History of the American Automobile Industry
1918Home Forward Contents
By January 1918, the war was in full force amd every available industry was producing war products. The automobile industry was hit especially hard by the shortage of manpower. Thousands of skilled workers were called upon to man the war trucks that were sent overseas and for mechanical upkeep leaving the industry with only unskilled workers in the factories. Nothing could be done unless the War Industry Board approved it. Every phase of the industry committed themselves whole heartedly for not to do so was deemed unlawful and was subject to harsh penalties including shut downs.
American Automobile Manufacturers' Contribution to the War Effort
110, 911 vehicles were shipped overseas.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 27, 1918
The Motor Transport Corps of the United States Army shipped 110,911
vehicles, including motor trucks, passenger cars, ambulances, motorcycles, bicycles and
sidecars, to the American Expeditionary Forces from the beginning of the war to Dec. 1,
1918. Of this number 1196 vehicles were lost at sea. During the same period 15,468 tons of
spare parts were shipped, of which none was lost. These figures are contained in a report
just completed by the Motor Transport Corps. In all 2110 Ford, 3183 Dodge Brothers and
1420 Cadillac passenger cars were shipped, a total of 6713, of which twenty-six were lost
at sea. In addition there were miscellaneous and foreign passenger cars, totalling 1191,
of which twelve were sunk. This number included 4219 ambulances that were shipped.
1918 Bosch Magneto Advertisement
There were no major changes in the models for 1919. Three new companies had startups and a very few upgraded their engines. War trucks were being made by the thousands and the government were also buying passenger cars. A new branch of the military was born and was called the Aerial Force. The war Board saw that the airplane could be a decisive factor to obtain peace. To be able to put together a force in a hurry, engine builders were commanded to start building engines that was to be one twelve-cylinder called Liberty. This was to be the only model made. Henry Leland, who had just started his Lincoln Motors Company to build his Lincoln automobile decided not to start until after the war, was one of the primary makers.
Farm tractors had been introduced two years prior and was becoming a major part of the industry and being made by several of the truck makers. Farmers in the wheat belt of the Mississippi Valley were clamoring for them and were buying them by the thousands. This was a major source of revenue that was a shot in the arm of the manufacturers. When the War Industry Board tried to stop the factories from building them, the manufacturers and thousand of farmers protested so loudly that the board finally gave in.
The first Aerial Postal flight from New York to Washington, D. C. was completed in June. Other routes were soon to be started incluing Chicago to New York with these results:
POSTOFF1CE RETURNS AIRPLANES
Washington, Jan. 3The Postoffice Departmentahas turned back to the
War Department 100 De Haviland 4 airplanes which, it is said, have proven utterly unfit
for cross-country mail flying. This action followed extensive flight and service tests
between New York and Chicago and Washington and New York, which, it is said,
The First Home Electric Generator
A 110-Volt Automatic Farm Power and Lighting Plant that the makers claim
to be the first successfully operated 110-volt automatic electric farm power and lighting
plant at a low price is manufactured and sold by the Automatic Light Co., Inc.,
Minneapolis, Minn., and is named Alco. This plant is a light, compact unit. The engine is
the Alco design and is exceedingly simple and accessible. It is a single-cylinder,
four-cycle, valve-in-head type, water-cooled by a special percolator system that requires
only 4 gal. of water.
Motor Age Magazine
In common with every other phase of American life, motor vehicles have been deeply affected by America's participation in the European war. Extraordinary conditions, such as those brought about by a world war, tend either very greatly to stimulate development of an industry, or to exert a depressing effect upon its development. Both of these effects have been felt in the motor industry. While commercial vehicle and aviation development have been vastly speeded up, passenger car development during the last year has distinctly slowed down. That such an effect would be produced under the conditions is not surprising, with the best intellect of the industry exerting all its energies, and properly so, toward the more immediate necessities for improvement and production of trucks, airplanes and other direct munitions of war. Also, it must not be overlooked that the uncertainty from the manufacturing and sales standpoints of the industry, together with the imposition of special taxes and fears of difficulties in securing proper mterials and transportation facilities as well as the timidity of capital in the time of war, all have made motor car manufacturers withhold new designs which under more auspicious circumstances would have been incorporated in their new series.
