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Durant article in Hemmings


For only the second time in the last 35 years, Hemmings will be running a full driveReport on a Durant, in this case a 1931 614 De Luxe sedan. I would like to enlist the help of this group, if possible, in ensuring my data are accurate. To that end, I'm posting my initial crack at a set of specifications. I would welcome any corrections or additions; feel free to email me directly at dadolphus@hemmings.com; just let me know where your facts come from. I anticipate running this story in the April issue of Hemmings Classic Car.


1931 Durant 614 De Luxe Sedan


Base Price $995
Options on dR car

Type: Continental L-head straight-six,
cylinders cast en-bloc

Displacement: 199-cu.in.
Bore X Stroke: 4.0 X 3.25 inches
Compression Ratio: 5.46:1
Horsepower @ rpm: 71 @ 3,300
Torque @ rpm: 122-ft.lbs @ 1,400 rpm
Main Bearings: 4
Fuel System: Stromberg
Ignition System: Electric Auto-Lite
Lubrication System: Pressure, gear-type pump
Electrical System: Six-volt
Exhaust System:

Type: Selective sliding gear, single
plate dry disc clutch
Ratios: 1st
3rd: 1.00:1

Type: Semi-floating, spiral ring
gear and pinion
Ratio: 4.40:1

Type: Elliot-type semi-irreversible,
worm-and-roller, ball thrust
Turns, lock-to-lock
Turning Circle: feet

Type: Four-wheel Midland
Front: 11 X 2-inch drum
Rear: 11 X 2-inch drum

Construction: Body-on-frame
Body Style: Four door, six passenger sedan
Layout: Front engine, rear-wheel drive

Front: Dropforged I-beam axle, 7-leaf semi-elliptic springs
Rear: 7-leaf semi-elliptic springs

Wheels: 40-spoke wire
Front/rear: 19 X 4 inches
Front/rear: 19 X 5 inches

Wheelbase: 112 inches
Overall Length: inches
Overall Width: inches
Overall Height: inches
Front Track: inches
Rear Track: inches
Shipping Weight: 2,945 pounds

Crankcase: 6 quarts
Cooling System: 14 quarts
Fuel Tank: 12 gallons
Transmission: pints

Bhp per c.i.d.: 2.80
Weight per bhp: 41.48 pounds
Weight per c.i.d.: 14.80 pounds

0-60: seconds
¼ mile ET: seconds @ mph
Top speed: 75 mph

1931 Durant 614 De Luxe Sedan:

Where Are You From? www.hemmings.com

Re: Durant article in Hemmings


This sounds like it is right up your alley

Re: Durant article in Hemmings


Here is a draft of my ’31 Durant story for the April issue of Hemmings Classic Car; it omits some color, as well as details relating to the particular car and owner with whom I’m working—I need to leave you some incentive to read the magazine.

I am looking for any factual corrections you can offer. You will note I have concentrated heavily on WC’s later years, as they relate more directly to the post-1920 car-building era.

For the specifications, I am still particularly in need of the following data: Overall Length, Width, Height, Front Track and Rear Track for a '31 Sedan, as well as gear ratios for three forward and one reverse gear, and steering ratio and turns, lock-to-lock. I am also at a loss for a suggested price range for ‘31s. You will see a blank at the end for that. Lastly, I would like production numbers, if anyone has an idea. Hemmings reported in 1977 that 7,270 cars sold that year; it would be terrific to have a model breakdown.

Lastly, I have used the resources of durantcars.com quite a bit, which I believe is the work of Terry Kulchycki (sp?). I should like to credit him, if anyone has contact information. Feel free to contact me directly at dadolphus@hemmings.com; my thanks to those who already have.


General Motors’ old building in downtown Detroit has a series of stylized capital “Ds” cast into a decorative exterior frieze. They’re not there for the city or its dilettante founder; they’re there for the man who built GM and lost it twice, William Crapo Durant.

