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Budd Manufacturing Co. all Steel Bodies for Dodge Brothers Cars

The Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company began operations in Philadelphia, PA, in 1912 manufacturing pressed steel stampings, automobile bodies, and parts. It was the fulfillment of Budd’s goal to produce all-steel automobile bodies that were more durable, stronger, less expensive and could be built in far less time than a traditional wood-framed or all wooden coachwork.

In 1914 the Dodge Brothers placed an order for five-thousand steel bodies for the Company’s new-to-the-market four-cylinder touring car. This new automobile was so popular that Dodge soon ordered fifty-thousand more auto bodies and became Budd’s largest account until it was acquired in the mid-1920s by the Chrysler Corporation.

Today’s feature image was taken by the Budd Manufacturing Company Photography Department which documented the production and manufacturing operations of the Dodge Brothers car and truck bodies in its Philadelphia, PA, plant.

This photo was taken at the scene of an accident involving a Dodge four-door sedan to show just how well the Budd bodywork and structural members held up in an accident. A conventional metal covered wood-framed auto body probably would have suffered from broken rear door and quarter panel framework and more deformation than this all-steel coachwork sustained.

Help us identify the tow truck in the enlargement (below) and share with us what you find of interest in the photos via reader Doug Walters a member of the Dodge Brothers Club. 

  • Pressed steel body components – Construction details of a Dodge touring car body (below.) 

  • Enlargement (below) of the chain driven tow truck used to haul the Dodge from the scene of the accident. It appears this machine may be a circa 1908 to ’10 Fiat open fronted limousine or touring car converted into a wrecker. Note the dog on top of the cowl of the body.

23 responses to “Budd Manufacturing Co. all Steel Bodies for Dodge Brothers Cars

  1. David, I can’t help with the truck. Is that an acetylene tank behind the spares? Budd published a book commemorating their 75th anniversary. In it they explain that Budd developed the spot welder we all take for granted so they could produce all steel bodies. The all steel body changed the way cars were painted too. Bodies could be painted in baked enamel which was not possible with wood structure. Budd took a big chance on Dodge Brothers as a start up company as DB took a chance on Budd being able to produce the quantity they desired. The 100,000th DB body was produced in 1916 by Budd. The bodies were shipped unpainted by rail to Hamtramck to be assembled. I think the original price was $40, included doors and fenders, and hood.

  2. I would be curious to know what those billboards in the background were advertising!
    One does look like it is tires but the other, I don’t know!

    • I see and ad for Goodyear Wingfoot tires, Mail Pouch tobacco, and Camel cigarettes. And I believe the billboard showing a young woman writing her mother about her “schoolgirl complexion” is an ad for Palmolive soap.

  3. Another very interesting photo Dave. The main attraction here seems not to be either the car or the wrecker but the camera itself. All eyes are turned to it rather than the vehicles. The boom assembly looks to be Manley unit based on an early Manley catalog I have. A close look at the service car chassis just forward of the real wheel seems to indicate two side frame rails,one under the other. The front and rear wheels are also different. Those two things make me wonder if the donor vehicle was combined the a Smith Form-A-Truck conversion and the Manley boom assembly to create the service car we see here

    • Tom, Good all good thoughts. The chassis on the Fiat, (Mercedes is another possibility) “wrecker” if it is one appears to be standard issue double chain drive Fiat componets.

      Large early chain drive high quality car chassis’ were a popular basis for to converting into a truck. Most were quite powerful and could quickly be “geared down” by using a smaller front sprocket and a by shortening the drive chain instead of re-gearing the rear end.

      One other advantage is a double chain drive rear end will not suffer from “wheel hop” in loose sand, soil or gravel, like a gear driven rear axle can.

  4. The Dodge Brothers Club recently gave a large collection of Budd Co. Photographs to the AACA Library. There are about 2,000 photos of Automobile bodies and parts. It is an amazing collection .

      • No, they are originals. The archives of the the Dodge Brothers Club is in the care of the AACA library. A great move that secures the future of the archives.
        The Harley Museum in Wilmington, DE, is in the process of scanning all the pictures from the Budd archives they can find.
        Whoever decided to throw the Budd photo archives into a garbage container was a complete moron.

    • Yes, I misspoke , The photos were not given to the AACA Library , They are housed at the Library ( while still beloning to the DBC) and they are the originals

  5. I am curious to know if Budd made the first steel top like GM’s “turret top” of 1936?
    Wonderful site. Thanks.

  6. I”m curious about the “wheel” (for lack of a better term) below the bottom of the wrecker aft of the rear axle. Does this prevent the rear of the tow vehicle from rising up too high if too large a weight is placed on the boom? As it is, the wrecker looks to be like its about to rise off of the front wheels.

  7. Budd built “All Steel” bodies for REO too, I have one on my 1928 REO Flying Cloud Victoria Coupe , it is a heavy car, ~ 3900 # ! but sounds like a bank vault when you close the door. 🙂 I can send you a picture of the Budd badge on the side of the car if you like.

  8. So much to unpack in the photo of the wrecker. That pooch on the hood gives new meaning to the term “auto mascot.” I guess that is a a “sireen” mounted about 10 o’clock from the spare tires, but above it is a long tube with large spring and wing nut that must tension something, but what? Extra chains and rope in abundance and pretty much everywhere. The kerosene lantern hanging off the back for those “night calls”is a nice touch.

    • The question of what that long tube running diagonally aside the cab has been answered when I saw just such a device on an only slightly newer tow truck at last weekend’s “Millers at Milwaukee.” It was called a “Tow Rod” and the end you see at upper left has a somewhat concave shape that would conform to a car bumper or perhaps axle along with some grooves in the back to facilitate lashing it on with rope or chain. The end we don’t see has a round eye to fit a pintle on the truck. The spring is in a telescoping section of the rod to apparently give a bit of shock absorption when towing. At least that’s what I could make of it.

  9. The real wheel design and the front wheel design on the wrecker do not match.

    Can you figure out the year an electric headlight was built by the shape of it? The cowl mounted headlight, could it be identified from a parts catalog?

  10. —I think this is nit-picking by me, but here goes. Photographs of cowl mounted “spot lights” from the 1920s indicate that they can swivel up and down, and have an “up-side-down horseshoe” shaped bracket to allow that. It looks like the light on the tow truck cowl does not swivel. Although, if there is a grip on the back of the light for a human hand, that is obscured by the dogs leg being behind it in the photograph, maybe it did swivel. But there is also no front headlights near the radiator, so…?

  11. Budd’s bread and butter was automobile bodies and wheels, which were made both at the Hunting Park Avenue plant (still standing, abandoned) and the Red Lion plant (demolished). But their gleaming artwork was in building passenger rail cars, which featured austenitic stainless steel bodies. Budd developed alloys with Allegheny Ludlum and developed the process for resistance spot welding (“shot welding” they called it).
    Budd sold to Thyssen in the mid 1980s. Thyssen wanted nothing to do with the Railway Division, so Red Lion closed around ’87 after the last order for Chicago Transit Authority. Hunting Park around 83. Budd’s designs are the bedrock and gold standard of the US passenger rail industry even today. I was priveledged to work for and study under former Budd men early in my career.

  12. Budd’s red Lion plant was a bidding a contract for all new subway cars for septa(Philadelphia’s transit authority) at the end. They lost out to Kawasaki of Japan by a small number. Figure how much money would be saved by providing American jobs and not paying unemployment and welfare and all the workers who weren’t riding the trains to work. when the cars were delivered they all had the wrong gauge wheels so after refitting them the final price was higher than the Budd bid.

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