February 5, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
Ferdinand Porsche

The first vehicle to carry Dr. Ferdinand Porsche’s marque was a tank. He designed tractors and the first Volkswagens, or “people’s car.” His automotive designs earned him two honorary doctorates. At his funeral in 1952 the West German minister of transport delivered this eulogy: “We are not only standing at the bier of a great designer, but we are burying with him the heroic epoch of the motor car.” Still, Dr. Porsche never built an automobile that carried his name.

This legend of automotive design was self-taught in his hometown of Maffersdorf, Bohemia, a region of Austria-Hungary when Porsche was born in 1875. As a teenager Porsche chose not to follow his father into the tinsmithing trade and instead pursued a fascination with electric motors. The Porsches became the first family in Maffersdorf to be wired for electric lights when Ferdinand rigged a generator into the house.

His design career began in 1898. Porsche joined the firm of Jacob Lohner & Co. to create carriages for the royal Austrian House of Habsburg. In 1905 he began an association with Austro-Daimler, the largest automobile maker in Austria, that would span nearly twenty years. One of Porsche’s rare failed designs at Austro-Daimler was the Maja, a passenger car named for the daughter of a wealthy Austrian, Emil Jellinek. Another car designed for Jellinek’s other daughter, Mercedes, did become a commercial success.

During World War I Porsche’s designs for the Austrian military, including a motorized gun carriage for light artillery, earned him the Austrian Officer’s Cross and an honorary doctorate from the technical college in Vienna where he had studied briefly twenty years earlier but never bothered to enroll. In 1924, after leaving Austro-Daimler for Daimler in Germany, won a second doctorate from the technical college in Stuttgart for his design of a Mercedes SSK racer.

Mergers in the German automobile industry compromised Porsche’s autonomy and, now in his fifties, he returned to Austria to head the engineering department for Steyr Motor Works. Here Porsche could work on the small, affordable cars he favored over the luxury vehicles Austro-Daimler had preferred. However, Steyr and Austro-Daimler merged in 1930 and Porsche left once again for Stuttgart, Germany and his own design firm, buoyed by nine Austrian engineers he took with him.

Porsche once again set out to become the henry Ford of Europe. He designed three prototypes for the Volksauto, a car for the masses, but the cars were never produced. The car would be resurrected decades later as the car Americans know as the Beetle. Adolph Hitler, also seeking a car for the German masses, appointed Porsche as a director of the government’s new car company and awarded him the title of professor. During World War II he designed tanks for the Third Reich, the first vehicles to carry the Porsche name.

After the war Porsche was interred for several months at an American interrogation center while being questioned about his military activities. After he was released in November 1945 Porsche was invited to France to discuss the possibility of establishing an automotive factory there. Once again Porsche was arrested and accused of war crimes. The 70-year old Dr. Porsche was forced to help design a Renault car before raising one million francs to secure his freedom. He had spent 18 months in prison.

Broken upon his release n 1947, Porsche’s son Ferdinand II, “Ferry,” assumed management of the business. It was under his direction that the first Porsche automobile, crafted from spare Volkswagen parts, reached the market in 1948. The Porsche name would be carried on to future generations rightly as a high-performance sports car and not a utilitarian tank.


And the men behind the brand are...
Charles Stuart Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce

One was educated at Eton, the other studied at night school. One was a devil-may care racer, the other a no-nonsense engineer. One died spectacularly as the first Englishman ever killed in an airplane crash, the other died of overwork. Together they are responsible for the most luxurious car in the world.

Frederick Henry Royce was the son of a miller who was forced to sell newspapers on the streets of London when his father’s business failed. By his 21st birthday in 1884 he had already been in and out of the telegraph business, the railroad business and the new electric light business. That year he borrowed 70 pounds and began manufacturing lamps and other electrical devices. With a fanaticism for detail and a normal work day that spanned 16 hours he was able to become prosperous.

In 1902 Royce treated himself by purchasing a new-fangled French auto. Royce was not happy with his new car; it was unreliable and, worse, noisy. A self-styled engineer Royce decided to build his own two-cylinder car. In fact he made three: one for himself, one for his partner A.R. Claremont and a third for Henry Edwards, a new director in the firm of F. H. Royce Ltd.

Edwards drove his car over to see a friend, Charles Stuart Rolls, who knew cars. Rolls, the son of an English baron, graduated with an MA in mechanical engineering and became a champion high bicycle rider. In December 1895 he imported a Peugeot from France, then the most powerful car made. It was only the fourth car in England and traffic laws forbade any self-propelled vehicle from moving more than 4 mph - about the speed of a brisk walk - and a man carrying a red flag had to precede the car on the highway. It took Rolls more than 12 hours to travel from London to Cambridge, a distance of less than fifty miles.

The experienced racer became convinced upon seeing Royce’s little car that the superior engineering should be applied to a more powerful automobile. The two became partners in 1904 with Royce building in a shop in Manchester and Rolls, awash with influential contacts, selling in London. They quickly decided to concentrate on a single model and with Rolls adding flare and style to Royce’s meticulous engineering the first Rolls Royce automobile reached the market in 1906.

It was called the Silver Ghost and was a landmark in automotive history. It was “quiet as a ghost,” so solid that a penny would not be dislodged from the side of a radiator cap while the 6-cylinder engine idled. The car set speed records immediately and, with its distinctive grille, established standards for luxury and quality forevermore.

But already Charles Rolls was becoming bored with the auto business. An enthusiastic aviator he made 170 balloon ascents after discovering the sport in 1901 and founded the Aero Club in England in 1903. He became one of the first to fly with Wilbur Wright when he demonstrated his new airplane in France and as a pilot he became the first to fly across the English Channel and back without setting down. Rolls died tragically on July 12, 1910 when a Wright bi-plane he was piloting at a flying tournament in Bournemouth crashed from a height of only 23 feet. England’s first airplane casualty was only 33 years old. As a symbol of mourning the “R & R” was changed from red to black.

