Tag Archive | autos

The Dodge Brothers First Car

First Dodge car

Horace Dodge (left, rear) and John Dodge (right, rear) take delivery of the first Dodge automobile on Nov. 14, 1914.

One hundred and five years ago on this date –November 14, 1914 — the very first Dodge car, “Old Betsy”, rolled off the assembly line. On that day, the Dodge Brothers (Horace and John) were photographed riding in the rear seat of the first car to bear their last name. It cost $785, had a 110-inch wheelbase, and was powered by an L-head 4-cylinder engine that proved so reliable it was continued until 1920 with very little modification. Total production for 1914 was a mere 249 touring cars. The following year. Dodge offered a two-passenger roadster which also sold for $785 and the plant went into full production.

According to “The Dodge Brothers: The Men, the Motor Cars, and the Legacy” by Charles K. Hyde, here’s the full story:

The widely accepted history of the initial production of early Dodge Brothers automobiles in November 1914 is at odds with much of the evidence about the earliest Dodge Brothers cars. Automotive historians have thought that the first production car, later named “Old Betsy,” came off the assembly line at the Hamtramck factory on 14 November 1914. Guy Ameel, superintendent of final assembly for Dodge Brothers since the start of automobile production, served as John and Horace’s chauffeur that day. With the brothers in the back seat, Ameel stopped the first Dodge Brothers car in front of John Dodge’s mansion on Boston Boulevard in Detroit and a photographer recorded this important moment.

“Old Betsy” was more likely an experimental prototype car assembled several months before 14 November 1914 and not a production car at all…

Horace and John Dodge

The Dodge Brothers

The Dodge Brothers began an aggressive advertising campaign to promote their new automobiles and to attract potential dealers to sell their cars. Few people jumped onto the Dodge Brothers bandwagon earlier than Lewis Reed, and not many have lasted longer.

Lewis Reed received his franchise to sell Dodge Brothers Motor Cars from John and Horace Dodge; less than one year after the first Dodge Model-30 rolled off the assembly line for $785. He was just 27 years old. Since then, the business grew and transformed into the oldest Dodge dealership in Maryland history and one of the oldest in the entire nation.

First Auto Races at Rockville Fair Speedway

If only the grandstands at the Rockville Fairgrounds could talk. The stories it could tell – it would tell stories of great racing – first on horses, bicycles and motorcycles, and then in cars. This grandstand could talk about the rich history of racing that took place on the half mile-long dirt track which attracted high-power cars operated by some of the most noted speed kings of the country.

The most delightful way to reach the Fair from Washington, DC was by trolley. The trolley line passed through one of the most beautiful suburbs of Washington and the fertile farms of Montgomery County. The landscape would have been just beginning to give a little evidence of the autumn harvest time approaching. The immense cornfields, with their large well-developed ears; the many orchards, with bright-colored apples; the deep green of the ripening meadow grasses, the contrasting freshly plowed furrows, in preparation for wheat sowing, make a rural landscape charming to all travelers.

The fairgrounds underwent great change in the early 1900s. The grounds were enlarged by the addition of about five acres. A half-mile race course was constructed, a new and grandstand was erected, and various other improvements were made to the buildings and grounds, all of which made the Rockville fairgrounds up-to-date in every respect. Montgomery County could well boast of the nicest fairgrounds in the State.

Early action shots like the ones in this post are rare, however, the following photographs were taken by Lewis Reed at the Rockville Fairgrounds in 1923. The photographs were from the first incarnation of the Fair, held by the Montgomery County Agricultural Society (1846-1932) in Rockville, and often known simply as the “Rockville Fair.”

THE FIRST RACE

From The Baltimore Sun, August 27, 1923:

This is the first year that a Rockville Fair has continued through Saturday. The extra day was added this time as an experiment, the management believing that by substituting new features the additional day could be made a success. Automobile races, the first ever held at Rockville, were the day’s principal attraction and they attracted a good-sized crowd.

Rockville Fair Auto Race Aug 1923

Rockville drew huge crowds for auto races. Rockville Fair, August 25, 1923. Photo by Lewis Reed

August 1923. Auto race, Rockville Fair

Dusty Action – 1923 photo of the exciting auto races at Rockville Fair. Five racers are just coming around the bend on this dirt track with their tires spinning up dust in their wake. Photo by Lewis Reed

August 1923 Auto race, Rockville Fair

Race car drivers deep in dust round a turn at the Rockville Fair auto races. Print made from a Lewis Reed glass negative.

August 1923 Auto race, Rockville Fair

High-powered race cars rounding a wide, sweeping curve at the Rockville Fair auto races, August 25, 1923. Print made from a Lewis Reed glass negative

August 1923. Auto race, Rockville Fair

Two-man race car. Some early race cars included both a driver and a ‘riding mechanic’. One of the key jobs of the second man in a race car was to look backward and alert the driver to what was going on behind him. Photo by Lewis Reed

Early race car drivers were required to have a riding mechanic, otherwise it was voluntary. Riding mechanics, who in addition to being lookouts, kept an eye on tire wear and would even hop out of the car and run back through the infield to get fuel.

