80 Years and Going Strong
Joe Greeves - September 16, 2011 12:00 PM
“Around 1930, the Dodge Brothers company became known as just “Dodge”, producing small, light and quick vehicles priced right for the stringent economics of the Great Depression.”
Early pioneers in the auto industry, John and Horace dodge got their start by supplying engines and transmissions to a pair of big names in the business, Ransom E. Olds and Henry Ford. When Ford began producing his own components, the Dodge brothers offset the loss by producing their own vehicles.
High quality, fast and affordable, the cars were quite successful. By the 1920s, the Dodge brothers had reached an enviable second place in total sales. Unfortunately, both men died during the decade and the company was on the verge of bankruptcy when Walter P. Chrysler purchased it in 1928.
Around 1930, the Dodge Brothers company became known as just “Dodge”, producing small, light and quick vehicles priced right for the stringent economics of the Great Depression. The strategy moved Dodge into seventh place in sales by 1930 and fourth overall by 1933, thanks to their entry level vehicles selling at a competitive price.
The most popular body style of 1930 was a four-door sedan with seating for five. More than 33,000 of the stylish square cars rolled off the assembly line. High volume led to low cost and the series DA four-door sedan was a relative bargain at $995 with standard items that included bumpers, chromed headlamps, cowl lamps and more. The upgraded Deluxe Sedan sold for an extra $70 and included such niceties as wire wheels, side mounts and a luxury interior. Two six-cylinder engines were offered, beginning with the 208 cubic inch Series DA that produced 63 horsepower at 3,000 rpm. The series S Senior Six made 78 horsepower from its larger 242 cubic inch engine. Both were linked to three-speed transmissions.
Unique cars come into your life in unique ways. Danny Garcia is a lifelong automotive enthusiast, living in Smith Station, Alabama. Many years ago, he spotted this 1930 Dodge parked out front of the Ponderosa Motel in Columbus, Georgia, where it served as an attention-getter for more than three decades. Unfortunately, when the business was sold, the owner moved the car and Danny lost track of it. One day while driving, Danny was amazed to see the very same car parked off in a field. He stopped and chatted with the owner who was not interested in selling. After more conversations over several weeks, he found the reason the man was reluctant to sell the car was because the man and his wife had planned to restore it. She died and the restoration process never occurred. Danny told the owner that he would restore the car and come back with it, drive the man to his wife’s grave and give him some time alone with her and the car. At that point, the man sold Danny the car.
After pulling the car from the field and assessing its condition, Danny found that the old Dodge was complete although in very rough shape. Cars are Danny’s hobby and over the years he has restored several. As he has done in the past, he teamed up with James Killingsworth, owner of J & J Restorations. The original plan had been to create a street rod, but since the car was a local icon, it was brought back to factory new with just a few subtle upgrades.
Once the sheetmetal was sound, new fabric was added to the roof and the original wood running boards were replaced with steel. Those are the original refurbished Dodge step plates. The wooden wheels were custom-made by an Amish craftsman in Pennsylvania who specialized in horse and buggy restorations. Danny sent him a wheel and the craftsman created a set from hickory. Coker had the new, vintage-looking Firestone tires, 4.75-5-19. The weatherproof and balanced factory hydraulic brakes use modern brake pads that were adapted to fit.
The gorgeous interior is not exactly the way it came from the factory, but it is a modern interpretation of the original style. The luxurious couch-like backseat has more legroom than most modern cars and the privacy issue was addressed, thanks to individual window shades. Larry Harris did the stitch work and Danny’s girlfriend Andrea chose the colors. The dash contains the original instruments, now converted to 12 volts. Speedometer, gasoline, amperage and oil gauges monitor all of the underhood activity. The collection of pedals includes the obvious brake and clutch, along with the starter pedal on the right. The large round pedal is the gas and the smaller round pedal is the footrest. The gear shift lever controls the three-speed transmission and Danny fitted a tiny modern clock into the shift knob. A pair of levers on the steering wheel control the spark advance and the cowl lights. An interesting touch, Danny found that the door lock and the switch for the interior light were only on the passenger side. It was assumed that the gentleman would help the lady in and out. Back then, chivalry was built in.
Under the hood, the 208 cubic inch engine uses an updraft carburetor with the intake and exhaust manifolds co-located. Details include an authentic Klaxon horn and a period-correct Boyce Motometer radiator cap, modified with Dodge wings. It adds style and monitors water temperature. The huge headlights are now running on 12 volts. Although the motor is equipped with a self-starter, the functional crank is still in place. Old ideas die hard.
Originally, the car was all black, but Danny wanted to upgrade the paint with something that “jumped”. The new look has five different shades, beginning with two subtle shades of red, gold trim around the belt line, black fenders and running boards, along with silver accents on the wheels. Several small fixtures were chromed, including hubcaps and hood latches, to add a little extra sparkle.
Once the car was complete, Danny made good on his promise to the original owner. He has been enjoying his rejuvenated Dodge ever since. Now rolling into its ninth decade, the colorful sedan has become a regular on the show circuit, attracting admiring glances wherever it goes.