Unrelated to ‘Divco Nerve Tonic’
The Divco milk truck, America’s most iconic delivery truck, remained basically unchanged during its almost 50 years of production (1938-1986), thanks to its innovative design team which was headed by the firm’s president John Nicol. As indicated by its Model U designation, Divco’s 1938 model, was not its first, and its basic layout can be traced back to 1922 when George M. Bacon, vice-president of the Detroit Electric Car Co., designed a gasoline-powered delivery truck that could be driven from four positions; front, rear, or either running board.
The Detroit Electric Car Co. can trace its origins back to Elwell-Parker Co., a UK-based manufacturer of electric motors and components who established an American subsidiary, the Elwell-Parker Electric Co., in 1892. The US branch was established at 4224 St. Clair Ave., Cleveland, Ohio and was managed by M.S. Towson.
Elwell-Parker manufactured electric locomotives and omnibuses in England and introduced their first ‘electric dog cart’ in 1896. Their US branch produced electric motors and controllers although a handful of completed vehicles were built for demonstration purposes.
Regional builders such as Cleveland’s Baker Electric Co. and Detroit’s Anderson Carriage Co. purchased many of their components from Elwell-Parker and in 1909 Anderson purchased the firm’s US subsidiary to guarantee a constant supply of electrical components for their thriving electric car business.
However the sale did not mark the end of Elwell-Parker in the US, as they returned years later to Bedford Park, Illinois where they built a plant to manufacture electric fork lifts.
Anderson Carriage Co.’s William C. Anderson, (b.1853-d.1929) was born to Hiram and Susanna (Cummings) Anderson in Milton, Ontario, Canada. Following his graduation from Business College, he moved across the St. Clair River to Port Huron, Michigan where he began building carriages and buggies starting in 1884.
Anderson discovered that a large proportion of his firm’s output was going to Detroit, which was located 60 miles to the south of Port Huron. So Anderson and two Michigan businessmen named William A. Pungs and William M Locke, formed the Anderson Carriage Co. in 1895, establishing a Detroit plant at the intersection of Clay and Riopelle Sts., a few blocks west of Cadillac’s current Hamtramck assembly plant. Anderson was the firm’s president, Pungs, its treasurer and general manager, and William M. Locke, the firm’s secretary.
Originally born in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, William M. Locke, moved to East Tawas, Michigan in 1869 and built up a large lumber business where he became acquainted with Anderson. When Anderson relocated to Detroit in 1895, Locke was brought in as a partner, serving as the firm’s first secretary, and later on its treasurer.
(Anderson Carriage Co. should not be confused with the Anderson Carriage Mfg. Co. of Anderson, Indiana, who also manufactured a few automobiles).
William A. Pungs had his hand in a number of early Detroit manufacturing firms, usually as a financier. Although he was born in Cologne, Germany in 1850, he emigrated to Detroit with his parents when he was only two years old. As a young man he worked in the machinery, railway, and carriage supply business before he organized the Michigan Railway Supply Co. in 1882. That firm established his fine reputation and great wealth which he later used to help finance the Anderson Carriage Co., the Pungs-Finch Auto and Gas Engine Co. and the Michigan Yacht and Power Co. He resigned from Anderson in 1898 to become president of Detroit’s Central Savings Bank and his original firm, the Michigan Railway Supply Co. merged with the Chicago Railway Equipment Co. in 1899.
Following the resignation of William A. Pungs, William M. Locke, the firm’s secretary became its treasurer and William Phelps MacFarlane, the firm’s longtime plant manager became secretary. McFarlane started working for Anderson in 1886 in the trimming department and by 1892 was in charge of the entire factory. He was elected Secretary of the firm in 1900, and continued to serve as the superintendent of coachwork through the twenties.
Anderson started building a few automobile bodies for local manufacturers and began toying around with the idea of producing his own automobile. It was decided to equip the car with an electric drivetrain, and they acquired the services of George M. Bacon, the engineer responsible for the Columbus Electric automobile.
