it for its new line of antifreeze products.
Over the years, Mopar’s catalog has grown to include parts such as filters, car washes and cleaners, and even entire hotrodder crate engines. By the 1960s, many of Mopar’s most successful products were speed parts designed to extract even more horsepower from Chrysler Corporation’s muscle cars. Mopar also began sponsoring events such as the annual Denver drag race championship.
Mopar was popular slang among fans of the Chrysler Corporation
If you attended even a low-level drag race in the 1960s or 1970s, many of the most competitive cars would have Mopar parts under their hoods, and maybe even Mopar decals on their bodies. Why? Probably to look more like the Mopar-sponsored race cars that dominate TV drag strips.
At some point, many car enthusiasts began calling all Chrysler Corporation muscle cars “Mopars.” This included iconic classics such as the Dodge Charger and Challenger or the Plymouth Barracuda and Roadrunner. It can also refer to V8 equipped Chryslers and Imperials or more niche performance vehicles like old De Sotos or Fargos.
Motorheads outside of race fans soon embraced the term and used it to refer to Dodge trucks. After Chrysler bought out American Motors Corporation, Mopar became synonymous with jeeps and even the AMC Eagle, according to Motor Trend.
Chrysler Corporation was and is a web of intertwined brands. Mopar became an unofficial unifying term and something of a rallying cry for fans of the automaker. The phrase “Mopar or no car” was a popular way of saying that you didn’t care if it was a Plymouth, a Dodge, or a Chrysler – it was still better than a Ford or a GM.
Stellantis still has a Mopar performance parts division
The Chrysler Corporation understood that Mopar became a slang term for all of its muscle cars. Over the years, Chrysler has applied the blue Mopar “M” logo to several high-end trims and even the engines of certain production cars. But despite the evolving meaning of the word, the Mopar parts brand has been in business for over eighty years. You can see the logo on everything from OEM-made oil filters on Walmart shelves to Stage 3 Hellcat performance kits. Mopar still sponsors race teams and boasts the longest-running sponsorship in drag racing—the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals held in Denver.
Stellantis, the owner of the Chrysler Corporation, leans toward other retro brands, such as the dealer Direct Connection racing parts line, while pioneering eMuscle. We’ll just have to wait and see what the next chapter is for the Mopar brand.
Then see why Stellantis needs to revive the Plymouth brand or learn more about the history of the Dodge Charger in the video below: