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Historical Timeline 1920 - 1929

Sele​ct Period: 1800s | 1900s | '10s | '20s | '30s | '40s | '50s | '60s | '70s | '80s | '90s | 2000s | '10s



John Dodge dies in January.

A combination of material shortages, rising prices and a postwar recession weaken both Maxwell and Chalmers.  With total 1920 production of 34,169 vehicles, Maxwell has 26,000 unsold cars and $2 million in debt.

Fred Zeder, Owen Skelton and Carl Breer leave Studebaker and form the Zeder-Skelton-Breer Engineering Company.

Walter Chrysler is retained to save Willys-Overland and the Willys Corporation – at an annual salary of $1 million.

Walter Chrysler hires Zeder-Skelton-Breer Engineering to design a new car carrying his name, to be produced in the Willys plant at Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Horace Dodge dies in December.


Maxwell, faced with falling sales, ceases production at the Chalmers plant.  The Maxwell car is plagued with weak axles and poorly mounted gas tanks.  Later 1921 models will feature two straps on the gas tank and steel braces on the rear axles.

Willys-Overland places its Elizabeth plant on the auction block to raise cash for retiring debt.  Both the plant and the prototype Chrysler vehicle it was to build are sold to William Durant, who uses the plant to build his Star vehicle and the Chrysler prototype as the basis for his Flint car.  Zeder-Skelton-Breer Engineering is retained by Durant Motors Inc. to transform the Chrysler vehicle into the Flint.

The Maxwell Reorganization Team is forced to put the company on the auction block.  The company’s bankers approach Walter Chrysler to save the company; he becomes Chairman of the Board of a new Maxwell Motors Corporation incorporated in West Virginia.

Dodge Brothers firm agrees to sell Graham Brothers trucks, which will now use Dodge engines through Dodge Brothers dealers; production of Graham Brothers trucks begins at Dodge facilities in Hamtramck.

William Durant purchases a Willys subsidiary, New Process Gear Company of Syracuse, New York.


Maxwell purchases the assets of Chalmers Motor Company at auction.

The improved “New Series Maxwell” arrives on the market.


Zeder, Skelton and Breer head a team to design a new car, the soon-to-be-announced Chrysler B.  The car is introduced to the public through ads in December and during the January 1924 New York Auto Show.

The 1924 Chalmers is introduced in the fall of 1923, with four-wheel hydraulic brakes – a test bed for the brakes planned for the new Chrysler.  Production of the Chalmers then ceases, replaced by the new Chrysler.

Dodge Brothers introduces the all-steel four-door sedan body.

K. T. Keller becomes General Manager of General Motors of Canada, Ltd.


First Chrysler vehicles produced in volume by Maxwell Motors.  More than 32,000 Chryslers will be produced in 1924.

Chrysler Engineering First:  High-speed, high-compression engine with replaceable element oil filter.

Chrysler Engineering First:  First use of hydraulically-actuated four-wheel brakes on mass-produced vehicle.

Zeder-Skelton-Breer Engineering dissolved as its three principals accept positions with Maxwell.

Dodge Brothers completes its one-millionth car.

A Key Strength:  Chrysler Engineering (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde -– The company’s expertise in automotive engineering soon distinguished it from its competitors.

The Beginning of it All:  The 1924 Chrysler Six (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde -– The turning point in the company’s history – its first product, the 1924 Chrysler Six, was acclaimed by many as the first modern automobile.

Chrysler Management – An Anatomy of Success, 1924-1940 (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde -– Two major themes in the company’s early years are the competence and dedication of Walter Chrysler’s chief lieutenants and the critical contributions of Chrysler Engineering to the young enterprise’s success.

Early Chrysler Racing, 1924-1931 (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde -– Racing enthusiasts, both in America and abroad, were impressed with the Chrysler 70 and its capabilities.

Flat-head engine design, 1924 (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde -– In developing the original Chrysler engine, Zeder, Skelton and Breer selected a flat-head, or valve-in-block, design.

Early Chrysler standardization (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde -– Early in the company’s history, Chrysler adopted standardized body designs; even when products used different bodies, some components were standardized.

Chrysler History - Walter’s Cars, Walter’s Company (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde


Dillon, Read & Co. purchases Dodge Brothers for $146 million.  Dodge Brothers shareholders – the two Dodge widows, who each control 249,995 shares, and five others, each with two shares – approved the deal on April 20, 1925.

Chrysler Motor Corporation is formed to manage sales of the new Chrysler car.  By year’s end there are 3,800 Chrysler dealers.

After producing only 34,169 cars in 1920 and 79,144 in 1924, the combined Maxwell-Chalmers organization produces 132,343 cars.

