Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Factory Whistle

Here is Bill Lamb conducting an in house interview with Manley Wilson, the employee that did the art work for the Factory Whistle radio program. Bill Lamb was well known around the Buick factories due to his daily broadcasts on WKMF in Flint. His book titled "Buick, The Factory Whistle & Me" is an interesting read. This photo shows the special vehicle I saw go through my department in 1973. In the background I can see a mid sixties Riviera just receiving it's body. That would make this the second floor. I personally never met the man, but I do have a story to tell. In 1981 I was the clerk on the truck dock located at the south end of factory #04 on the day shift. As you can imagine there was a lot of activity at this location. There was a constant stream of trucks moving in and out of this dock. I had a problem with people parking cars in front of the loading dock, and had many occasions when the switcher would just dump the trailer and leave because of a vehicle in the way. I mentioned to my fork lift driver, Bill Tull, that the next car left unattended would get a surprise. Our plan was to place "CHECK BRAKES" stickers on all the windows of the offending vehicle. Well sure enough a couple hours later I get a call from #17 dispatch that Smitty could not back in a load of engines because my dock was blocked AGAIN! Bill and I sprung into action with a vengeance. We kind of over did the sticker bit. There was not one piece of glass left untouched. Since we now had no work to do we just sat and waited with gleeful anticipation. Well if you haven't guessed by now the offender was non other than Bill Lamb and our surprise awaited him. Being the coward that I was that day, I immediately jumped on a scooter and headed for the north end, every man for himself! I called down when I got to the office at 4 north and my partner in crime said that Bill Lamb was pretty upset. He told me that he and the boss, Jerry Rouleau, were getting some hot water and soap and that I should hurry back to help. It took me about 45 minutes to get back. Sorry that I never got to meet you Bill, but you know how it is. "If You Can't Stand The Heat, Get Out Of The Kitchen".
Link for news on the last radio show.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

First mass produced Automobile In Flint.

This photo from the Buick Research Gallery (I believe) shows the Sloan Museums Flint Roadster being retrieved. I wish I had more information on this.

The articles from "The Wolverine Citizen" pertaining to the Hardy "Flint Roadster"

The Randall carriage works advertising in the Flint City Directory in 1881-1882.

This 1873 map shows the location of the Randall & Randall factory (highlighted in red) which is shown below. In 1873 the roads north of the river were streets instead of avenues (changed in October 1901). A.B.C. Hardy rented a portion of this facility for his auto production, but shortly moved south of the Flint river, next door to the Cornwall Whip Socket factory.

This north east view of the Frank & Abner Randall carriage factory is the location where production of the first auto manufacturing began in Flint. It was located at Saginaw street and Third street. History also tells us that this was the location of the first carriage (mostly farm wagons) manufacturing done in Flint. William Patterson was actually the first true carriage maker in Flint, with the Randall brothers building farm wagons in the beginning. Maybe the Randall's should be credited with building the first wheeled vehicles in Flint.  Link for Patterson bid as number 1 in Flint.

This is the Flint Hardy Roadster, owned by the Sloan Museum in Flint, Michigan. The color is green with red accents and black leather upholstery. Hardy's company operated from 1902-1903.

This is Flint’s first auto manufacturer in 1939, A.B.C. (Alexander Brownell Cullen) Hardy. Even though he only produced about 52 Flint roadsters, he had the original vision. His history is well documented by others.

Hardy Flint Roadster

Durant-Dort Factories East of Saginaw Street.

This is Durant-Dort factory #5 which was the Flint Axle Works. This was the first factory built in the Oak Park Industries area at the location of the old Hamilton farms. Fred J. Weiss was the manager.

This east facing view of the Hamilton dam on the Flint river, clearly shows Durant-Dort factory #2 (at the left) next to the water tower.

1879. Click on this small paragraph for the whole story.

Here is a list of factories inspected by the state of Michigan, in Flint for the year 1905. Originally Copeman/Heany was the Durant-Dort No.3 makers of high grade buggies etc. Durant-Dort show five factories at that time.

Closeup of the south portion of the Hamilton Dam

Closeup of the postcard shown below which clearly shows Durant-Dort #2.

Hamilton Dam with Durant-Dort #2 in the distance at left.

1910 view.

Here is a north view across the Flint river during the 1904 flood. At this time it was no longer used for buggy manufacturing.

