The Big Car Database

Detroit Dac

Detroit Automobile Company
Fate Reorganized
Successor Henry Ford Company
Founded August 5, 1899
Defunct November 20, 1901
Headquarters Detroit, Michigan

The Detroit Automobile Company (DAC) was an early American automobile manufacturer founded on August 5, 1899, in Detroit, Michigan.

It was the first venture of its kind in Detroit Automotive mechanic Henry Ford attracted the financial backing of twelve investors; Detroit Mayor William Maybury, William H Murphy and others As with many early car ventures, the company foundered and was dissolved in January 1901 Twenty vehicles were built and $86,000 ($261 million in 2019) of investment was lost


The company's first product was a delivery truck, completed in January 1900.


The company was founded with a paid-up capital of $15,000 ($455,490 in 2019). Henry Ford managed the manufacturing plant at 1343 Cass Avenue and Amsterdam in Detroit; initially with no pay until he left his job at the Detroit Edison Company, after which he was given a monthly salary of $150 ($4,555 in 2019). He refused to put a car into production until he had perfected it to his satisfaction, infuriating investors who quickly began to lose confidence in Ford's ability to bring a product to market. The company's primary objective was to make a profit for its investors, who had seen the Oldsmobile plant, where the Curved Dash Oldsmobile was built, which was profitable for its owner Samuel Smith.

The company's first product was a gasoline-powered delivery truck engineered by Ford and completed in January 1900. It received favorable coverage in a local newspaper, but was not without its flaws; it was slow, heavy, unreliable and complicated to manufacture. Later in life, Ford recalled this period as one that was driven by profit rather than innovation.


A catalog produced by Detroit Automobile Company in 1900 showed, with a cost analysis, that the automobile was cheaper to maintain and operate than a horse and vehicle. Little is known about the company's designs.

Table 1. Detroit Automobile Car Costs
Original cost $1,000
Cost of operating, ​14 cents per mile, 25 miles per day $114
New tires $100
Repairs $50
Painting vehicle four times $100
Horse and Vehicle
Original cost, horse, harness and vehicle $500
Cost of keeping horse five years $1,200
Shoeing the horse $180
Repairs on vehicle, including rubber tires $150
Repairs on harness, $10 per year $50
Painting vehicle four times $100


The Detroit Air-Cooled Car or D.A.C. was designed and built between the years of 1922 and 1923 in Detroit, Michigan. 

The medium-sized car featured a very creatively designed 155-c.i. V-6 engine with a 30-degree included angle between its banks of cylinders, it was air-cooled, lightweight and constructed mainly of aluminium. The valves in the o.h.v. heads were actuated by pull-rods that eliminated many parts, the camshaft that operated the rods was contained in its own housing within the valley between the cylinders. It used a patented method of welding copper cooling-fins to the cast iron cylinders.

The power plant was rated at 32-h.p. and it was claimed to be able to achieve 30-m.p.g. It was installed in an 115-inch w.b. chassis featuring an aluminium body built by John McArthur, an industry coachbuilding veteran of over forty years in Detroit. The complete package weighed in at only 1700-lb.

The company was led by W.J. Doughty, who had previously worked for Hupmobile and had been a Franklin distributor. He surrounded himself with other automotive (a number of them had previously worked at Franklin) and manufacturing industry experts, and the operation was well capitalized at 1.2 million dollars. The first prototype was exhibited at the Detroit Auto Show in February of 1922, and a small factory was then established in Detroit.

Later in April of 1923, the company moved into a new factory in Wayne, Michigan and tooled up for production. It was announced that forty dealers had signed up to handle the car that would be offered as: a Phaeton for $1250, a Coupe for $1700 and the Sedan at $1750. Various sources estimate that around 100-125 vehicles were produced by the company, but then the operation was quickly shut down.


The Detroit Automobile Company was reorganized into the Henry Ford Company on November 20, 1901, after Ford gained further backing from investors because of his racing success. It later became the Cadillac Company under ownership of Henry Leland, who came in subsequently after Ford had left. The factory location for the Detroit Automobile Company is less than a mile away southeast from Mr. Ford's Piquette Avenue Plant, which opened four years later.

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