Durant was instrumental in the rise of the American automobile. Related to a former governor of Michigan, he had moved out of the carriage-building industry when he met David D. Buick in 1903, founding the Buick Company with him on June 17, 1905. Having survived one of the many panics that characterized the prewar stock market, by 1908 he was at Benjamin Briscoe’s suggestion attempting to purchase the Ford Motor Company. It was part of a grand scheme, reminiscent of the supposed postwar Grand Alliance between Studebaker, Hudson, Packard and Nash. The four largest car companies of the time—Buick, Reo, Maxwell-Briscoe and Ford—would merge into one giant International Motor Car Company, or, as Durant called it after Ford and Reo pulled out of the deal, the General Motors Company. Durant started it anyway, and managed to hold onto GM for two years, pulling in Buick, Oldsmobile, Cadillac and Oakland. GM’s creditors, concerned about red ink, removed him from leadership in late summer of 1910, leaving him a position on the Board of Directors. In October of 1909, he had tried to buy Ford again, offering Henry Ford $8,000,000, an offer Ford actually accepted. Durant’s bankers backed out, and the deal fell through.

By the winter of 1910, he was starting from scratch, with nothing but his famously persuasive ways and a massive personal fortune. By all accounts, he was happiest during times like this, when he could start something and bring to bear his entrepreneurial skills. One of his first purchases during this time was a small car company run by William H. Little. Little stayed on, as did his race driver, Louis Chevrolet. The new company took Chevrolet’s name when it was incorporated on November 6, 1911. By 1912, he had used the Chevrolet Motor Company to acquire the Republic Motor Company, which became the basis of Chevrolet’s manufacturing capability. Two years later, he had been involved with the Mason Motor Company, Sterling Motor Company and the Monroe Motor Company, and on October 1, 1915 regained control of GM, installing his friend and financial backer Pierre Du Pont as Chairman of the Board. By mid-1916, Durant, Du Pont and associates owned 450,000 of 768,733 total shares of GM, which allowed Durant to absorb GM into the smaller Chevrolet.

Four years later, Durant was out of GM for the second time, this time for good, having made up stock losses after the first post-WWI stock market crash in 1919 out of his own pocket. He resigned as president on December 1, 1920, leaving the company in the hands of Alfred P. Sloan, who had come on board on New Years’ Eve, 1918, when the United Motors Corporation joined the fold (and whom had changed the company’s name from the General Motors Company to the General Motors Corporation).

Much of Durant’s first fortune had been erased. But his drive and desire to create had not, and neither had his friendship with the Du Ponts. With their backing, Durant Motors was incorporated on January 12, 1921. Six weeks later, the first Durant Four debuted, going on sale in May of that year. By June, 30,000 orders had been received, and by 1928, he controlled billions of dollars in the stock market.

Durant Motors rose as high as fifth place in sales, in 1923, and had Billy Durant been the kind of man who relished the day-to-day running of a large company, he could easily have challenged Ford and Chevrolet for dominance. He wasn’t that kind of man. He was heavily involved in the stock market and banking, as well as the cause of prohibition. His subordinates were just as happy he wasn’t around on a day-to-day basis, as his long days and fetishistic neatness were legend. He did stay involved in the company, and his stable of marques during these years ultimately included Star, Rugby, Flint, Locomobile, Mason, Eagle, Princeton, Mathis, De Vaux, Continental and Frontenac. In November of 1927, he announced plans for yet another empire, this one to include Moon, Chandler, Hupmobile, Jordan, Peerless and Gardner. Nothing came of the plan and as always, he dismissed his failure as soon as it was past, returning to the actual management of his company to develop a line of six-cylinder cars to replace his straight-six Durant B-22 from 1922 and Star R from 1926. The Durant brand had briefly disappeared in 1927, with volume production being left to Star and Flint. In ’28, he revived Durant as a higher-end brand, and Flint production ended. Durant was to have all six-cylinder cars, and Star would have fours; to that end, the Star R became the Durant 55, with new 65 and 75 models positioned above it. But the Star line was also destined for history, and when it was cut in April of 1928, the still-popular four-cylinder M became the Durant M2, which was replaced with another four-cylinder, the M4, before the year was out.