George M. Bacon got his start in the automobile manufacturing business at the Columbus Buggy Co. of Columbus Ohio, joining the company in 1904 as chief electrical engineer.
Little is known of Bacon’s early life and career other than he was born in Scranton, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania during 1867. His first appearance in the Scranton business directory comes in 1888 where he’s listed as an ‘electric light attendant’, bds., 428 N. 8th St.
On August 10, 1891 he applied for a patent on a Lightning-Arrester, receiving U.S. Pat. No. 470736 on March 15, 1892 – the patent gives his address as Scranton, Pa.
The 1895 Cleveland, Ohio directory lists him as electrician, h. 7 Cedar av. On August 27, 1897 Bacon applied for a US patent on an Electric Arc Lamp in partnership with Orville B. Skinner, chief engineer of the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis Railroad. They received US Pat. No. 599480 on February 22, 1898, assigning a one-third interest to George G. Wells, chief engineer of the Youngstown & Ohio River Railroad Company. The patent lists Bacon’s home address as Cleveland, Ohio.
In 1903 Bacon took a position with the Columbus Buggy Co. as lead electrical engineer on the firm’s new Columbus Electric automobile. He’s listed in the 1906 Columbus, Ohio directory as an electrician, h. 681 Dennison Ave. Columbus Buggy's president and vice-president were Clinton D. and Joseph F. Firestone, Harvey S. Firestone's father and brother (Harvey had worked for the company a decade earlier). Other significant employees of Columbus Buggy included Lee Frayer and Eddie Rickenbacker.
Columbus Buggy Co.’s first electric automobile was an attractive folding-top runabout, which was followed up with a coupe, station wagon, and surrey. The January 25, 1906 issue of The Automobile noted he was amongst the executives manning the stand of the Columbus Buggy Co. at the 1906 New York Automobile Show:
The ‘Creditable Performances’ column of the January 1, 1907 issue of the Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal covered a test drive:
In 1907, George M. Bacon left Columbus Buggy to head the development of the Anderson Carriage Co.’s proposed electric car as chief engineer and designer. Rather than call the car the Anderson, which was a popular name at the time for automobiles, they wisely decided on the moniker, Detroit Electric, which was to become the most popular, and long-lived, electric vehicle to be sold in the United States. The vehicle’s controller and electric components were supplied by the Elwell-Parker Electric Co.
The first Detroit Electric appeared in June of 1907, and by the end of the year 125 cars had been manufactured. Anderson offered their first closed car, the Inside-Drive Coupe in 1908, and soon established a reputation as well-built, easy-to-drive cars. 400 Detroit Electrics were built in 1908, 650 in 1909, and 1,500 in 1910.
Anderson purchased the Elwell-Parker Electric Co., in 1909 to make sure they had a constant supply of electrical components. The firm was located in Cleveland, Ohio and up until then had supplied components to their competitor, the Baker Electric.
Along with Elwell-Parker’s electrical components, Anderson also got the services of their plant manager, M.S. Towson, who proved to be a valuable asset to the firm in years to come.
Anderson Carriage Co. was reorganized in 1911 into the Anderson Electric Car Co. who would produce both electric vehicles, horse-drawn carriages and automobile bodies simultaneously. Both their electric cars and production automobile bodies were well-known for their finely constructed wood-framed aluminum bodies and luxurious interiors.
The 1911 Detroit Electric featured a new “chainless” shaft drive and advertised that it could go a full 80 miles between charges. An endurance run held later that year proved it to be a very conservative estimate as a specially-prepared Detroit Electric test vehicle traveled an incredible 211 miles on a single charge.
The car was marketed to doctors and women drivers in their memorable advertising campaigns which graced America’s most popular magazines including National Geographic, Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, Century and Country Life. Advertisements stated the Detroit Electric would "take you anywhere that an automobile may go with a mileage radius farther than you will ever care to travel in a day."
The Detroit Electric Model 60 had a top speed of 20 mph, and featured dual controls so it could be driven from either the front or rear seat. Its power came from 14 six-volt Edison batteries which were controlled by a sophisticated controller that varied the speed of the car by connecting the batteries in either series or parallel depending on which of the 5 speeds were selected. The wives of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. were some high-profile owners of Detroit Electrics.
