Antique Dodge Hula Girl Lamp

A bit of non-horological repair work

You may have seen this lamp in an antique store, on eBay, or even in the movie Pearl Harbor. Here a bronze statue of a women dressed simply in a grass skirt performs the Hawaiian Hula thanks to the wonders of a small electric motor. The lamp is supposed to convey the art of the Hula, or at least the titillating aspects of the dance, to the amusement of the owner. It is certainly kitschy and it reminds me a bit of the notorious “leg lamp” from the movie A Christmas Story.

img_1657If I remember the story correctly, my father saw this lamp at a rummage sale back in the 70’s or 80’s but my mother, being sensible, wouldn’t allow him to take it home. It’s a bit of a shame I suppose because back then the lamp wasn’t considered an antique; today original pieces sell on eBay for between five and fifteen hundred dollars!

In the years since that fateful day my mother has relaxed her position on the lamp so my brother, sister, and I pooled our funds together and purchased the lamp as a Christmas gift for my father about a decade ago. Since then the lamp has stood proudly on his bar.

Unfortunately about five years ago one of the grandchildren forgot to turn the motor off. The poor woman danced all night until a string from her skirt wound around the rotating cam on her hip and popped off the rivet to the fastener holding her skirt in place. There was no more dancing after that.

Finding a shop to repair the lamp turned out to be a fruitless endeavor. A watchmaker was suggested so my father asked me to take a look at the problem. I took the lamp from him about three weeks back and labored on it whenever my other jobs ended up queued for parts.

The rivet which had failed is a tiny pop rivet about 2mm in diameter. I wouldn’t be able to place a new pop rivet without removing the cam which was soldered to the motor shaft. Fortunately my father still had the original rivet; I tried working it back into the hole and flaring the end but there just wasn’t enough material left to make it work.

Here you can see the front of the rivet- the back end has been torn away

Plan B was to turn a nut and washer on the lathe and use a 1.4mm case screw to fix the fastener back in place. The nut was turned using some brass stock that was about 3.5mm in diameter.

Turning solid brass rod to fit the skirt fastener

I whittled that down a bit to serve as the bearing on which the fastener would rotate.

The bearing needs to be a good fit so that the fastener will rotate without binding

A dimple was placed in the center of the bearing to help center the 1.2mm drill bit.  Once the center was drilled out, a tap was used to add threads for the watch screw.

Threads are added for the screw

The nut was then severed from the brass rod and smoothed on a polishing stone before I turned my attention to fabricating a washer for the screw side. Unfortunately the camera battery tapped out at this time so there are no pictures until final assembly.

If this were a watch repair that fiber would cause major problems
Viewed from the side

With the fastener fixed my job was technically finished but I wanted to make some other minor adjustments before returning the lamp to my father.

The power cord was not original to the lamp and was an ill fit. It was only about three and a half feet in length and the cord had no character to match the lamp.

I removed the steel plate from under the base and discovered that the original power cord had been removed years before, probably when the insulating sleeve began to fail. The repairman had simply spliced a new cord to the severed ends of the old one.

The cracked brown wires are the remains of the original power cord

The power cord was removed and a new one was sourced from Vintage Wire & Supply Co. along with a retro style LED bulb.

The previous repairman’s handiwork is removed
New parts received

Installation was straight forward and a bit cleaner than before.

Rewiring complete

I also replaced a plastic grommet which was an improper fit and straightened some bends out of the base so that the dancer stood a little more upright.

The lamp may have taken a fall in the past as the three way switch was bent pretty bad too. I attempted to locate a replacement on the internet that matched the look of the lamp but failed. Fortunately a little bit of work with pliers sorted the issue out.

Switch before straightening
Switch after straightening

The lamp was reassembled, tested, and returned to my father. A little sewing was needed to secure the skirt in place and my mother assisted with that bit. I think the skirt hangs a little low but that’s an easy fix. All in all, it’s a job well done.


Author: JPMoeller

Amateur watchmaker and California resident

18 thoughts on “Antique Dodge Hula Girl Lamp”

  1. I recently came into ownership of an identical lamp. Unfortunately the horizontal shaft through her hips is there but the end caps and bearings are missing along with her skirt. Wish I had your talent as I, like you, am having no luck finding anyone to repair her. I did find some fringe for a skirt that looks good but would be so nice to restore her movement. My search will continue.


