Bill Watson's Chronology of Chrysler Corporation:1920-1939

1864-19111912-191920-391940-49 1950-63 1964-19711972-801981-921993-97
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Chrysler History, Part 3: The Story So Far

The Dodge Brothers started their own company, which rapidly grows based on a reputation for reliability. Rising star Walter P. Chrysler is put in charge of faltering Buick, with excellent results.

1920: Chrysler goes to Willys, Dodges die, Maxwell weakened

  • The post-war recession, coupled with material shortages and rising prices, weakens Maxwell and Chalmers. Maxwell has a debt of $32 million and had 26,000 unsold cars — out of 34,169 made in 1920.
  • Maxwell places the emergency brake on the driveshaft, beginning a Maxwell, then Chrysler, trademark.
  • John Francis Dodge dies January 14; Horace Elgin Dodge dies December 10
  • Fred M. Zeder, Owen Skelton, and Carl Breer (the “Three Musketeers”) leave Studebaker and form Zeder-Skelton-Breer Engineering Co.
  • Walter P. Chrysler is hired to save the Willys Corporation, at a highly unusual $1,000,000 per year; he hires Zeder-Skelton-Breer Engineering to design a new car, the Chrysler, to be produced in the Elizabeth, NJ, plant.
  • Frederick J. Haynes becomes president of Dodge Brothers.

1921: Chrysler hired to save Maxwell-Chalmers

  • Maxwell ceases production in the Chalmers plant; its cars, built with weak axles and poorly mounted gas tanks, are “patched” for the late-1921 model year with two straps on the gas tank and two steel trusses on the rear axles.
  • John North Willys puts the Willys-Overland puts its plant in Elizabeth, NJ on the auction block. The plant and the protoype Chrysler (later called the model A by the Chrysler folk; the 1924 Chrysler would be the model B) are auctioned to General Motors founder William C. Durant. Durant builds his low-priced Star at the plant and hires Zeder-Skelton-Breer Engineering Co. (“ZSB”) to transform the Chrysler Model A into the Flint; ZSB work on their new straight-six engine for Durant as part of this.
  • Late in 1921, the company bankers ask Walter P. Chrysler to save Maxwell and (since Maxwell owned 90% of it) Chalmers. Chrysler agrees, for $100,000 a year plus stock options.
  • The Maxwell Reorganization Committee is forced to put the company on the auction block. Faced with heavy bidding from William C. Durant, Studebaker, the White Motor Company, and others, the committee pays $10.8 million for the company and its assets.
  • A new Maxwell Motor Corporation is incorporated in West Virginia, and Walter P. Chrysler becomes chairman of the board with W.R. Wilson as president. (Maxwell had been through numerous changes already, including a year as U.S. Motor Car Company.)
  • Dodge Brothers and Graham Brothers sign an agreement whereby Graham Brothers will use Dodge Brothers engines and sell their trucks through Dodge Brothers dealers. Production of Graham Brothers Trucks begins at Hamtamck, MI.
  • Byron C. Foy becomes president of Reo Motor Car Company of California, Los Angeles, CA
  • New Process Gear Company, Syracuse, NY, a subsidiary of Willys Corporation, is purchased by William C. Durant.

1922: Maxwell buys Chalmers assets

  • Walter P. Chrysler's contract with Willys-Overland ends.
  • Maxwell Motor Corporation purchases assets of Chalmers Motor Company for $2,000,000.

1923: First Chrysler introduced

1924 Chrysler

1924: Zeder, Skelton, Beer join Maxwell

inside the 1924 Chrysler

  • Zeder-Skelton-Breer Engineering Co. dissolved as Fred M. Zeder, Owen R. Skelton and Carl Breer accept posts with Maxwell Motor Corporation.
  • April - Fred Zeder’s younger brother, James C. Zeder, goes to work for Maxwell Motor Corporation.
  • 1 millionth Dodge Brothers car

walter p. chrysler with 1924 Chrysler Six

1925: Chrysler takes over Maxwell. First four.

