Dick Dye Motors
Lesser-known dealerships pose a bigger problem to research since there is precious little information out there to draw from. But we have accepted the challenge, so we will do the best we can! In this article, we are going to focus on one of these less-famous Citroën dealers in California, owned by a man named Dick Dye.
AN EARLY START
Dexter George Dye, more commonly known as Dick Dye, was born in 1899, at the dawn of the automotive age. Dick moved out west from North Dakota and landed in Spokane, Washington. In 1918, at the age of 19 years old, he was selected to enroll in the automotive program at Washington State College (now called Washington State University) in nearby Pullman, WA. Clearly, even at the young age of 19, he had an aptitude for cars! At about the same time, he was deemed physically fit to participate in WWI and ended up serving as a member of the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.) as a Commander.
After the war, he moved to California and got a job pumping gas and repairing cars in a gas station in San Leandro, California that was apparently owned by one of his brothers. By the time he was in his early 30’s, he was married and well into a career of automobiles.
Oddly, the first media presence we can find for Dick Dye’s automotive adventures is in 1938 when the service station he was working at was robbed!
Oakland Tribune, Feb 1938
DICK DYE GETS ROBBED
Later that same year of 1938, he is suddenly listed as the authorized dealer for Graham automobiles for the city of San Leandro.
San Francisco Examiner, Nov 1938
DICK DYE LISTED AS A GRAHAM DEALER IN 1938/1939
Many of the pre-war automotive dealerships we have studied went quiet during the WWII years, and Dick Dye was no exception. He advertised Graham cars in 1938 and 1939 before the war, but went quiet between about 1940 and 1947. Note that the Graham Automobile Company stopped building cars in 1940 and it is not clear what Dick Dye was doing during the WWII years. Most likely, he kept his head down repairing/buying/selling used cars.
The trail for Dick Dye picks up again in 1948 when he took on the Austin line of English cars. By this time, he had a new location; 198 E. 14th Street, still in San Leandro.
Oakland Tribune, Dec 1948
DICK DYE BECOMES AN AUSTIN DEALER
Selling Austin cars must have worked (at least a little bit) for Dick Dye since he stuck with Austin for a number of years and even expanded his business in this era.
In June of 1952, Dick Dye filed a legal notice to open a second location; 1207 – 44th in nearby Oakland. According to the legal notice, the new location was to be named, Dick Dye Austin Sales, but we also see him referring to his business under the name of Dick Dye’s Service, Dick Dye Imports, and Dick Dye Motors.
Sure enough, a newspaper article appeared a month after the legal notice introducing Oakland to Dick Dye’s new location for Austin sales. The legal notice and newspaper article are below.
It looks like Dick Dye closed the prior location at 198 E. 14th in San Leandro soon after opening the new location in Oakland.
Oakland Tribune, Jun 1952
DICK DYE SETS THE GROUNDWORK FOR A NEW LOCATION
NEW LOCATION ANNOUNCED IN THE OAKLAND NEWSPAPER FOR DICK DYE’S AUSTIN SALES
Oakland Tribune, Jul 1952
JEEP / WILLYS
Dick Dye’s business was active in the 1950’s. A year after he opened his new business location in Oakland, he took on the Jeep / Willys line.
But as we shall soon see, he didn't stick with Jeep for long...
DICK DYE TAKES ON JEEP
Oakland Tribune, Apr 1953
In 1955, Dick Dye decided to take on another English make: English Ford. English Fords were (briefly) popular in the in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s and there were a number of other local dealers selling them.
Notice that in the San Francisco Bay-area ad for English Fords (right), there were 11 dealers listed in 1955; all within an hour or two from each other. Some were only a few miles away from each other.
English Ford seemed to have faded away from Dick Dye’s offerings in a few years and the next section will explain why...
1955 ADDED ENGLISH FORD TO DICK DYE’S OFFERINGS
San Francisco Examiner, May 1955
There were rumors that Dick Dye's first foray into the world of French Cars was Renault in the 1950's. It took a lot of digging to find hard evidence, but alas, we found it! Dick Dye indeed sold Renault cars briefly (very briefly) in 1955, perhaps for a year.
This ad is just about all that we could find indicating he handled Renault.