This is the Durant-Dort factory after it was taken over by The Heany Electric Co. This photo is from 1910. After this building was torn down the Industrial Bank was built here, which is currently called the Northbank Center. The history of the Heany company and the ramifications that led to the first downfall of Billy Durant can be found in Lawrence Gustin's book "Billy Durant" Creator Of General Motors.

This west view from across the Flint river is during the 1917 flood. Looks like it still had the Copeman name on the rear of the building. Westinghouse corporation bought Copeman in 1917.

This is the Durant-Dort factory when it was used as The Copeman Electric Stove Co. Lloyd Copeman with the help of J. Dallas Dort established the Copeman Electric Stove Company in 1912. Dort and twenty-two stockholders raised $500,000 to start the company. Charles Stewart Mott was one of those investors. More on Copeman.

This is an artist's rendering of the Saginaw st and Second ave factory. This view is facing south east.

This shows the location of the Durant-Dort factory located at the corner of Saginaw street and Second Avenue. This was Durant-Dort factory #3.

This factory (on Mill Street) was just to the north west of the Durant-Dort factory located on Richfield rd. (now Chavez Drive) on the south side of the Flint River. This is a parking lot now. A whip socket is a device for holding your horse whip when not in use. The whip socket would be attached to the dash board of your buggy. I figure the term "DASH" refers to the swift movement of the buggy. The dash would keep flying debris from the horses hoofs from entering the buggy. We still use this term today in our modern automobiles.

This is a full north west view.

I believe this is the Whip Socket factory in it's original configuration. Either that or this is the factory in Fenton, Michigan, before it moved to Flint.

May 1909.

Durant-Dort #2 which became the wheel plant when Imperial wheel moved into this building after they left the Hamilton Avenue location. November 20, 1915.

Durant-Dort #2. Click on story below for the original 1915 source.

This is where the wheel work was moved to after the Hamilton Avenue plant became the first Chevrolet assembly plant in Flint during August 1912. William Durant of the Durant Dort Carriage co.had control over many factories in Flint even after he lost control of General Motors in 1910. Putting together the Chevrolet Company would lead him back to the leadership of General Motors by 1915.

This map shows the location of Durant-Dort factory #2 on (OLD) Richfield road in 1907. In 1924 Richfield was changed to Lewis street. After the I-475 business loop came through Flint it became Chavez Drive, and was drastically altered. The factory was located where southbound I-475 (north of the Kearsley overpass) is today. Also of interest is the location of the old Cornwall Whip Socket factory, located on Mill Street, also know as Flint Specialty Company. In 1916 they employed only 8 workers. The factory next door to the Cornwall facility shows the Peerless Heater Valve Company, the president of the Peerless co. was Clarence G. Booth. This was the final location for the assembling of the "Hardy Flint Roadster", built by A.B.C. Hardy.

This would be the north-east end of old factory #2 on the old Richfield Rd. This later became the Imperial plant after the move from Hamilton Avenue. In this photo it is being changed to an auto wheel factory and having it's number changed to NO. 1.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Marquette - Buick

1911 rainier automobile.
The original Marquette factory would become a Chevrolet plant. Link.

Building the Saginaw plant in 1910. This view is facing north-east across Sixth st.

Sheet music for the Buick song. The men pictured are: Louis Chevrolet, Lewis Strang, Bob Burman and the team manager William H. Pickens. It was announced in the New York Times of October 6, 1909 that Pickens was leaving the Buick team and joining the Benz Import Co. team as their manager. Go here for the sheet musicLink for story.

Marquette racers lined up and revving their engines. This may be at the Saginaw, Michigan factory but I'm not sure.

This postcard shows the Marquette plant in color. The black and white photo is shown farther below.

This Buick is shown in 1959.

This is the same car as the two lower photos. I have read that there are only two known to exist, but it seems at least three are still around. I believe this is a model 10. My knowledge of the cars themselves is pretty sketchy.

Same car as below.

Another 1909 Marquette-Buick at a car show.

Another view of the model 16-b Indy Marquette-Buick. Link:


I.M.S. museum In Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Marquette-Buick.

This is a nice example of the 1910 Marquette-Buick, owned by Harrah's Automobile Collection in Reno, Nevada.