To bring out radically new designs involving serious changes in the material, size or arrangement of the units of a car would mean the development of special tools, the partial re-equipment of the factory, and even re-education to some extent of the workmen. "With the parts market as it is at present, and the material situation in its somewhat unsettled state, to incorporate radical changes would in many instances endanger a proper and continuous supply.With the nation calling for every man, and particularly every skilled man that the motor industry can supply, manufacturers are doing a patriotic thing, in not making extensive alterations in their products for the new year. Those few who have greatly altered their cars for 1918 are in n position to do so with little or no loss in efficiency of production, or danger from inadequate supply of material for the new models
On the whole, changes in design of the 1918 cars, as compared with those
of 1917, are fewer and slighter in extent than has been the case in any previous year.
There are a few notable exceptions to this statement. Hupmobile has been redesigned almost
throughout; Studehnker has been changed very materially, and most strikingly in its
exteriors. Case is a new car throughout. One other large concern whose plans may not he
divulged at this moment, is preparing for sweeping changes in design. Cole has striking
new bodies. Most of the cars are altered in some slight degree, as compared with last
year's model, hut in few instances have these alterations been anything other than
refinements Much of the development this year has been along body lines, a department in
which changes can be made without upsetting manufacturing processes. The result of
America's passenger ear development during the year 1917 will be placed on display
Saturday at the Grand Central Palace, New York, at the annual exhibition of motor cars for
1918. There will be found many examples of the beautification of bodies, there will be
found many examples of important modification of the carburetion system to handle present
day fuel in a better way, and there will be found many instances of small refinements
looking to easier maintenance on the part of the owner.
Our First War Models
With nine months of war, and with the effect of war on retail sales dating
back practically eight of those nine months, we could not expect other than that our
makers would trim their sails according to the course of the wind. The 1918 expected new
models arc not with us, and for 1918 we have but a continuation of our pre-war models, as
history may name them. Few of the engineering plans of 1918 have been carried into the
chassis that will be seen at our shows, excepting in those cases where business judgment
deemed it best to bring out the new models because of the reduced sales resistance
thatthey would bring about.
The first appearance of a modern style gasoline pump.
1918 Stanley Automobile Advertisement
Stanley bodies were made by Currier, Cameron & Company Carriage Company, Amesbury, MA from its first model.
Copied from the 1918 Motor Age Magazine
The Comet Automobile C0. has undertaken the difficult task of producing at a moderate price a car having the size and quality of cars in a higher price class, the prime object being economy. Its exhibits wil1 include a stripped chassis and two standard touring cars, one 'in regular finish and the other in a special color. One chassis carries the four body models comprising the complete linefive-passenger touring, four-passenger roadster, and five-and seven-passenger limousines. The engine is a 50-horsepower six and the wheelbase is 125 inches. The price range is from $1,285 to $2,250. The leader of the line is the Centennial C-50," which is a five-passenger touring car at $1,285.
1918 Comet Closed Sedan Automobile
George W. Jagers, a former costing clerk for the Case Threshing Machine Company, Racine, WI, bought the Racine Manufacturing Company, a toy maker, and proceeded to turn it into an automobile venture. He moved to Chicago in 1916 and designed six prototypes that was being made by his company in Wisconsin. He showed his models at the 1917 Chicago Automobile Show in January. Production began in August for the 1918 season at his new factory in Decauter, IL. The car was an assembled six-cylinder model that was like all the other models being made that year. Sales were modest but were climbing and were being made only from firm commitments from dealerships. Its slogan "This Comet has Come to Stay." was put in its advertisements in 1920. An order for 40 cars from Belgium gave the company the initiative to build a larger and more modern factory with a daily output of 200 cars, but sorry to say, the order was never realized. This put the company into dep trouble and the Comet was not being made in Decauter any more. It went into voluntary receivership and with a new plan to refinance, production continued with a small four engine. Plans to return to Racine and refiancing never took place and the company was in shambles. Its stock selling affairs were being investigated. The company was offered for sale but no bidders and the assets were sold in piece meal at auction in 1922 with one car being bought for $35 and parts as low as 8 cents each. Eight former officers were indicted for fraud, but most of them were cleared.