In 1911 Henry Royce suffered a breakdown from overwork. For the rest of his life he would not visit the automobile works in Derby, contributing designs and making approvals from his home. If Rolls had lived the company would inevitably have been involved in airplane manufacturing sooner but by World War I Rolls Royce became the leading supplier of planes to the Royal Air Force. Half of Britain’s air force of Eagles, Falcons, Hawks and Condors carried Rolls Royce engines.

Production was stopped on the legendary Silver Ghost in 1925 after some 6000 had been built. In 1930, three years before his death, Royce was awards a baronetcy of his own. Sir Frederick Henry Royce’s death was a rare one for a baron: the lingering affects of overwork.


And the man behind the brands is...
Ransom Olds

Ransom Eli Olds was unique among automotive pioneers whose names have flourished for nearly a century. Like David Buick and Louis Chevrolet, history treated Olds shabbily. For a time his name was stripped from Lansing, Michigan's tallest building and leading hotel, both of which Olds built. His historic mansion, despite an occasional preservations murmuring, was leveled as part of a highway project to enable cars bearing his name to speed over top his former living room. But Olds did not struggle financially like Buick and Chevrolet, his worth was estimated at up to $60,000,000 and he died a millionaire.

On the other hand Olds was in the best position of any car builder to establish an empire like Henry Ford or Walter Chrysler. But he lacked the competitive drive to build that sort of mega-business. What Ransom Olds really lacked was an ego.

Olds began building horseless carriages in 1885 in his father's steam-engine business when he was 21. The next year he produced a three-wheeled steam-propelled horseless carriage that roared through the streets of Lansing in a pre-dawn test run. Olds took his invention to the road in the middle of the night to avoid the jeers of spectators but its crude noises caused people to leap from their beds and rush to the window anyway.

He improved his steam carriage over the years. The first of 34 patents Olds would claim over the years was granted in 1891 for an engine governor. In 1893 Olds sold his horseless carriage, now sporting four wheels, to an English company for use in India. It was America's first automobile sale.

By this time Olds was deeply involved in gasoline engines. In 1896 he organized the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in Detroit with a group of investors. Over the next few years only four cars were sold as Olds vacillated over what type of horseless carriage to produce. For a while he made an electric "town car" in addition to a gas-powered roadster for the country.

In 1901 Olds settled on a tiny one-cylinder carriage with only a dash that curved upwards like a toboggan in front of the occupants. While on a trip to California that year Olds' Detroit factory burned down. Only one Curved-Dash roadster was salvaged.

With a crippled capacity Olds had to turn to outside suppliers for car parts. This stimulated the growth of the auto-support industry which made Detroit the auto capital of the world. The plant fire is often romantically credited with creating the Motor City but Olds had years earlier realized the need for outside suppliers to manufacture horseless carriages in quantity.

In 1902 the Oldsmobile trade name was registered, the oldest surviving American automotive marquis. Olds promoted his little runabout vigorously. It rapidly became the most widely advertised, best-selling car in America. He wrote dealer's instruction booklets, magazine ads and fancy postcards. Oldsmobile billboards were commonplace in American cities.

Olds formed the Oldsmobile Club of America, announcing that all that was required of a member was "a good character and an Oldsmobile." "The former," the company suggested, "we can not always furnish, the latter is delivered on payment of the initiation fee, $650."

Olds also favored publicity stunts like driving up steps to demonstrate the little carriage's ruggedness and piling up to 17 people on the sturdy runabout. Olds was one of the few automobile makers to use advertisements to attack the industry's primary competition - the often skittish horse.

Since accepting outside capital in 1896 Ransom Olds' power in the business eroded rapidly. He argued that breakdowns and defects were inevitable given the limited technology available and the company could sell post-purchase service. "We have to sell parts, too," he maintained.

Company officials, stung by occasional criticism of the Oldsmobile's reliability, felt the best possible endorsement was a well-made quality car before it left the shop. Ransom Olds resigned his presidency in 1904. Oldsmobile enjoyed soaring sales for two more years but was selling only 1000 cars in 1908 when William Durant bought the company for General Motors, claiming he was spending a million dollars for little more than billboards.

Meanwhile Olds diversified his business interests: real estate, a peat fuel company, a gold mine and banking. Before 1904 was out Olds was back in the car business. He formed the R.E. Olds Company but was threatened with litigation from his former company he founded. He changed the name to REO Motor Car Company, an acronym of his initials.

The first REO, clearly an automobile and not a horseless carriage, was ready in 1905. Its $1250 price tag, while reasonable for a touring car, put the car out of the mass market being claimed by Ford. REO became established as an industry leader but Olds failed to keep up with changing designs and mechanical advancements. The 1911 model was still the 1905 REO.

In a brash new 1912 advertising campaign Olds announced "My Farewell Car." "Embodied here," read the copy, "are the final results of my 25 years of experience. I do not believe that a car materially better will ever be built." The REO climbed back to 7th place in car sales.

The copy was written for him but was frightfully prophetic. Olds had no plans to retire but had not been actively involved in the business since 1907. He traveled extensively, vacationed much of the winter and spent a great deal of time at auto shows. Always a better pioneer than manager, Olds relinquished the title of general manager in 1915. He gave up the presidency of REO in 1923 but kept the honorary position of Chairman as his last tie to the industry.

Olds was not entirely content with the life of leisure. He continued to tinker and obtain patents. He created one of the first gas-powered lawnmowers in 1915 and headed the Ideal Power Lawn Mower Company. He developed a planned community in Florida which, although failing in his lifetime, eventually took hold. In 1929 he built the 26-story Olds Tower in Lansing next to the venerable Hotel Olds.

The Depression killed REO. The last car was made in 1936, although truck manufacturing would continue another four decades. For the first time in 40 years Ransom Olds was not involved in car-making. He cut all ties to the auto industry.

Olds lived until 1950 when he died from complications of old age. Most of his fortune was split among his family. He eschewed national charities, convinced that most of the money went to pay staff salaries. Instead he showered benefactions on local libraries, Michigan State University, and the church.

