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White Motor Co.

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The White Motor Co. was an American automobile and semi truck manufacturer from 1901 until 1980. It began as a sewing machine company established by Thomas Howard White and was later turned into a vehicle manufacturer by his three sons.

Many of the company's creations were highly regarded by the U.S. Army and used in both world wars.

The company eventually filed for bankruptcy in 1980 and became part of Volvo.

Contents

[edit] History

[edit] From Sewing Machines to Automobiles

Thomas Howard White formed a company in 1859 with George Baker and D’Arcy Porter that specialized in selling sewing machines. The new company was formed in Templeton Massachusetts, but moved to Cleveland in 1866.

Each of Thomas White’s three sons showed more interest in automobiles than the family sewing machine business. So, after a few years working with their father, they set up operations to begin manufacturing and selling steam-powered automobiles.

They formed the White Motor Co. (WMC) in 1901. Eldest brother Walter White served as company president while Rollin White oversaw manufacturing and Windsor White headed marketing.

Their first automobiles were two steam-powered pie wagons. Rollin was an accomplished manufacturer and even won a gold medal at the St. Louis Fair in 1905 for his steam engines, which were used in trucks called Stanhopes.

By 1910 the WMC had produced a three-ton gas truck. A year later the company began phasing out steam power in favor of gasoline. These pre-World War I commercial vehicles all operated on pneumatic tires.

[edit] Wartime and Beyond

Production increased exponentially during the war. WMC manufactured 18,000 trucks for the U.S. Army.[1] Some of these trucks were sold publicly through army surplus sales. As such, they quickly became popular amongst large operators.

White followed up its wartime success with new models. In 1928 it produced its first six-cylinder truck, the Model 59. It was a 100 horsepower vehicle capable of carrying a four-ton load.

In 1929 the Great Depression hit, WMC absorbed Indiana Truck Co. The same year, Walter White died.

[edit] Product Developments

Five years later WMC released its first 12-cylinder series, the 730 cab-over-engine (COE) series. However, the 700-series trucks were soon replaced by WA and WB models.

In 1937, WMC hired a designer to construct a special truck for the Labatt beer company. Count Alexis de Saknoffsky created “one of the most stylish trucks built to that point.”[2] It was an aerodynamic vehicle with Bus-like features. It was influential to many models that followed.[3]

Next WMC introduced its WC series that used diesel fuel and offered an integral sleep cab. They followed the WC with the Model 3000, which had a rounded COE, making it aerodynamic. The Super Power 3000 included a power tilt cab and air brakes.

In 1951, WMC added the Cummins diesel engine as a regular feature to its vehicles. After witnessing the success of diesel engines, WMC eventually began to phase out gasoline in favor of diesel.

[edit] Acquisitions

Throughout the 1950s WMC acquired a number of major trucking companies. It purchased Freightliner and Sterling in 1951, Autocar in 1953, Reo Motors in 1957 and Diamond T trucks in 1958. WMC retained many of the different nameplates, but merged Reo Motors and Diamond T under the new moniker Diamond Reo. The year after the Diamond T acquisition, Windsor White passed away; Rolling White followed in 1962.

[edit] The '60s and '70s

WMC released a number of new models throughout the 1960s and 1970s with varying success. The Model 5000 had a two-piece teardrop windshield, modern COE design, and dual headlights, but its fiberglass construction was light, weak, and it leaked. The Model 7000 replaced fiberglass with aluminum and was available with or without a sleeper. It also featured prominent chrome bumpers, rounded corner plates, single headlight construction, flat and oval two-piece windshields, a boxy-looking cab, and a simple grille below the WMC nameplate.

WMC acquired Euclid Inc. in 1968 to increase its market share in off-road trucks. In the 1970s WMC formed Western Star to sell trucks on the West Coast.

The White Motor Co. made a fatal mistake when it decided to move back to gasoline engines just as the government was trying to lower engine emissions. It named its new engines “Mustang” and “White Giesel.” It had also over extended itself with acquisitions and fell into heavy debt.

To recover from its losses, the company hired Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen, president of Ford Motor Co. between 1969 and 1970, to reorganize the company. WMC made $20 million in profits in 1973.

The company responded by opening new plants in Virginia and Ohio, and developed two new models: the Road Boss 2 in 1977 and Autocar Construcktor in 1978. However, Knudsen was unable to completely repair the years of “mismanagement, coupled with changes in the industry, inflation, and recession.”[4] He was forced to sell Euclid, Inc. and lay off a number of employees.

[edit] The End of White Motor Co.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 1980. Between then and December 1981 WMC lost $311 million.[5]

The new Volvo-White Corp. was formed in 1981.

By the end of the 1980s, Volvo had formed a deal with General Motors uniting Volvo, GM, WMC, and Autocar all under the same “corporate umbrella.”[6] The WMC named was finally retired in the late 1990s.

[edit] The Company Today

The White Motor Company ceased to exist in 1985, after a prolonged bankruptcy preceding that began in 1980. After being acquired by Volvo in the early 1980s, WMC’s influence can be seen in Volvo’s North American vehicles.

[edit] Equipment List

[edit] References

  1. Lipschultz, Jeremy; Holtzman, Stan. Classic American Semi Trucks. 2000.
  2. Lipschultz, Jeremy; Holtzman, Stan. Classic American Semi Trucks. 2000.
  3. Lipschultz, Jeremy; Holtzman, Stan. Classic American Semi Trucks. 2000.
  4. Case. The Encyclopedia or Cleveland History. 2008-09-22.
  5. Case. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. 2008-09-22.
  6. Lipschultz, Jeremy; Holtzman, Stan. Classic American Semi Trucks. 2000.