A novel way to introduce a new model automobile to the public
COMET APPEARS IN VAUDEVILLE
Motor cars have appeared on the stage before this but when the Comet Automobile Co., of Decatur, 1L,, introduced its new centennial model of the Comet Six as one act in the vaudeville performance at a local theater, it was a new method for advertising.
1920 Comet Automobile Advertisement
The Tulsa Automobile Corporation, Tulsa, Oklahoma, was formed un February, 1917, by T. J. Hartman, J. O. Mitchell, Mark Carr, and G. E. Darland to manufacture a car for use in the oil fields. Manufacturing began at the Tulsa Automobile Manufacturing Company in late summer for the 1918 season. Three models, roadster, touring, and an "oil field" special, were offered on a 117 inch wheel base. "The Peer of the West" was priced under $1,000. Production varied from year to year. The price was raised immediately to $1,550. A factory fire damaged the company in 1920 and it had to be reorganized. It survived until its bankruptcy in 1921.
1918 Tulsa Automobile Advertisement
1921 Tulsa Automobiles
NEW YORK, Feb. 23Motor Age Magazine
The Chevrolet Motor Co. is soon to pass out of existence as an independent
producing company. Under the terms of a recommendation submitted at the annual meeting of
the General Motors Corp., and soon to be ratified, it will become a division of the
General Motors Co. and its status will be the same as that of other General Motors
divisions such as Buick, Cadillac, Oakland, Oldsmobile and the other large parts making
concerns. Like these companies it will go on producing cars as in the past and its methods
of distribution for its products will not be altered. When the changes are completed, the
General Motors divisions will have a combined output of close to 400,000 cars a year with
cars in every price class except the very lowest, ranging from the smallest Chevrolet at
$685 to the Cadillac at $2,800.
February 28, 1918 MOTOR AGE
The Revere car, Revere Motor Car Corp., Chicago, is the design of Gil Anderson, who piloted the Stutz in many of its victorious.speed contests and who is now the chief engineer of the Bevere concern. Tom Rooney, also a former Stutz pilot, and Adolph Monsen assisted in the production of the new design. It appears to date as a speedster, a four-passenger sport model and a six-passenger touring car; the price varies from $3,500 to $3,800, depending on the style. It is featured by a 41/1 by 6 four-cylinder Duesenberg Engine. The general status of the car can be obtained from the following brief specificaions. These include a four-speed gearset with direct on high in unit with the engine the drive taken through universals to the loating axle with final drive through spiral-bevel gears. The clutch is a dry disk with fabric facing. The torque is taken up through two rods, one on either side of the propeller shaft. The wheelbase is 130 in., tires 32 by 4 1/2 inches with Goodyear cords on wood or wire wheels.
1918 Revere Automobile with a Victoria Top
The Revere was introduced in the automobile shows that year and by 1919, production was in full swing. The Revere company claimed that an Eastern dealer had contracted for all the cars for the next five years for $45,000,000, giving the company a healhy profit of $50 per car.
1918 Revere Touring Car
However, in 1921, a stockholder petioned for bankuptcy by claiming that no such contract existed. He was correct. The company went under and was sold for $52,000.A new group took over with the new model being called ReVere, Two more changes were done, but the company's image could not be saved. The company went under in 1926.