DICK DYE TRIES TO OFFER RENAULT
Motor Racing Newsletter, Oct 1955
In 1958, Dick Dye made a big decision. He decided to drop most (or all?) of his other marques and focus solely on Triumph cars. He pledged to continue to service his prior makes, but his focus would be on Triumph.
DYE DITCHES EVERYTHING ELSE FOR TRIUMPH
Oakland Tribune, Jun 1958
But relying solely on Triumph didn’t last long! Just a year later, he made another decision, one that we are interested in; he took on Citroën!
Oakland Tribune, 1959
Oakland Tribune, May 1959
Notice that Dick Dye’s offerings in this era (Citroën, Triumph, and English Ford) were identical to the offerings of a competitor a mere 10 miles (16 km) away; C.J. Felt Jr. from C.J. Motors. (See the C.J. Motors section of this website.)
Throughout the 1960’s, Dick Dye (mostly under the name of Dick Dye Imports) quietly sold new Citroëns and Triumphs as well as plenty of used cars of various makes.
TYPICAL DICK DYE ADVERTISEMENT FROM THE EARLY 1960'S
San Francisco Examiner, Nov 1970
THE CITROEN MEHARI MAKES AN APPEARANCE AT DICK DYE IMPORTS IN CALIFORNIA IN 1970
Even though Dick Dye Imports was not one of the more famous Citroën dealerships in California, they nevertheless were selected by Citroën management to offer the SM model. As noted elsewhere on this website, Citroën was not particularly charitable to their beleaguered dealers when it came time to select dealers that would be allowed to handle the SM.
Several SM's originally sold by Dick Dye still exist, including this red 1972 that turned up on Bring a Trailer a number of years ago.
DICK DYE IS ALLOWED TO OFFER THE SM
SM ORIGINALLY FROM DICK DYE IMPORTS
Oakland Tribune, Nov 1971
Very early in his career (in the 1920’s), Dick Dye is reported to have been a dealer for the Ford Model T, Willlys-Knight, and Velie cars. In fact, we found that Dick Dye himself owned a 1928 Willys-Knight 4-door sedan that he displayed in various auto shows in San Leandro, well into the 1950’s.
It is also reported that in the 1960’s he sold Checker cars and Austin Healeys. We were able to find a few Dick Dye ads for Checker cars, mostly in the mid-1960’s. Also, if you look closely at the mid-1970's photos of his dealership at the end of this article, Dick Dye still has his Checker sign in front of his business! We found very little to suggest he was an Austin Healey dealer.
It should be noted that there is scant evidence that he was significantly involved with any of these other marques. Triumph and Citroën were apparently his mainstays.
todayifoundout.com website, 2016
TYPICAL CHECKER MARATHON, IN TAXI CAB CLOTHING
Dick Dye was described as the patriarch of Oakland’s Auto Row. He started his automotive career at the dawn of the automobile age, in the early 20th century and remained in business for 45 years. Dick Dye finally retired on June 30, 1978 at the age of 79. His retirement coincided with his 50th wedding anniversary to his wife, Ruby.
He died in 1995 at the age of 96.
END OF A LONG AND WINDING ROAD
Oakland Tribune, May 1978
Broadmoor and E. 14th, San Leandro (this address is noted in several articles about Dick Dye)
1930’s to 1940’s:
Bancroft and 14th, San Leandro (this is the address listed for when he was robbed at the gas station)
Late 1940’s to 1952:
198 E. 14th St, San Leandro
1952 to 1978:
1207 – 44th, Oakland
It looks like the only building still standing is the last one, but it is currently in a very sad state. Richard Bonfond was able to provide two photos of the last location.
Google Maps, 2021
DICK DYE'S LOCATIONS IN SAN LEANDRO AND OAKLAND
"HAPPINESS IS A CITROEN"
Photo provided by Richard Bonfond, circa mid-1970's
IF YOU LOOK CAREFULLY, CHECKER AND TRIUMPH SIGNS ARE VISIBLE
Photo provided by Richard Bonfond, circa mid-1970's
Google Street View, 2021
Google Street View, 2021
1207 – 44th DICK DYE’S LAST LOCATION, NOW IN A SORRY STATE