Thursday Trivia

Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars! 
This week’s question: What company engieered the first all-steel car body?
If you think you know the answer, make the jump and see if you’re right.
Earlier this week we briefly discussed the 1920 Briggs & Stratton Flyer, an “automobile” that really represented the bare minimum of what was necessary to be described by that term. One thing that the Flyer shared with a lot of cars at the time was the use of wood in its construction. 
Hardwoods were the miracle materials of their time, possessing an unmatched mix of strength to weight ratio, ease of manipulation and ubiquity. Those were factors that led to the natural building material being used in part or in whole in the construction of almost all wheeled conveyances before the automotive age. The horse-drawn buggy or wagon needed to be light enough to put as little strain on the leading horse or team as possible, but strong enough to carry the vehicle’s intended load. It’s no surprise then that early automobiles also followed suit. 
There was another factor that played into the benefits of using wood in an automobiles’s construction, that being that at the outset of the auto age, metal construction technologies were insufficiently advanced to create elements such as expansive metal roofs. That meant that most enclosed cars had wooden or wood-framed fabric sections in the roof, and those required ongoing maintenance lest they fail. 
The benefits of an all-steel body—increased strength, lower maintenance costs (no termites) and increased noise suppression—were not lost on the auto industry, and it was perhaps inevitable that someone would come up with a working design and supporting manufacturing method, however you might be surprised to learn who it was.
From Automotive News:

If someone asked you who invented the steel body, would your answer be Henry Ford, Ransom Olds, Charles Duryea? Name anyone but Edward Budd, and you’d be wrong.
Budd developed the steel-bodied car in 1912.
Prior to Budd’s achievement, makers of auto bodies made heavy use of wood and fabric, an outgrowth of their roots as wagon builders. It’s not surprising that Budd’s fame is limited. He left the limelight to his customers.
He paid his workers well so he could attract the cream of the crop. He also was among the first to offer fringe benefits to his employees. Many of the things workers take for granted today were eye-poppers when Budd introduced them. He gave his workers free life insurance shortly after the company was formed. He set up the country’s first industrial clinic staffed by a full-time physician. He paid men and women at the same rate and had employee communications programs.
Today, Budd Co. is part of Thyssen/Budd Automotive, a global source for components. Budd products are on some 100 current models. It has 9,000 employees and 25 facilities in North America.
Budd’s first customers were John and Horace Dodge, who founded Dodge Brothers in 1914. Budd persuaded them to use the all-steel body his engineers had designed, and the Dodge Touring Car was an instant success. Budd soon was building 500 bodies a day and shipping them to Detroit from his plant in Philadelphia.

Budd was noteworthy as well for providing all the body components for Ford’s original two-seater Thunderbird, starting in 1954. A little less than a decade later, the company presented to Ford execs a proposed revamping of that original T-bird body as a contender for the company’s new “personal coupe.” The XR-400 never made it past that initial prototype stage, and the car Ford eventually went with was the Mustang we all know and love today.
Image: Flickr

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10 responses to “Thursday Trivia”

  1. dukeisduke Avatar

    I didn’t guess right, but seeing that it’s the Budd Company, I’m not surprised at all. They’ve long been innovators in building car bodies.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Innovators in rail cars too.

  2. 0A5599 Avatar

    Little known fact: His sister Rose Budd invented the all-steel sled.

    1. Alff Avatar

      Reminds me of a video I saw of a guy driving by a long line of people standing outside of a Barnes and Noble. Sticks his head out the window and yells, “Snape kills Dumbledore”.

        1. Alff Avatar

          Yo dawg

  3. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    Budd was also a big influence in Europe. Andre Citroen rapidly introduced Budd’s construction techniques to bring out the Traction Avant’s unitary body/chassis as stated in Wikipedia,
    “This unitary body saved 70 kg (150 lb) in steel per car. It was
    mass-produced, using innovative technology purchased from the American
    firm Budd Company. Weight reduction was a motivation for Citroën that American manufacturers of that time did not have. This method of construction was viewed with great suspicion in many quarters, with doubts about its strength. A type of crash test was conceived, taking the form of driving the car off a cliff, to illustrate its great inherent resilience”

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      I wonder if that predated the Chrysler Airflow video?

  4. Ayreonaut Avatar

    Funny to see a duryea mention here. That’s my last name, and yep I’m directly related to Frank and Charles.