GateHouse News Service
Q: Greg, I recently discovered there was a car called the Graham, and since I share that name and have always been a “car guy,” I was wondering if you could give any information on the Graham.
I’m incarcerated and not able to pursue this, so any help is appreciated. Respectfully, Laurence Graham, Cotton Correction Facility, Jackson, Miss.
A: Laurence, I’d be happy to. Three brothers with backgrounds in farm equipment production, namely Ray, Joseph and Robert Graham, are the main men behind the Graham car history. This trio moved up the Dodge corporate ladder and by 1926 was totally in charge of Dodge’s truck assembly plant.
In 1927, the brothers decided to branch out themselves and purchased the faltering Paige Motor Company. The first Graham car was dubbed a “Graham Paige,” released in 1928, and continued through 1941, although the Paige badge disappeared in 1931.
With the “Crash of 1929” at hand, Graham sales numbers hit an all-time high of 77,000. In 1930, the Grahams released both six cylinder and inline eight cylinder models, including a beautiful long wheelbase 137-inch “Custom Eight Town Car.” Sales, however, dropped to less than 40,000 cars as the Depression era was in high gear.
By 1932 sales plummeted to just over 12,000 units as all manufacturers struggled. In 1934, hoping to reverse a poor sales trend, the Grahams introduced a supercharged eight cylinder for just $1,295. They also had “Cannonball” Baker, a well-known racer from the era, drive the car cross-country in less than 54 hours. His accomplishment certified the Graham supercharger’s endurance.
Still, sales struggled.
By 1936, the Grahams offered only six-cylinder cars and were in declining financial health. They even sold their 1935 tooling to Datsun/Nissan in Japan, but even with the Nissan cash they lost over $1 million that year.
By 1937-38, things were still shaky at the company, and even a new “sharknose” Blue Streak didn’t help, as only 5,020 cars were sold. Joe Graham then partnered up with Norman DeVaux, who purchased 1937 Cord 810/812 tooling and then linked up with Hupp Automobiles in a joint venture to save all companies involved. Thus, the Hupp Skylark and Graham Hollywood were identical cars, and debuted in 1939 and 1940, respectively.
Neither car helped or sold well.
Hupp then closed its doors early in 1940 and finally Graham in the fall of 1940. However, Joseph Graham survived, as World War II found the Graham company receiving close to $20 million in defense contracts to build needed war equipment.
In 1944, Joseph Frazer, of soon to be Kaiser-Frazer fame, bought Graham’s company and released its first car, the Frazer-Graham sold in 1946-47.
There you have it Laurence … and good luck in the future.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for GateHouse Media and welcomes reader questions on collector cars at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greg Zyla: Graham Automobile history in a capsule
GateHouse News Service