1923 Dodge 'Graham Canopy Express' Truck
Chassis no. 828476
Engine and transmission suppliers to Ransom Eli Olds and then Henry Ford, the highly respected Dodge brothers - John and Horace - diversified into automobile manufacture in 1914. Featuring a 212.3ci (3½-litre), 35hp, four-cylinder engine, welded all-steel body and 12-volt electrical system, the first Dodge was a robust, 'right-first-time' design that changed little, apart from a couple of extensions in wheelbase length, over the course of the succeeding ten years. Introduced in November 1914, the Dodge sold well and by the end of 1915 some 45,000 had left the Detroit factory, the US auto industry's best first-year performance thus far. And so production would continue to grow over the next few years, with minor refinements to a successful formula. In 1919 and 1920, production comfortably broke 100,000 units, easing a little for 1921 and in the season that this car was built, it came in at a whisker under six figures.
Around this time, Dodge's path would coincide with the Graham Brothers. Joseph, Robert and Ray Graham were born to a farming family in Indiana. All three were college educated, and ended up working together at a bottle factory, re-named 'Graham Glass Company' after they managed to acquire it. Presciently selling out to Libbey-Owens before the market for glass bottles collapsed, they began marketing kits for truck conversion of Model T Fords. Called 'Graham Truck Builder,' the kits could be used on cars such as Dodges, Cadillacs or Hudsons, as well as Fords.
By 1920, the Grahams were manufacturing complete trucks, four-cylinder 1-1/2 ton vehicles with the name 'Graham Brothers Speed Truck.' It was in 1921 that they entered into an agreement with Dodge Brothers Company to market and service their Graham Brothers trucks, a pragmatic arrangement since the Grahams had been using Dodge engines. By 1922, Dodge was building Graham trucks in Detroit, and, in effect, the Graham Brothers truck became the Dodge truck. Dodge took a majority interest in the Graham firm and the brothers all became vice presidents of Dodge.
Although clearly this 1923 Dodge has seen better days, this restoration project bears all the hallmarks of a Graham truck body, especially the open sided 'Canopy Express' which was offered as a custom option on Dodge from this year. The Canopy Express would grow to be an extremely popular light commercial vehicle design until the late 1940s.
The truck has remained in covered storage for a considerable number of years and it is not known when it was last used. On inspection, it correlates well with contemporary illustrations of Graham bodies and the general completeness of the vehicle should provide a good basis for a restoration.
- Please note that the chassis listed for this vehicle is actually the engine number and its title is in transit.