Dodge “Punishment Pit” – Torture Makes Them SAFER!

Did you know that Dodge Brothers corporation had a “punishment pit”? This pit was a new type of automobile proving ground that was regarded as the quickest and most satisfactory way of finding out how an automobile can stand up under treatment of the most severely abnormal sort. Before Dodge introduced its latest models, some of the test cars were tortured in the punishment pit for as long as 600 hours.


Montgomery County Sentinel. August 24, 1933

In these trials, every stunt resulting in mechanical agony to all parts was employed to furnish the engineers and builders with proof of the car’s sturdiness and safety, with its ability to “take it.” Where the owner-driver would steer around chuck holes, dams and other obstacles, the punishment pit driver hunts the obstacles, steps on the throttle and tears right into them. He is exceedingly nimble-footed and can let the car turn over without being injured himself.

Dodge Punishment Pit

Photo of Plymouth against which a truck overturned; note how steel body resisted impact

Not only in the pit is torture applied to the new models. An ingenious device called the “Belgium roll” is almost as cruel to an automobile as the punishment pit. This machine shakes, rattles and vibrates a car placed upon it in such a vigorous manner that many hidden defects are revealed speedily. A few hours of the Belgium roll subject an automobile to more punishment than months of driving over the roughest roads. The effects of vibration on every part are studied closely by the engineer, changes made here and there, and to the public goes the result of torture —

Belgian roll torture machineA quiet, safe, smoothly riding automobile that will give years of service.

Dodge Six in the torture pit

Big Dodge Six in the torture pit

One unusual test of motor quietness was conducted by Dodge engineers under military supervision. While the engine was running, an expert rifleman sitting in the front seat fired ten shots with a United States army rifle at a regulation target 100 yards away. During aiming and firing, the rifle rested on the windshield. The result was a 100×100 target score.

Dodge 6

Target shows where bullets struck

Unusual as these tests may appear, they are the means to a common end, that of producing faster, safer and more comfortable automobiles.

Source: Popular Mechanics · ‎Vol. 60, No. 6 · Dec 1933

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About Reed Brothers

I am a co-owner of the former Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville, Maryland. Lewis Reed, the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge was my grandfather. We were a family-owned and operated car dealership in Rockville for almost a century. I served in the United States Air Force for 30 years before retiring in the top enlisted grade of Chief Master Sergeant in July 2006. In 2016, I received the Arthur M. Wagman Award for Historic Preservation Communication from Peerless Rockville for documenting the history of Reed Brothers Dodge in both blog and book format. This distinguished honor recognizes outstanding achievement by writers, educators, and historians whose work has heightened public awareness of Rockville’s architectural and cultural heritage, growth and development.

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