The Detroit Electric was built in Scotland under license by Arrol-Johnson starting in 1913, and was now available in the States as a taxicab, limousine, hearse or ambulance. In 1914 production exceeded 4500 vehicles, however within two years, sales had fallen to 3,000. Anderson purchased the Chicago Electric Motor Car Co. in 1916, but the production numbers continued to fall during the First World War.
William C. Anderson retired in 1918 and M.S. Towson, formerly of Elwell-Parker, succeeded him as president. A few months later the electric car division was reorganized as the Detroit Electric Car Co. although the production body business continued as the Anderson Electric Car Co. (sometimes still referred to as the Anderson Carriage Co. or Anderson Body Co.) Its listing in the 1919 Detroit business directory follows:
“Detroit Electric Car Co.: W. C. Anderson, pres.; George M. Bacon, VP; A. C. Downing, VP; J. D. Wilson, sec; F. E. Price treas.”
Following the Armistice, sales of electric cars took a nosedive in the United States and the firm began to concentrate on their more successful line of commercial delivery vehicles which were still quite popular in large metropolitan areas. Starting in 1920, their automobiles began to take on the appearance of a “normal” automobile and featured faux radiators and hoods, looking somewhat like the imported FIAT.
Anderson also began to attract more customers for their quality automotive coachwork, and was soon building production bodies for Velie, Davis and other medium-priced cars built in the metropolitan Detroit region. They enjoyed a fine reputation and when Henry Leland started manufacturing his Lincoln automobile, Anderson was the only local firm to receive a contract to produce coachwork for the 1921 Lincoln Model L. In fact, the prototype bodies of all 12 (1921-22) original Lincoln designs were made in the Anderson shops.
In 1922 Bacon constructed a prototype electric route delivery vehicle that could be operated from four points; the front, rear, left- or right- hand side. Testing revealed the limits of its storage batteries and in late 1924 a gasoline-powered version was tested, and Bacon and a group of investors formed the Detroit Industrial Vehicle Company who christened it the ‘Divco’ and commenced manufacture at a small factory on Fort Street West, Detroit. The prototype used a 4-cylinder LeRoi engine, but production Divcos were fitted with Continental 4-cylinders mated to Warner 4-speed transmissions.
The truck was presented to the trade in the May 1925 issue of The Motor Truck:
The success of the LeRoi-engined prototype prompted the 1926 construction of 25 pre-production (experimental) units that were dubbed the Model A. The Model B, the first ‘production’ Divco premiered in 1927, powered by a 152 cu. in. Continental 4-cylinder governed to a maximum of 1400 r.p.m. which equaled 18 m.p.h. in high gear. The number was not an arbitrary one as the literature noted that 20 m.p.h. and above were the speeds at which ‘all delivery truck accidents occur’.
It’s 86” wheelbase gave the Divco a 13’ turning radius, making the 13’ 5” long vehicle very maneuverable in tight confines. It also included an automatic ‘Safety Brake’ that engaged whenever the driver exited the vehicle from either one of its three (forward, left-hand side or right hand side) driving positions.
In late 1927 the firm was reorganized as the
Divco-Detroit Corp. and production relocated
to 2435 Merrick Ave., Detroit, the news was announced to the trade on
The reorganization was headed by Detroit industrialist Carl H.L. Flintermann, president of Wilcox-Rich Corp. (mfr. auto & engine parts), president of Flintlock Corp. (mfr. radiators); vice-president of Detroit Pressed Steel Co., (mfr. auto frames and Disteel steel wheels) and a director of the Denby Motor Truck Co. His brother was R.F. Flintermann, president of Michigan Steel Casting Co.
The officers of the firm were as follows: C.H.L. Flintermann, Chairman of the Board; John Nicol, President and General Manager; George M. Bacon, Vice-president.
