The Truth About Cars » Horace Dodge The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:14:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Horace Dodge Dodge Centennial: How To Build A Car And A Car Company, In Three Notebooks Sat, 23 Nov 2013 14:00:53 +0000 IMG_0047

The Dodge brand’s centennial celebration began this week with the announcement of special 100th Anniversary Editions of the Dodge Challenger and Charger. After more than a year of preparation, John and Horace Dodge went for a ride in public in a car with their own brand for the first time on November 14, 1914. That was after eleven years of supplying Henry Ford and his car company with every major component of Ford cars except for bodies, wheels and tires. The critical role that the Dodge brothers had in the success of Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company is not widely known outside of serious Dodge and early Ford enthusiasts. It has been reliably estimated that from the founding of the Ford Motor Company in 1903 until 1914. when the Dodges ended their contracts with Ford, they supplied about 60% of the total value of the cars that Ford “built”. Without the Dodge brothers, Ford Motor Company would never have gotten off the ground.

Horace and John Dodge in the first Dodge automobile, Nov. 14, 1014. Photo taken in front of John Dodge's Boston Blvd. mansion in Detroit's Boston-Edison district.

Horace and John Dodge in the first Dodge automobile, Nov. 14, 1014. Photo taken in front of John Dodge’s Boston Blvd. mansion in Detroit’s prestigious Boston-Edison district.

It wasn’t a very smooth relationship. Henry Ford changed the world but in many ways he was a megalomaniacal and manipulative crackpot. Having lost the Henry Ford Company to backers who turned it into Cadillac, Henry didn’t want to be beholden to financiers and stockholders, but the realities of business meant that he did have a small number of investors in Ford Motor Co, including his business manager James Couzens, his lawyer Horace Rackham, and the Dodges, who were paid in stock when Ford was short of cash.


So while supplying Henry had its headaches, it also made Horace and John Dodge very wealthy men, doubly wealthy in fact. They made about $2 million supplying Ford and they made even more money, $5.4 million, from dividends on their Ford stock. Unfortunately, Henry ran the company as though he had no stockholders, sometimes hoarding company cash for his own plans rather than paying out customary dividends. Eventually there were lawsuits, threats by Henry Ford to start an entirely new car company to compete with FoMoCo, and low ball offers before he paid the Dodges $25  million in 1919 dollars (for their original 1903 investment of $10,000)  but in 1913, that was well into the future.


While they already made two fortunes from their relationship with Ford, by 1913 they were not thrilled about continuing to make parts for the Model T. If you think automotive technology changes rapidly today, imagine how quickly things advanced a century ago. In five years the Model T went from state of the art to technologically lagging its competitors but Henry thought it was the perfect car. Ironically, by the time the T started selling in really huge numbers in the nineteen teens it was obsolete and being technologically surpassed by by more modern cars. The Dodges were good engineers, probably the best machinists in Detroit next to Henry Leland. The term “mechanical genius” could have been coined for Horace Dodge and his brother John was almost as adept with his own management skills. By 1914 the Dodge brothers, who already owned and operated what was probably most advanced automotive plant in the world in the Detroit enclave of Hamtramck, wanted to build modern machines.


If you look at the historical record, Henry Ford eventually had fallings out with many of his close associates, including his business manager, James Couzens, and his pastor, Samuel Marquis, so the Dodges’ disaffection from Henry Ford was not that unusual. Not only were they tired of dealing with Henry’s eccentricities, and tired of building an old fashioned car, they knew that they were increasingly vulnerable having such a big customer, a customer that had already started making many components himself, on his path to making FoMoCo perhaps the most vertically integrated manufacturing company ever. One reason why people don’t know about the Dodges’ role in Ford history is because Ford was later famous for making every part of their cars, including the raw steel and glass. In the early days, though, Ford, like most automakers then, was an assembler, buying components and subassemblies. The Dodges supplied other automakers like Cadillac and Oldsmobile, but Ford represented the lion’s share of their business. So the Dodges had plenty of reasons in 1913 to jump before they were pushed and in July of that year they gave Henry Ford a year’s notice that they’d no longer be supplying him. Soon, the automotive world was abuzz with the news that Dodge Brothers would be making a Dodge car.


The thing is, though, you can’t just start a car company, even if you’re one of the largest automotive suppliers in the world, then or now. By 1912, the Dodges had already hired Frederick Haynes, an experienced “motor man” to both run their production facilities and start planning for the production of a Dodge automobile. Haynes and the Dodges planned the new car and the factories to build it in meticulous fashion, literally down to the bolts and nuts. We know just how meticulously they did all that planning because we have a mostly handwritten account of everything they did as they prepared to start building their own car and then put it into production.


The account is in the form of three hardbound notebooks that are now in the National Automotive History Collection of the Detroit Public Library. Each has a label taped to the cover saying that it’s the property of one Theodore T. Heidloff but there’s little doubt that Haynes wrote and compiled it.