In an interview a year before his death the 85-year old Olds decried the high price of cars, advocating a stripped-down car that would sell for $1000. "Prices are much too high," declared Olds. "More people should have the benefit of this fine equipment. The public wants transportation, not gadgets."


And the man behind the brand is...
Carl Benz

Carl Benz received a patent for the world’s first gas-powered velocipede in 1886. In 1888 he won a gold medal for his automobile at the Munich Engine Exposition but generated no sales. Experts opined that the use of petroleum held no more promise for road travel than did steam. Benz did attract one prospect, however, but he was literally carted off to a lunatic asylum before any money could change hands. The world’s first new car buyer was certifiably insane.

Carl Benz’s road to his first automobile was no less rocky than his drive fore his first sale. Benz was born in Germany in 1844 and completed an education at Karlsruhe Polytechnikum before launching an immodest early career. In rapid succession he worked on locomotives, designed scales and built bridges. In 1871 he set up a machine shop in a shed with a partner who turned out not to like anything about the business beyond setting it up. Benz floundered and his business was kept from the auctioneer’s gavel only by the value of its property.

Gottleib Daimler had just built a four-stroke internal combustion stationary engine which convinced Benz he could develop a two-stroke engine he could mount on a movable vehicle. On New Years Eve 1879 a nearly destitute Benz hit upon a workable model with enough promise to land local financing. At first Benz built stationary engines but in 1883 he set out to build a road vehicle.

But what was he going to build? No one had ever built anything that resembled a car. How would it ignite? How would it steer? How many wheels should it have? Late in 1885 the first Benz car rolled around the courtyard in his hometown of Mannheim. It stopped when an ignition wire snapped. Then a chain drive broke. After weeks of repair, benz tried again. This time he drove his 550-pound into a brick wall. The first automobile accident.

By early 1886 Benz was back on the streets with a three-wheeled contraption. He test drove at night to avoid any embarrassment and his son ran down the road with him to refuel the car. Fearing an explosion Benz was careful to only put one-and-a-half liters into the tank at a time. But his tests were successful. Meanwhile Daimler had taken his faster engine and situated it in between the two wheels of a bicycle to make the world’s first motorcycle. Soon he had driven a horseless carriage of his design 18 kilometers an hour.

Germans ignored these new cars but the French were wildly enthusiastic about motor transportation. Benz contracted with a Parisien agent to sell his cars as more and more inventors introduced their own strange and wonderful contraptions. What better way to determine the merit of these new cars than to stage a race. On July 22, 1894 in Paris twenty-one vehicles - 8 steam-driven and 13 gasoline powered - rolled to the starting line in the first-ever automobile race. It was more horseless carriages gathered together in one place than ever before.

Carl Benz was not enthusiastic about this sort of competition. He knew others were working with more powerful engines and thought a car should be judged on its reliability, not its ability to reach a high speed for a short time. Indeed, the Benz car reached the finish line in the 78-mile race well behind the Daimler-powered engines in the field. But Benz instead pointed with pride to another motoring achievement - a 1,000-mile, three-country tour undertaken by a Benz Viktoria car.

By the end of the 19th century Benz had sold 2,000 cars, making him the leading automobile maker in the world. Benz thought 30 miles per hour was as fast as a car ever needed to go and he became increasingly disenchanted with his company’s , Benz et Cie., growing infatuation with racing. On April 21, 1903 he resigned his position as board member and advisor.

Gottleib Daimler died in 1900 at the age of 66, never having met Carl Benz, even though the two lived only 60 miles apart. The following year his company was commissioned by Emile Jellinik, a wealthy Austrian banker, to build a car. He wanted the engine in front , an unusual placement at the time, because “that was where the horse used to be.” The car was named for Jellinik’s 11-year old daughter, Mercedes Adrienne Manuela Ramona Jellinik. Emile Jellinik would die in prison in World War I, accused of being an Austrian spy.

World War I decimated the German automobile industry. Eighty-six car makers vied for sales in the war-ravaged country in the 1920s causing Benz et Cie. and Daimler-Motoren-Gesselschaft to enter into a loose association where the firms shared technology and market information. In 1926 the merger became official with the melding of the three-pointed Daimler star and the Benz laurel branches onto the new Mercedes-Benz. Carl Benz died three years later, at 85, a recognized pioneer of the automobile industry. Mercedes Jellinik also died in 1929, impoverished after two failed marriages to Austrian barons.


And the man behind the brand is...
Jack Mack

In the early 1900s as Americans began their love affair with the automobile trucks were an afterthought. Trucks were largely assembled with surplus or obsolete car parts. John (Jack) Mack was to change all that.

Jack Mack was one of five brothers raised on his German parents' farm near Scranton, Pennsylvania. In 1878 Jack ran away from home to work as a teamster. He was 14 years old. Mack learned how to work steam engines, a talent which took him to sea. He worked for several years around the United States and the Panama Canal region.

Mack and his brother Augustus purchased a small carriage and wagon building firm in Brooklyn in 1893. The country was gripped by the Panic of 1893 and the Macks filled few orders. They did establish a reputation as first class repairmen for wagons, however.

Jack and Augustus began experimenting with new self-propelled vehicles. Many of their early creations ended up in the East River as fish-breeding environments. In 1900, after eight years of work, the first hand-crafted Mack motor vehicle was ready.

Powered by a Mack four-cylinder engine, utilizing a cone-type clutch and 3-speed transmission the first vehicle was actually a bus designed to carry 20 sightseers through Brooklyn's Prospect Park. It was the first successful bus in the United States. The Mack was so rugged it served for 8 years in the park and then was converted into a truck and retired 17 years later with one million miles under it.

The prototype "Old Number One" was so successful other orders followed. The Mack's three other brothers joined in the formation of the Mack Brothers Company in the State of New York with $35,000 in working capital. By 1905 they had outgrown their Brooklyn facility and moved home to Allentown, Pennsylvania as the Mack Brothers Motor Car Company with Jack Mack as its driving force.

