William Gray & Sons manufactured carriages, sleighs, and light wagons and was, in fact, one of the largest producers in their field in Canada. The company's factory was located at the intersection of William & Wellington Streets in Chatham. In the early 1900s, they began making bodies on contract for several companies including Ford and the short lived “Chatham” car.
In 1915, the Gray family entered into a partnership with Dort Motor Car Company of Flint Michigan that produced Dort cars for the US market. The result was the Gray Dort, based on the Dort design but built by the Canadian-owned Gray firm.
Gray Dort production spanned nearly 10 years and several models were offered including touring, roadster, coup, and sedan models. There were also cars made with specific colours and options that were marketed as the “Ace” (army green with wire wheels), and the “Special” (maroon).
Although over 20,000 Gray Dorts were produced between 1916 and 1925, very few remain in existence today (it is estimated that less than 100 cars exist with only about 40 roadworthy). The 1919 Gray Dort in the Chatham-Kent Museum collection is an exceptional example as the car was purchased as a solid original car by Mr. Lloyd Needham of London (formerly of Chatham).
The car was then completely restored by Stan Uher of Classic Coachworks in Blenheim. Mr. Needham subsequently donated his Gray Dort to the Chatham-Kent Museum.
This car has been designated by the Canadian Cultural Properties Export Review Board as a national treasure.
To learn more about the Gray-Dort in the Chatham-Kent Museum collection, watch these videos from the CBC Digital Archives and the Ontario Visual Heritage Project. Enjoy more images relating to this part of our history by visiting the Chatham-Kent Museum's online visual database and searching "Gray Dort."