Automotive History

The Short-Lived Success of the Dodge Brothers

The 1914 Dodge Model 30 touring car, displayed at the Louman museum.
The 1914 Dodge Model 30 touring car,
displayed at the Louman museum.

This story begins as John and Horace Dodge establish a small machine shop, in Detroit. The year was 1900. The brothers, born four years apart, were noted for their engineering prowess.

In the beginning, the Dodges were known for creating a bicycle that featured sealed ball bearings and was marketed under the name of Evans and Dodge. A few years later, they began producing transmissions for the Olds Motor Works. Soon, they were producing parts for other automobile manufacturers and eventually abandoned bicycle production.

Henry Ford offered the brothers an interest in the Ford Motor Co., with the provision that they would only build parts for Ford. You can still find some early Ford castings that have the letters “DB” cast into them.

The Dodge brothers’ machine works grew and prospered as Ford began setting records in automotive sales. In 1914, John and Horace Dodge left Ford and took their own company public.

The Dodge Model 30 made its debut in November of 1914. It featured a number of features that were well ahead of their time. The car had a 12-volt electrical system, all steel construction, sliding gear transmission and a 35-horsepower engine, all for around $800. A year later, the brothers found themselves firmly in place as the nation’s No. 2 automobile manufacturer.

Their success was short-lived as both of the brothers died within months of each other. One could speculate their demise was due to the pandemic of 1918; however, since the field of diagnostic medicine was not as sophisticated as it is today, that would remain a question.

Without the leadership and vision of the brothers, the company suffered and sales declined. In 1928, Walter P. Chrysler purchased the company for $170 million.

Sources referenced in this article include "Remembering the famous Dodge Brothers" by Robert F. Tate and "The History of the Dodge Brothers" published by the Miami Lakes Auto Mall.