As America recovered from World War One, the growing automobile industry began to take shape. Technology began to makes its way among all the manufacturers. Dodge capitalized on what it had learned building scout cars for the U.S. Army and the punishment they endured on the European battlefields and applied those great rugged attributes to civilian vehicles. In 1920, it was this durability that really solidified Dodges reputation for dependability and propelled the brand to the number two spot United States by producing over 141,000 vehicles.
Sadly, 1920 also marked the passing of Horace and John Dodge who had both contracted the flu that eventually turned into pneumonia. John succumbed to his illness on January 14 while Horace, who never stopped grieving over the loss of his brother, passed on December 11 of that same year. After the death of Horace, the company was administered by Frederick J. Haynes who assumed the role of president. Under his tenure, Dodge would ride out the rocky postwar recession and continue with strong sales. Wall Street took notice and the company was sold to the investment group Dillon, Read and Co. on April 30, 1925 for $146 million.
Some notable innovations to come out this era were upgraded chassis, suspension and semi-floating rear axles all designed to improve ride quality and durability. Also, Dodge was first to use an all-steel body starting on the 1923 models. Comfort and safety features like in-car heaters, full-width front seats and standard rear brake lights brought new customers into the showrooms. There was also more emphasis on styling as wrap around fenders, lowered roof lines and steel disc wheels appeared on many models during these years. From a performance standpoint, four-cylinder engines began to wane and Dodge would produce three different levels of its new Victory Six that developed 60-67 horsepower. The first downdraft carburetor was also introduced which increased throttle response and power.
Before the decade was up, Dodge had cranked out over 2 million vehicles from its Hamtramck Michigan plant. Its production capacity along with great sales and solid reputation caught the attention of Walter P. Chrysler. He had been eyeing Dodge for quite some time and believed the brand would augment the more luxurious and somewhat pricey Chrysler vehicles. On July 31, 1928, Chrysler purchased Dodge for $170 million. As the 1920s slowly drew to a close, no one could predict what was looming on the horizon. A crisis of epic proportion would soon send the entire auto industry along with the world economy into a massive tailspin.
Well examine how Dodge survived the turbulent 1930s and the Great Depression next week on Red Letter Dodge.