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Four cylinder Dodge -- what are they like?


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Hi All ---   I'm thinking of buying a Dodge from the 'teens --- 1915 through, say, 1921.  I've had old cars including Model T's but never a Dodge, although I've always liked them.  What are the like to drive?  To own?  To work on?  What are they comfortable cruising along at?  Are parts available easily?   And is there a support club or group out there?

 

Thanks for any encouragement . . . . or caution ! :)

--Scott

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They're a great piece of engineering, and lots of fun to work on and admire as works of art.

 

You can't really drive them too many places because they are too slow; about the same speed as a Model T.  Don't even think about going touring with a Model A club because Model As are much faster.

 

Most people don't know what a DB is, so they don't tend to get too much attention in car shows. You will always be in the shadow of the tri-five Chevrolets.

 

Some of the parts are available, but a lot of others are not, so you often have to refurbish what you've got.

 

They cost more to restore than they are worth on the market.  If you can find a good buy in a car that has been correctly restored, go for it.

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I have both a Model t and a Dodge and a few other cats and dogs.  They are very different to drive.  The T has a transmission brake, no water pump, and no shifting.  It takes a little practice to drive.  The Dodge has a brake (two wheel), a water pump which makes it better for parades and a three speed non-syncro trans.  Parts for the T are readily avaliable if you stay away from the brass cars.  Parts for the Dodges are avaliable but harder to find.  More parts are reproduced for the T then Dodges.  Dodge parts are easier to find then parts for my Durant or Moon.  If you get a Dodge you will get excellent support and find people who will enjoy helping.

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I think a T is easier to drive because the 2 speed planetary transmission is much more user friendly.  The DB transmission is non-synchro with straight cut gears, as were most of the cars from this era.  However, the DB is a little different in that when in 3rd gear, the lay shaft in the transmission is not engaged.  This makes it more difficult to downshift to 2nd gear than say, a Model A (I have yet to pull off a clean downshift at all).  The shift pattern is also unusual.  I think the DB brakes are an improvement over the stock Model T drum brake.  As for parts, you can almost build a T or A from a catalogue.  No surprise there since there are still so many of them still operating which almost guarantees a market for repro items.  Used major components for the DB are not too hard to come by; Myers Early Dodge and Romar offer a pretty decent selection of repro and used bits.  It's not uncommon to see DB parts show up on Ebay.

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I really like the early Dodge cars, and have owned four....1920 touring, 1923 sedan (acres of glass!), 1924 touring, 1925 coupe.  I now have a 1927 Fast Four but that's a whole different car.

 

The early Dodges are not fast, as mentioned, but 35-40 is fine.  They are built SO much stronger than a Model T, there's hardly a comparison.  As far as shifting goes, once you're in high gear in an early Dodge, you're done with shifting unless you come to a complete stop.  High gear pretty much takes care of anything down to maybe 5 miles per hour.  And, they are as reliable as any car out there, and more so than most.  It's also fun to turn the key when the car is not running, be talking to someone, ease your foot over to the starter pedal and hit it...the silent start starter/generator (always engaged with engine) has no sound, all of a sudden the car's running! 

 

The main problem I've seen with people shifting early straight cut gear cars is the method.  These were not meant to be wound to a higher rpm in first and second.  First was just to get you moving, then gently shift into second to 10 MPH or so, then gently shift into high.  You can't speed shift, and you can't floor the car in the lower gears.  Once someone learns the correct method of driving such an early car, it should be no problem, unless there's a mechanical issue with car such as a dragging clutch.

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I didn't have this 1925 Dodge coupe long enough to really get to know it (it sold in 6 days) but there were a lot of features that felt a lot more robust than other cars of the period. It's WAY more car than a Model T, bigger, stronger, more comfortable, faster, etc. and I would almost put it on a level with a Buick in terms of size and performance. The big four-cylinder engine has plenty of grunt, and I, like David, love the silent starter feature. It just whispers to life which is very cool. The oddball shifter quadrant takes some getting used to, but a quick double-clutch at moderate speeds and the gears don't clash. I didn't drive it enough to really know what it likes and doesn't like, but it cruised along at 35 MPH without any issues and felt like there was adequate power in reserve. And I have to admit I like it's stance--broad and not spindly like a T.

 

David is correct, these engines are made for low-RPM pulling, so there's no benefit to winding it out. Get it into high gear as quickly as possible and let the bottom-end torque pull you around. The car prefers it that way and you'll find it's easier to drive.

 

Here's a video that features the whispering starter:

 

 

 

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I have enjoyed the 1922 Dodge Brothers touring that I have been working on.  Take your time with the shifting.  Parts seem to be available, but not like a Ford.  Much more substantial build quality than a Ford Model T.  A pretty robust engine, and everything is easy to work on.  2 wheel brakes requires more stopping time.   It does gather a lot of attention where ever I take it.  40 mph feels like a comfortable limit, but that depends on the quality of your car too.  Buy the best one you can find.  They are pretty good value for the money if they do not require much TLC or parts when you buy them.    Hugh

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