1929 started off well, with four new models in the range. The 40, 60 (with a new engine), 63 and 70 (replacement for the 75) were joined by the 66 before the end of the year. Unbelievably, an entirely new lineup was announced for 1930; the four-cylinder model 407 and the six-cylinder 614 and 617. In the fall of 1930, the 610 and 612 were introduced.

Despite advertising that claimed that “1931 will be a Durant year,” it wasn’t. Sales were gone, and with so much of Durant’s personal fortune tied up in the stock market, he lacked the resources to bail out the company; some accounts suggest he personally lost as much as $40 million after the 1929 crash. Competition from Chevrolet’s new OHV six was fierce, and sales fell to 7,270 cars, down from an already-mediocre 20,261 the year before. Loans were coming due, and a plant in Leaside, Ontario was foreclosed upon. As a result, the ’31 Durants were mostly carryovers from the year before. The 401 and the model 614 were retained, although a new mid-price, six-cylinder 618 was introduced. Later in the year, the 71hp model 619 was introduced. The company was falling apart at this point; the Canadian arm of Durant was dissolved, and reincorporated as Dominion Motors, Limited, which continued production of the 614 and 618 for several more years. New cars were introduced in 1932, but it is thought that there was no production run of the 621 and 622: On January 27, Durant Motors went into receivership and on January 30, 1932, filed for bankruptcy. Various bits and pieces stumbled along after the head had died: Dominion lasted until the end of 1933; De Vaux until 1932; and Continental (which replaced De Vaux) until 1934.

If the 58hp 612 was priced to go head-to-head with other low-priced sixes, the 614, starting at just under $1,000, was hundreds more than even the most expensive Chevrolet. A huge list of standard equipment helped explain the cost; the only option on Standards was dual sidemounts, De Luxes came with them, along with hard covers for the spares and chromed head- and taillamps. Fourteen versions of the 614 had been offered in 1930, but in ’31 choices were limited to a Business Coupe, Standard Coupe, Standard Sedan and De Luxe Coupes, Sedans and Phaetons. (The 612 was down to just a Tourist Sedan (with reclining Pullman bed attachment).)

They say that Durant was happy in his final years, running and promoting a bowling alley in Flint, Michigan, in the shadow of Buick. He said they were the next big thing. He had finally lost the last of his fortune, declaring bankruptcy on February 8, 1936. Even then, he attempted to return to the financial world that had always fascinated him, buying a seat in a private group of grain price speculators calling themselves the Chicago Board of Trustees. On March 15, 1939, the Department of Agriculture shut them down on charges of fraud.

A stroke sidelined him for good in 1942. It must have been a bewildering experience for a man who was known as a dynamo, and bitterly resented the rare occasions ill health slowed him down during his life. His widow Catherine told Hemmings that she sold off her jewelry piece by piece during the war to pay for his nursing care. By the time of his death on March 18, 1947 at age 85, he was destitute, already almost forgotten. A titan of a man, without whom names such as Charles W. Nash, Walter P. Chrysler, Alfred P. Sloan, Louis Chevrolet and David D. Buick would not today be remembered. Almost certainly, there would have been no Oldsmobile or Oakland, and Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac would be but dim memories, if they had ever existed at all.

One of the very last chapters of Durant’s history was written in the spring of 2005. Durant’s Verlinden Avenue plant in Lansing, Michigan, opened in 1920 and was purchased by GM in 1935. It became the home of GM’s Fisher Body division and later the main Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac plant, eventually known as Lansing Car Assembly. A victim of GM’s latest round of cost cutting, 3,500 people lost their jobs when it was closed on May 6, 2005, after a final Pontiac Grand Am rolled of the line.

