History of Early American Automobile Industry
Chapter 19Home Forward Contents
By 1912, they had moved into their new factory and the first Hudson six cylinders prototype was built for the 1913 models. Only luxury cars had six cylinders prior to this. The Super Six was made for the 1916 season.
1916 Hudson Super Six Automobile
In 1918, Hudson introduced its low price model called the Essex. The Essex modes were built until 1932 then it was renamed the Terratplane. The company was initially called Essex Motor Company, but was disolved in 1923 and was made by the Hudson company
Ira Vail in the 1917 Hudson Super Six Racer finished eight at the Indianopolis Spedeway in 1919
In the 1920's Hudson concentratred on closed body models and one of the best closed body builders was Biddle and Smart, Amesbury, MA.
1923 Advertisement copied from the 1923 Edition of the Hudson-Essex Triangle magazine
Walter Murphy, Pasedena, Ca., was one of the leaders in the automobile industry. He was one of the richest men in America who owned controlling intrerest in some of the leading companies at that time. In 1920, he was given dealership's rights for the Lincoln automobile for California and shortly had them through out the state. In order to get the bodies that he wanted for his clientele, he set up a body building shop in Pasadena. His bodies were designed by his company and speciallly built for the rich and famous. His designs were considered to be some of the best ever.
For reasons that remain unclear, Harold L. Arnold, Hudsons California distributor, swapped distributorships with Murphy in 1926 - the former, now handled Lincoln, and the latter, Hudson. Now that Murphy had a direct relationship with Hudson, the Detroit automaker became interested in gaining the services of Murphys roster of talented designers. Biddle and Smart did all of Hudson's top of the line automobiles.
Murphy built a couple of prototype convertible sedans for Hudson in 1927. Six cars were eventually commissioned by Hudson and ultimately delivered to Detroit: a landau sedan, a Victoria, a seven-passenger sedan, a convertible coupe, a convertible sedan, and a fixed-head coupe. Hudson management liked them, but Murphy lacked the capacity to build in quantities that Hudson needed, so the prototypes were sent off to Amesbury for assimilation by Biddle and Smart into 1928 production and eventually wound up in the hands of Hudson Co. executives. Murphy also designed a low, handsome 1928 Hudson convertible sedan that was later produced in quantity by Biddle & Smart, albeit with a roof that was three inches taller. Each of these Biddle & Smart bodies carried a cowl tag that announced "Designed by Walter M. Murphy, Coachbuilders, Pasadena
1928 Hudson Model O designed by Walter Murphy
It is considered a classic
The Hudson company continued making fine automobiles until 1962 when they merged with Nash to form the American Motors Corp. My first new car was a 1963 American Motors car.
Copied from the May 15, 1918 Horseless Age Magazine
For a considerable time it has been a matter of trade knowledge that a lighter, lower-priced car than the Super-Six would be furnished Hudson dealers in order to assure them the volume of business their respective organizations were developed to handle, and accordingly now comes the Essex, a five-passenger touring car built in the Hudson factory and selling for $1,395.
1918 Essex, With Five Passenger Touring Body.
The Cellular Radiator Is Provided With Dash-Controlled Shutter and The Windshield Is Mounted Integrally. More than usual interest was evidenced a few months ago by the organization of the Essex Motors, for the reason that its directors were also officers of the Hudson Motor Car Company. However, no details of the Essex car were made public beyond the fact that its engine would have four cylinders.
The Essex is designed to embody the advantages hitherto associated with cars of higher price and to combine with these the features of low first cost, light weight, economy as to fuel, tires, upkeep and depreciation. Many clever ideas in design have been incorporated to gain these ends. Shipping weight is under 2,400 pounds. (End of Article)
1919 Essex Automobile was first shown at the 1919 Detroit Automobile Show.
The engine of this car, which is entirely new, has four cylinders. 31/2 by 5, with the intake valves in the head and exhaust valves in the side. The total length overall is about 29 in. and the N. A. C. C. rating of horsepower is 18.2, while the actual power developed is more than 50 hp. The crankshaft is of special design, scientifically counter-balanced, giving static and running balance at all speeds. It has three heavy-bearings. The carbureter is of patented Essex design, automatically controlled by the engine.
The Essex Automobile Co. was originally an independant company and even though there were many Hudson executives who sat on its board, it was allowed to run on its own merits. However, in 1922, it was incorporated into the Hudson company an became a Hudson model.
It was built for comfort with taller seats and more springs in the seat cushions. The body style was exceptional for its price range and the ordinary buyer was given a car that he could give his family the pride of owning one. 29,000 were sold within a year when most of the other manufacturers were loosing sales. Each year, the repeat buyers would not settle for anything but an Essex.
