Monday, December 8, 2008

Dr. Hills The Man Who Bought The First Flint Buick

The first Buick sold to a customer.

Description on the above photograph.

Dr. Herbert H. Hills, was the first owner of a production Buick. The story goes that he was not the first on a list of persons waiting for a new Buick. He was placed ahead of others because he agreed to let this vehicle be used as a demonstrator model. Some believe this car was built using the chassis and engine used on the Flint to Detroit test run. An article in the Flint Daily Journal July 29th stated the test car had been shipped to Chicago. We will probably never know for certain which is true. It is also believed to be the car that Billy Durant drove around Genesee county during the summer of 1904. Years later Walter Marr stated that the engine from the test Buick was seen by him being used to pump water in Chicago. This could help substantiate the story that the original test car was sent to Chicago. The large lamp was needed for night time driving.                                                                   July 27th 1904
On this day in 1904, Dr. Herbert Hills of Flint, Michigan, purchased the first Buick automobile ever to be sold. Founder David Buick initially made his mark as an inventor and mechanic in the plumbing industry, but had sold out of his business in order to pursue building motor cars. Buick was a man with an innate gift for inventing and tinkering, but who cared little for financial matters. He reputedly was unable to sit still unless he was concentrating on some kind of mechanical problem. None of his contemporaries would have been surprised that his company eventually became more successful than he did. In 1902, after years of fiddling with an automobile design, Buick agreed to a partnership with the Briscoe Manufacturing Company, wherein Briscoe would write off Buick's debts while in turn establishing a $100,000 capitalization for Buick's car company. Buick ceded $99,700 of the company's stock to Briscoe until he repaid his standing debt of $3,500, at which point he could buy controlling interest in the stock. Still, Buick had yet to complete an automobile. When it became clear to Briscoe that Buick would neither be able to pay his debts nor complete his vehicle soon, they sold their interest in the company to the Flint Wagon Works for $10,000. Buick and his son were given stock, but their managerial roles shrunk. Finally, in July of 1904, the first Buick made its initial test run. During the test run, the Buick averaged 30mph on a trip around Flint, going so fast at one point that the driver "couldn't see the village six-mile-an-hour sign." Sixteen Buicks were sold in the next few months, but Flint Wagon Works remained troubled by the Buick venture. They had purchased the company in order to help the city of Flint adjust to a new economy of automobile production, but Buick was already heavily in debt to a number of Flint banks. At this point, David Buick owned only a small share of stock and held none of the business responsibilities, and the Wagon Works decided to bring in Flint whiz kid William Durant to turn the business around. Durant kept Buick on as a manager, a position he held with little impact until 1908. Durant turned Buick into a major player in the automotive industry before incorporating it into his General Motors project

Dr. Herbert Hills with his first Buick
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Link: Herbert Hills Bio.

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