Dodge Motors is Formed
In July 1914, the Dodge brothers incorporated as the Dodge Brothers Motor Car Company with a capital stock of $5 million, which they increased to $10 million in 1917. In 1913, they had decided to manufacture and assemble their own automobile, severed relations with Ford, and began an ambitious program of plant expansion.
The Dodge reputation for quality was so widespread that 13,000 dealers asked to become Dodge agents before anyone saw the new car. The Michigan Manufacturer and Financial Record declared emphatically, “As a matter of fact, when the Dodge Bros, new car comes out, there is no question that it will be the best thing on the market for the money.” The reason was simple “The Dodge brothers are the two best mechanics in Michigan. There is no operation in their own shop from drop forging to machining, from tool-making to micrometric measurement, that they can’t do with their own hands.”
The Dodge brothers decided to produce a high-quality car that would sell for about $800 and thus not compete directly with the cheaper Model T. The new car had generated considerable interest well before its introduction. Automobile Topics gave its readers an “exclusive” six-page preview of the Dodge in the November 7, 1914 issue. The first Dodge, subsequently named “Old Betsy,” came off the assembly line on November 14, 1914. It was a five-passenger touring car with a wheelbase of 110 inches and came equipped with a 25 H.P. four cylinder “L” head engine with a 3 7/8 inch bore and a 4 1/2 inch stroke, a cone clutch, and a pressurized fuel system. All parts for the new car were thoroughly tested prior to acceptance. John Dodge tested tires by dropping various brands off a four-story building and ascertained the crash-worthiness of one prototype by driving it into a wall at 20 M.P.H.
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. They increased the workforce to 7,000 by April 1915 and by the year’s end, the firm produced 45,053 cars at the Hamtramck plant. The Dodge developed a reputation for dependability which helped sales greatly. During the 1916 expedition against the Mexican bandit Pancho Villa, war correspondent A.H.E. Beckett published several reports in Motor Age on the use of Dodge cars in the campaign. After the daring Lieutenant George S. Patton, Jr., led a successful surprise raid against a bandit headquarters in three Dodges, Brigadier General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, the commander of the expeditionary force, ordered his staff to use Dodge cars exclusively. Pershing then requested 250 more Dodges for the Mexican campaign and continued to drive them on the battlefields of France.