1918 Liberty Bond Advertisement
DETROIT, April 19MOTOR AGE
Inability to get a sufficient supply of materials and the shortage of labor have reduced by 20 per cent the production of many of the motor car manufacturers in this territory. Thedemands on materials by the Government have made it impossible for the parts manufacturers to maintain their production to supply the requirements of the motor carmanufacturers. These shortages are felt in several different components. The lack of one kind of parts will retard the entire production. Industries report a shortage of labor varying from 100 men to 5000. The shortage of freight equipment has had much influence in decreasing production of many of the plants, for it has prevented them from obtaining much of the required material. The incoming freight transportation is a limiting factor in the production schedules.
A relief of outgoing freight has been felt during the last few weeks. The industries report that they have been able to get many more empties than was possible for some time. The manufacturers who have been receiving machinery for Government work availed themselves of the freight equipment thus brought to their doors and used it for their outgoing shipments. Several manufacturers, however, state they are having difficulty with freight shipments and have very little trouble in getting the labor they need. But of these there are comparatively few.
The Industry War Board was set up by President Wilson in the early part of 1918. A Czar was appointed oversee the automobile industry's cooperation with the war work The board had the last say about anything that was related to anything that affected the war.
MOTOR AGE August 15, 1918
Industry Is Advised to Get on 100 Per Cent War Work
Letter from War Industries Board to National Automobile Chamber of Commerce
"We are in receipt of and have given very careful consideration to
your communication of Aug. 8, embodying the resolutions passed at your meeting at Detroit,
Tuesday, Aug. 6. We note that the manufacturers have voluntarily agreed among themselves
to curtail the production of passenger cars 50 per cent. While this is clearly a step in
the right direction and furnishes a basis for each and all of the manufacturers, without
further delay, to make appropriate reductions in selling, general and overhead expenses,
still it is only a step and further curtailment is inevitable. Fairness to your industry
impels us to state frankly that the situation as it is presented
"The War Industries Board has received numerous telegrams from the National Automobile Dealers' Association requesting a hearing and has set Aug. 16 as the day for the meeting before the suggestion that passenger car makers convert their plants to 100 per cent war work is put into effect."
After several meetings, an agreement was reached that a 50% reduction was agreed to.
Motor Age's Editorial Response to the War Board
August 15, 1918, MOTOR AGE
The Utilitarian Motor Car
Any member of the War Industries Bosvd who cannot apparently see any
useful war value in the motor car and who wants the motor ear manufacturers to get a 100
per cent war basis by Jan. 1 should spend a few days in the farming sections of any of the
grain states and see just what the motor car is doing. He will see motor cars drawing
trailers behind them loaded down with grain that has just come from the threshing field.
He will meet motor cars on the highways every few miles hurrying to some distant farm with
a repair part for a disabled tractor or for a disabled threshing machine or for a disabled
binder or some other piece of farm machinery. He will find scores of these motor cars In a
single day's travel converted into 100 per cent work vehicles, in fact, he will find it
the exception to see these motor cars not engaged in useful work.
Long Distance Drive-aways were the only way for dealers to maintain an inventory.
Copied from the 1918 Issue of the Horseless Age Magazine
When the war ended abruptly in 1918, most of the automobile companies that had been making war materials were taken by surprise and were not ready to convert back manufacturing of automobiles. Ford Motor Company was one of those that could. When he asked Bill Knudsen, his engineer, how long would it take to make a new car, he was assured that it could be done in six months. However, Ford announced a few months later that not only a new car but a new company would be built.. He resigned as president of the Ford company and put his son, Edsel, in charge so he could take full control of establishing the new company which would be several times larger than the present one.
Henry Ford had no use for stockholders and he had his people approach the investors to determine how much they wanted per share. The Dodge Brothers agreed to $12,500 and reaped $25 million for a $10.000 investment. They had prevously collected $5 million to start their Dodge Brothers Company. Jim Cousins finally agreed to $13,000 and collected $30 million. Ford was overjoyed that the company was now his very own. The idea of a new company was disgarded.