From the November, 1919 Issue of the Hudson Triangle Magazine
1923 Essex Coach Automobile
1927 Essex Super 6 Sedan Deluxe Automobile
Essex Race Cars
Essex Racers were one of the best on the circuit during their racing years. The stock cars won many endurance races.
As soon as William Durant lost his position at General Motors in 1910, his first thought was about regaining control of GMC and how to go about doing it. He was plotting his course while still an officer of the company. He decided to start another automobile company and work from there. The price range would have to be low enough to compete with Ford. A Ford automobile was priced at $490. and its quality indicated this. While he was at Buick Motors, the man in charge of his racing team and one of the best in the racing portion of the business was Louis Chevrolet. Cheverolet also knew automobiles and how to build them. Durant and Chevrolet teamed up together to start making the Chevrolet car in 1911. The GMC managers knew of his activity but didn't give him much thought as long he was not around to bother them.
Copied from the October Issue of the 1911 Motor World Magazine
DURANT'S PLANS BEGIN TO UNFOLD October 12, 1911
Chevrolet Car but One Link in Chain Plants Acquired for Motors and Low-Priced Model.
Although he remains a director of the General Motors Co., which he organized to dominate the automobile industry of the world and which he himself dominated until the banking interests stepped in a year ago. W. C. Durant is actively prosecuting plans for rebuilding an automobile business of his own.
Acting through W. H. Little, one of his old lieutenants, he, as already is- well known, has organized the Chevrolet Motor Car Co. in Detroit, and this was supposed to represent the sum total of his activity. But it transpires that the high speed, high priced car which the Chevrolet company will produce is but one link in the chain which Durant is forging. For he also has the production of a popular priced car in view, and by those who are in a position to be informed is credited with having already placed himself in position to produce it. For that purpose he is reported to have acquired not only a car-building plant, but an engine-making factory as well, the former being the Flint Wagon Works, which has been producing the Wbiting car, while the engines will be made by the Mason Motor Co., which recently was organized in Flint, Mich., and which Durant, through others, is said to control. Durant himself is saying nothing, but that his boundless activity and industriousness will not much longer permit him to remain in the background seems at least fairly certain. From time to time reports have been current that his connection with the General Motors Co. had terminated, but, though it is Well known that he long since ceased to be a power in its affairs, it can be authoritatively stated that he still remains a director of the big corporation which caused him to over-reach himself. The board of directors held a meeting only last week and although his fellows on the board are well aware of his activities in other companies.
To put this car on the market was going to take at least a year and cost a lot of money. He took a page out of Ford's book about his not using banks and pay as you go. In October of 1911, the Little Motor Car Company was formed being named after his former general manager at Buick, Whilliam H. Little. The car was described as little and being as cute as a button. It was manufactured at Flint Wagon Works, Flint, MI where the Whiting automobile was being made.
Little was assigned to help Louis Chevrolet to design the motor for the other car that Durant was planning to build. Chevrolet was taking his own sweet time and the prototype was finally finished in the summer of 1912, Durant realized that he could not sell it for less than $2,150, but at least he had a car to sell. In the meantime, Durant was aware of the cost of the operation and decided to make a Little Six that could be sold much cheaper at $1250, the price that he was going to sell his Chevrolet car. This would help him in raising some needed cash.
Unfortunately, both cars arrived at the same time and since each one was a Durant car, they could be compared by the press at the same time. Neither car benefited for the difference in quality was readily observed, a slow built sturdy car against a hastily one thrown together. Durant knew that the Little car could not survive 25,000 miles, but the public did not know this and the Little car outsold the Chevrolet by far.
1912 Little Roadster Automobile
1912 Little Advertisement
The name Little didn't help the sales very much for people were constantly reminded of their "Little" car. It was discontinued in the summer of 1913 after 3,500 were built. Now the Chevrolet car would receive all of the attention that was needed. In order to do this, he moved all of his companies that he owned under the Chevrolet name to Flint. This did not sit well with Louis Chevrolet so he left to work on the Frontenac car.
Durant used what parts he had to finished the the Classic Six models and introduced the light Six models in 1914. 1915 saw the production models for under $1,000. The Royal Mail was $750, the Baby Grand was $875, and the very spiffy Amesbury Special was $975.
