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DanStr

How did Detroit Electric survive until 1939?

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I just read on Wikipedia that Detroit Electric built cars until 1939 (and SOLD cars until 1942).

I saw a picture of one from 1931 - it looked exactly like one from the 20's other than wheels and tires. Was the design ever updated prior to the end of production?

I'm assuming production went lower and lower as time went by?

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Apparently Detroit Electric went bankrupt in 1929. An A.O. Dunk bought the company and was able to keep it going after his death in 1936 on just a special order basis. Last Detroit Electric was shipped on 2/23/39

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I heard that electric car owners who still had a working car had the last laugh when WWII gas rationing came around and could zoom around at will!

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It seems that all 1910's and 20s electric cars makers had oddly similar body styles. Does anyone have any info pertaining to the coach-crafting lineage of these "cinderella coaches". For example, were Detroit Electic bodies built in house or by a coach building firm?

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The information I have found, is that the Detroit Electric started as a project by the Anderson body company. In other words they made horse drawn carriages and  auto bodies first, then branched out into making electric cars.

 

http://www.coachbuilt.com/bui/a/anderson_carriage/anderson_carriage.htm

 

They bought the electric components from the Elwell - Parker company of Cleveland Ohio who also supplied Baker Electric. A few years later they bought up  Elwell - Parker.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)

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Speaking of early electric  coach work, I was amazed at the amount of skill shown in the construction of the aluminum front and rear quarter panels on the 1915 Milburn I finished earlier this year. They are large with compound shape mostly. I could not find any sign of a weld either inside or out which means that they were formed in one piece. Quite an accomplishment then and now.     John

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Later information is that production of new Detroit Electrics stopped in the early 20s. But, they stayed in business by buying up old Detroit Electrics, refurbishing them and selling them as new cars.

 

They might buy a 1916 model and modernize it with new balloon tires in place of the old straight sided tires, new headlights and tail lights, and even chop the top a few inches before repainting and reupholstering. The motor and controls would only need cleaning and oiling, then a new set of batteries and it was ready for another 10 years of service.

 

How long they did this I don't know, but have seen cars from the late 20s and early 30s that have the same body style as pre 1920 cars.

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Yes. I just finished restoring a 1917/1935 Detroit Electric. It had a 1917 drivetrain; wheels and frame, and a 1935 body. The motor (1917) says "Anderson Electric Car Co." The body (1935) says "Detroit Electric Car Co.". So it is one of the last cars built before A. Dunk bought the company in 1936 which would have said "Detroit Electric Mfg. Co."

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On 3/3/2017 at 4:58 PM, 70sWagoneers said:

Yes. I just finished restoring a 1917/1935 Detroit Electric. It had a 1917 drivetrain; wheels and frame, and a 1935 body. The motor (1917) says "Anderson Electric Car Co." The body (1935) says "Detroit Electric Car Co.". So it is one of the last cars built before A. Dunk bought the company in 1936 which would have said "Detroit Electric Mfg. Co."

I would love to see a photo of your car.

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I rebuilt all electrical apparatus, replaced all wiring, rebuilt brakes, rebuilt motor controller, and painted undercarriage. The exterior and interior are a bit rough, but solid and all original. It is not my car, tho I wish it was.The shop I work for has all sorts of high end cars, but this is my favorite.

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