The first volume, which covers the period from March 1913 to July 1914, contains cost, specifications and quality information for components like frames, wheels, tires, bearings, pistons and piston rings, as well as batteries and ignition systems from more than a hundred potential suppliers. Also included are proposals from machinery suppliers and Dodge Brothers’ evaluation of the proposals and the machinery.


The notebooks show just how collaborative the process working with vendors was. One section of the first notebook has John Dodge’s detailed suggestions and drawings for improving and speeding up the process of drilling cylinders in engine blocks.


Dodge engine blocks being machined in 1915. If you searched, you’d find reference to all of those machines in the notebooks.

Once a vendor was chosen, blueprints had to be drawn and the notebook lists hundreds that the compiler had checked and approved.


Processes are suggested and then revised or alternatives questioned, usually in red pen. The evaluations of the suppliers are frank. In one case regarding a stamped part, a supplier said that it could be made with a single stroke, but just in case, they’d be building up the dies to withstand a second strike. The compiler notes that he doesn’t believe they’d be able to make the part with a single stamping operation.


The second notebook covers the period, July 1914 to July 1915, when the Dodge Brothers automobile actually went into production. As a result, in addition to materials like in the first volume, the second notebook also contains detailed personnel information. When the Dodges started promoting their new company, even before the car was designed, they were flooded with applications from mechanics, engineers and managers looking for work. Included in some cases were letters of recommendation from previous employers.


While going through the notebooks, when I showed the NAHC librarian a recommendation letter for one Mr. George McDade, she laughed out loud and said that a former employer today would never send out such an honest letter:

Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company
East Pittsburgh, PA

May 21st, 1914.

Mr. W. J. Alles,
Dodge Brothers,
Detroit, Mich.

My dear Alles:-

I have your letter of the 19th inst.. with reference to Mr. George McDade. Mr. McDade is a very capable mechanic and is very aggressive. I have always felt that with the proper boss and in a small Company he would be a great success. He requires, however, some one to tell him where to get on and off. He was a type of man who could not possibly succeed in our Company on account have having too many bosses, and I certainly think you would make no mistake in trying him.

Yours very truly,

Charles Johnson

General Superintendent


The second notebook also contains information on how the new factories were outfitted. There are pages of diagrams on the layout of the main plant including materials handling systems, machinery placements and die management. In addition to the manufacturing side of things, the notebook also covered administrative tasks under the heading “Our Office – Things to Do” followed by “How to Do Them” with a list of men appropriate for the tasks.


The third notebook, from April 1915 to June 1916, shows how conscientious the firm was about continuous improvements. It was in 1915 that Dodge built the first automotive test track in the Detroit area, adjacent to their Hamtramck factory, to test cars after production.


Dodge test track, Hamtramck, Michigan, 1915


Volume #3 has more information on suppliers and alternatives. For example, there are ten pages of detailed comparisons between Exide and Willard batteries. The Exide was available worldwide, had a better reputation and it weighed significantly less, but it was also 30 cents per car more expensive.


The third volume also includes notes on visits made to seven different rolling mills, comparing plants, equipment and processes before deciding on a sheet steel vendor. Likewise they evaluated body suppliers before settling on the Edward G. Budd Mfg. Co. as a principal vendor. The notebook clearly indicates that the relationship was rocky. Numerous entries talk of “settlements” and “repair” work that needed to be done.


Besides being an irreplaceable historic artifact, the content in the Dodge Brothers notebooks at the NAHC gives us an incredibly unique and altogether fascinating look at the early days of automotive manufacturing and into the personalities involved as well, like Haynes, Budd and the Dodges. You get an idea of just how monumental a task it was to start a car company 100 years ago and though people use computers these days instead of paper ledgers, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for today’s automotive entrepreneurs to take a look at the Dodge Brothers notebooks. Small wonder that historian Charles Hyde (whose book on the Dodges provided much of the information in this post) describes them as “a primer on launching a new automobile”.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Want to Buy a Really Big Dodge? Anna Dodge’s Delphine is For Sale Mon, 17 Dec 2012 16:23:47 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

Okay, so at 257.8 feet, the yacht Delphine is a bit longer than your average Dodge Grand Caravan, Monaco or Polara. It’s even bigger than a Ram 3500 with dualies, but it is a Dodge, in a manner of speaking. Horace Dodge even designed the engine.

The Delphine was built for Horace and Anna Dodge, starting in 1920 just before the sudden death of Horace and his brother John, and it is the largest existing yacht ever built in the United States. The Dodge brothers were not just boating enthusiasts. In the years before they made their first fortune supplying automobile manufacturers like Ransom Olds and Henry Ford (they made their second fortune selling cars with their own name and their third fortune when Ford bought their stock in FoMoCo which they received in the early days in lieu of cash payments when Henry owed them money), maritime engines were an important part of the Dodge Brothers business, operating one of Detroit’s two most highly regarded machine shops (the other being Leland & Faulkner, run by Henry Leland, who founded both Cadillac and Lincoln). As a matter of fact, Detroit’s location on the Great Lakes and the need for engines to power boats and ships was one reason why Detroit became the Motor City.