The new Divco president and general manager was born in Detroit, Mich. on Nov. 7, 1880; to John M. and Clara (Clorer) Nicol. John M. Nicol was a well-known Detroit banker and shipping magnate (American Banking and Savings Assoc.; Union Transit Co., Detroit, Mich.) Between 1915 and 1923 he served as President and Treasurer of the John Nicol Co., distributors of Federal Trucks, and between 1923 and 1927 served as Northwest Manager of the General Motors Truck Co.
Sales of the diminutive delivery truck grew amongst dairies looking to replace their horse-drawn milk wagons with more modern equipment and substantial numbers of Divcos were delivered to regional dairies in the midwest. Divco-Detroit's publicity department sent out numerous press releases extolling upon the virtues of their products, and according to the following article from the May 4, 1929 Oak Park Leaves (Illinois) 125 North American dairies were operating Divcos:
The Model B and its seldom seen Model C variant remained in production into 1932, with approximately 1,100 constructed. It was joined by the conventionally-styled and laid-out Model G in 1929. The new truck eliminated the forward-most driving position, its operation being confined to the left and right sides of the vehicle. The Model G was powered by the same Continental found in the Model B and C, and it also included Divco’s patented ‘Safety Brake’, clutch and combination accelerator/gear shift – the latter being controlled using a lever with an integral motorcycle-style throttle.
A patent search reveals Divco shared a re-issued US Patent with the Walker Vehicle Co. of Chicago. Eddy R. Whitney of Philadelphia, Penn., applied for a patent on a dropped-floor transverse-aisle delivery truck on February 7, 1923 and was awarded US Pat. No. 1619775 on March 1, 1927 which was subsequently assigned to the Commercial Truck Co. of Philadelphia.
Drop-frame chassis greatly reduced the stress placed on a house-to-house deliveryman and both Divco and Walker hoped to construct vehicles covered by Whitney's patent. When he renewed it on March 4, 1929 (US Pat. No. RE17610) he assigned it to both firms who subsequently constructed vehicles utilizing Whitney's design. Divco’s transverse-aisle vehicle was the Model H, which debuted in 1931.
The patent assignment was closely followed by the September, 1930 purchase of the Step-N-Drive Corp. of Buffalo, New York, a manufacturer of drop-framed Chevrolet and Ford-based route delivery vehicles. Step-N-Drive's vehicles were covered under a patent issued to Edward C. Oberkircher and Charles G. Kaelin that covered the insertion of a drop-frame subsection into an existing chassis. (Motor Driven Vehicle - US1990748 - Filed Jan 4, 1928 - Issued Feb 12, 1935). A January 1930 Step-N-Drive advertisment stating:
The acquisition was mentioned in a subsequent issue of Milk Plant Monthly:
Although the purchase was a sound one, it coincided with the early days of the Depression and within the year the firm was hopelessly insolvent and bankruptcy was declared on November 18, 1931. A creditor’s committee, headed by Edgar R. Ailes, auctioned off Divco-Detroit’s assets in April of 1932 and the winning bidder, Continental Motors Corp., purchased its assets for a mere $90,000, syndicated columnist B.C. Forbes announcing the news to the trade in his September 22, 1932 column:
Continental created a new subsidiary, Continental-Divco Co. - headed by W. R. Angel, and relocated Divco’s assets to Continental’s 12801 East Jefferson Ave. plant and relocated the Step-N-Drive operations to Detroit. Former president John Nicol served a vice-president and general manager under Angel andduring which time Divco released a confusing succession of models that featured increased horsepower, increased wheelbase, or a combination of the two. The Model H continued into 1933, joined by the six-cylinder Model K, but sales were weak and the both models were discontinued by 1934.
The 109” wheelbase Model Q and R Divcos debuted in 1932, the model Q with a 24 h.p. Continental – the Model R with an 18 h.p. unit. They were joined by the 113” wheelbase Model S in 1935, which proved to be the final iteration of the conventionally-styled Divco first introduced in 1929. The lightweight Model S was priced 30% less than its predecessors and produced the first black ink for the firm since Continental took over the firm in 1932, with sales of 2,600 units between 1935 and 1937.
