Corbitt Company - 1905-1952 - Henderson, North Carolina
Known bus builder from 1934-1936 Also built Corbitt Motor Trucks aka Corbitt
Automobile Company, Corbitt Buggy Company
Karl Zahm attributes the famous 1939 Graham Sharknose Towncar to Corbitt. See Car Collector magazine - April 1980 pp56. Actual name of coachbuilder was Corbett - please see Corbett.
in 1918, U.S. builders produced a staggering 227,000 units for the U.S. and its allies. The Corbitt Company of New Bern NC was a major manufacturer
CORBITT (US) 1913-1952; 1957-1958
(1) Corbitt Automobile Co., Henderson, N.C. 1913-1916 (2) Corbitt Motor Truck Co., Henderson, N.C.
(3) Corbitt Co., Henderson, N.C. -1952
(4) Corbitt Co., Inc., Henderson, N.C. 1957-1958
Richard Corbitt was a successful North Carolina tobacco merchant during the 1890s, and after being forced out of business by a large trust he set up the Corbitt Buggy Company in 1899. From 1907 to 1913 passenger cars were made, followed by trucks. The first Corbitt was a conventional truck powered by a 4-cylinder Continental engine, with chain drive and a load capacity of 2,500 lbs. During 1915 Corbitt began to supply school and urban transit buses for service all over North Carolina, and during the 1920s the company established a reputation as 'the South's largest truck builder'. In addition they were exported to 23 foreign countries. Corbitts were of conventional design, with 6-cylinder Continental or Hercules engines and up to 1930 made in sizes of 1 to 5 tons. Later models were larger, and included 6-wheeled tractor/trailer units of up to 15 tons capacity. Some of the smaller Corbitts of the mid-1930s used the same grille, fenders and front body panels as the Auburn passenger car.
From 1933 onwards Corbitt became important suppliers of vehicles to the U.S. Army; these included 2¥2ton 6x6 cargo carriers powered by Lycoming Straight-8 engines, 8-ton 6x4 and 6x6 artillery prime movers with Hercules 6 engines, and Lycoming-powered armoured scout cars. In 1940 the U.S. Coastal Artillery asked Corbitt to design and build a 6-ton 6x6 prime mover and cargo carrier. Powered by a 855ci 6-cylinder Hercules engine, the Corbitt 50 SD6 became a familiar workhorse for the U.S. Army and its allies. They survived well into the 1950s in the armies of Austria, Denmark, France,Greece, the Netherlands and Sweden. Some of these vehicles are still at work as recovery trucks and heavy haulage prime movers. During the early part of the War Corbitt built 6x4 highway tractors powered by
Continental 6-cylinder engines. An 8x8 prime mover and a rear-engined 2 ½ -ton truck were built experimentally.
The early post-war years saw a boom in road tractor sales, and during 1946 Corbitt sold over 600 trucks. These were mostly large 6x2 and 6x4 tractors powered by Continental gasoline or Cummins diesel engines, and they were used by some of the biggest fleet operators in the United States. In 1952 "Uncle Dick" Corbitt retired and his loss, combined with falling sales of heavy trucks generally, caused the firm to close. In 1957 an attempt to revive the firm was made, building tractor trucks on a made-to-order basis, but this failed. At this time Corbitt was also rebuilding ex-army Mack 6x6 artillery tractors which were sold to various NATO countries including Great Britain.
Richard J. Corbitt had moved to Henderson, NC, in 1899 and created a very successful buggy manufacturing business. In 1905, he successfully sought additional capital to expand the Corbitt Buggy Company to convert one of his three factory buildings into auto production.
In 1907, the first Corbitt Motor Buggy was produced by the renamed Corbitt Automobile Company — a high-wheeled, chain-driven buggy with an engine. In 1908, Corbitt added fenders to the car, and in 1909 he added acetylene lamps. In 1910, Corbitt advertised nationally a $800 touring car with a two-cyclinder, 18 to 20 horsepower engine on a 90-inch chassis, as well as a two-passenger Model B runabout.
There were about 2,400 automobiles in North Carolina in 1910. At that time, there were 600 generally small automobile manufacturers in the U.S.
By 1912, Corbitt had redesigned the cars that were now 120-inch wheel base with a four-cyclinder, 30 horsepower engine costing $1,750 for the roadster and $2,000 for the touring car (Model 4p). Over these years, Corbitt built and sold more than 100 cars in all probabililty.
By Henry Ford was gearing up his assembly line factory system — in 1914 Ford produced 300,000 cars compared to the rest of the industry which produced 200,000 cars. With lowering prices on the Ford product, the great elimination of auto makers began. For example, Ford established a Charlotte, NC, branch that initially supplied parts to dealers and assembled Ford cars (6,850 autos in 1915 up to 100,000 autos in 1927).
