Graham-Paige

Overview

The Graham brothers, Joseph, Robert and Ray were originally bottle makers in Indiana and Oklahoma.

In 1916, they began to build truck bodies and sets of components to convert cars into light trucks which eventually led to building complete trucks in 1919.


In 1920,Frederick J. Haynes had taken over as president of the Dodge Brothers Corporation in Detroit when both of the Dodge brothers had died that same year.  Haynes contacted the Graham brothers regarding his intention of adding trucks as an independent product to the existing passenger cars.  The trucks would have Dodge engines and transmissions and be sold solely through Dodge dealers.  This agreement proved to be so successful that by 1926, the Graham brothers had factories in Detroit, Stockton, California and Toronto, Canada turning out 37,000 trucks annually.

In 1926, the brothers sold out to Dodge and formed Graham Brothers Corporation in New York to deal with other interests.

Shortly after, they bought the Paige-Detroit Motor Car Co. in Dearborn, Michigan and re-named it Graham-Paige Motors Corporation.  The existing Paige-Detroit cars were continued until the new Graham-Paige range was announced very early in 1928.

This consisted of four six cylinder cars known as the 610, 614, 619 and 629 and one straight eight known as the Model 835.  All of them challenged existing cars built by other manufacturers and in 1928 they sold 73,195 cars, a record number for a new make in its first production year, only to beat that number in 1929, their best year, with total sales of nearly 80,000 cars.

In order to meet future demand, they acquired and converted the old Harroun Motor Car factory in Wayne, Michigan into a body plant and built another new one in Evansville, Indiana. The supply of wooden body frames was dealt with by the purchase of a timber mill in Florida.

Several more plants, including one in Berlin, were opened to cope with the demand.

But the Depression that hit America made no exceptions and Graham-Paige sales started to drop.

From 1931 on they called their cars GRAHAM's - although the company was still known as Graham-Paige - and offered their cheapest car to date.  Ironically, it was called the Prosperity Six. The seven passenger Custom Eight limousine was produced at the same time.

As sales dropped even lower, the Evansville body plant and the Florida timber mill were leased out to other companies.

The sleek 'Blue Streak' models styled by Amos Northrup - a stylist from Murray, one of the biggest body suppliers in America - were introduced in 1932, the worst year of the Depression and just under 13,000 cars were sold. It was a clever design that had the rear axle slotted through the chassis, making the car very low.

Sales improved enough in 1933 to show a small profit, despite the fact that the car wasn't really altered.

But although the cars were widely admired, it wasn't long before sales began to dip.

A supercharger was fitted to the Custom Eight in 1934 and the line was re-worked for 1935. The styling was unattractive, but sales again improved.

The Eights were discontinued from 1936 on and only supercharged six cylinder cars were offered.

A merger between Graham-Paige and Reo in 1935 gave the Supercharger and Cavalier series the same Hayes built bodies as the Reo Flying Cloud.

Finances were boosted by the sale of Graham engines, tools and dies from the smaller Crusader - based on the 1935 design - being sold to the Nissan Motor Company in Japan in 1937. It would re-appear as the Nissan type 70 that same year.

In an attempt to rekindle enthusiasm for the marque, the famous 'sharknose' range of 3.5 litre six cylinder cars known as 'The Spirit 0f Motion' were introduced in 1938. But it was a 'like it or loathe it' design and unfortunately, the latter turned out to be the majority decision. Graham had no option but to retain the sharknose design for 1939 and introduced a two door Sedan and a Club Coupe at a reduced price.

For 1939, the range now consisted of two and four door Sedans plus a Combination five seater coupe in Special, Special Custom, Supercharged and Supercharged Custom form.

But the company was sinking rapidly and company president Joseph Graham kept the firm afloat by putting $500,000 of his own money into the business.

In 1939, he was approached by Norman De Vaux, the general manager of Hupmobile, a company with similar problems to Graham-Paige.  He had bought the tooling and dies of the defunct 1936-1937 front wheel drive Cord 810/812 'Beverly' sedan and wanted to build a rear wheel drive version.

Graham agreed to share the costs involved on the understanding that they too could build a similar car with a Graham-Paige six cylinder engine and modify the front to distinguish it from the Hupmobile.

Free standing headlamps replaced the retractable Cord headlamps and the front was of more conventional design and slightly shorter than the original.  From the scuttle back, both the Graham-Paige and the Hupmobile were exactly as the Cord sedan.

It was added to the range in 1940 as the Graham Custom Super 'Hollywood' sedan.

But the dies for producing the bodies were very complicated and although efforts were made to simplify the design, this resulted in assembly problems.

It was to no avail, the public were turning to other manufacturers.

A proposed convertible never got past the prototype stage.

Graham increased the horsepower of the Hollywood sedan for 1941 and lowered the price, but by this time, the public had no confidence in Graham-Paige products and car production was stopped completely in November of that year.

A total of 1,859 Hollywood sedans were produced.

During WWII, Graham-Paige was given $20,000,000 worth of defence contracts building aircraft and marine engines and produced an amphibian tractor nicknamed 'The Alligator'.

In 1944, Joseph W. Frazer took over Graham-Paige and the automobile section was absorbed into the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation in 1947.

Graham made farm machinery for a time, but they now own and run the world famous Madison Square Garden Sports Arena.

Source: Reg J. Prosser

 

 

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