By Andrius Mikonis
Evanston, Illinois, resident Jody Reeme was looking for a career change and a new addition to her car collection. Found on the internet, a 1924 Dodge Brothers Roadster caught her eye in Gig Harbor, Washington.
She hatched a plan to buy the car and to drive it home, some 2,300 miles.
The ceremonial end to the journey came September 2 as the roadster chugged into Rise and Drive, a monthly cars and coffee gathering at Collector’s Car Garage, a specialty vehicle storage facility in Chicago.
“I wanted to do it for myself and for the classic car hobby,” Reeme said.
She was greeted with a reception complete with a cake with a photo of the roadster in Idaho, sponsored by Diane Fitzgerald, national director of the RPM Foundation, an organization encouraging young people to get into careers in the antique car field. Jody has joined RPM as a volunteer ambassador.
Before setting out, she had to make some arrangements to get the car ready for the trip. While recent engine work and a new set of tires meant the roadster was drivable, some parts were missing.
An upholsterer in Oregon fashioned a spring seat for it, repurposed a top from another car and made some custom side curtains. Additionally, front fenders were shipped in, running boards fabricated and some structurally questionable body mounts were welded. Initially, the launch date was scheduled for July 14m=, but had to be postponed 10 days as preparations continued.
The original plan was for Reeme to be joined by some girlfriends for the trip, but life got in the way (or they came to their senses) and she headed west alone. However, the nephew of a new friend in Seattle signed on to make the trip and to visit relatives in Illinois.
“Billy is an old school mechanic,” Reeme said. “He knew how to work on this car.”
He proved invaluable for daily maintenance and for the frequent road side repairs the Dodge Brothers required.
The first big setback occurred while still in Oregon.
“We were having overheating problems,” Reeme said. “We thought it was a head gasket but it turned out to be a cracked head.”
A Dodge Brothers Club member was there to help – quite literally. They were to visit with him, but instead he found them at the side of the road.
“He walked back to his truck and he pulls out a ’23 Dodge Brothers head,” Reeme said. “I mean, who drives around with a ’23 Dodge Brothers head? The guy we were staying with had a head gasket… we met great helpful people in car clubs when mechanical things derailed us.”
When things were rolling right, they averaged 100 to 120 miles a day, with a high of 250 near the end.
“There were days we went 20 miles and had a problem and had to cool down on the side of the road.”
The four-cylinder engine averaged 8-10 miles per gallon on regular gas, with no performance difference on ethanol blends. With the tank somewhere shy of 15 gallons, refueling was a concern in remote areas.
“We carried two extra gas cans and used them,” she said. “There’s no gas gauge in the car. There’s one on the tank but it didn’t work, so the guy who did the upholstery made a dipstick.”
We broke all three,” she said of the rules she set for the trip.
With the exception of an electric fuel pump, the trip was made with the car’s original tech. No resto-modding here.
Some seat belts and period-looking turn signals were added among a few safety concessions.
“One thing it could use is more modern brakes,” she said. “The two-wheel mechanical brakes stop slow. It was pushing the edge of safety going down the mountains… In the rain all bets are off.”
Not driving in the rain was one of three rules for the trip, not just because of the arcane brakes and skinny tires but also the single hand-operated windshield wiper. The other two rules were no driving on interstates or at night.
“We broke all three,” she laughed.
Aside from a layover in Iowa waiting for a replacement fan, the roadster mostly soldiered on at 35 to 40 miles per hour to complete the trip in vintage style.
“It’s loud, but with the top on and the side curtains off, it’s really pretty comfortable,” she said. “We used the side curtains more than we thought we would. It was cool in the mornings.”
Jody Reeme likes the sunbaked patina of the bare metal. She hasn’t found any remnants of the original color. The blue hood was found in the trunk, but could have been from another car.
Asked what the plans were for it she said, “no plans really. Just have fun with it and drive it locally. It’s a challenging car to drive long distance.”