But Jack Mack had no intention of building motor cars. He pioneered the design and manufacture of custom-built trucks using durable Mack-built components, not discarded car parts. Very early on he devised the seat-over-engine trucks which were the forerunners of modern cabs. The trucks could haul a capacity of 7 1/2 tons. Mack also turned out fire engines, railroad cars, and buses.

By 1911 Mack was the premier manufacturer of heavy duty trucks, making 600 units a year. He needed more money to expand and J.P. Morgan merged the Mack Company with the Saurer Motor Company to form the International Motor Company.

The company would eventually drop its other lines and revert back to Mack Trucks but Jack Mack would be gone by then. Unhappy with the changes in top management of the new company, he and three of his brothers disassociated themselves from the new combine. Mack's name would live on for it was his leadership and ingenuity that had been instrumental in establishing Mack's legendary toughness. Jack Mack was the first to "build 'em like a Mack truck."


And the man behind the brand is...
Soichiro Honda

In a land of conformity Soichiro Honda was a rebel. The son of a blacksmith born on the southern coast of Honshu in 1906, Honda dropped out of technical high school and in the 1930s began racing cars. He built a small piston-ring company, reveling in the sounds and smells of engines.

Honda set out to build his piston-ring plant but because Japan was hording materials in preparation for World War he was unable to obtain cement. Undaunted, Honda built the plant by learning to make his own cement. The factory survived repeated bombings in World War II but was then destroyed by an earthquake.

From his ruined machine shop Honda went into the motorcycle business. He once remarked that he happened on the idea for fitting an engine to a bicycle simply because he did not want to ride the incredibly crowded trains and buses in Japan.

The early post-war years were so lean that Honda once carried heavy motorcycle parts in his clothing on an airplane because he could not afford the excess baggage charges. A financially talented partner kept the business afloat which freed Honda to wield his technical skills (Honda would hold 360 patents) and test his unconventional management philosophies.

Before Honda, a motorcyle in America meant “Hell’s Angel.” Honda’s plan was to sell motorcylces to those who had never thought about it before. Single-handedly he sold the motorcycle to the middle class as a leisure-time sport in developed countries. In poorer lands his motorbikes brought transportation within rach of impoverished millions.

He made the smallest, lightest motorcycles available. He added features to make the bikes easier to handle for women. Performance-wise his motorcycles ruled Grand Prix competition, winning every possible racing prize.

In the early 1960s a UCLA undergraduate submitted an advertising campaign as a class requirement, featuring the theme, “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.” His instructor sent the paper to Grey Advertising and Honda adopted it. By 1965 one of every two motorcycles sold in the United States was a Honda. From scratch, in ten years Honda dominated the world industry.

In 1963 Honda went into the car business. By the 1960s there weren’t many entrees for newcomers into the competition with the established automakers of the world. Soichiro Honda produced a gas-sipping car that caused less pollution as his mark. He did so not with expensive added equipment but by designing a more efficient engine. Honda’s super-efficient four-cylinder engine was an industry landmark.

His Honda Civic reached America in 1972 and the Accord in 1976 (“By the time we got into the business all the good names like ‘Cougar’ and ‘Wildcat’ were taken”). The incredibly popular cars rank as all-time best-sellers. At an age when many Japanese businessmen were just assuming the top job Honda, who favored longish hair and loud socks, abruptly retired after the introduction of the Civic.

He became an ambassador for his business philosophies, speaking to youth groups on self-reliance, hard work, respect for parents and safe driving. “I’m not concerned with making money anymore,” he said. “You see, a life is like an airplane journey. No matter how good the takeoff, no matter how good the flight, if you have a crash landing, then it was all for nothing. I am coming in for the landing now. The important part of my life is just beginning.”


And the men behind the brand are...
William Harley and Arthur Davidson

William Harley and Arthur Davidson were Wisconsin boys looking for a way to make their rowboats get to the fishing holes faster. Harley began tinkering with drawings a friend had brought back from France of a small, one-cylinder gas engine.

Davidson had worked as a pattern maker for Ole Evinrude who was to become famous for outboard motors; he drew the patterns. Harley was working as an apprentice bicycle fitter. They read all available literature on gas motors. Davidson and Harley decided to work on motorized bicycles instead.

By 1903 they had their first prototype ready for the streets of Milwaukee. Their new motorcycle was painted gloss black and reached a top speed of 25 miles per hour. Harley, 23, and Davidson, 22, had no intentions of making their hobby a business but friends began asking for a similar machine.

Working weekends in a backyard shed two more motorcycles were constructed the next year. They chose the name "Harley-Davidson" in recognition of Harley's original design. Davidson's aunt created the distinctive logo for the gas tank.

Arthur's older brother Walter quit his job as a machinist in a railroad shop to come on board full-time in 1904 as Harley went to school full-time at the University of Wisconsin to gain formal engineering training. He paid expenses while waiting on fraternity tables.

Five motorcycles were hand-made in 1905 and by 1907 there were 150 motorcycles in production. Everyone surrendered their outside interests and the Harley-Davidson Motor Company was officially incorporated. Walter Davidson was named president, William Harley chief engineer, Arthur Davidson sales manager and William Davidson, the eldest of the Davidson brothers, joined the company as production member. Each founding partner remained in their original positions until their deaths.

In 1907 the American motorcycle market was glutted with small manufacturers. One way to stand out was to win highly publicized races. Harley-Davidson joined motorcycle competition in 1908 when Walter Davidson entered a two-day endurance ride in New York. Eighty-four riders representing 22 manufacturers started the race and fewer than half survived the gutted country roads. Davidson won the race and another several weeks later, getting an estimated 188 miles per gallon.

Behind the renowned Harley-Davidson racing team, known as "The Wrecking Crew", sales grew. But the controversies and fluctuations that have always dogged the motorcycle industry had already begun. In 1920 Harley-Davidson sales reached to the 28,000-bike mark. They would not reach that level again until 1942.