Another pose of the Buick team. (as seen below). Identified Louis Chevrolet (passenger seat) To the right of Chevrolet (arms folded) Lewis Strang, Walter Marr (arm resting on Chevrolet), Bob Burman (behind the steering wheel), Joseph R. Common (back row 4th from left). I believe the gentleman in center (resting his arm), next to Marr is team manager William Pickens.
Joseph R. Common (ninth from left)Joseph R. Common (ninth from left)

The Buick team on the test track at the Buick factory in Flint, Michigan.  
W. W. Brown (fourth from left on the front row), Joseph R. Common (ninth from left with wide brim hat) and Glenn Breed (standing at far right) were all team mechanicans;  Link for other info.

Louis Chevrolet in a Marquette-Buick. I believe that is Lewis Strang behind the wheel. This is on Hamilton Ave. in front of factory #01 in Flint, Michigan.

Chevrolet in a Marquette-Buick in 1910.

No. 10 winner of Cobe Cup Race, June 19, 1909, Marquette-Buick, Chevrolet was the driver.

Louis Chevrolet at the Vanderbilt race in #29. Long Island, Oct. 1, 1910.

Louis Chevrolet would have an on and off relationship with General Motors. The factory sponsored race team disbanded in 1910 because Billy Durant lost control of the company. Long story short, he worked with Durant to create the Chevrolet brand. He then left in 1913, "selling his stock". Built race cars for awhile (Frontenac) and also started an airplane enterprise. After loosing all his money he was hired by General Motors in 1934. He became sick in 1938 and retired. He died in Florida June 6, 1941. He is buried in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Lewis Strang.

Lewis Putnam Strang in a Marquette-Buick. Strang left the Buick team the same time as their manager W.H. Pickens. He continued in racing and died in a testing accident in Blue River, Wisconsin July 20, 1911. I'm not sure but I believe he is buried in his home town of Atlanta, Georgia.

Check out the makeshift fenders on George DeWitt's car.

This is George DeWitt in a Marquette-Buick. He was not sponsored by the Buick factory team.

A close-up of Burman in a Marquette-Buick. Click on page below for easy reading.

This is "Wild"Bob Burman in a Marquette-Buick. Burman continued racing after the Buick team disbanded, and died in a crash at Corona, California April 18, 1916. He is buried in his hometown of Imlay City, Michigan. Burman killed story.

This is Louis Chevrolet in #42.

Here is #34 at the 1910 Indianapolis race.

This is the actual factory where the Marquette-Buick was built, viewed (at top) from the corner of Sixth and Washington, in Saginaw, Michigan. The lower view is facing south west, from the rear of the factory. The sequence of photos below are dated 1911.

1911 rainier automobile.

This map from 1916 shows the location of the factory in Saginaw, that built the early Marquette-Buick's. This factory, originally known as "Rainier" was purchased by Billy Durant, probably early in 1909. It was incorporated for $300,000 on March 29, 1909 under the name Marquette Motor Company and was planned for building a small car. The Rainier, being a large automobile, was not selling well. Durant the promoter, needing a more competitive race car to further enhance Buick sales, decided to skirt the rules of the day and build a completely new racing machine at this facility. The rules for stock car racing in 1909 stated you must have built at least 35 units to qualify as a stock production model. This vehicle being originally raced as a Buick, was called into question and disqualified. And since they were technically not built at the Buick plant and being sold to the public, as Buick's, the final outcome was the hyphenated Marquette-Buick. When Durant lost control of General Motors in late 1910 the bankers went to work selling and consolidating the varied company's that he had purchased. Welch-Detroit, Rainier and Marquette were taken over by the Peninsular Motor Co. After Durant regained control of General Motors in 1917 the company started producing the Rainier Truck, becoming the Rainier Motor Corporation. In 1924 they became Rainier Trucks Incorporated. Also in 1917 new factories were built on the Washington avenue site. The new group of buildings became the Saginaw Malleable Iron Division. Over the next decade more factories went up in Saginaw, Chevrolet Grey Iron, Saginaw Steering Gear (steering gear operated as Delphi for a decade, now known as Nexteer) and the Saginaw Crankshaft Division. These combined factories came under the umbrella of Saginaw Products Division. The crankshaft work was eliminated in 1931. The steering gear plant is located on Holland Avenue M-46. The streets bordering the property are Sixth st. and Washington ave. Most people today know this as the location of G.M. Powertrain's Saginaw Metal Casting facility. It is still operating at this location. Washington avenue is the M-13 loop through the city.

Shown on map above at lower left.