1914 FWD docent 002

914 FWD Model B

From the www.fourwheeler.com  website.

The Wisconsin Model A engines used a “free-breathing” crossflow head with a 1 1/4-inch Stromberg updraft carb. Known as the “T-Head,” the big Wisconsin four had a racing history. It was also mounted in the legendary Stutz Bearcat. With a larger carb, it make about 60 hp in the Stutz and spun up to a whopping 1,600 rpm. The Bearcat was one of the hot rods of the early 1900s and more than a few cheap surplus FWD T-Heads found their way into Bearcats. A downdraft carb, a better magneto, and an electric start were developed for these engines, enabling the Model B to be a viable truck well into the ’30s. With the downdraft, the engine was rated at 55 hp at 1,350 rpm.

From www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Wheel_Drive

The FWD Four-Wheel Drive Auto Company of Clintonville, Wisconsin.

Starting from the desire to produce 4 wheel drive automobiles, then changed to making 4×4 trucks may have helped the Allieds win WW1. Starting from their machine shop in Clintonville, Wisconsin, Brother in laws William Besserdich and  Otto Zachow quickly switched from automobiles to trucks and the original Model B 3 ton trucks were built from 1912 into the 1920’s and refurbished models were sold up until 1939.

The two Brother-in Laws patented the “double-Y universal joint encased in a drop-forced ball-and-socket, which was the basis for their four -wheel-drive concept. Other earlier designs using chain had failed or were so limited in steering capability they were essentially useless in any road conditions.” according to www.4x4channel.tv

The company was not initially successful and with patents in hand they raised money from the community and in 1909 the Badger Four-Wheel Drive Auto Company was founded. Production problems threatened to kill their fledgling company, but Walter Olen, a local lawyer secured funds, reorganised the company and moved the production more to trucks than automobiles.

Another factor was adding 4 wheel drive to automobiles in their infancy nearly doubled their price.

Their first 4×4 car was named the “Battleship” in 1908 they dropped the Badger from the front of the name in 1910 and became the Four-Wheel Drive Auto Company in 1910, and then to the FWD Corporation in 1958. Acquiring Seagrave Fire Apparatus in 1963 and Almonte Fire Trucks along with Baker Aerialscopes for their booms, many of the Tower Ladders were labelled FWD into the 1990’s.

After legal problems in 2003 the “Seagrave Group” and all assets were sold to an investment group.

But in the beginning, the fledgling company took out a small advertisement in a newspaper that was seen by a military leader, Captain Alexander E. Williams.  In 1912 The military was looking to replace their mules and wagons and set up test for the new fangled machines.

After visits by the military to the factories of Sampson, Ford, Mack and white, a trip to Clintonville was planned based on the little newspaper ad. An elaborate test was planned to simulate off-road military convoy conditions.

FWD sold the military it’s second vehicle it had built, a 4×4 Touring car converted to a truck and after an extensive test drive of a prototype “Model G 1 1/2-ton 4×4” through rough conditions and even up the stairs of a local church, it was purchased for under $2,000. This test vehicle was outfitted with an army escort wagon box.

After the successful Army testing  the prototype Model G was refurbished and sold to a Wisconsin Trucking firm. The Model G was similar to the Model B 3-ton 4×4 truck but had a smaller  318 cu. in. engine, lighter springs, smaller fuel tank along with a lighter duty transfer case.

Interestingly one of the stipulations of the military trucks was the ability to match the speeds of marching troops (3 to 4 mph approx. 6 kmh) without over heating. PTO or Power Take Offs were available on the FWD Model B 3-ton Utility Truck allowing tilt boxes for dumping materials.

With the war starting in 1914 many FWD trucks were provided for the miltary in Europe and Russia with the Model B being made under licence in Canada and England.

Looking similar to a “buckboard” from the old West, The model B was a utilitarian vehicle with a rather pronounced radiator up front. The passengers sat over the engine and had a rather commanding view of their surroundings. Originally it had solid rubber tires but it would evolved over the years and end up rising on pneumatic tires.

Serving in the British, Canadian, American and Russian armies mostly as ammunition transports, 17,555 Model B would be built and some were still being used through World War II. The Model B was also produced in Kitchener, Ontario in conjunction with Dominion Truck and in Britain under the name Quad with a 70hp engine.

The FWD Model B trucks used a 4 ‘ 8½” axle width so they could quickly be outfitted with diferent wheels to run on a standard gauge railroad.

FWD Trucks face Pancho Villa!

The first use of the FWD Model B by the American Military was against Mexican revolutionary Francisco “Pancho” Villa in March 1916. After crossing the border into New Mexico and raiding a small town to get guns and supplies, the US. Army’s first motorized campaign began. FWD Model B 4x4s were instrumental in this desert area but ultimately after a year long campaign Villa eluded capture.

But the US military learned valuable experience of this new type of attack and this was used once the US entered WWI later on in 1917.

After WWI many of the military vehicles were sold as Army Surplus and new truck sales faltered. FWD bought back many of their trucks and after refurbishing them sold them as “Nearly New” at cheaper than new prices. Repeating this even into the 30’s the FWD Model B saw many changes for the better but extensively was very similar to the first production models.

Many of the upgrades done to the Refurbished trucks could be sold to other Model B owners. Higher gearing and engine modifications allowed speeds to rise from 14 mph to over 25 mph on big 8×40-inch diamond-tread Goodyear Pneumatic tires. Sales brochures offering refurbished Model B were still available dated 1939 and parts were still available in the 1980’s.

America’s First Lady Truck Driver.

Luella Born, October 17, 1897 worked from 1918-1922 for the Four-Wheel Drive Auto Company. Bates drove around Wisconsin throughout During World War I in a Model B test driver. With the war over most womnen wnet back to the home but Bates kept working as a Test Driver and Demonstrator for FWD.

During a January 1920 visit to New York City she went to the  New York Auto Show and after meeting with the Secretary of State of New York she was the first woman to get a  New York drivers licence.

To help promote the ease of steering and maintenance of a FWD Model B, Bates crossed North America three times.   Popular Science magazine dubbed her as “exhibit A for feminine efficiency.” During the final tour of 1920, Bates encountered flooding and disregarding the police’s warnings she hauled meat across a flooded road and that act sold 10 FWD trucks.

Four Wheel Drive Miller Racecar

A relationship with premier race car constructor Harry Miller resulted in the Four Wheel Drive Miller that competed successfully at Indianapolis in 1931 and later. This car, with lockable center differential, is arguably the first modern all wheel drive car. One example survives and has competed in premier vintage race car meets such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed. “The Last Great Miller” by Griffith Borgeson gives a complete history of this landmark car.

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