  2. Aloha I own a Dodge hula girl lamp, I hear movement but she dosn’t sway… Do you still repair ???


  3. Hello, my grandfather had one of these that my sister and I fondly remember, and like yours, she no longer dances. We have been looking for a way to get it repaired too. Would you be willing to give it a shot? We would be so thrilled to get it fixed!


    1. Absolutely, but as noted before- I keep my work to the mechanical side of things and don’t like fiddling with the electrical. Usually it’s in the mechanics that it all went wrong.


  4. There is a guy at a light store “Valley Light Gallery” in Scottsdale AZ named Mickey that fixed my lamp. He was able to make new brass clips and rivet them on the the horizontal rotating shaft


    1. That’s good to know. I’ve received a lot of inquiries from otherswith lamps that need a little TLC and finding individuals to repair them can be difficult.


    2. Hey, Chris, I’m glad you like the lamp! The picture you gave me is on my wall above my bench. You wont believe how fixing your gear-motion, has lead me on a crazy research path of looking up patents, Calling all over the US just for more info. Right after I fixed your skirt clips, a customer came in with another Hula-Lamp, this time it was the whole lamp. It was a similar fix but, more difficult as this lamp’s skirt was attached with button snaps and needed a new axle. After that, I get a call from Royal Oak, MI. now I have 2 more lamps. I’ve visited this blog in my research but never saw your comment. I’ve searched all over learning that these lamps are so popular but no one knows how to get them running. I didn’t have a pleasant experience with, in Hawaii. Lets just say they are very “reserved”. Even with friends in Hawaii, who went in for me to ask questions were met with cold shoulders at their shop. With no hope from any current production, I’ve found several solutions to the mechanism(s) used to get these girls to Hula. Your girl was a belt/chain driven motion but the ones I currently have are driveshaft to miter gear. If you ever need some adjustment or new clips, You know where I am.



      1. Hello Mickey,

        I am trying to repair a 1940’s Hula girl lamp motion mechanism that belongs to a USN vet that was at Pearl
        (Hickam Air Field) in the 40’s. While stationed there he won a Hula Lamp at a “Liberty” bar close to base.
        He is in his 90’s now and his son wants to surprise him with the lamp in working condition. I have taken on the project and have found the lamp needs the top axel shaft & bushings and end tabs as well as both bushings. I have been in contact with Hula Lamps in Hawaii and Charles was of no help. Any help you can provide is greatly appreciated. I can send hi-res jpg of disassembled lamp.


      2. Hi John,

        It seems Dodge reengineered the motion works on the lamp a few times during production. The most common approach I’ve seen is what is detailed in my two blog posts although chains and belts were sometimes used to get the girl dancing as well. I have a lamp on the bench now so I’ll take some measurements of the bearings, cams, etc. so that you can have them reproduced. It’s difficult to get her dancing again if you’re missing all that, but it’s not impossible. I’ll email you my measurements as soon as I have them down.


      3. Good morning Mickey,

        Much appreciate your response on my Hula Girl project.

        To date I have been able to make a replacement vertical

        drive shaft and a horizontal axel shaft. The outer tabs out of poly carbonite

        RC model cam followers. I think the bushings are usable

        but the two brass bevel gears are not usable.

        Any possible source for the gears? Have considered installing a pair of dense Teflon friction disks

        but would like to keep her as original as possible.

        Thank you again for your response, so far it has been an interesting project.

        Best regards,

        John English


  5. Any idea what a vintage Dodge Dancing Hula floor lamp is worth? All I can find are table lamps…thanks in advance!


  6. Hello really enjoy seeing your work? I have a lamp missing the motor and gears. Do happen to have any leads in where some of that can be purchased?


    1. Hi Bill, the gears are Boston G461Y miter gears and they can be found via Amazon and eBay. The centers need to be drilled out to about 4.7mm to fit the drive shaft and axle assemblies. The motor is a Hagen Synchronous Motor model 40-730 and I don’t believe NOS motors can be found. You might try a Hansen Synchron motor- I think the 600 series had specifications close to the Hagen 40-730.


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