1915 Chevrolet Amesbury Special Coupe Automobile
Cut taken from K Doubleday's book, Automobile Bodies Built in Amesbury"
William Durant and John Clark, Owner of the Clark Cariage Company, Amesbury, MA, were old friends from Durant's carriage making days. Every year, Durant would order one of each of Clark's carriages to use as a model for his Dort Carriages. When Durant started making the Buick car, he tried to get Clark to make the Buick bodies, but Clark had no use for cars. When he retired from the company, William Clark, his son, took charge and was willing to make the bodies for the Buick cars. Clark Carriage Company also made bodies for Oldsmobile and Chevrolet. In 1915, Durant made a special trip to Amesbury to tell the citizens that he had named a special car in appreciation for what they had done for him. The photo was sent to me by a friend who owns this Amesbury Special.
Durant had been working behind the scenes buying and trading General Motor Stocks until late in 1915, he had enough backing and stocks to regain control of the company. Chevrolet became a part of General Motors in 1918
Copied from the 1914 Issue of The Horseless Age Magazine
Dover, Del., Dec. 28 The Chevrolet Motor Co. of New York City has increased its capital from $20,000,000 to $80,000,000.
New York City, Dec. 24 The stockholders of the Chevrolet Motor Co., yesterday ratified the proposal of the directors of the company to increase the capitalization from $20,000,000 to $80,000,000, this step being taken in connection with a plan of that company to take over the controlling shares of the General Motors Co., by means of an exchange of stock. By this plan the General Motors stock, which has been obtained by a syndicate, is to be offered at a ratio of five shares of Chevrolet stock for one share of General Motors common. Under this proposal, between 110,000 and 120,000 shares of General Motors common will be offered.
The total number of shares represented at the meeting by proxy was 169,398 and in person 16,242, a total of 185,640. Somewhat over 100,000 shares of General Motors common will be affected by the proposed plan. The stock represents the holdings of W. C. Durant; Lament Berlin, director of Aetna Explosives Co.; Pierre Du Pont; S. F. Prior of the Union Metallic Cartridge and Remington Arms Co. and J. A. Haskell, A. H. Wiggen, G. S. Sabin, and a few others, many representing Durant interests.
A Step Toward Merger?
It is rumored that the increase of stock is a step toward the merger of the two companies. It is stated that Mr. Durant and his associates representing the Du Pont powder and Remington arms interests has secured enough General Motors stock to give them complete control of the company. It is estimated that including the holdings of his associates, Durant controls as much as 60 per cent or 70 per cent of General Motors stock.
Mr. Durant stated yesterday that the Chevrolet company on its present earning basis will show approximately 20 per cent on its present capitalization. Thus far the production had been at the rate of 186 cars daily, and it is estimated that by January this will be increased to 220 cars a day. By March it is planned to increase the output to 360 cars a day.
General Motors is unaffected by the plan and has nothing to do with it. Certain holders of General Motors stock entertain a proposal to exchange their shares for shares in another company. The remaining General Motors stock remains as at present, the only effect being that the floating supply is much reduced.
Sales of cars in General Motors are running in excess of 10,000 cars a month and its gross receipts in excess of $10,000,000 a month. It is estimated that the results for the current year will show a total of more than 120,000 cars made and sold, gross receipts in sales of $120,000,000 and net profits in excess of $24,000,000, or approximately 150 per cent on the outstanding $16,500,000 in common stock. (End of Article)
The car suffered from lack of Durant's attention and became bigger with a larger price tag. Once in control, he once again started buying companies that turned out to be mistakes. One of his most successful purchases was buying sixty percent of Fisher Body in 1919. By the middle of 1920's Durant was out of General Motors.
The Chevrolet was redesigned to compete with the Ford cars. It would not be quite as cheap, but much more comfortable than the "Tin Lizzy".The first production models had several faults and a complete recall was made to fix them, the first massive call in General Motors history.
Chevrolet went through the next decade making improvements and by 1927 Chevrolet finally outsold Ford, making it the best selling car in America.
When Durant took over General Motors in 1915, Charles Nash Knew that he was not going to be asked to stay on as its president because he and and Durant had a diference of opinion sometime earlier. One of the hardest things that Durant had to do was to let him go. Durant had hired him as a young man to work as an upholster in his carriage business and watch him progress in the business to GMC president's post.
When William Jeffery contacted him about buying the Jeffery Automobile Co. in 1916, Nash was all to willing to buy it.
Charls Nash and James Storrow, another GMC executive who was let go, traveled to Kenosha, WI and bought the Thomas B. Jeffery Co. for 9 million dollars. On July 29, 1916, The Nash Motors Company was in business. The Jeffery cars that were in production had their name plates removed and Nash plates installed. The Jeffery style remained until the middle of 1917.