Twin Coach’s involvement with Divco dated to a 1933 patent dispute between Continental-Divco and Twin Coach that was resolved via a dual licensing agreement. Its principle owners, Frank R. and William B. Fageol, spearheaded the 1936 purchase and reorganization of the Continental-Divco Co. from its parent, Continental Motors Corp. At the time Twin Coach manufactured a competing route delivery vehicle, and the Fageol brothers hoped to strengthen their position in the field through the purchase of their chief competitor.
In 1936 a complicated series of transactions between two Manhattan investment bankers and the two firms resulted in the establishment of a new firm, Divco-Twin Corp., which combined the assets of Twin Coach’s route delivery truck division with that of Continental-Divco’s. Twin Coach owned a 17% share of Divco-Twin stock, the remainder being controlled by representatives of Reynolds & Co. and Laurence M. Marks & Co.
John Nicol was elected president of Divco-Twin and its directors gave him carte blanche approval for an all-new Divco, that would combine streamlined design with the best features of the Model S. Nicol applied for a patent on the all-steel design on October 9, 1937 and commenced the design of jigs and fixtures that would help form the firm’s first assembly line. The Model U was announced to the trade via the November 13, 1937 issue of Automotive Industries:
A new brochure ‘Divco-Twin presents a Sensational New Model U’ was readied and the truck made its official debut at the National Motor Truck Show which was held from November 11th to 17th, 1938 at Manhattan's Commerce Hall. Nicol received his design patent ‘Design for a delivery vehicle’ – US Pat. No. D109521 - on May 3, 1938, assigning it to Divco-Twin.
It is likely that Lynn D. Mead, Divco’s
chief engineer, had a
hand in the design of the vehicle, but from the moment Nicol was
of Divco-Twin, his name, and his name alone appeared on most all the
subsequently issued to the firm.
The 100 3/4-in. wheelbase Model U was equipped with a 38 h.p. (at 2800 r.p.m.) 140 cu. in. 4-cylinder Continental that was governed to a top speed of 32 m.p.h.
In late 1938 the Model U line was split into two models. The original purpose-built insulated milk truck became the Model UM which was joined by an un-insulated Model UB which was targeted to bakeries, department stores and other parcel delivery services.
It was joined by a longer 127 1/2” wheelbase Model UL in 1939 that was designed for wholesale parcel delivery which was also available in a lightly insulated Model ULM variant for dairymen.
Divco-Twin procured a $325,000 loan from the
Finance Corpration and commenced construction of a new purpose-built
factory at 22000 Hoover Rd., in the Detroit suburb of Warren, Michigan.
Production remained at Continental’s East Jefferson Ave. plant until July, 1939 when the firm moved into its new factory. The new plant greatly increased the firm's efficiency and profits, the January 5, 1940 issue of the New York Times reported on the previous year's sales success:
Sales of the new Model U greatly exceeded expectations and the March 12, 1940 New York Times reported Divco-Twin repaid their $325,000 construction loan in record time:
The January 20, 1944 New York Times reported that:
Divco production had been suspended in 1942 and the factory repurposed to manufacture P-40, C-46, and SB2C airframe subassemblies for the Curtiss-Wright Corp. Other activities included the up-fitting of third party 2 ˝ ton trucks for the Army as well as an order of 500 Model U’s for the Navy.
Production of civilian Divcos commenced in 1945 and demand reached an all-time high in 1948 when 6,385 trucks were constructed.
During that record year Divco introduced a number of specially outfitted variants which included a new 229 cu. in. Hercules six-cylinder engine. 1950 marked the debut of a new numerical model system, which was far easier to decipher than its predecessor.
Three models appeared on the firm’s original 100 ľ in. wheelbase chassis; the Model 11 (4-cylinder, sit-or-stand drive), the Model 13 (4-cylinder sit-drive only) and the Model 14 (6-cylinder with sit-or-stand drive). A new 115 in. wheelbase Model 31 debuted which featured a 6-cylinder engine with dedicated sit-drive and the 127 1/2 in. chassis became the Model 21 again with the dedicated sit-drive operation. All models were available with or without insulated bodies and a pricy self-refrigerated option was made available for the first time as was a 3-speed Warner ‘Divcomatic’ (automatic) transmission.
