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History of Dodge

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On: Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 1:10PM | By: Teddy Field


History of Dodge

Thanks to Fiat's ownership, the Chrysler Group's Dodge brand has enjoyed a resurgence in sales and popularity. The Dodge Dart is now a popular choice in affordable transportation. The Dodge Durango makes a great family/toy hauler. And the hemi-powered Dodge Charger has become a favorite among cops and speed-freaks alike. But where did this tire-squealin' car maker come from? Glad you asked...

Once upon a time, there lived two red-headed brothers named Horace and John Dodge. They came from a long line of hard workers, and both had learned to be expert machinists from their father Daniel, who learned the trade from his father Ezekiel. Horace was a natural businessman and John was the better machinist. Together, they started selling bicycles in 1899, and that enterprise became so successful, the pair was able to open their own machine shop in 1901. Located in Detroit, the Dodge Brothers Machine Shop sat right in the middle of the burgeoning automobile industry. So it was only a matter of time before opportunity came knocking.

Shorty after opening, Eli Olds hired the Dodge brothers to manufacture engines and transmissions for his new curved-dash Oldsmobile. A year later, the brothers were approached by a man named Henry Ford. He needed somebody to manufacture 650 engines, transmissions, and chassis for his forthcoming Ford motorcar. Problem was, his last attempt at a car company was sitting in bankruptcy across town, and a man named Henry Leland was busy changing the 'Henry Ford Company' name to Cadillac. So to hedge their bet, the Dodge Brothers agreed to build rolling chassis for the cash-strapped Ford, in exchange for 10% of the company, and all of its assets if it went belly-up.

Obviously, the Ford Motor Company was a success, and Henry was eventually forced to buy back the Dodge brothers' stock once he suspended the dividends to finance his new assembly line. Since Horace and John had been building the Model T for Ford at one of their factories, they decided not to renew their contract in 1913. Instead, they converted the facility to build a car of their own, and launched the Dodge Brothers car company in 1914. The brothers had developed such a stellar reputation, they had over 22,000 dealer applications before the first car even rolled off the line.

Noted for their attention to detail and superb quality, the Dodge Brothers Touring car was the first all-steel-bodied car in the industry. General John Pershing used six Dodge Brothers 1916 touring cars on his Mexican expedition to capture Pancho Villa. They were the first motorized vehicles used in actual combat by U.S. troopes. After Lieutenant George Patton (yes, that George Patton) used the durable Dodge Brothers' used three of the cars in a successful raid against the Villistas, Pershing ordered another 250 Dodge vehicles. He continued using Dodges as staff cars and ambulances in for the American Expeditionary Force in World War I.

By 1920, Dodge Brothers was producing the second best-selling car in America (behind Ford). Unfortunately, the brothers didn't get to enjoy their success for long because Horace Dodge came down with pneumonia after attending the New York Auto Show that same year. The pair had been inseparable their whole lives, so John rushed to his brother's bedside. Shortly after, John also contracted pneumonia and died. Horace hung on for a few more months, but passed by December of the same year.

The Dodge brothers' widows eventually sold the company in 1925 to an investment group for the unheard of sum $145 million dollars (nearly $2 billion adjusted for inflation). This sale set the record for the biggest cash transaction in U.S. History, making the widows the two richest women in America. Three years later, Walter P. Chrysler bought Dodge Brothers from the investment group for $175 million, setting yet another record. Walter P. promptly dropped 'Brothers' from the name and slotted the brand just below his flagship Chrysler division. Over the years, Dodge would introduce many innovations including the first minivan in 1984, the V10-powered Viper supercar, and the legendary Ram pickup. Today, Dodge is more-or-less the performance division within Fiat's American portfolio.


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