The Chrysler Corporation is incorporated in Delaware on June 6, 1925; Walter Chrysler is named President and Chairman of the Board.

Chrysler Canada, Ltd. is organized.

Dodge Brothers, Inc. purchases 51 percent of Graham Brothers, Inc., which is operating plants in Evansville, Indiana and Stockton, California.  Ray A. Graham becomes General Manager of Dodge Brothers while Joseph C. Graham becomes Vice-President of Manufacturing and Robert C. Graham becomes Sales Manager.

Edward J. Wilmer is appointed President of Dodge Brothers, Inc.; Frederick J. Haynes is Chairman of the Board.

The last Maxwell car is built.

The first Chrysler Four comes down the assembly line.


Dodge Brothers acquires remaining 49 percent of Graham Brothers.

K. T. Keller resigns from General Motors and joins the Chrysler Corporation.

The Imperial, larger than the Chrysler and featuring distinctive styling and a larger 288-CID, six-cylinder engine, is introduced.  Floyd Clymer drives a stock Imperial from Denver to Kansas City, averaging a remarkable (for the era) 51.8 mph.

A Chrysler Imperial 80, driven by famous racer Louis Chevrolet, becomes the first Chrysler vehicle to serve as pace car for the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.

Chrysler ranks seventh in national sales, building more than 162,000 units during the year.

Chrysler S. A. is established in Belgium to distribute Chrysler cars in Europe.


Chrysler Motors Ltd. is formed in the United Kingdom.

The three Graham brothers resign from Dodge Brothers and acquire Paige Motor Company, which is then renamed Graham-Paige Motor Corporation.

Go Away, Little Boy (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde -– Walter Chrysler and Henry Ford discuss the new low-priced Plymouth car created by Chrysler, circa 1927.  From an interview with Gene Weiss, retired Chrysler engineer.


The Plymouth Motor Corporation and the DeSoto Motor Corporation are organized.  Walter Chrysler is President of Plymouth and Joseph E. Fields is President of DeSoto.

The first Plymouth is built in the Highland Park plant.

The Plymouth, which evolved from the four-cylinder Chrysler 50 and its Maxwell predecessor, is introduced to the public through advertising in The Saturday Evening Post magazine.

The mid-level DeSoto, named by Walter Chrysler, enters production at Highland Park.

Chrysler purchases Dodge Brothers from Dillon, Read & Co. in a stock exchange; Chrysler issues $170 million in new stock and exchanges one share of Chrysler stock for each share of Dodge Brothers stock.  The merger creates Detroit’s “Big Three,” a term coined in an editorial in The Automotive Daily News in recognition of the 75 percent of U. S. auto sales now controlled by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

Chairman Frederick Haynes and President Edward Wilmer resign from Dodge Brothers.

K. T. Keller is named General Manager – Dodge Brothers Division, Chrysler Corporation.

The 1929 DeSoto is introduced on August 4.

Jonathan Dixon Maxwell dies.

The Fargo Motor Corporation is formed as a Chrysler Corporation subsidiary.

Walter Chrysler officiates at the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Chrysler Building in New York City, which will house the New York offices of the Chrysler Corporation and Walter Chrysler’s personal office and will be, briefly, the world’s tallest building.

Walter P. Chrysler named Time Magazine “Man of the year.”

The two-millionth Dodge car is built.

Chrysler buys Dodge, 1928.

Taking on Ford and GM in the Low-Price Field:  The 1928 Plymouth (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde -– While it broke little ground from an engineering standpoint, the 1928 Plymouth propelled Chrysler Corporation in the competitive battleground of lower-priced cars and helped precipitate the creation of operating divisions within the company.

The Red-Head Six-Cylinder Engine, 1928 (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde -– The most notable engineering improvement in Chrysler’s 1928 models was the Red-Head six-cylinder engine head.

Chrysler History - The Dodge Heritage (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde


Chrysler Engineering First:  Downdraft carburetion in production vehicles.

Chrysler Engineering First:  Adoption of Bonderite® metal preparation methods to inhibit corrosion and improve paint bond.

New Lynch Road Plant in Detroit opens for Plymouth and DeSoto production; for several years it was the largest auto plant under one roof in the world.

Chrysler Motor Parts Corporation (later Mopar®) formed.

Plymouth, only one year old, begins the year in 15th place in national auto sales.

The Downdraft Carburetor (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde -– First introduced on the 1929 Chrysler and Dodge models, the downdraft carburetor was one of Chrysler’s early engineering “firsts.”

Chrysler History - Surviving the Great Depression (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde