How The ’38-’40 Graham Captured The Spirit of Motion

The 1938-40 Grahams have become known as the "Sharknose." Image:

When you think of cars from America’s past, Graham isn’t something that normally pops into your head. But if you’re a proponent of supercharging, you’re very familiar with Graham’s significance. And in the best spirit of going out in a blaze of glory, Graham gave us the Spirit of Motion.

The Graham brothers first entered the auto industry in 1919 by producing kits for modifying Ford Model Ts into trucks. They eventually began building their own trucks using Dodge motors, which was a common practice for smaller manufacturers.

Then, Dodge started selling Graham Brothers trucks, followed by Dodge purchasing the company in 1925 and giving the Graham brothers executive positions at Dodge until Chrysler took over Dodge in 1928. In characteristic Graham fashion, it was time for them to move forward.

1939 Graham four-door Touring Sedan Images:

The Grahams bought the faltering Paige-Detroit Motor Company and rebranded it Graham-Paige. The company managed to make a name for itself in engineering and design; the 1932 Graham Blue Streak, designed by Amos Northup, made waves worldwide with its skirted fenders and streamlined radiator and hood.

Supercharged Graham six-cylinder gave 120 horses. Image:

In 1934, Graham introduced a supercharger (designed in-house) for its eight-cylinder models, but the Great Depression continued to give the company fits.

To save money, Graham purchased bodies from the defunct REO Motor Company (also designed by Northup) in 1936-37 and added its own styling. Still struggling to survive, Graham needed to retake the helm of a style leader.

Enlisting the talents of Amos Northup once again, the 1938 “Spirit of Motion” Grahams looked unlike anything on the road at that time. As the slogan pointed out, it looked like it was moving even when it was still. The press loved it, and it won design awards at the Paris Concours d’Elegance plus several more French design exhibitions.

The 1940 Graham Combination Coupe Image:

Power came from an L-head six-cylinder displacing 217.8 cubic inches and putting out 93 horsepower with a one-barrel Carter carburetor. With the supercharger, horsepower rose to 120, which gave 0-60 performance in 16 seconds – faster than most American cars on the road. Alas, performance and avant-garde styling didn’t translate into sales.

In 1940, the last year for the streamlined Graham, the company joined forces with ailing Huppmobile and introduced the Hollywood. Like the 1936-37 models, Graham had purchased bodies from a defunct manufacturer, this time Cord. However, it could not stop the bleeding and production was suspended in September, 1940.

About the author

Diego Rosenberg

Diego is an automotive historian with experience working in Detroit as well as the classic car hobby. He is a published automotive writer in print and online and has a network of like-minded aficionados to depend on for information that's not in the public domain.
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