1918 Nash Series 681
Nash cars appeared on the market in April of 1918 as a six cylinder that was described as slick and handsome. Nash was adament that his cars were to be conserative neatness. In the next nine months, 10,000 cars were sold and doubled that the next year. The reason for only this amount was that his Quad Four trucks were being built for the war effort, so the car suffered in production. Nash sold his patent for the Quad truck to he government for one dollar so other companies could make the truck and several companies started making them.
Copied and edited from the July edition of the Automotive Industry Magazine
WASHINGTON, July 17Hugh Chalmers, representing the passenger car makers, held a conference to-day with the War Industries Board on the question of steel for the manufacture of passenger cars, and the result of the conference is that the War Industries Board has asked for a complete inventory from the passenger car makers showing the number of partly completed cars, number of parts, as well as the quantities of steel on hand for passenger car production at the present time.........
It has been known for some time that considerable inconvenience has been caused by the unbalanced inventories and several factories have received good co-operation in securing quantities of steel in which they were lacking and by means of which they have been able to carry on production that would otherwise have been impossible. During the last week the steel manufacturers have met with representatives of the War Industries Board for a general survey of steel requirements. It seems utterly impossible to get a complete budget of the requirements of the Government. New shipbuilding yards are being erected and it is impossible to estimate their requirements. The amount of ship tonnage which it is possible to build this year is being cut down and now the steel makers feel that a sane estimate of the Government's requirements will soon be available. (End of article)
In August, the Automobile Mfg. Association agreed to reduce its production to 50 percent which was previously 60 percent. One article was very encouraging when it was announced that farmers would start planting castor beans to produce castor oil for oiling airplane parts an the result was two million gallons.
1920 saw a new model from Nash Motors called LaFayette. It was produced for four years. It was in the high range automobiles with a $5,000 price tag. It was initially built in Indianapolis, IN, but was moved to Kenosha later on. It was commercial disaster for the company and shut down in 1924.
1920 Lafayette Automobile
1922 LaFayette model 134, Rear Windshield
1921 LaFayette Automobile Automobile Advertisement
He moved the Lafayette company to Racine, WI in 1924 into the former Mitchell plant. and the Ajax automobile was on the market in 1925 priced at $995.00.
Sales for the Ajax was very disappointing and the Ajax Six became the Nash Light Six. He had all the name tags changed to Nash that were in production. Kits were sent to his dealers to make the changes and to all customers so that they would not suffer trade-in losses.
1929 Nash Series 430 Sedan
In 1962 Nash Motors bought the Hudson Automobile Co, creating the American Motors Co.
After Harry Knox left the company that had been building Knox cars in Springfield, he established the Knox Motor Truck Company in 1905 to produce Atlas commercial vehicles. His former partners at his previous firm took him to court over the name. After he was forbidden from using the Knox name, he formed the Atlas Motor Car Company in late 1907 across town from the Knox company. Harry Knox had proposed to the people who were producing the Sunset automobile in San Francisco, CA to build the car under license. At first they refused, but changed their minds after the 1907 San Francisco earthquake.
1909 Atlas Delivery Van
The Atlas of Springfield was thus based on the Sunset, even using the same two-stroke engine. This same 2-cylinder 22 horse power engine was used in the Atlas delivery vans and taxicab, starting in 1908. Harry Knox refined the engine and developed a 3-cylinder 34 hp version of it. Later, a 60 hp 4-cylinder version was offered. The firm entered an Atlas in the 1909 Vanderbilt Cup being the first two-stroke car to enter a major long-distance road race.
This fact was promoted in subsquent promotional materials. Not long after, the two-stroke engine fell out of favor in the marketplace, and Knox added a Knight sleeve valve engine in 1912. These cars were called Atlas-Knights, and were bigger, five- or seven-passenger touring cars that cost approximately $3500. The company was bankrupt by early 1913, supposedly due to problems acquiring engines. Harry Knox then moved to Indianapolis to assist the Lyons brothers in producing the Lyons Knight.
1913 Atlas-Knight Touring Automobile
The Lyons-Atlas Co., of Indianapolis, purchasers of the Atlas Engine Works, manufacturers of the Atlas-Knight motors, announce that they will market a complete series of Lyons-Knight pleasure and commercial vehicles during the coming year. They have already commenced deliveries on their Model K chassis, which will be equipped with four bodies, a five-passenger touring, seven-passenger touring, Sedan and Berlin.
In 1892, Andrew Pierce organized The Racaine Gas Engine Company in Racine, WI whose speciality was marine engines. He also had a desire to build automobiles and in 1894, he and Edward Pennington built Wisconsin's first gasoline automobile. Pierce entered his car in the Chicago Herald Tribune Race that was held on Thanksgiving Day, but it didn't participate.