  • Dodge Brothers purchased from the widows of the Dodge brothers by Dillon, Read & Co. for $146,000,000.
  • Chrysler Motor Corporation formed to handle sales of the Chrysler car.
  • From 34,169 cars in 1920, to 79,144 in 1924, the new Maxwell-Chrysler combine produces 132,343 cars in 1925.
  • June 26 - After two years of stock acquisition by Walter Chrysler and Harry Bronner, the Chrysler Corporation is incorporated in Delaware and takes over the Maxwell Motor Corporation. Walter P. Chrysler is president and chairman of the board.
  • May - the last Maxwell is built. It is replaced one month later by the first Chrysler four, which is essentially an updated Maxwell.
  • October 1 - Dodge Brothers Inc. purchases 51% of Graham Brothers, Inc., with plants in Evansville, IN and Stockton, CA. Ray A. Graham becomes general manager, Joseph C. Graham becomes vice-president of manufacturing and Robert C. Graham becomes sales manager of Dodge Brothers Inc.
  • Edward J. Wilmer appointed president of Dodge Brothers Inc.. as Frederick J. Haynes becomes chairman of the board.
  • Byron C. Foy vice-president of of J.H.Thompson Company, Detroit, MI, Chrysler distributors


  • K.T.Keller leaves General Motors and joins the Chrysler Corporation.
  • May 1 - Dodge Brothers Inc. purchases remaining 49% of Graham Brothers Inc.


  • Chrysler Motors Limited purchased in London, United Kingdom.
  • Graham brothers leave Dodge Brothers and purchase Paige Motor Co., which becomes the Graham-Paige Motor Corporation.
  • Byron C. Foy becomes vice-president of Simons, Stewart & Foy, Chrysler distributors in New York.

1928: Plymouth and DeSoto formed; Chrysler buys Dodge

  • May - The Plymouth Motor Corporation and the DeSoto Motor Corporation are formed. Walter P. Chrysler is president of Plymouth Motor Corporation and Joseph E. Fields is president of DeSoto Motor Corporation.
  • July 7 - The 1929 Plymouth 4 (model Q) is unveiled; it is basically the former Chrysler Four (née Maxwell), which is now dropped. The name was suggested by Joseph W. Frazer, sales manager; reportedly to take advantage of the good reputation of a popular binder twine. The cars are made in the Highland Park plant.
  • July - DeSoto production begins at Highland Park. Some claim it was aimed directly at Dodge Brothers, and was intended to give Chrysler more power in negotations with Dodge Brothers’ owners.
  • July 31 - Chrysler purchases Dodge Brothers Inc, which has its main plants and forge facilities in Hamtramck, MI, with other assembly plants in Stockton, CA, Evansville, IN, and and Toronto, Ontario (a knockdown assembly plant), with land on Lynch Road, the future site of the Plymouth plant. Walter P. Chrysler becomes president of Dodge Brothers Corporation, and K.T. Keller becomes general manager. Frederick J. Haynes and Edward J. Wilmer leave Dodge Brothers.
  • August 4 - The 1929 DeSoto 6 (model K) is unveiled.
  • September - The Fargo Motor Corporation is formed to provide Plymouth dealers with trucks; production begins that month at Highland Park. Walter P. Chrysler is the first president of the Fargo Motor Corporation.
  • The Chrysler Export Corporation is created.
  • James C. Zeder becomes chief engineer of Plymouth and DeSoto.
  • 2 millionth Dodge Brothers car

1929: Lynch Road opens

  • New Lynch Road plant opens for Plymouth and DeSoto production.
  • Chrysler Motor Parts Corporation (later Mopar) formed.
  • Byron C. Foy becomes vice-president, Chrysler Corporation
  • David A. Wallace becomes master mechanic for the Chrysler Corporation.
  • Walter P. Chrysler begins construction of the Chrysler Building in New York City. Walter Chrysler asks his company to create an efficient air conditioning system, and his engineers revolutionize air conditioning, creating Airtemp Division to sell the results; Airtemp would remain highly profitable for many years. Chrysler Motor Corporation is not otherwise involved in building the skyscraper.
  • See related article: Chrysler and Plymouth, 1929-32

1930: Fargo ends, Dodge Bros. and Graham become Dodge

  • Graham Brothers Truck and Dodge Brothers Truck become Dodge Truck and the Dodge Brothers car becomes Dodge. Both use the Dodge Brothers Star of David emblem to the end of the 1938 model year, then the original meaning (intertwined triangles showing the close relationship of the brothers) is drowned out.
  • January - DeSoto model CF, with a straight-eight engine, unveiled.
  • Dodge introduces an eight cylinder model.
  • November - Fargo Truck production ends, for the moment. The division carries on for export and fleet car sales.
  • F.L.Rockelman named president of Plymouth Motor Corporation.
  • K.T.Keller names president of Dodge Brothers Motor Corporation.
  • Also see: Plymouth cars, 1929-32 and Plymouth of 1930: the Model 3oU