In 1949 Divco’s longtime chairman, Frank R. Fageol, retired. John Nicol was elected in his place and Divco’s vice-president, Ray A. Long, assumed it presidency. Other officers included George E. Muma, vice-president of manufacturing; Frank Messing, vice-president of services; Roy H. Sioberg, vice-president of sales; J. H. Spencer, secretary; and Robert Robillard, treasurer.
Nicol passed away after a long illness on Saturday, July 22, 1950 and Frank R. Fageol returned as chairman. When Ray A. Long retired in 1954 George E. Muma was elected president and H. V. Hedeen replaced him as vice-president of manufacturing.
An all-new widened body became available on the 115 in. wheelbase Divco chassis in 1955. Designed for bakery use, the new design substituted squared surfaces for it predecessor’s rounded edges, giving the truck a more modern look while retaining its snub-nosed appearance forward of the A-pillar. It was closely followed by the 1956 Dividend, Divco’s attempt at constructing a purpose-built maximum-capacity route delivery truck for the non-dairy trades.
The forward-control Dividend featured exceptional forward vision for the driver and was available in three wheelbases, 115 in., 130 in., and 153, in. – all of which were powered by a new 252 cu. in. six-cylinder engine sourced from Nash. Civil Defense and transit models were soon introduced and cab and an available cab & chassis model was offered to truck equipment manufacturers who used it as a basis for utility rigs and oilfield supply rigs.
In 1957 Divco Corporation bought Wayne Works, a school bus builder in Richmond, Indiana, and renamed itself Divco-Wayne Corporation and for a number of years Frank R. Fageol served as president of Divco-Wayne.
In 1956 Glekel & Drimmer entered into negotiations with the board of directors of Divco, a route delivery truck manufacturer based in Warren, Michigan, hoping to merge Wayne Works with Divco.
The merger made sense as both firms specialized in manufacturing specialty vehicles, and as leaders in their respective fields, they hoped to maintain their respective positions through economies of scale provided by a centralization of their engineering, purchasing and distribution activities.
Both firms’ 1955 sales were in the neighborhood of $12-13 million. Wayne controlled 25% of the nation’s school bus market, Miller-Meteor controlled 30% of professional car manufacturing and Divco held 75% of the dairy truck business.
On November 1st, 1956 Divco Corp. acquired the assets of Wayne Works, Inc. which was reorganized as Divco-Wayne Corp. Although Divco’s directors didn’t realize it at the time, the merger would ultimately prove to be a carefully orchestrated takeover of Divco by Glekel & Drimmer.
Glekel spent most of August 1956 negotiating the deal, and the proposed merger was announced on August 27, 1956. Much of Glekel & Drimmer’s stock was actually owned by members of their respective families, and prior to the merger the pair had formed Richmond Industries to shield their Wayne holdings from prying eyes.
When Divco’s shareholders voted to approve the purchase of Wayne Works they did not realize that Glekel & Drimmer’s cleverly disguised 26% stake in Divco-Wayne Corp. would make them the majority shareholder. Within five years of the “merger” all former Divco directors and executives but one were gone. Drimmer became chairman of Divco-Wayne and Glekel, president.
Although the merger proved fatal for former Divco executives, Glekel and Drimmer did a good job of running Divco-Wayne from its new corporate headquarters in Manhattan. In 1958 Divco-Wayne purchased the Electronics division of Gruen Watch Co. for $1.5 million in an attempt to diversify into aerospace, but after a year of lackluster profits, it was sold off.
At about the same time Glekel and Drimmer entertained a merger with Studebaker-Packard a struggling automaker based in South Bend, Indiana. The shrewdly determined predicted that Divco-Wayne had the most to lose and the negotiations were soon terminated.
