Ask any Jeep enthusiast about what the name Dana means to them and you will likely hear a story about a legendary brand of axles and drive train components. Today, our local Chrysler dealer, Fullerton of Somerville, NJ, says that Dana drive trains are highly thought of and are found on hundreds of car and truck brands all around the world. While many people know about the name, few know the history behind the scenes of this iconic company.
It started with Mr. Spicer
A young, talented engineer named Clarence Spicer developed the first swiveling universal joint in 1904 while he was still in college in Plainfield, New Jersey. His design was ingenious and solved a serious problem that early automobile manufacturers were having. In 1905, he incorporated and soon had a booming company on his hands with many early automotive brands on board. Life was good.
However after a decade of rapid growth, his company faced difficult financial times during the economic downturn of the early 1910s. It was at this point that that local attorney and businessman Charles Dana invested in the company. It ended up being a great investment for Dana because with the advent of World War I, the Spicer Company’s products again experience ultra-high demand in the construction of war machinery. In particular, in the Liberty Truck or, more formally, as the Class B truck.
Dana continued to influence the development of the company after the war was over. The Spicer Company bought other businesses that produced parts for automobile manufacturers, including the Salisbury Axle Company, the Parish Pressed Steel Company, and the Brown-Lipe Gear Company.
By the late 1920s, Dana decided that the company had outgrown its New Jersey location and he moved Spicer’s headquarters to Toledo, Ohio. Two years later, he moved all the remaining operations from Plainfield, New Jersey, to Toledo. The Spicer Company also began to expand its operations into Canada at this time.
During World War II, the Spicer Manufacturing Company once again contributed to the war effort. By 1944, demand was so high that more than ten thousand people worked for the company. In 1946, the Spicer Manufacturing Company became the Dana Corporation, renamed after the man who had contributed so much to the company’s success during the preceding decades.
The renamed company prospered in the decades following World War II. Company leadership continued to acquire other businesses that produced automotive parts, such as the Perfect Circle Corporation in 1963 and the Victor Gasket Manufacturing Company in 1966. In 1974, Dana had its first billion dollar year and only four years later passed the two billion dollar mark. By 1987, Dana’s annual sales exceeded four billion dollars.
The last two decades of the twentieth century, Dana Corporation continued to expand its operations through acquisitions. The WIX Corporation became part of Dana in 1979. The German companies Reinz-Dichtungs GmbH and Hugo Reinz GmbH in 1993. In the late 1990s, the acquisitions became even more frequent, including the Sealed Power, Clark-Hurth Components, the heavy axle and brake divisions of Eaton Corporation, Echlin, Glacier Vandervell Bearings Group.
Today, Dana Corporation is an 8 billion dollar company and produces the world’s finest drivetrains for hundreds of vehicle manufacturers worldwide.