William Davidson was the first of the partners to die, in 1937 at the age of 66. As production manager he enjoyed a close relationship with his workers, often carrying personal debts he would never collect from his men. Shortly before his death seven workers organized a union affiliation with the CIO, creating a rift in the close-knit Harley-Davidson plants. Two days after William Davidson saw his beloved production team become a union shop he died.

Walter Davidson ruled, oft times ruthlessly, as president until his death in 1942 at the age of 67. His tight-fisted operational style was necessary to keep Harley-Davidson a viable concern, especially during the lean years. In times of prosperity, like the early 1920s the public could more readily afford cars and in bad times they couldn't afford any transportation. Output dropped to less than 4000 motorcycles during the Depression. But Walter Davidson kept his company profitable.

Although William Harley relinquished much of the day-to-day design work on new motorcycles he remained a giant in the industry as the creator of the original, reliable Harley-Davidson bike. An avid outdoorsman, Harley increasingly became an automobile enthusiast through the years. He remained chief engineer until his death in 1943 at the age of 63.

Arthur Davidson was the most outgoing of the partners. His biggest contribution to the firm was the creation of an extensive dealer network when the only Harley-Davidson claim to fame was Walter Davidson's road-racing triumphs. By 1921 there were Harley-Davidson dealers in 67 countries. Arthur Davidson died at the age of 69 in 1950, ironically, in a car crash.


And the man behind the brand is...
Henry Ford

Henry Ford grew up on his father's farm along the River Rogue outside Detroit. William Ford had fled the potato famine in Ireland in 1847 and Henry came along in 1863, his first son. Henry toiled at his chores but it wasn't long before he realized he was more interested in the tools he was working with than the soil he was working.

Ford finished school at 16 and left for the city. His first job at Michigan Car Works lasted only six days but he soon hired on as a machinist's apprentice. At night he repaired watches for a jeweler. When his apprenticeship ended Ford returned to Dearborn and set up a sawmill on 80 acres of land borrowed from his father.

Ford married in 1888 and set about farming and repairing steam engines. Three years later he returned to Detroit and began work with the Edison Illuminating Company furnishing electricity to the city. He was soon chief engineer.

In 1893 Ford visited the Chicago World's Fair and familiarized himself with the wondrous exhibits of internal combustion gas engines and horseless carriages. When he returned Ford resumed his mechanical tinkering - only this time with gas engines instead of steam.

Newspapers started carrying tales of strange "horseless wagons" in the French countryside. In 1895 three of the "horseless wagons" arrived in New York and Ford travelled east to see them. Later that year the Chicago Times-Herald announced a $5000 race for the new contraptions. Only four cars were ready on the big day and only two got away from the starting line - a Duryea and a Benz. The Benz won. Ford left the race in awe - and with some new intake valves for his experiments.

By the spring of 1896 Ford had built his own horseless carriage. William H. Murphy, a prominent Detroit businessman, heard of Henry Ford's motor car and saw it as a chance to get into the exciting new business of racing cars. They formed the Detroit Automobile Company with Henry Ford abandoning his lucrative job at Edison Illuminating to work full-time as chief engineer.

Sixty-eight thousand dollars later there were no cars in production. Ford left and went to work on his own racer. In 1901 Ford challenged Alexander Winton and his world champion "Bullet" at Grosse Pointe race track outside Detroit. Three cars lined up for the ten-mile race but only Ford and Winton left the line. Winton led Ford for 8 miles but sputtered badly as the Ford racer puttered past. Newspapers the next day anointed Ford as "top rank of American chauffeurs."

Racing was the way to sell cars in the early 1900s. Motor cars were the exclusive province of sportsmen and the very wealthy. In November of 1901 the Henry Ford Company was organized to manufacture automobiles but the venture was short-lived. Four months later Ford was making racers on his own again. He developed the "999" and hired bicycle champion Barney Oldfield to drive. This time the Ford car led wire-to-wire in the 10-mile Manufacturers Challenge Cup Race at Grosse Pointe, winning by more than a mile.

In 1903 Ford and eleven others pooled $28,000 to start the Ford Motor Company. Their early Model A sold for $950 as its makers touted the new car as "Boss of the Road." Its' two cylinders powered it to 30 mph. At the end of the first year Ford had sold over 1700 Model A motor cars. Some stockholders cashed in on the quick profits and Ford became majority owner.

Other models were designed and some appeared on the streets until October 1908 the Model T was introduced with the boast, "We can devote all our time and money to taking care of the orders for the car that people have actually been waiting for - a family car at an honest price." The Model T featured a new and 'get-at-able" engine for owners who mostly repaired their own cars.

Ford's secret was simple design, the latest machinery, and standardized parts. Most importantly he made the entire automobile in his own factories. He introduced the assembly line in 1914 with cars rolling by on a floor conveyor. By 1915 Ford had put a million Model T cars on the road and was building a new one from scratch every 90 minutes.

Every advance in manufacturing brought the price lower. Ford constructed a mammoth industrial complex on thousands of acres along the River Rogue the likes of which had never before been seen. By 1925 Ford had built 14 million Model T cars and was producing 10,000 new cars a day. But Ford realized that increased competition would soon mean the end of the legendary Model T.

He completely shut down the River Rogue plant and the world waited for his next move. His retooled factory geared up for a new Model A with gear shift, four-wheel brakes, and foot throttle. Attendance records were shattered everywhere the car was introduced. There were five million Model A cars in service by 1932.

Outside the auto business Ford assembled a massive collection of everyday objects he assembled as "the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used." He often sent buyers out to purchase entire estates for his Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. Ford died at his Dearborn home in 1947 at the age of 83, a true king of industry.


And the man behind the brand is...
Enzo Ferrari

World War I found the man whose name was destined to become the most glamorous in the automotive world shoeing mules for the Italian army. It was not long before Enzo Ferrari discovered more suitable transportation.

