Durant, Dort

  • William Crapo Durant was born in Boston Massachusetts on December 8, 1861. He was the grandson of Henry Howland Crapo (1804-1869) who established Flint’s lumber industry. Mr. Crapo’s political career included mayor of Flint, state senator, and two-term governor of Michigan.
  • Durant was raised in Flint. At age 17 he quit school and became a laborer in his late grandfather’s lumber yard. Later he sold patent medicine, cigars, and insurance.
  • In 1886 Durant got into the wagon building business. He persuaded a friend, Dallas Dort, to jointly establish a wagon manufacturing company. They named their new firm: The Flint Road Cart Company.
  • Initially Durant purchased carts and wagons from a manufacturer in Flint named Patterson, and then re-sold them. Shortly afterwards, Durant began his own manufacturing operations in an idle cotton mill on Water Street. One of Durant’s first hires was Charles W. Nash, a former farm hand and hardware store clerk who started in the blacksmith shop.
  • In 1895 the company was renamed the Durant Dort Carriage Company and was by then the leading manufacturer of horse drawn carriages in the United States. Dort was the company administrator, Nash was manager of manufacturing, and Durant was treasurer and salesman.
  • In the autumn of 1904 Whiting approached Fred A. Aldrich, secretary of the Durant-Dort Carriage company about his concerns regarding his new acquisition, the Buick Motor Company. Durant, living in New York at the time agreed to return to Flint for discussions with Whiting.
  • After personally driving and testing one of the Buick built cars for a few weeks, Durant agree to take on the Buick Motor Company project.
  • In November 1904 Buick Motor’s Directors elected Durant to the Board, Whiting resigned as President, and Charles M. Begole became the new President. It was decided to move automobile manufacturing operations to Jackson, Michigan (an idle Durant-Dort Wagon factory). Buick Motors was recapitalized at $500,000 and new stock issued.
  • The first production Buick Automobiles in 1904 were: Engine: Valve-In-Head two-cylinder with 4.5 by 5 bore and stroke for a piston displacement of 159 cubic inches and 15 hp @ 900 rpm. Drive: chain drive, cone clutch, a two-speed planetary gear set. Ignition was by Magneto jump spark, the carburetor float feed, the radiator a continuous coils with fins and water circulation by gear driven pump. Lubrication: a seven-feed gear driven mechanically operated oiler, with an individual pump for each bearing and an automatic sight feed on the dash. The frame was angle iron with cross supports for strength. The suspension consisted of long thirty-six inch three quarter elliptic springs in front, forty inch half ecliptics in the rear. The drive was right hand; the steering wheel tilted. The wooden five-passenger side entrance tonneau body was finished in dark blue with brass trimming around the seats and on the dashboard. The vehicle weighed 1,675 pounds and was priced at $950. It was designated the 1904 Buick Model B.
  • Buick Motors manufactured 37 Buick Model B automobiles in 1904.


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