Josiah Dallas Dort, commonly known as J.D. Dort, was a prominent figure in the early days of the automotive industry in the United States. Born on November 16, 1861, in Flint, Michigan, Dort played a significant role in the development of the Durant-Dort Carriage Company and the formation of General Motors (GM).
Dort started his career as a salesman for a local carriage manufacturer before teaming up with William C. Durant, another influential figure in the automotive industry. Together, they founded the Durant-Dort Carriage Company in 1886 in Flint. The company grew rapidly and became one of the largest carriage manufacturers in the United States.
As the demand for automobiles increased, Dort recognized the shifting market and advocated for the company’s transition from carriages to automobiles. This decision proved crucial in adapting to the changing times and establishing a foothold in the emerging automotive industry.
Dort’s partnership with Durant continued to thrive, and when Durant founded General Motors in 1908, Dort became one of the original investors and board members of the newly formed company. General Motors, with its various brands, would go on to become one of the most influential and successful automotive manufacturers in the world.
In 1914, Durant sold out of the business and departed, amicably, to pursue his existing interests in General Motors. Dallas Dort and the remaining stockholders took over the carriage business, incorporated the Dort Motor Car Company, and used some of the same plant to manufacture Dort cars.
Dort’s chief engineer, the Swiss mechanic Louis Chevrolet, together with noted French designer Étienne Planche, designed the company’s product. Two models were launched in 1915 and 1916: both touring cars (i.e., open cars without a fixed roof) with a 4-cylinder, 17-horsepower (12.7-kilowatt) Lycombe engine. They quickly acquired a reputation for being reliable.: 26 Demand became so strong – 9,000 cars in its first year – that the company opened an extra factory 60 miles (100 kilometres) to the south of Flint, adjacent to Detroit at Windsor, in the Canadian province of Ontario.
Dort had become the country’s 13th largest automobile producer by 1920. The company built new large factory on the east end of Flint; however, the post-World War I recession took hold at the same time. The company started bleeding cash and attempted to seek capital or a merger partner, neither of which eventuated; staff numbers were cut and expenses were curtailed. By 1924, J. Dallas Dort was ready to retire, and liquidated the company. The new factory building was sold to AC Spark Plug to manufacture carburetor air filters and fuel pumps.
Aside from his contributions to the automotive industry, Dort was also involved in community and civic affairs. He served as mayor of Flint from 1912 to 1918 and was known for his efforts to improve the city’s infrastructure and quality of life.
Josiah Dallas Dort passed away whilst playing golf on May 17, 1925, aged 64, leaving behind a legacy intertwined with the early growth of the automotive industry and the formation of General Motors. His vision, business acumen, and commitment to innovation played a pivotal role in shaping the future of transportation in the United States.
Various sources including Wikipedia