Corbitt recognized the trend and last produced a car in 1914 — with a four-cyclinder, 26-horsepower engine.
In 1915, the Corbitt company was renamed the Corbitt Motor Truck Company which would continue to successfully produce trucks until 1952.
Corbitt Automobile Co. (1911 - 1914) and Corbitt Motor Truck Co. (1915 -
1952) - Richard J. Corbitt (1876 - 1955) founded the motor vehicle company
after building his first car in 1907, according to reports. He had founded
another business in 1899. The first truck was built in 1913. Finding an
opportunity in truck production, by the 1920s, then firm was known as
Corbitt Motor Truck Co. The firm produced 5-ton trucks, adding up to 15-ton
trucks in the 1930s. Military and civilian trucks were produced during World
War II. Volume production by the company ceased in 1952, when the then
76-year-old Richard Corbitt retired. An attempt was made in 1957 to revive
the business with a build-on-order approach, but it was short-lived.
Henderson, North Carolina is the home of Corbitt trucks. Richard J. Corbitt came to Henderson in late 1890s determined to make his fortune in the tobacco business. The horseless carriage appeared to have a still greater potential and by 1907 the Corbitt factory was converted to the manufacture of automobiles. But mass produced cars from Detroit proved to be tough competition. So in 1910 the factory was converted once more, from cars to trucks. His first trucks were the conventional chain drive and then expanded his offerings until he became known as the largest truck manufacturer in the South.
By 1916 the company had developed an extensive line of trucks ranging from 5-ton capacity down to 1-ton. That same year the company announced that their trucks were not only being purchased in large numbers by the U.S Army, but also being shipped to no less than 23 foreign countries. When World War I came along Corbitt was ready and sold literally hundreds of units to the military. In both WW I and II the Corbitt assembly line, like so many others, was crowed to full capacity.
For many years Corbitt also built school busses (on truck chassis) plus a few long-haul buses not unlike the low-slung Fageols of the 30s. In addition, there was an extensive line of Corbitt-built trailers and even farm tractors.
The real glamour years for Corbitt came in the late 30s, through the 40s and into the early 50s. Their models were very up-to-date, handsomely-equipped and high speed. Cummins diesel power became an option in the 40s. It was in those years that the love affair between truck and drivers reached full bloom.
The end came suddenly in late 1952. Richard Corbitt retired in 1952 and the company fell into decline. There was a tremendous management void. When Mr. Corbitt died, there was no way to replace his knowledge on short notice, nor was there any way to implant his thinking with modern technology to compete in the then fast-changing world. The stockholders opted for voluntary liquidation rather than face forced liquidation or merger later on. An attempt was made to revive the company in 1957 but sadly did not succeed
1943 Military 6 ton 6x6. These 6 tonners were built by Corbitt, Brockway & White. All are identical. Mine is built by White, but has the Corbitt cab. The only way to tell is by the foot pedals that say White
For more information please read:
Ed Strauss & Karen Strauss - The Bus World Encyclopedia of Buses
G.N. Georgano & G. Marshall Naul - The Complete Encyclopedia of Commercial Vehicles
Albert Mroz - Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks & Commercial Vehicles
Donald F. Wood - American Buses
Denis Miller - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trucks and Buses
Susan Meikle Mandell - A Historical Survey of Transit Buses in the United States
David Jacobs - American Buses, Greyhound, Trailways and Urban Transportation
William A. Luke & Linda L. Metler - Highway Buses of the 20th Century: A Photo Gallery
William A. Luke & Brian Grams - Buses of Motorcoach Industries 1932-2000 Photo Archive
William A. Luke - Greyhound Buses 1914-2000 Photo Archive
William A. Luke - Prevost Buses 1924-2002 Photo Archive
William A. Luke - Flxible Intercity Buses 1924-1970 Photo Archive
William A. Luke - Buses of ACF Photo Archive (including ACF-Brill & CCF-Brill)
William A. Luke - Trailways Buses 1936-2001 Photo Archive
William A. Luke - Fageol & Twin Coach Buses 1922-1956 Photo Archive
William A. Luke - Yellow Coach Buses 1923 Through 1943: Photo Archive
William A. Luke - Trolley Buses: 1913 Through 2001 Photo Archive
Harvey Eckart - Mack Buses: 1900 Through 1960 Photo Archive
Brian Grams & Andrew Gold - GM Intercity Coaches 1944-1980 Photo Archive
Robert R. Ebert - Flxible: A History of the Bus and the Company
John McKane - Flxible Transit Buses: 1953 Through 1995 Photo Archive
Bill Vossler - Cars, Trucks and Buses Made by Tractor Companies
Lyndon W Rowe - Municipal buses of the 1960s
Edward S. Kaminsky - American Car & Foundry Company 1899-1999
Dylan Frautschi - Greyhound in Postcards: Buses, Depots and Post Houses
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