Ages of Durant

The first Durant prototype was rolling on March 1, 1921, 61 days after Durant left GM. By the time production ended in 1932, more than 80 models had been produced, with the brands sometime using the same platforms.

1921. Only Durant vehicles produced.
1922. The Star is introduced. Durant buys the bankrupt Locomobile, and establishes the Flint Motor Car Company
1923. The Princeton is announced, and a prototype built, but enters production as a Flint. The Mason Truck Company is established to produce heavy trucks, Flint production begins. Stars go on sale in Australia under the Rigby name.
1927. Mason truck, Flint and Durant production ends. Eagle prototype produced.
1928. Durant reappears. Star production ends and is transferred to Durant. Durant trucks become Rugby.
1929. Durant announces production of the French Mathis car. Last Locomobiles built.
1931. Durant Motors of California becomes De Vaux-Hall Motors Corporation, Durant Motors of Canada reincorporated as Dominion Motors Limited, produces Frontenac. 1931 Mathis announced but never built; successfully produced in France for many years.
1932 Durant, De Vaux-Hall Motors file for bankruptcy. Continental Motors Corporation purchases assests of De Vaux-Hall Motors, introduces Continental-De Vaux.
1933. Final bankruptcy for Durant, Dominion production ends.

1931 Durant 614 De Luxe Sedan
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Durant Motors Automobile Club
Post Office Box 2248
Vancouver, WA 98668-2248 USA
Dues: $30; Membership:

1931 Durant 614 De Luxe Sedan


Base Price $995
Options on dR car

Type Continental L-head straight-six, cylinders cast en-bloc

Displacement 199-cu.in.
Bore X Stroke 4.0 X 3.25 inches
Compression Ratio 5.46:1
Horsepower @ rpm 71 @ 3,300
Torque @ rpm 122-ft.lbs @ 1,400 rpm
Valvetrain (Solid valve lifters),
Main Bearings 4
Fuel System Stromberg 1-1/4” U-2 plain tube carburetor, A.C. fuel pump
Ignition System Electric Auto-Lite
Lubrication System Pressure to main bearings, connecting rods and camshaft bearings; gear-type pump
Electrical System Six-volt
Exhaust System Single

Type Selective sliding gear, single plate dry disc clutch
Ratios: 1st 0.00:1
2nd 0.00:1
3rd 1.00:1
Reverse 0.00:1

Type Semi-floating, spiral ring gear and pinion
Ratio 4.40:1

Type Elliot-type semi-irreversible, worm-and-roller, ball thrust bearings
Ratio 0.00:1
Turns, lock-to-lock
Turning Circle feet

Type Four-wheel Bendix Steeldraulic
Front 11 X 2-inch drum
Rear 11 X 2-inch drum

Construction Body-on-frame
Body Style Four door, six passenger sedan
Layout Front engine, rear-wheel drive

Front Dropforged I-beam axle, 7-leaf semi-elliptic springs, lever-arm hydraulic shocks
Rear 7-leaf semi-elliptic springs

Wheels 40-spoke wire
Front/rear 19 X 4 inches
Tires Lester
Front/rear 19 X 5.50 inches

Wheelbase 112 inches
Overall Length inches
Overall Width inches
Overall Height inches
Front Track inches
Rear Track inches
Shipping Weight 2,955 pounds

Crankcase 6 quarts
Cooling System 14 quarts
Fuel Tank 12 gallons
Transmission pints

Bhp per c.i.d. 2.80
Weight per bhp 41.48 pounds
Weight per c.i.d. 14.80 pounds

0-60 seconds
¼ mile ET seconds @ mph
Top speed 75 mph
Fuel Mileage mpg

1931 Durant (all) 7,270

Where Are You From? www.hemmings.com

Re: Durant article in Hemmings

Hello hello. I sent him a e-mail. I am restoring a 1931 model 619 Durant 4 door sedan. Later Lance


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