In the early 1900’s, two brothers were destined to change the auto industry forever. They were the Dodge brothers, John and Horace. John was born in 1864, in Niles Michigan, and Horace was born in 1868, also in Niles. They grew up in a hard working, but poor family, and learned the machinist trade from their father early in life, working in their father’s machine and foundry shop. This is where their career as bicycle machinist would start. The family moved from Niles, to Battle Creek, and then Port Huron before finally ending up in Detroit in 1886. There, the brothers began working at Murphy’s Boiler Works manufacturing marine boilers. Later, in 1894, they took positions in Windsor, Ontario Canada with the Dominion Typograph Company. By 1896, Horace had invented and patented a new dirt-resistant bicycle ball bearing, and the following year, found a partner in Fredrick Evans to begin manufacturing E&D (Evans and Dodge) bicycles with the new ball bearings. The bicycles were top quality and dependable. After a few years, they sold their interest in the bicycle company to establish their own machine shop in the Boydell building in Detroit.
In 1901, their machine shop opened. They began by making stove parts, and later, auto parts. Horace was the leader of the pair. John was quiet and the better machinist. It was that same year that Ransom Olds hired them to produce 2,000 engines for his new car, thereby launching the Dodge name into Detroit’s fledgling automotive industry. The following year, Olds increased his order to add 3,000 transmissions, and they caught the attention of Henry Ford, who approached them with plans to produce parts for his cars. The brothers agreed to manufacture nearly the entire chassis for Henry. Since Ford was short on cash, he gave them enough stock to make them 10% shareholders in Ford Motor Company. They would remain suppliers for Ford for the next 10 years.
1908, saw the introduction of the Model T Ford, which resulted in a larger production demand at the Dodge Brothers plant. Construction of a new plant in Hamtramck, now known as Dodge Main, began in 1910. It wasn’t long before the brothers’ relationship with Ford began to strain. With increasing unhappiness with decisions made by Henry Ford, John Dodge declines to renew contracts with Ford Motor Company, and he steps down as Ford’s Vice-President. Their attention then turned to development of their own car. Ford cars were virtually all Dodge parts, and when asked why he and his brother would want to build their own car, John Dodge reportedly said, “Think of all the Ford owners who will someday want an automobile.”
1913 is the year, and the Dodge Brothers are starting production of their first automobile in their Hamtramck facility. Their first vehicle, the Dodge 4, left the production line on November 1914. It was named “Old Betsy”, a rugged car built for reliability and durability. By this time, the Dodge Brothers had become so well known and respected as automobile manufactures that over 20,000 people requested to be dealers before any details about Dodge automobiles were known. 249 Dodge Touring Cars were produced that year. Dodge Brothers Motors Inc. is born.
The Dodge Brothers were great workers, and they knew their business. Their first car was noted for its extra styles. It was built with 12 Volt electrics, and back to front gear changes. These features were industrialized, but only used until 1926. The Dodge 4 was a tough automobile, accepted by the US Army, used in General Pershing’s battles into Mexico in 1914, and as an ambulance and staff car in World War I. Horace Dodge was responsible for a number of innovations, including an oven to bake enamel paint onto steel bodies.
By 1916, Dodge had become a quite popular vehicle. They had established the Budd all-steel bodywork, which was used quite frequently thereafter. As they searched the market, they gained notoriety. Their cars sold for $785, and they were fourth in the country for auto sales in 1916 with 70,700 cars sold. 1917 saw the war in Europe heating up, and the Dodge Brothers stepped up to lend help. Aside from producing touring cars and ambulances, they built and equipped a new factory in Hamtramck for the sole purpose of producing the precision recoil mechanisms used in French 75 and 155 mm field artillery. The French, working by hand, were only able to produce 5 mechanisms a day, and had turned to the US government for help. Within a year, Dodge was producing 30 mechanisms a day.
1919 saw Henry Ford affecting the Dodge Brothers again. Although they had severed their relationship with Dodge, they still retained 10% ownership in Ford Motor Company. Henry Ford announced his intention to reinvest all company profits. The Dodge Brothers filed a suite to force Ford to instead pay dividends to the stockholders. The case was settled in favor of the stockholders. John and Horace then sold their shares in Ford for $25 million.
1920 saw Dodge become the number two automobile seller in country, but this victory would be short lived for John and Horace. In January, while attending the International Automobile Show in New York, Horace becomes ill with influenza as did his brother John. Both men would pass away due to complications from the illness; John, on January 14, and Horace, just nine months later, on December 10, 1920. Control of the company reverted to their widows, and Fredrick J. Haynes is appointed to run the company.
Dodge Brothers Motors continued producing cars. By 1924, the Dodge 4 was still in production, and was still the main product, while 1000 cars a day were being built. 1925 saw the widows sell the company to the New York investment firm of Dillon Reed and Company for $146 million. A breakthrough in design occurred in 1927 when a 3.7 liter, six cylinder automobile exploded into the industry with “internal-expanding hydraulic brakes.” The original Dodge design team was still in place, and would remain there until the smaller Chrysler Motors purchased Dodge Brothers Motors.
1928 saw that purchase take place. The company was sold to Walter Chrysler for $175,000,000. The Dodge 4 was discontinued, and new front brakes approached the market. Dodge Brothers Motors retained their individuality, even after the purchase. It wasn’t until the 30’s that Dodge Brothers Motors slowly became remembered as Dodge. Their cars became more expensive, but they did offer a standard six cylinder for $765 in 1929, while other models approached $1,000.
