“I couldn’t help it. I happen to have been born to do it.

I am sure that I would have been a rotten failure doing anything else.”

~ Ends Of The Earth ~

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How Dodge Put The "Go" In Gobi Part 2

            Despite the ease with which the work in Mongolia began, the expedition had yet to rendezvous with the camel caravan, and establish if resupply by camel was feasible over great distances.
            While Granger continued searching for fossils, Andrews and the rest of the expedition set off on a 400 kilometer journey to the meet the caravan.  Andrews feared that it might be attacked by bandits, or lost in the desert.  To their great relief, the caravan was waiting.  All seventy-five camels with intact supplies had arrived a full hour before the cars.
            Using this leap-frog technique enabled the expedition to cover more than ten-thousand miles during 1922 and 1923, far more than Andrews had originally thought possible.   Overburdened with equipment, specimens, and staff, the Dodge cars had performed heroically, exceeding all previous expectations.
Crossing The Ongin River.            

Once, while returning to China,  Andrews and his passengers discovered that their oil had leaked out of its cans.  It would be impossible to go much further, but as they were debating what to do, they came upon a Mongol encampment.  Knowing that the herdsman would have sheep, and mutton fat, Andrews queried “why not use that for oil!”
            An obliging herdsman soon had a great pot of  mutton fat warming over a fire.  When it was liquefied, “We poured it into the motor and proceeded merrily on our way.”  The Dodge did not notice the change in diet, but there was one serious obstacle to the enjoyment of its passengers.  “We had had very little food for some time and were very hungry...”  As their engine warmed up, “a most tantalizing odor of roast lamb arose from the car!”,  and Andrews imagined he could smell mint sauce.

Showroom Brochure. Dodge Brothers. 1925

            Similarly, the expedition once found itself without cup grease for the cars.  Cold cream and Vaseline that had been prepared for the summer was sacrificed, Mongol cheese was also substituted, apparently with good results.
            By the end of the second field season, the Dodges had given a Herculean performance without any major mechanical problems.  However, it was felt that it would be safer to retire them and purchase new ones for the next field season. 
            The well-traveled Dodges were sold as they stood, to Chinese importers of wool and furs from Mongolia.  Remarkably, they sold for more than they were worth new.  “After all,”  Andrews records the buyers saying, “we know these cars can do the job because they’ve already been there.  Perhaps new ones won’t be as good.”
            Returning to New York to raise additional funds, Andrews barely arrived at the museum before a representative of Dodge Brothers called on him.  Dodge was delighted with the news coverage their cars were receiving, and realized it was priceless advertising.  Dodge Brothers wanted to be a sponsor.
Centerfold of Showroom Brochure.  Dodge Brothers 1925

            “I’ll play ball,”  said Andrews, “if you’ll give us a new fleet of cars, made to our specifications.”  Two years of work had shown where the cars needed changes - all in the body, and none in the motor.  “I need eight new cars,”  Andrews went on, and “[Dodge]  jumped at the suggestion like a trout taking a fly.” 
             Colgate and Andrews went to Detroit to see Fred Haynes, then president of Dodge Brothers.  Haynes’ greeting was “Now gentleman, Dodge Brothers employs twenty thousand men.  You tell us what you want and we’ll build it.”
            Colgate knew exactly what was required.  Seven of the new cars were to be an open express body with eight-inch sides of heavy screen wire.  Springs, both front and rear, were made heavier than commercial cars.  In addition, on each rear spring, inside, were iron bumpers lined with pieces of heavy tire, to give a heavily loaded car additional support, and leather snubbers were installed to prevent wild rebounds. 
            Gasoline tanks were increased to twenty-one gallons, four strong hooks were bolted onto the chassis member to aid pulling out of mud and sand, and each car was given two complete spare wheels, mounted either side of the driver’s seat. 
            The eighth vehicle was an ordinary five-passenger touring body.  This lightest member of the fleet would be used during advance reconnaissance.
            The Gobi savaged ordinary tires, but Dodge provided the relatively new 33 X 4.5 Royal Cord.  Balloon-type tires had not proven practical.  Although they held a car up better in sand, they increased fuel consumption, and were easily cut by stones.
            Dodge’s support saved the expedition about fifty thousand dollars.  In return, Dodge Brothers used images of the expedition vehicles, with quotes from Andrews, in advertising brochures, calendars, and magazine ads.  Andrews later speculated that the expedition’s endorsement sold thousands of cars for Dodge.      
Sales Brochure April 1937

            Equipped with the new fleet of Dodge Brothers cars, the expedition worked in the Gobi during 1925, 1928, and 1930, and continued to make major scientific findings that established Asia as an important dispersal centre of animal life. 
            They uncovered 20,000 - year old stone tools, evidence that the Gobi had been inhabited by people who may have migrated to North America.  Their geological findings confirmed that Outer Mongolia had never been glaciated and was the oldest area on earth of continuously dry land.  
Expedition Vehicles at Headquarters, Peking [Beijing] 1928

            The most spectacular discovery, for which Andrews and the expeditions became world-famous, was of three nests containing two dozen dinosaur eggs, the first recorded by science.  The nine-inch-long eggs were nearly perfectly preserved. 
            During the late twenties, Asia grew restless, and field work in the Gobi became dangerous.  Civil war, banditry, and the actions of  Imperial Japan in China made exploration after 1930 impossible. 
            Roy Chapman Andrews never returned to the Gobi Desert, but did continue his relationship with Dodge after it was sold to Walter Chrysler.  He remained a popular and widely recognized spokesman into the late 1930’s.
National Geographic.  March 1936

            Dodge’s positive experience with the Central Asiatic Expeditions began an era of similar sponsorships.  In the 1930's Chrysler Corporation sponsored expeditions by other explorers such as Armand Denis and Lisa Roosevelt.  Their "Wheels Across Africa" , and "East of  Bombay” documentaries showcase Dodge Power Wagons and Sedans prevailing over impossible terrain, and demonstrated that Dodge’s were “Reliable, Dependable, Sound” as ever.