This photograph was featured as a part of the ‘London Array’ Series of Impossible Engineering that was broadcast on January 24, 2019 on Discovery’s Science Channel. The photograph was used on the program that featured a segment on the development of the race car.

August 1923. Auto race, Rockville Fair

More dirt track action. Skinny tires make for slippery turns. Photo by Lewis Reed.

ALONG WITH AUTO RACES, AUTO POLO DEBUTED AT THE ROCKVILLE FAIR

Rockville Fair auto race

From The Washington Post, August 25, 1923

Note in the program above, that in addition to racing, there were two auto polo events.

WHAT ON EARTH IS AUTO POLO?

1923 Auto Polo

Given that early automobiles were marketed as replacement horses, it was inevitable that the game of auto-polo would be invented. The idea of playing polo with cars had been tossed around starting in about 1900. It took 10 years, and the Ford Model T, to make it practical.

In 1912, some people thought it would be a good idea to strip the bodies off Model Ts, and put together some two-car teams to whack a ball around with mallets. On July 12, they did just that, playing with oversized croquet mallets and a two-pound, basketball-sized ball. Two cars took the field, and two more tended their respective goals.

From The Daily News, Frederick, Maryland, August 24, 1923:

Thousands of people attended the Fair on Thursday, which was the biggest day of the week, at least from the attendance standpoint. By two-o’clock the grandstand was so crowded that even standing room was at a premium. The racing events of the afternoon were unusually good. As special grandstand features there were auto polo and stunt riding.

Any form of safety was completely absent, unless you count the occasional presence of a hat. The cars were protected with roll bars in back and around the radiator, but the drivers, not so much. The game consisted of five 10-minute periods. It was hard on drivers, cars, and the field. There was no limit on car substitutions, and as many as a half-a-dozen per team might be demolished during the game, along with the stands, goalposts, referees (on foot on the field) and anything else that got in their way.

1920s auto polo

1922 auto polo match in Los Angeles. The referees job is very dangerous as the cars careen about the field and smash into each other. Google stock image.

All we hope is that this lunatic game will not spread.
Automobile Topics, Nov. 16, 1912

AUTO RACES MARK END OF 5-DAY ROCKVILLE FAIR

From The Sunday Star, Washington, DC, August 26, 1923:

Thrilling automobile races brought the annual Rockville Fair to a close this afternoon. The sport was as innovation so far as Rockville was concerned.

Seven high-powered cars, operated by some of the crack drivers of the country, participated. The events ranged from one to ten miles in distance, and some fast time was made. Excepting that of Thursday, the largest crowd of the five days was on hand.

Auto Polo Credit: May 2010 issue of Hemmings Motor News

November 14, 1914: First Dodge Automobile Built

First Dodge car

Horace Dodge (left, rear) and John Dodge (right, rear) take delivery of the first Dodge automobile on Nov. 14, 1914.

One hundred and four years ago on this date –November 14, 1914 — the very first Dodge car, “Old Betsy”, rolled off the assembly line. On that day, the Dodge Brothers (Horace and John) were photographed riding in the rear seat of the first car to bear their last name. It cost $785, had a 110-inch wheelbase, and was powered by an L-head 4-cylinder engine that proved so reliable it was continued until 1920 with very little modification. Total production for 1914 was a mere 249 touring cars. The following year. Dodge offered a two-passenger roadster which also sold for $785 and the plant went into full production.

According to “The Dodge Brothers: The Men, the Motor Cars, and the Legacy” by Charles K. Hyde, here’s the full story:

The widely accepted history of the initial production of early Dodge Brothers automobiles in November 1914 is at odds with much of the evidence about the earliest Dodge Brothers cars. Automotive historians have thought that the first production car, later named “Old Betsy,” came off the assembly line at the Hamtramck factory on 14 November 1914. Guy Ameel, superintendent of final assembly for Dodge Brothers since the start of automobile production, served as John and Horace’s chauffeur that day. With the brothers in the back seat, Ameel stopped the first Dodge Brothers car in front of John Dodge’s mansion on Boston Boulevard in Detroit and a photographer recorded this important moment.

“Old Betsy” was more likely an experimental prototype car assembled several months before 14 November 1914 and not a production car at all…

Horace and John Dodge

The Dodge Brothers

The Dodge Brothers began an aggressive advertising campaign to promote their new automobiles and to attract potential dealers to sell their cars. Few people jumped onto the Dodge Brothers bandwagon earlier than Lewis Reed, and not many have lasted longer.