The Douglas Eight originally conceived with the idea of supplying the
Middle west with a high-powered car at a reasonable price is the result of a refinement
1918 Douglas Touring Automobile, One Man Top
In the spring of 1918, The former Drummond automobile was resurected as the Douglas model and made by the Douglas Motor Corporation in Omaha, NE. TH
The old V-eoght was rebuilt as a new Douglas V-eight with an increase in horsepower. The prices were also raised. The Douglas company also made commercial vehicles. The Douglas lasted for one year before closing. A total of 213 cars had been made. The commercial trucks lasted into the mid 1930's
One of several scores that were making accessories for Ford Cars
For sixteen years George W. Hanson had been selling cars in his native Georgia, rising from a bicycle store owner in Griffin to head the Studebaker agency in Atlanta. In 191, he decided to build cars of his own for the Southern market. It was going to be a cheap, light model like a Saxon. He teamed up with Don M. Fergunson, a former E. M. F. executive and also from Georgia, to build a prtototype in Detroit that was to be the Hanson automobile. It was done in the Puritan Machine Company's factory. A $50,000 factory began construction in 1917, but by the time it was finished, the government took it over for war work. Hanson In the meantime, Hanson had organized his Hanson Motor Company nd his car was first introduced at the Southeastern Automobile Show in Atlanta in 1918
In May of that year, the government released the factory and the Hanson company began production in June. It was a 45 horsepower, six-cylinder touring car on a 119-wheelbase sold for $1,685. Only touring cars were sold through 1919. Closed bodies were made in 1920 with a 55-horsepower engine on a 121-wheelbase."Made in Dixie and Tested and Proved in the South" were his slogans. He introduced a speedster with a Duesenberg engine as a prototype in 1921. Hanson introduced his Hanson Six in 1921 with the entire body made in his factory with heavy aluminum with a 121-inch wheelbase and 32-inch tires He absorbed the American Motors Export system to build the Innes cars, but with the death of Harry Innes, that fell through. He began trying to survive the ills of the postwar recession with changing his Little Six into a Super Six, but in 1925, he gave up and went into manufacturing baby nursing bottles. His total output was 1,800 cars.
November 7, 1918, MOTOR AGE
Post-war problems of the dealer will be as perplexing aud have as many different phases
as the wartime problems of the present. America, as a whole, and the motor ear industry in
particular, has suffered because it did not live up to the old adage of "In time of
peace, prepare for war." America is just waking up to the necessity of the converse
of this, "In time of war, prepare for peace." It is necessary for automotive
dealers to begin to plan for the labor, merchandising and service problems which will be
presented by the cessation of hostilities and by the return of the millions of soldiers
from the other sideand by the diversion of capital, whether it be the few hundred
dollars in the saving banks of the laborer or the thousands of the monied man.
FORD BUYS NEWSPAPER
Henry Ford has announced his retirement from active par- ticipation in the management of the Ford Motor Co. to devote his time to the publication of a national weekly newspaper and the Fordson tractor plant at Dearborn. Edsel Ford, his son, is slated to take over his work in the passenger car concern. Mr. Ford has bought the Dearborn Independent and expects to give a good deal of his own time toward its publication.
Six years after the electric starter was invented, Ford Motor CO, issued this shocking news story
DETROIT, Dec. 7, 1918, MOTOR AGE
The new Ford cars are to be equipped with an electric starter. No additional charge
will be made for the starter, which will be standard equipment for 1919 on as many cars as
the output of the starter plant will permit. It is possible this may be fitted only on the
closed cars at first. Rumors to the effect that the Ford Motor Co. contemplated a change
of this kind have been current many times during the last two years. At one time it is
known a starter actually was developed and negotiations carried to the point where its
equipment on all Ford models practically was assured. Later, however, difficulties arose
which precluded the possibility of its addition.