The Delphine in 1930, at a speedboat race, perhaps the Gold Cup on the Detroit River

The Delphine today, on the Mediterranean Sea, with its two period tenders

After some success manufacturing a sealed bicycle hub in Canada the Dodges set up shop in Detroit building steam and combustion engines of their own design for maritime use. Quickly, though, they recognized an opportunity supplying the young automobile industry, starting to supply Ransom Olds with first engines and then transmissions. In 1903 they cast their lot as primary supplier to the new Ford Motor Company. It’s not well known but from FoMoCo’s founding in 1903 until 1914, when the Dodges started making Dodge brand cars, Ford cars were essentially rolling chassis supplied by the Dodge bros, with bodies and wheels added by Ford. By 1905, when the Dodges built their first big boat, a 96 foot day yacht named Hornet, with a 1,000 horsepower quadruple-expansion steam engine designed by Horace and built at the Dodge Brothers shop, they were already rich.

As rich as they were the rough and tumble nouveau riche industrialists were not accepted by Detroit’s old money crowd. Money wasn’t enough, but Horace and John discovered that having the nicest boat on Lake Ste. Claire, adjacent to Grosse Pointe, was a better entre into high society than having a big bank account.

Horace Dodge

It wasn’t the Model T that made Henry Ford and his associates rich men. Ford Motor Company was a success before the Model T. It was that success that gave Henry the luxury of building a car for the masses. Then, he and his associates, like the Dodges, James Couzens and Horace Rackham, became fabulously wealthy. As their wealth increased, the Dodges built larger and faster boats, moving from day yachts to cruising yachts with sleeping cabins, commissioning the Nokomis I and II, 185 feet and 243 feet long respectively. After both those boats were requisitioned by the U.S. Navy for use during World War One, Horace bought an already built yacht and rechristened it the Delphine, after his only daughter.

Delphine Dodge Cromwell

The first Delphine was a placeholder until Horace could build the boat of his dreams. Actually, his wife Anna was a bit of a social climber so it was likely the stuff of her dreams as well. It cost $2 million to build it in 1920. That’s about $23 million in 2012 dollars. It had nine guest staterooms, in addition to the master suite, plus three lounges, a music room with a $60,000 pipe organ, a card room, a dining room suitable for hosting a large dinner party (and a galley capable of catering for such an event), plus on the deck above the dining room, a smoking room. A staff of 50 to 60 crew members were needed to operate the ship and attend to the passengers.

Anna Thompson Dodge

Horace never got a chance to enjoy his big custom boat. He died of influenza before the boat was finished, dying only a few months after his brother John passed away, both of them in their 50s. John had only recently had his own large boat, the Francis, built. Smaller and faster than the Delphine, the Francis had four engines totaling 1,600 HP and had a top speed of over 30 MPH.

Delphine Dodge Cromwell christened the ship in April of 1921 and it immediately became a fixture of her mother’s lavish lifestyle. On a visit to New York in 1926 fire, the Delphine caught fire and sank in the Hudson River. Anna Dodge, by then remarried to gigolo actor Hugh Dillman, spent $800,000 having the ship salvaged and refurbished. After their husbands died the Dodge widows were two of the wealthiest women in the world and Anna particularly liked to show off her wealth. She used the Delphine for parties and for travel for two decades. Then, during WWII, the US Navy again requisitioned a Dodge yacht, renaming it the USS Dauntless for use as the command ship of Admiral Ernest King, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations. As the Dauntless the Delphine played a role in the war effort. It’s reported that President Roosevelt discussed war strategy with Adm. King on the ship. Admiral King was present at the Yalta conference between Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin and according to the sellers, those world leaders had some of their discussions on board the Dauntless/Delphine.

The Delphine in military service, 1945, as the U.S.S. Dauntless

After the war the ship reverted to private ownership and Mrs. Dodge continued to use the Delphine into the 1950s. It passed from Dodge family hands in the 1960s. For about 20 years it was used to train merchant seamen and in 1997 it was bought by a European businessman. From 1997 to 2003, the Delphine underwent a meticulous restoration to the condition it was in when Mrs. Dodge owned it along with the addition of some modern accouterments plus up to date controls, radar, and navigation.

Horace was a gifted, albeit self-taught, engineer. Had he lived longer he would have appreciated the Delphine’s engine room. Earlier, Horace Dodge had designed and built steam engines for the Great Lakes maritime trade.

The restoration was base on historical research by the current owner’s daughter. Fortunately, this was a significant ship. Original drawings and detailed plans were still extant and many historical photographs were available to work from to guide the restoration.

John and Horace Dodge liked to drink and smoke, they would have appreciated the Delphine’s Smoking Room as well.

Since then it’s been available for charters in the Mediterranean. Now, the current owner has decided to sell this unique piece of both naval and automotive history, with a passenger list that has included presidents and prime ministers. The asking price is 49 million Euros, or about $64.5 million in US dollars. Call your yacht broker. PDF brochure here.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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