Enzo Ferrari was born in Modena, in northern Italy in 1898. After his military obligations were fulfilled Ferrari hired on as a test driver for Costruzioni Meccaniche Nazionale, fulfilling a dream held since seeing his first automobile race at the age of ten. Ferrari switched to Alfa Romeo in 1920, becoming a member of Italy’s national racing team. In addition to his duties as a driver Ferrari was in charge of a group of designers, engineers and mechanics building a new Alfa Romeo racer.

In 1923 Ferrari took the checkered flag at a minor road race in Savio and was awarded a prancing-horse crest by the Countess Paolina Baracca. From that point Ferrari adorned all his racers with the crest, using a canary yellow background symbolic of his native Modena. His racing career flourished in the 1920s. In 1924 he was knighted for upsetting a powerful German team and in 1928 Benito Mussolini bestowed upon Ferrari the title commendatore, which he was often referred to until his death.

Ferrari retired from racing in 1929 at the age of 31 and returned to Modena where he oversaw freelance mechanical work for his wealthy friends enamored with amateur road racing. In 1932 Alfa Romeo appointed Scuderia Ferrari as its official racing team and the next year Ferrari won 27 of the 39 races it entered. For the rest of the decade before World War II Ferrari drifted in and out of racing while dabbling with his own sports cars on the side.

He continued to design racing cars during World War II but his manufacturing activities were limited to machinery for the Italian war effort. In 1946 the first racer to sport the Ferrari marque, an open two-seater powered by a V-12 engine, was introduced. Before he died more than 40 years later in 1988, in his 90th year, Ferrari would produce less than 50,000 automobiles.

Ferrari sold cars only to pay for his racing program. On the race track he would win more than 5,000 times. The cars that fueled this success were greeted with the most enthusiastic praise possible. A Superfast model, selling for $18,000 in 1957, was called by Road and Track, “...one of the most beautiful cars in the world, with a performance which is so fantastic as to be almost beyond comprehension.”

Most of these cars were produced only in the hundreds; some models number fewer than a dozen. In 1987 a 1963 Ferrari sold for $11,000,000. The value of Ferrari’s cars to collectors virtually forced them off the road. This phenomenon was cited in Sports Illustrated: “Even the true Ferrari lover who can resist the temptation to peddle his car for a big profit dares not drive the car on the street...An automobile famous for its performance, its power, its racing victories has become too valuable to drive.”


And the men behind the brand were...
John and Horace Dodge

John Dodge and his brother Horace were inseparable. The brothers survived high school in Niles, Michigan and hastily began careers as machinists. They worked as a team; hire one, hire both. John, four years older and more outgoing, would typically do the talking for the brothers with Horace remaining a shadowy presence.

They worked in Battle Creek and Port Huron and finally migrated to Detroit in 1886 where the Dodges worked for the Murphy Boiler Works. In 1894, at the age of 30, John was stricken with tuberculosis. Although he made a complete recovery the brawny John Dodge was no longer interested in the strenuous physical labor he had heretofore thrived on.

The brothers landed at the Dominion Typograph Shop, described as "manufacturer of typesetting machines and bicycles." In 1897 Horace Dodge patented a dirt-resistant ball bearing and the brothers started their own bicycle business, Evans & Dodge Bicycle Company.

Two years later the company was absorbed by National Cycle and Automobile Company, a Canadian firm. Horace was retained as a machinist in Windsor, Ontario while John was sent to manage a plant in Hamilton, two hundred miles away. It was to be the only time the Dodge brothers would ever be apart.

After a year the business was sold again and the Dodges received $7500 and royalties for the ball bearing. With this capital John and Horace returned to Detroit in 1901 and opened a machine shop. Unlike many machine shops of the day the Dodge Brothers did not operate out of a flimsy shack or backyard shed. They rented space in the attractive Boydell Building in downtown Detroit, giving the concern an aura of substance and vitality.

But finances were tight. When John's wife died later in the year he had to borrow money for her burial. One of the first orders to come to the Boydell Building was for some automobile engines from Ransom Olds, who was just starting to make cars. The quality of the Dodge engines was so superior that by 1903 Dodge Brothers was supplying all the transmissions for the popular Oldsmobiles. That relationship alone insured they would be one of the largest suppliers in the infant auto industry.

In 1903 John and Horace signed an agreement to deliver 650 "automobile running gears" to a new, undercapitalized and highly speculative venture - the Ford Motor Company. It was a strange business marriage. The Dodge Brothers were risking a highly prosperous business since they had to turn away every other client for this new car. There was no warm affection between Henry Ford and the brothers. In fact Ford, who was highly superstitious and said to look for a white horse every time he saw a redhead, must have suffered great consternation every time he dealt with the redheaded Dodges.

From the beginning it was apparent the Dodges were not going to receive payment on terms. As builders of the new Model A the Dodge brothers accepted ownership in the company to deliver the cars. All 650 Model A cars sold quickly when they reached the market and John and Horace were not only suppliers but part owners in a successful automobile business.

By 1906 Ford maneuvered partners out of the business and announced plans to manufacture engines himself. The Dodge brothers still owned 10% of the Ford Motor Company but were now only supplying axles and transmissions. It was obvious to John and Horace that it was only a matter of time before they would no longer be a Ford supplier and began making plans for their own car.

By 1913 John and Horace were ready. They cancelled their relationship with Ford and announced their intentions to build a touring car under their own name. The Dodge reputation set the auto industry abuzz. Twenty-two thousand people applied for a new Dodge dealership. The Michigan Manufacturer and Financial Record predicted, "When the Dodge Brothers new car comes out there is no question it will be the best thing on the market for the money. The Dodge brothers are the two best mechanics in Michigan."

They set about to build the best car they knew how. Horace worked on the engine. John dropped tires off the roof of the four-story factory to see how they survived. He personally drove cars into a brick wall at 20 mph.

On November 14, 1914 the first Dodge, called "Old Betsey", was ready. In 1914 there were 120 new makers of automobiles in addition to the Dodge Brothers Motor Company. Five years later the brothers were the #3 car-maker in America behind only Ford and the new conglomerate, General Motors.