1931: Floating Power

  • Plymouth introduces “floating power” engine mounts in the revolutionary new Plymouth PA. Eventually used in every car, these greatly reduce vibration of the chassis, and likely increase reliability by doing so.
  • Last DeSoto straight-eight built; first Chrysler straight-eight.
  • Joseph E. Fields named president of Chrysler Motor Corporation.
  • Byron Foy named president of DeSoto Motor Corporation.
  • David A. Wallace, vice-president of Chrysler Corporation in charge of manufacturing.
  • Plymouth cars now sold by DeSoto, Dodge and Chrysler dealers.
  • Chrysler Building completed.
  • Also see: Plymouth cars, 1929-32; and Plymouths of 1931-32


  • Dodge Truck assembly ceases at Evansville, IN.
  • Herman L. Weckler resigns as works manager at Buick Motor Company and becomes assistant to K.T. Keller at Chrysler Corporation
  • B.E. Hutchinson named president of Plymouth Motor Corporation.
  • Also see: Plymouth PA cars of 1931-32 and the 1932 Plymouth PB


1934: Airflows across brands; Airtemp formed

  • The Airflow appears - the DeSoto Six, Chrysler Eight, Chrysler Imperial Eight, Chrysler Custom Imperial Eight (in 2 sizes), and, in Canada, the Chrysler Six.

1934 Chrysler Airflow

1935: Corporations become divisions; Keller becomes president

  • The Evansville, IN plant, renovated and expanded, begins building 1936 Plymouth cars.
  • Dodge introduces a Plymouth-based export market Dodge (model DV), assembled at Lynch Road.
  • July 22 - K.T. Keller becomes president of Chrysler Corporation; Walter P. Chrysler continues as chairman of the board.
  • Plymouth launches its first commercial van
  • Marysville (Michigan) plant acquired.
  • Plymouth Motor Corporation becomes Plymouth Division, Dodge Brothers Corporation becomes Dodge Division, DeSoto Motor Corporation becomes DeSoto Division and Chrysler Motor Corporation becomes Chrysler Sales Division.
  • Also see: Plymouths of 1935: The PJ and others, with comparison to 1935 Ford.


  • Herman L. Weckler spearheaded conversion of the Wyoming Avenue to DeSoto production; the plant opened in September, and became the head office and main plant for DeSoto.
  • Airtemp Division moves to Dayton, OH.
  • 3 millionth Dodge car

1937: Kokomo plant

  • Plymouth Truck launched, finally replacing Fargo in the United States.
  • DeSoto Six (export) goes into production: model SP3, based on the Plymouth P3, is assembled at Lynch Road.
  • Dodge cars assembled at Evansville, IN, plant for 1937 and 1938.
  • Transmission plant opened in Kokomo, IN.
  • David A. Wallace named president of Chrysler Division.
  • Herman L. Weckler named general manager of DeSoto Division, under Byron C. Foy.
  • 2 millionth Plymouth
  • 1 millionth Chrysler
  • First model year Chrysler Corporation builds over one million cars in one year
  • Also see: Plymouths of 1937 in a record sales year; and Imperial, 1937-38

1938: Warren plant; expedition to China

1939: UK production ends as war heats up; Fluid Drive

  • First 1939 DeSoto Truck built in September, 1938, for export markets.
  • Fluid Drive introduced on Chrysler Imperial line.
  • Chrysler buys land for future expansion in San Leandro, CA.
  • Assembly of Chrysler and Dodge vehicles in United Kingdom ceases due to war in Europe.
  • 3 millionth Plymouth
  • Also see: Dodge cars of 1939 and Plymouths of 1939: the engineering improvements continue, including a radio, downdraft carb, and fuel pump

1864-19111912-191920-391940-49 1950-63 1964-19711972-801981-921993-97
History By Year • Coming: 1998-2007 (Daimler disaster) • 2007-09 (Cerberus) • 2008-2015 (FCA)

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