Lewis Reed received his franchise to sell Dodge Brothers Motor Cars from John and Horace Dodge; less than one year after “Old Betsy” rolled off the assembly line. He was just 27 years old. Since then, the business grew and transformed into the oldest Dodge dealership in Maryland history and one of the oldest in the entire nation.

35 Years Ago Today, Chrysler Invented the Minivan, And Changed History

1984 Dodge Caravan

1984 Dodge Caravan

On November 2nd, 1983, the world’s first minivan rolled off of Chrysler’s assembly line. It was the vehicle that saved Chrysler from financial doom. When Ronald Reagan was president — the economy was far from robust and Chrysler was on death’s doorstep. Chrysler needed a home run, and Lee Iacocca, who was running the company at the time, gambled that the first wave of baby boomers who were starting families would likely want something roomier and far more practical than the traditional family hauler, the station wagon. Iacocca practically bet the company on the fact that a new automotive segment dubbed “the minivan” would catch on with the boomers. It was a $660-million gamble, only made possible by money acquired earlier from Washington’s $1.5-billion bailout of Chrysler.

Sales improved dramatically with the debut of the well-received K-car platform and the introduction of the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. Chrysler paid off government loans seven years early. Reed Brothers successfully navigated through numerous Chrysler setbacks during the 1970’s and 80’s, including the first Chrysler Bailout and resurgence under Lee Iacocca.

The 1984 Dodge Caravan was designed specifically with families in mind. The early design looked like station wagons at the time, featuring a wood panel along the sides. The Caravan was essentially a big, roomy box on wheels, utilizing maximum form efficiency — small on the outside, huge on the inside.

1984 Dodge Caravan

1984 Dodge Caravan

The other distinguishing features of the new minivan were its car-like features – notably including power windows, comfortable interiors, a nice dashboard, and front-wheel drive. These also explain the appeal of the vehicle. Not only did it fit in a garage like a car, but it actually drove like a car, while also providing plenty of room for the kids and luggage and giving mom a nice, high view of the road. The sliding door made it easy to for people to quickly enter or exit the vehicle and, with its lack of hinges, the sliding door was seen as a safer option for children.

After The 1984 Dodge Caravan was released, it became an immediate success. The minivan helped bring the company back from the brink of bankruptcy, and it reinvigorated the automotive market. Many buyers had to wait weeks to have their orders filled because there was so much demand. Dodge created an entirely new market with the minivan, and other models soon followed suit.

Lee Iacocca, the mastermind of the minivan era, presented this 12,000-mile Voyager at the assembly line in Windsor, Canada on November 2, 1983. A truly game-changing vehicle…

Early Car Starters: How Did Old Cars Start?

hand cranked car

Lewis Reed hand cranking an old car. The license plate is MD 10307 dated 1913.

Today, we take the starting of automobiles for granted. Simply place the key in the ignition, turn, and VROOM, the engine starts. Vintage cars from from the 1900s and 1910s were comparatively archaic and limited in their mechanical features. Even starting these old relics was difficult because the process involved a number of complicated steps that the driver had to perform in the correct order.

However, this was not always the case. Hand cranks were the most common type of engine starters in the early days of the automobile. Cars in the early parts of the century had to be started by hand. This was accomplished by turning a crank, usually located in the front of the automobile. The driver would literally “crank the engine” by turning the handle, which would allow the process of internal combustion to begin. After a given number of cranks, the engine would begin to run on its own, and the crank could be removed.

Although hand crank starters were simple and reliable, they suffered from a handful of drawbacks. The main issue with this method of starting an engine is that it is inherently dangerous to the operator. For instance, if an engine kicks back during the cranking process, the operator could get TKO’d by the hand crank. Although many of these cranks used overrun mechanism, there was also a potential for injury if the handle continued to turn after the engine started running.

The other main issue with hand crank starters is that it took a certain degree of physical effort to turn them. That meant anyone who lacked the necessary physical strength or dexterity was incapable of starting a vehicle equipped with this type of starter.

By 1920, nearly all manufacturers were producing cars equipped with starters making it easy for anyone, regardless of physical abilities, to start a car by pressing a button mounted on the dash or floor. An ignition on and starter engage switch operated by a key was introduced by Chrysler in 1949.

1928 Dodge Brothers Standard Six

1928 Dodge Brothers Standard Six had both hand crank and starter. I’m assuming the crank was a backup in case the starter failed. The crank hole cover can be seen just below the front grill. Photo by Reed Brothers Dodge

Several new mechanical innovations were included in the 1946 Dodge Deluxe models. Among them were the introduction of the famous Fluid-Drive, a push-button starter system. The dash-mounted button on the 1946 Dodge Deluxe pictured below activated a solenoid, which in turn engaged the starter. For the first time since 1928 there was no provision made to manually hand crank the engine.

1946 Dodge Deluxe

The push button starter on this 1946 Dodge Deluxe Fluid Drive was located on the far left, below the instrument gauges. Photo by Reed Brothers Dodge.

 

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