MotorCities National Heritage Area
AHFIntProExhib4Sigs.jpg

2018

By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of Robert Tate's Collection
Posted: 05.23.2018

file 20180523165156 Early Manufacturing Dow ChemicalA 1960 special edition of the Dow Diamond magazine

 For many years, the Dow Chemical Company has been a part of the automotive manufacturing process, specifically in the development of vehicle parts. While the automakers designed, built and sold their automobiles, Dow Chemical provided chemical products and engineered and tested parts that have affected the look, performance and cost of vehicles. Whoever thought that a chemical engineer would have an effect on automobile design!

file 20180523165334 Early Manufacturing Dow Chemical

For example, Magnesium had offered advantages in auto parts that were used in 1961 models. Magnesium was a metal first used in the early days of automaking because its light weight and low prices. Also, it was easier to die cast; it was also strong and easier to machine as well. Magnesium's history in American automotive manufacturing dates back to 1936, but magnesium pistons were used in racing cars as early as 1921.

file 20180523165429 Early Manufacturing Dow Chemical

Robert Hansen, who was head of Dow's Automotive Chemical Laboratory during the 1960s, said, “A fluid meeting the requirements to actuate these car mechanisms has now been produced. Dow's Automotive Chemicals Laboratory is busy on a number of other developments to help shape the cars of the future. The recent introduction of Dowgard cooling system fluid is another example of this research for the future.” Dow also used light-metal products during the assembly process to increase efficiency and lower manufacturing costs.

file 20180523165505 Early Manufacturing Dow Chemical

Another important part of Dow's history and its relationship with automotive manufacturers was the Textile Fibers Department. For example, Dow said, “American housewives’ interest in automotive interiors is one of the most important factors in car buying.” During the early 1960s, metallic yarns became a major feature of seat fabrics -- called body cloth in trade jargon. First used in silver and gold shades only, the range of Lurex was expanded into several great-looking colors that became available for all types of automobiles. The unique shape and thermal properties of Rovana yarn provided a new dimension in fabric deigns. The ribbon-like shape produced more yards of fabric and greater economy than the conventional round-shaped yarns of the past.

file 20180523165543 Early Manufacturing Dow Chemical

The last products created by Dow Chemical used in the automotive assembly process were coatings. The cost, performance, appearance, comfort and durability of automobiles were all impacted by these coating products. Dow was the first U.S. company in automotive history to organize a separate coating group. Coatings at the time were not well-known by people other than chemists or engineers. For example, a Dow paint latex made possible the first water-thinned primer for automotive use, which helped our American automakers sell great looking cars.

file 20180523165610 Early Manufacturing Dow Chemical

In conclusion, this story is dedicated to all of the men and women, who worked for Dow Chemical to help the auto industry keep pace with the age of manufacturing.

Bibliography

Dow Diamond magazine. “Dow Diamond Special Issue 1960.” Published by the Public Relations Department of the Dow Chemical Company, Midland, Michigan.

By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of Robert Tate's Collection
Posted: 05.16.2018

During the early years of the American automobile industry, there was a manufacturing plant in Jackson, Michigan for the New York City-based Briscoe Motor Corporation, which produced cars between 1914 and 1921. The company made its debut near its corporate office at the New York Automobile Show in January 1914. The Briscoe automobiles were powered by a four-cylinder L-head engine that produced 33 horsepower and offered a medium to high price tag.

file 20180516133231 Remembering Briscoe Automobiles1915 Briscoe with the cyclops headlight

The Briscoe was a very light car, except for the cyclops headlight design that stared out of the radiator grille. For many consumers at the time, the car was new, and most people had never heard of the Briscoe Motor Corporation. The car was named for Benjamin Briscoe, who was born in Detroit and an automotive pioneer and industrialist. In 1904, Briscoe joined with Jonathan Maxwell to manufacture the Maxwell-Briscoe automobile. In 1914 and 1915, the Briscoe automobile offered the consumer a four-cylinder engine and a lightweight body made of a composition paper mache material.

file 20180516133421 Remembering Briscoe AutomobilesAd for the 1920 Briscoe

During the 1920s, the new Briscoe sedan was an automobile that consumers could drive in good or bad weather, winter or summer. It was the ideal car. The Briscoe sedan was truly the all-family car that some consumers really liked. The interior was manufactured with mohair velvet upholstery, along with soft-glow cut glass and a dome light for late night driving.

file 20180516133617 Remembering Briscoe AutomobilesAn ad for the Briscoe four-door sedan

Briscoe also made a coupe. The body lines of the coupe were distinct, but perhaps the greatest improvement over all previous coupes was the interior design that most families really enjoyed.

file 20180516133746 Remembering Briscoe Automobiles

Briscoe advertising called the automobile “The Leader of Light Weight Cars.” Road signs were also used in promoting the Briscoe automobile. The signs were eight feet wide by four feet high and constructed of strong sheet steel with reinforced backs and plated edges. The cost of the road signs was $ 9.50 each. The Briscoe advertising team was managed by Waring Sherwood and Eric B. Flippen, his assistant. During the early years, the Briscoe automobile was featured in most trade journals and farm papers. Motor World, Motor Age and American Fruit Grower magazines were also used as a way to promote and advertise the new Briscoe automobiles to the consumer market.

file 20180516133833 Remembering Briscoe AutomobilesAn ad for the Briscoe five-passenger touring car

By 1921, the Briscoe automobile offered the consumer many new and improved features, including a wonderful satin-like lustrous paint finish, a plate glass window in the rear, and a very stylish moto meter on the radiator cap which many consumers found very stylish. The sedan models offered rain moldings and sun visors. Pricing was a factor for Briscoe when in comparison with other automakers. The touring model was advertised in 1917 for $935, while a popular Ford Center Door sedan cost $645.

file 20180516134007 Remembering Briscoe AutomobilesAn ad for the Briscoe Rapidelivery car

The Briscoe Motor Company also offered a very attractive Rapidelivery car which many consumers really liked. The Rapidelivery car was world famous and renowned for its economy and power. The same sturdy chassis of the Briscoe touring car was also used for the Rapidelivery Car. The electric lights enabled the driver to make night deliveries when necessary. The model was a light dependable delivery vehicle that was used for fast delivery by many businesses. The closed or panel body offered the consumer the same chassis and powerful motor as the passenger cars. The body was high and manufactured with one piece panels of Vehisote, which was water-proof and more durable than wood. Today, they are considered very rare.

By late 1921, Briscoe decided he had enough of the automotive manufacturing life style and decided to hand his company's presidency over to Clarence A. Earl, who later sold off the remaining parts to pursue other endeavors.

Bibliography

Szudarek, Robert G. “How Detroit Became the Automotive Capital 100th Anniversary.” 1996.

Briscoe Meter Volume III No. 9 September 1920.

Kimes, Beverly Rae & Clark Jr., Henry Austin. “Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942.”


 

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Images courtesy of Robert Tate’s Collection
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