I would like to share some interesting Indiana auto facts that I have learned over the years.
The Inter-State Motor Company was started in 1908, when the Commercial Club of Muncie, spearheaded by the five Ball brothers, J.M. Marling, and Tom Hart decided to open an automobile production plant. After World War I it was eventually sold to GM.
John Lambert (1860 – 1952) along with his father and brother, established an engine plant in Anderson, known as the Buckeye Manufacturing Company. In 1902, Lambert formed the Union Auto Company in Union City to produce a rear-engine automobile with gearless, friction-drive. In 1905, Lambert closed this firm and formed the Lambert Automobile Company in Anderson. For the next 12 years, the company manufactured automobiles, trucks, fire engines, and farm tractors. All used the friction-drive pioneered by Lambert. Cars using engines from this company were manufactured until 1917. Lambert received over 600 patents for his automotive designs.
William B. Barnes (1898 – 1987) invented “overdrive” a device that would increase the life of the engine, yet improve fuel efficiency. In 1932, Muncie’s Warner Gear backed this development.
Adolf Schneider (1891 – 1987) and his brother Heinrich, invented the hydraulic torque converter for diesel locomotives in their native Switzerland in 1924. Later, Schneider came to the U.S. where there a better chance of manufacturing it. Warner Gear eventually agreed to work with Schneider.
Ralph Teetor (1890 – 1982), blind since age five, is best known for the invention of cruise control. Teetor was inspired to invent the device while riding with his lawyer. The lawyer would slow down while talking and speed up while listening. The rocking motion so annoyed Teetor that he determined to invent a speed control. It was well received at its debut in 1961, in a Chrysler Imperial.
Perry Remy, 19, and his 14 year-old brother Frank, opened an electrical contracting business in Anderson in 1895. Later they incorporated as the Remy Electric Company, manufacturers of electrical equipment for gasoline engines. The company was a success, due largely to Perry’s design for the magneto: in 1910, nearly 50,000 were produced. United Motors Corporation bought Remy and its chief rival, Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company in 1916. The Delco Remy merger under General Motors, took place in 1938.
Gordon Buehrig (1904 – 1990) started his career in 1924, as chief engineer for Gothfredson Body Company and then worked for a variety of other auto companies. In 1929, he became chief body designer at Duesenberg in Indianapolis. He designed many of the famous Duesenbergs, the Duesenberg radiator ornament and the classic 1935 Auburn line. He is most famous, however, for the 810 Cord which drew huge crowds at its debut at the 1935 New York auto show. The car ushered in aero-dynamic styling. It had disappearing headlights, front-wheel drive and step-down entry. The Museum of Modern Art in New York, honored the 810 Cord in a 1951 show stating, “the originality of the conception and the skill with which its several parts have been realized make it one of the most powerful designs in the exhibition…”
C.C. Adelsperger, S.R. Bell and J.W. Wogoman founded Union City Body Company in 1893. It produced bodies for horseless carriages made by a number of companies operating within 100 miles of its shop. Bodies for Haynes, Apperson, Davis, Lexington, Clark, Premier, and Chandler automobiles were all produced at Union City. As the company’s reputation grew, it received contracts to make bodies for some of the nation’s most beautiful automobiles including the Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg and Pierce-Arrow. By the late 1920s, however, many of Union City Body’s customers were closing their doors and the company turned to manufacturing theater seating in order to remain in business. In the 1950s, the company began focusing on parcel delivery trucks.
When Maxwell-Briscoe built its plant in New Castle in 1906. At the time, it was the largest automobile plant in the nation. Maxwells were made there until 1925. The newly formed Chrysler Corporation purchased the plant that year making it one of its original eight plants.
Tom and Harry Warner, Abbott and J.C. Johnson, Col. William Hitchcock and Thomas Morgan founded Warner Gear Company of Muncie in 1900. Warner Gear’s first major contribution to the industry was the differential. The company also produced transmissions, steering gears and rear axles and had broad appeal among the nation’s automobile makers. Warner was the first company to develop a standardized transmission in 1926. It could be mass produced at half the cost of specialty transmissions and was suitable for use in almost any automobile. This successful innovation saved the company during a time when specialty manufacturers across the country were closing their doors. A merger with Borg & Beck, Marvel Carburetor and Mechanics Universal Joint Company in 1928 created Borg Warner Corporation. The diversity of its products kept the company stable during the Depression years.
That’s the story of some of Indiana auto pioneers. For more information on Indiana auto pioneers, follow this link.