The plant was completely re-tooled, tripling capacity at a cost of over one million dollars, all Dodge money. Their entire lives the brothers never had a line of credit at a bank. Seeking to cut off the capital to a formidable competitor Henry Ford suspended dividends on Ford stock. The Dodges sued to force the dividends to be paid and a defeated Ford bought the last of their stock in 1919 for $25,000,000.

With their ownership in Ford and as makers of dependable cars themselves only Henry Ford amassed a greater personal fortune from Detroit's auto industry than John and Horace Dodge. Horace loved to spend his money on yachts, John lavished his riches on mansions.

In 1920 the brothers travelled to New York for a dealer's convention. Horace fell gravely ill from an undiagnosed malady. Keeping a round-the-clock vigil in the doorway between their rooms John also fell ill and deteriorated rapidly, dying two days later at the age of 56. Horace recovered but never completely regained his robust health and passed away before the year was out.

Rumors spread that the Dodge brothers had been poisoned in New York but doctors clung to a diagnosis of influenza. The minor scandal died away and their heirs quickly sold the company, leaving only the Dodge name as the brother's legacy to the auto industry.


And the man behind the brand is...
Walter Chrysler

Walter Percy Chrysler always considered himself a "transportation man." He called his autobiography the Life of an American Workman. Chrysler grew up on a farm near Ellis, Kansas, the son of an engineer who piloted an old wood burning locomotive for the Kansas Pacific Railroad.

In 1892 at the age of 17 Chrysler began working in Ellis railway shops for 7¢ an hour. Short of temper and highly competitive, Chrysler worked hard and played hard through roundhouses across the United States. As a journeyman machinist Chrysler moved upward through such posts as general foreman, master mechanic and superintendent.

In 1908 Chrysler took a job as plant manager for American Locomotive in Pittsburgh where his skills soon attracted the attention of the young auto industry. It was a mutual attraction. While on a trip to Chicago Chrysler became infatuated with a new ivory-colored Locomobile with red leather seats and trim. The new car cost $5000, a steep price for a man with $700 in cash and a $350-a-month job. Chrysler convinced a banker friend to lend him the money to buy the car.

But Chrysler's dream car was not to drive. He shipped it home to his barn where he took apart the car and examined it in minute detail. His first drive didn't come for three months. But Walter Chrysler now knew as much about the workings of an automobile as any man.

In 1911 Chrysler accepted his first automobile job as plant manager with the Buick Motor Company. He took a pay cut from $12,000 to $6,000 to launch his automotive career. As works manager Chrysler quickly raised production from 45 to 560 cars a day by eliminating useless steps in the manufacturing process. Within five years Chrysler had risen to the presidency of Buick and a was a vice-president of General Motors. He was making $500,000 a year of which he took $380,000 each year in General Motors stock.

After more than three stormy years spent among similar strong-minded auto men Chrysler left the industrial giant in 1920, ostensibly to retire at age 45. He returned after six months, quickly gaining a reputation as "the doctor of sick motor car companies."

He first effected many economies for Willys-Overland, a maker of harvesters and airplanes as well as cars, by reducing indebtedness and liabilities by millions of dollars. Next Chrysler took over the ailing Maxwell-Chalmers Car Company while beginning experiments on his own car.

The first Chryslers appeared in 1924. The Chrysler B-Series automobiles featured six body styles. His first year Chrysler sold $50,000,000 worth of automobiles. The company already ranked 32nd among car manufacturers. By 1927 Chrysler was #5.

In 1928 Chrysler introduced the Plymouth and engineered the purchase of the Dodge Corporation which had been sold to an investment banking group after the Dodge Brothers death. In an exchange of $170,000,000 of stock Chrysler changed the "Big Two" to the "Big Three." Years later he would remark, "The greatest thing I ever did was buy the Dodge."

None of Chrysler's four children followed him into the automobile business. In 1929 he began work on the Chrysler Building in New York City. Company headquarters would never leave Michigan. It was strictly a real estate investment "to give the children something to do." When completed in 1934 the 77-story Chrysler Building was second in size only to the Empire State Building.

Chrysler gave up the presidency of the corporation in 1935. He remained Chief Executive Officer but as he put it, "I'm just watching it now." In 1938 he began suffering from a circulatory ailment and lived the final two years of his life as an invalid. In his office in the Chrysler Building a tool chest containing mechanic's tools Walter Chrysler fashioned himself remained proudly on display.


And the man behind the brand is...
David Buick

In 1928 Bruce Catton, a young newspaper reporter who would later gain fame as a Civil War historian, was talking to "a thin, bent little man" working behind the information desk at the Detroit School of Trades. The forgotten 74-year old man had a story to tell. The man who built the cars that would be the cornerstone for the world's largest industrial corporation couldn't afford to keep a telephone in his home, let alone buy one of the automobiles that bore his name.

David Dunbar Buick was born in Scotland in 1854 but came to Detroit with his parents when he was only two. His father died three years later and his mother worked in a candy store to support the family. At age 15 Buick went to work for the Alexander Manufacturing Company, a Detroit fabricator of plumbing fixtures.

In 1882 Buick and an old schoolmate, William Sherwood, took over the business when it failed. Over the next several years Buick & Sherwood, with David Buick as president, became successful. Buick himself is credited with many inventions, including improvements to bathtubs, water closets, flushing devices and a lawn sprinkler. His most notable achievement was a method for bonding enamel to cast iron making possible the colorful bathroom and kitchen fixtures of today.

With this promising start Buick could probably have become wealthy in the plumbing business. But David Buick was more interested in making things than making money. Like many tinkerers of the late 19th century he became fascinated with the new gasoline internal combustion engines.

His growing obsession with engine experimenting created a rift in an already tenuous business partnership. Sherwood finally delivered the ultimatum, "Dave, either get down to work or get out." So in 1899, at age 45, Buick sold the company for $100,000. He used his share to form the Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company to manufacture gasoline engines.

Initially he set out to build marine and stationary engines. The origins of the first Buick automobile are unknown. It was either built by Buick or Walter Lorenzo Marr, a gifted machinist hired by Buick. At any rate Buick, strapped for cash, sold the first car to Marr in August 1901 for $225.

