I mentioned in an earlier post that I have a keen interest in 1920’s era cars, and especially the many and varied “independent” makes which were a part of the US motor industry during this decade. The Gray is a classic example.
The Gray Motor Corporation was founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1922, as an offshoot of the Gray Motor Company, which had supplied engines to other car makes of the era.
Many of the executive personnel were ex-Ford Motor Company employees, including treasurer Frank L Klingensmith. They decided to take on Henry Ford and his hugely successful Model T in the low-price market. The Gray was powered by a 2.8 litre 20 hp four-cylinder engine, and shared the same wheelbase as the Model T – 2,358mm.
Unlike the Model T’s planetary transmission, the Gray featured a conventional three-speed unit, and suspension was by cantilever springs at the front and rear. The Gray was unable to compete with Ford on price – the roadster and tourer costing $490 and $520, compared with the Ford prices of $364 for a roadster and $348 for a tourer. Gray had predicted that they would manufacture 250,000 cars a year, but by mid-1923 only 1772 cars had been sold.
The company changed its strategy, moving upmarket with a car on a longer wheelbase. Klingensmith did not agree with this strategy, and resigned from the company in January 1925, after which he went on an extended holiday in Australia. The new car cost more – prices ranged from $630 for a tourer up to $995 for sport sedan. Four-wheel brakes were added in 1926, but the company was out of business by the middle of the year. Factory equipment and other assets were sold by auction.
Despite being in production for only 4 years, the Gray was sold new in Australia by various dealers in the major capital cities. The advertisement featured in this entry, though is a mystery. The illustration is from the Adelaide News, dated the 22nd of November 1927. The reference to the “new” Gray is confusing, as the company had gone out of business in mid-1926. It seems that part of the assets of the Gray Motor Corporation which went for auction included a batch of chassis, without bodies.
I can only assume that Drummonds either purchased these chassis direct from the auction, or through a third party, and shipped them to Adelaide, where a local body-builder fitted them with bodies. Drummonds were dealers for a wide range of makes, such as Flint, Amilcar, Moon and Armstrong-Siddeley. None of these were lower-priced cars, so maybe Drummond’s wanted to establish a clientele in this price range. I have no information as to how many chassis were imported into Australia, what they sold for, and how many were sold.