109 years ago, the first Dodge hit the road. His success was literally record breaking.
Dodge has enjoyed a lot of media attention in recent months, fortunately in a good way. It extended the Hellcat engine’s cycle for the second time in the Durango SUV, and then bid farewell to it in the Challenger and Charger muscle cars through seven limited editions. And recently, a new RAM was revealed to the world.
But none of this would have happened if it weren’t for November 14. Exactly 109 years ago today, the first Dodge Brothers car rolled off the production line in Detroit. It was a 30-series four-seat “open tourer” with a 3.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a 110-inch (2794 mm) wheelbase. They took the car for a test drive through the streets of Detroit and Michigan before shipping it to a customer in Tennessee. The arrival of this model was stormy, even so much so that it broke a record at the time.
But the path to him was not easy. Brothers Horac and John began at the turn of the century as manufacturers of bicycles (1897) and later of parts (1901) for the then developing automobile industry. A key milestone was the year 1908, when they signed a contract with Henry Ford for the supply of Ford engines. But it was a risk from the beginning. Ford could not pay them properly and offered them shares in his company worth $10,000. Due to the mass production of the Ford Model T, the brothers got rich quite quickly and started thinking about their own car.
It saw the light of day, and by the end of the year the factory had produced more than 200 more. In 1915, 45,000 Dodge Brothers cars were on the road, making the brothers break the record for production volume in one year and becoming the third largest car company. A two-seat version was added and in 1917 the wheelbase was extended to 114 inches (2896 mm).
It was a luxury car from the beginning. Dodge supplied the chassis with the engine for 785 dollars, in today’s prices about 510,000 CZK. For comparison, the Ford Model T was sold for around 500 dollars, approximately 325,000 CZK.
But Ford was also growing and soon had enough capital to buy back its stock from Dodge. The original 10,000 dollars became 32.1 million in 1919. Horace and John thus had a promising future full of success and wealth ahead of them.
Unfortunately, in January of the following year, John died from the effects of the influenza pandemic, and in December the same fate befell Horace. The huge automobile company fell into the lap of their wives, who in 1925 resold it to investment bankers Dillon, Read & Co for $146 million. Today, about 1.7 billion CZK. Three years later, Dodge bought Chrysler, which it still owns today under the umbrella of the Stellantis group.