Dodge continued to grow over the years under Chrysler's improvements. Their improvements were due to exceptional productions, new styles, innovations, and publicity. With the improvements, prices rose with bigger engines and greater degrees of horsepower. Free wheels, straight 8 cylinder engines, gearboxes, front suspension, and other innovations made the automobile market soar. In 1933 Dodge took fourth place in sales once again with 86,062 cars sold.
In 1952, the highly publicized V-8 was initialized under the name Red Ram. It was a great car, which the public enjoyed, but newer cars continued to produce. By 1959, the most powerful car emerged with 345 horsepower and 6.3 liters. This was a great alternative even though production and innovation continued to increase. The company began to offer coupes in 1966 instead of sedans. The Lancer, a compact car, was introduced in 1961. The company soon produced three basic types in 1961: the semi-compact Dart, the bigger Coronets, and the full-size Polara and Monaco V-8s. These cars became mainstream along with others under the Chrysler Corporation.
Overall, numerous developments occurred over the years. Many new cars were produced from 1914 to the present. Some of the biggest products came in the last twenty years with the introduction of the full size pickup truck, Dodge Ram and the minivan, Dodge Caravan. These cars also went mainstream due to their extra styles and dependability on the road. The Dodge brothers formed the company and manufactured quality automobile through cheap prices and upgraded technology. With such innovation and strength the brothers brought the company into a huge and lucrative market.
DODGE IN AUSTRALIA
T. J. Richards, (1850 - 1939)
By 1881 he was trading at suburban Unley, as a blacksmith, maker of vehicle hardware and coach fitter; he developed the 'King of the Road' sulky. By 1885 he was flourishing and occupied larger quarters at Mitcham where he established himself as T. J. Richards & Co., Wheel Wright & Coach Builder, remaining until 1899. Expansion accelerated and from 1901 T. J. Richards, Carriage, Buggy and Sulky Builder, operated at West Mitcham, Hindmarsh Square and Hyde Street, Adelaide. In 1913 the enterprise, now T. J. Richards & Sons, began manufacturing motor-bodies, with Tobias recruiting his sons' assistance. One of the pioneer firms operating in this phase of motor manufacturing in South Australia, in motor-body-building it pre-dated Holden's by four years; in 1916 it became a limited liability company. Richards & Sons thrived under the de facto protection afforded by World War I; by 1920 it and Holden's emerged as leaders in the expanded motor industry. Now assisted by tariffs, Richards' expanded into a large modern building at Keswick which soon covered 14 acres (5.7 ha) under a single roof. In 1922 the works employed 200 hands. In the mid-1920s the firm complained of the State government's lack of consideration which, it claimed, favoured primary producers at the expense of local manufacturers. Nevertheless Richards' continued to expand: in 1927 it bought further plant at Mile End and in 1930 Duncan & Fraser Ltd. The company remained solvent during the Depression, though there were intermittent closures at the Mile End and Keswick plants and much unemployment. It remained an independent manufacturer longer than its rival, Holden's. In 1935 Richards' threatened to move interstate to avoid excessive taxation and transport costs; however, reduction of wharfage duties next year aided them. In 1915 Tobias had retired, though remaining nominal head of his enterprise until his death on 28 July 1939 at Malvern. He was buried in Mitcham cemetery. He was then described as 'one of the most prominent figures in the motor building industry in Australia … the largest Australian owned and controlled industry of its kind in Australia'. Five sons and three daughters survived him. Herbert Richards was born on 30 January 1876 at Gawler and educated at state schools. He regarded himself as a self-made man whose delicate health had limited his schooling and whose early career 'was not along the primrose path of dalliance, but one of hard work, struggle and then achievement'. He joined the family business at Mitcham but despite working hard was advised to find other employment and took over a Clarence Park grocery. Though he often cycled into the Adelaide hills chasing business, he failed and left for Melbourne as a representative of a South Australian firm. The arrangement lapsed when Richards met James Alston, a windmill manufacturer, and took over his Adelaide agency. All this Herbert regarded as his 'school of experience', the start of his career in machinery. On 13 April 1899, now a coach fitter, he married Mary Ann Macklin; they had a daughter and son. He succeeded in establishing himself independently as one of the earliest motor-car importers and dealers in Adelaide, H. C. Richards Ltd, at the Richards Building, Currie Street, which in 1922 was described as a 'magnificent motor emporium'. He probably joined his father's manufacturing enterprise before World War I. With his brother Clarence he became the main manager of T. J. Richards & Sons Ltd in the mid-1920s and guided the firm through the Depression. In May 1937 Richards' announced a £500,000 expansion programme and renewal of a contract with Chrysler, Dodge Distributors guaranteeing production for five years. In 1938 they negotiated for munitions work. Though accused of being in Chrysler's control, T. J. Richards & Sons remained Australian throughout World War II. In 1941 its name was changed to Richards Industries Ltd—Motor Builders and Metal Stampings. Six years later Chrysler Dodge de Soto Distributors Ltd formed a company to take over the assets and interests of Richards Industries Ltd which, by guaranteeing body supplies, paved the way for the entry of Chrysler Australia Ltd into full car-manufacturing in 1951, with headquarters at Keswick.
Australian Business Records of
T.J.Richards & Sons
1916 - 1941 T.J. Richards & Sons Ltd
1941 - 1947 Richards Industries Limited
1947 - 1951 Chrysler De Soto Distributors Limited
1951 - 1980? Chrysler Australia Limited