Cessna introduced the heavier and more powerful 180, which eventually came to be known as the Skywagon (a name first applied only to the more-powerful 185) as a complement to the Cessna 170. In all its versions, 6,193 Cessna 180s were manufactured. In 1956, a tricycle gear version of this design was introduced as the Cessna 182, which came to bear the name Skylane. Additionally, in 1960, Cessna introduced a heavier, more powerful sibling to the 180, the conventional gear Cessna 185. For a time, all three versions of the design were in production. Though the tricycle gear 182 displaced some of the general demand for the 180, 180s continue to be valued for their capabilities as utility aircraft.
The Continental O-470-A of 225 horsepower was installed in the 1953 model, which uniquely has no baggage door. The Continental O-470-J, also of 225 horsepower, replaced the -A model in 1954 and 1955, and was succeeded by the 230 horsepower O-470-K from 1956 through 1961, by the O-470-R from 1962 through 1972, by the O-470-S from 1973 through 1976, and by the O-470-U from 1977 through the end of production.
Cessna 180s produced between 1953 and 1963 have two side windows, while 1964 to 1981 models feature three side windows, as they feature the same fuselage as the Cessna 185.
180s can be put on floats if they are equipped with factory-installed float kits, which are essentially reinforcing members installed at high-stress points of the fuselage. Float-kitted Cessna 180s produced between 1975 and 1981 have the larger dorsal fin of the 185.
The 180 is considered a workhorse of an airplane, and is favored to this day as a bush plane by many who fly to and from remote, unimproved airstrips in places such as Alaska and distant parts of Canada, the Pacific Islands, and Africa. The 180 is the preferred aircraft of the Colorado Division of Wildlife for monitoring wildlife and re-stocking fish in remote mountain lakes; it is also used by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.
The Cessna 180 gained recognition as the aircraft chosen by Geraldine Mock, the first woman pilot to successfully fly around the world. The flight was made in 1964 in her 1953 model, the Spirit of Columbus (N1538C), as chronicled in her book Three-Eight Charlie. The Cessna factory obtained the aircraft and kept it at the Pawnee (Wichita, Kansas) manufacturing plant after the epic flight, suspended from the ceiling over one of the manufacturing lines. It is currently on display at the National Air and Space Museum.