The next year the company became the Buick Manufacturing Company and developed the "valve-in-head" engine which would become the standard in the industry for its power and efficiency. In 1903 the Buick Motor Company was organized, but under terms that would haunt David Buick forever.

The firm was capitalized with $100,000 in stock - $99,700 for Benjamin Briscoe and $300 for David Buick. Buick was president and he could gain control of all the stock if he repaid Briscoe $3500 he owed him within four months. If he couldn't repay the loan Buick would forfeit all interest in the company. All Briscoe wanted out of the new company was his money back.

Prior to the deadline sold the company to Flint Wagon Works, who were seeking a way into auto manufacturing, to meet his obligation with Briscoe. But Buick became entangled in a worse bargain with the new owners. The Buick Motor Company moved north to Flint with David Buick becoming secretary of the new car works. He was allotted 1500 shares but would not receive the stock until his dividends paid off his personal debts.

Buick cars were in production in 1904 when carriage-maker William Durant took over. Buick's role in the business declined rapidly until he finally lost the manager's title to Durant in early 1906. At the end of 1908 Buick sold his stock to Durant for $100,000, stock that would soon be worth $115,000,000.

Thereafter Buick was plagued by bad business deals. A questionable oil venture in California and speculative land deals in Florida went bust. He reentered the auto business after the age of 65 to try and make his patented carburetors. He designed a car in 1923 but produced only a single prototype.

When Catton found him in 1928 Buick was impoverished and subsisting on menial jobs. Still, in the interview he professed no bitterness nor regrets over his career. Buick died a year later from pneumonia he contracted after an operation on a cancerous bowel obstruction.

In 1937, after years of being the forgotten man in Buick history, General Motors adopted the genuine ancestral crest used by the ancient Buick family for its cars. To date the Buick name has been stamped on over twenty-five million cars.


And the man behind the brand is...
Louis Chevrolet

Listen to the Podcast http://oscarmeyerpodcast.podbus.com/Chevrolet.mp3

Louis Chevrolet never found a way to make money from his talents, skills and experiences. That his name lives on as one of the most famous names in the automobile industry is attributed more to its romantic sound than the man himself.

The name "Chevrolet" is thought to be a French corruption of "goat's milk." Louis Chevrolet was born on Christmas day 1878 in Swiss Jura, the center of the French dairy industry region. The son of a watchmaker, Chevrolet showed a similar mechanical aptitude at an early age. He showed no inclination for school, however, and his parents were happy to encourage his wage-earning pursuits.

Chevrolet began a career in bicycle repair and soon the muscular six-foot youth was racing bikes. In his first three years he won 28 competitive events. He built bikes until he discovered cars. Chevrolet became an auto mechanic in the pioneering French auto industry. He jumped from job to job, gaining valuable experience, before coming to Montreal in 1900.

Chevrolet worked as a chauffeur in Canada for six months before coming to New York, his ultimate destination. Driving hard-steering, rough-riding racing cars required a great deal of muscle at the turn of the century. The hulking Frenchman was ideally suited to this pursuit. Slowly he established his reputation as a mechanic and a racer, winning his first road race on a cinder track in Morris Park, New York on May 20, 1905.

Chevrolet brought his younger brothers Arthur and Gaston to America and left for Flint, Michigan to drive for W.C. Durant, founder of General Motors. Chevrolet drove a Buick in the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911 but a broken camshaft put him out of the race early. Meanwhile Durant split from GM and privately hired Chevrolet to make the car of his dreams. Chevrolet was a consulting engineer, not an officer, in the Chevrolet Motor Car Company.

When the Chevrolet Classic Six reached production in 1912 there were 275 other automakers in the United States. The first Chevrolet was envisioned as a rich man's car, not the best-selling American car it would become. The Classic Six was big, powerful and pricey. It carried a sticker of $2150, out of the reach of all but the wealthy.

Durant realized he needed to compete with cheaper cars he could sell at high volume. Chevrolet believed his name only belonged on a big, impressive automobile and resigned in October, 1913. He sold his stock, securities which would have made him a millionaire many times over, when he left.

Durant would never miss him. The rough-hewn, uneducated Chevrolet did not fit in with the polished wheeler-dealers in the early auto industry boardrooms. Durant hated the man, but loved the name. He was soon putting the Chevrolet name on many of his brands of cars. Meanwhile, General Motors reorganized with Chevrolet becoming its leading division.

Without even his name Chevrolet formed the Frontenac Motor Corporation. By 1917 he had a new and very advanced racing machine, complete with an aluminum engine block, but no production system. Seeking a regular paycheck he signed on as vice-president and chief engineer for a new company called the American Motors Corporation. He helped develop their American Beauty but when development got under way his services were deemed expendable.

The Monroe Company next hired Chevrolet to build a race car. He updated his Frontenac racer and with his brother Gaston at the controls, won the 1920 Indianapolis 500. Tragically Gaston would die before the year was out in a fiery crash on a boardwalk raceway in Beverly Hills, California.

With the prestige garnered from his Indianapolis victory Chevrolet obtained backers to incorporate Frontenac Motors but the company went bankrupt with his cars still on the design table. Another car company failed in 1924 and Chevrolet turned to boat racing, winning the Miami Regatta in 1925. But the victory did not translate into widespread success.

In 1929 Louis and Arthur Chevrolet left the auto business altogether to form the Chevrolet Brothers Aircraft Company with a new engine of their design but lost the business to Glenn L. Martin. Finally in 1934, out of charity and a moral obligation towards the man who gave their best-selling car its name, General Motors put Louis Chevrolet on their payroll.

Illness forced Chevrolet to retire in 1938. He and his wife lived in a small Florida apartment but the humid climate accelerated his decline in health and he returned to Detroit for a leg operation in early 1941. Complications forced a complete amputation from which Chevrolet never recovered. He died on June 6, 1941 at the age of 63. He was buried in Indianapolis, scene of his greatest racing triumph.