1894 Pierce Surrey
His company built the 1902 Mitchell automobiles for the Wisconsin Wheel Works that was associated with Mitchell-Lewis Wagon Works. For a short time it was also known as Mitchell-Pierce Motor Company, but it was incorporated in 1903 as the Pierce-Racine which was a merger of Wisconsin Wheel Works and Pierce Engine Company. Production began on the Pierce-Racine automobiles in 1904 with a total of twenty-five cars for the year. Mitchell had left the company the previous year and started building the Mitchell automobiles in 1903.
1904 Pierce-Racine Tonneau
1904 Pierce-Racine Advertisement
The production for 1904 was only twenty-five cars. A major expansion was financed by the J.I, Case Threshing Machine Company, Racine, WI, makers of farm machinery and Wisconsin's largest company. Two of the board members of Pierce Engine Co. arranged the loan.
1905 Pierce-Racine Advertisement
1906 Pierce-Racine Touring
The factory of 1908 was very large and 300 cars were sold that year in the $2500 price range. However, by 1909, the Pierce Engine Co. was deep in debt and the company was reorganized to Pierce Motor Co, but it did not help. It went into banktuptcy in 1910.
There is some disagreement as to when the Pierce-Racine automobile became the Case automobile, but by the end of 1910 they were referred to as a Case.
J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company was also interested in entering the Chicago Herald-Tribune Race but the engine was not ready in time. They did not pursue any further with the idea. When Pierce-Racine went bankrupt owing the J.I. Case a huge amount of money, the threshing machine company could now easily get into the manufacturing of cars by using Pierce-Racines factory and changing the name. The 1911 Case was basically a 1910 Pierce-Racine. Their desire of many years had now become a reality.
The Case car was built as a medium price car through the First World War.
1911 Case Touring, a late 1910 Pierce-Racine model
1911 Case Racer
From 1910-1915, they were heavily envolved in the racing circuits and winning many of them. Their results on the regular circuit was not the same at the Indianapolis Speedway where it was very dismal to say the least. Finally, when the company got envolved in doing work for the U.S. government in preparation for the war, racing came to an end.
1914 Case Limousine Automoile
1918 Case Automobile Advertisement
1921 Case Limousine Model V Automobile
The automobile portion of the company's business was separated in 1918 and became the Case Motor Car Co. and a division of the T.M. Company. In 1926, its dealers were notified that the Case cars would be for export only and in 1928, the production ceased altogether.
William Mitchell, owner of the Wisconsin Wheel Works, Rascine, WI., had been making non-descript Mitchell motorcyles for two years, decided to start making automobiles in 1902. The Pierce-Racine Engine Co. Makers of the Pierce-Racine cars, made the prototypes in 1902, for the Mitchell car. In 1903, the Wisconsin Wheel Works produced its first Mitchell automobile. The company's name was changed to Mitchell Motor Car Co. in 1904.
1903 Mitchell Runabout Automobile
1903 Mitchell Runabout Automobile
1906 Mitchell Automobile Advertisement
1910 Mitchell Automobile Advertisement
Upon the retirement of William T. Lewis in 1910, the Mitchell Car Co. and the Mitchell and Lewis Co. were merged into the Mitchell-Lewis Motor Company. According to an article in the New York Times in January, the company was wholly owned by the Michell family and the officers were family members. In 1913 William Mitchell Lewis, president, retired from the business and with Rene Petard started another company across town called the Lewis. The two previous years the company had been finaniced by a bank, and Joseph Winterbottom, representing the bank, took over as the president and reorganizing it as Mitchell Motors Co.
L. P. C.
1914 L. P. C. Light Six Automobile
The Light Six was a really big light six and it was put into production by the newly organized in 1913 as the 1914 Lewis Six at a price of $1,600. Its wheelbase was 135 inches. A big car at such a small price and with its background was sure to cause some consternation within the industry, but would be welcomed by the public.
1915 Lewis Six Automobile Advertisement
1915 Lewis Six Automobile AdvertisementThe L-P-C Motor Co. was organized by William Mitchell Lewis, Rene Petard and James Cram in 1913. The firm only produced cars for a couple of years. The L-P-C was the first auto to have an electric gear shift.
The Mitchell Motor Car Co. struggled throughout the war years into 1920 with a few successes, but mostly failure. In 1923 the company closed down and all assests were sold within a year and in 1924, Nash bought the factory for its new model the Nash-Ajax.
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