During the 1930s Ernest Ravinet organized Wayne Works’ export division which was later spun off as a separate unit, called Wayne Export. Ravinet and Timothy Gomez oversaw the firm which specialized in selling CKD (completely knocked down) Wayne Works bus bodies to the firm’s 20 overseas distributors and assembly facilities. As of 1957 Wayne Works’ bus bodies were in use in 60 different countries.
A July 1957 issue of the Richmond Palladium-Item included the following description of Wayne Works’ current facilities which were located in downtown Richmond on the north side of North E Street, between 9th and 10th Sts.:
Although Divco production was never consolidated with Wayne Works, a number of specialty vehicles were produced using the mid-sized Divco Dividend delivery truck which debuted in 1955.
One cooperative venture was the 1959 Divco-Wayne Bantam Bus which mated a Divco Dividend cab/chassis with an unusual mid-sized bus body built at the Divco plant with seats and windows supplied by Wayne Works. It was an early take on the now-popular airport bus/limousine but with only 84 examples produced between 1959 and 1961, the Bantam was dropped.
Marginally more successful was another Dividend-based variant, the Divco-Wayne Emergency Rescue Truck. The vehicle was outfitted by Miller-Meteor with emergency rescue equipment and was optionally available as a four stretcher municipal ambulance.
On February 18, 1959 the Dow Jones Wire service reported that Studebaker-Packard was in talks to acquire Divco-Wayne:
The talks between the two groups were ultimately unsuccessful.
Another Divco-Wayne division was the Divco-Wayne Acceptance Corp. which was involved with financing and leasing Divco-Wayne vehicles. DWAC also enabled small dealers to keep new vehicles inventory by means of a company financed floorplan arrangement.
A portion of Miller-Meteor’s Piqua plant, designated the Divco-Wayne Piqua Division, was used to build prototypes for government and commercial contracts.
In 1962 Divco-Wayne purchased Vought Industries, the mobile homes division of LTV Inc. (Ling-Tempo-Vought), a Dallas, Texas-based transportation conglomerate. Further investment in the mobile home and travel trailer field followed, and by 1966, Divco-Wayne owned Esteven Industries Ltd. in Canada, Nene Valley Coachworks Ltd. in England and Kip Kampeerwagens in the Netherlands.
The firm’s mobile home and recreational vehicle holdings were merged into a new subsidiary, Divco-Wayne Industries, which was soon producing more than half of Divco-Wayne’s profits.
S.A. Bosuga, a Barcelona-based Spanish bus builder but some Wayne-bodied buses under license in the early 1960s. Built on Pegaso and Barreriros-AEC bus chassis, the short-lived vehicles were marketed as Bosuga-Wayne buses.
In 1963 Gleckel and Drimmer purchased Divco-Wayne’s Canadian distributor, Welles Corp. Ltd. and incorporated it as a new division of Divco-Wayne. Welles had been assembling Wayne Works’ bus bodies since 1948, and started producing their own multi-stop delivery trucks soon afterwards.
As Divco did not offer their milk truck bodies in knocked-down form, Welles simply acted as their distributor. Divco had earlier established a Canadian leasing operation called Divco Truck of Canada Ltd. in 1956, and prior to 1941 had operated a Canadian sales branch called Divco-Twin Truck Co.
Divco-Waynes’ professional car division was expanded in 1965 with the acquisition of Cotner-Bevington Coach Co., a small manufacturer of Oldsmobile-chassised professional cars based in Blytheville, Arkansas.
Divco-Wayne Corp., the parent company of Miller-Meteor, bought Cotner-Bevington in 1965 as a budget companion to their popular Cadillac coaches and from then on, Cotner-Bevington built only on Oldsmobile 98 chassis.
One of the first things done after Divco-Wayne purchased Cotner-Bevington was the assignment to Blytheville of Tom Caserta from the Miller-Meteor plant in Piqua.
Caserta told Bernie DeWinter IV that his job was to change Cotner-Bevington from a small conversion firm to a coachbuilder by standardizing things as much as possible and doing things like a larger coachbuilder would do them. Part of that job involved coming up with a base car specification, and switching to such a package for all cars built by the firm. Essentially, that entailed chassis specs, but it also included standard equipment features such as air-conditioning, radio, etc. Caserta's idea was to make a Cotner-Bevington a well optioned car in standard form, and as a result, Cotner-Bevingtons were the first professional cars to feature air conditioning as standard equipment on all models in 1967. Ironically, a few chassis were ordered without a/c, as there were always a few customers who would demand a car without this feature, but they were a rarity.
In the early 1960s, dealers handling Miller-Meteor, S&S, and Eureka, had to offer other makes of coaches at a lower price in order to be competitive with Superior dealers who could offer a wide spectrum of price range with their Pontiac and Cadillac chassised coaches. Cotner-Bevington suited that need nicely and was popular as a second line, as was National, and other smaller builders. When it was purchased by Divco-Wayne, existing dealers were now offered both the Miller-Meteor and Cotner-Bevington products, although several elected to stick with other brands and carry only one of the two lines.
In December of 1966 Divco-Wayne announced
was in negotiations to sell off its Divco Trucks Division. The winning
bidder would turn out to be Transairco Inc, of Delaware, Ohio and in
late 1967 production of Divco trucks was transferred to Transairco’s
Delaware, Ohio plant. But first a short history on the firm, whose
complete history can be found on this site under the Hughes-Keenan
In 1957, the Hughes-Keenan Corporation, a manufacturing concern organized by George W. Way in the late 1940's, became a division of the United States Air Conditioning Corporation, a firm formed in 1937 to manufacture air conditioners. In 1966, United States Air Conditioning changed its corporate name to Transairco, which was now controlled by Way. The firm’s Delaware, Ohio plant manufactured Skyworker overhead boom arms and hoped to offer complete units built using Divco chassis.
In December of 1966 Divco-Wayne Corp announced that it was in negotiations to sell off its Divco Trucks Division. On January 1, 1968, Divco-Wayne Corp. was acquired by Boise-Cascade, Inc., and Divco delivery truck production was sold to Highway Products, Inc., a Kent, Ohio company based in the former Twin Coach bus plant.
Divco-Wayne agreed to sell its truck manufacturing assets and facilities to Highway Products, Inc., in August of 1967 and the sale was consummated that November. Highway Products was a Kent, Ohio manufacturer truck bodies that was based in the former Twin Coach bus plant. Highway Products purchased the Divco assets in order to acquire its popular line of medium-sized buses and had no intention of resuming production of Divco route delivery trucks.
Within a month Highway Products sold off what remained of Divco's assets to Glenn W. Way's Transairco. Also included were Divco's intellectual property, body dies and what remained of Divco's parts inventory. With the acquisition of a truck manufacturer, Way hoped it would help increase sales of the recently introduced Sky Worker overhead booms which could now be offered in a turnkey package utilizing the sturdily-built Divco chassis. Way announced the purchase to the trade on January 1, 1968. Apparently the acquisition of the Divco line coincided with the end of Vanette production as advertisements for the vehicle ceased in 1965 although a few 1966-1969 Vanettes are occasionally offered for sale.
Down a year to move production from Detroit to Delaware, the Divco assembly line reopened in 1969 producing far fewer trucks annually. The final models were the 300 and 200 series with 115-inch and 127-inch wheelbases, and load capacities from 6000 to 10,000 lbs. The same Ford gasoline engines as in 1963 were available, with an optional 3-speed dual range automatic transmission. Diesels included Detroit, Caterpillar or Deutz. Chassis were also produced for other uses, including Divco Refuse trucks. In addition to Divcos, Correct continued to produce truck beds and Skyworker Cranes.
Divco's listing in the 1969 Automotive News directory follows:
Initially, Divco's offices remained in Ashland but on December 1, 1970, the corporate office was closed down and all Divco operations consolidated at Transairco's Delaware plant.
In 1971 Transairco merged with a group of companies owned by Andre J. Andreoli, an Akron, Ohio based investor who had made a fortune in hotel and racetrack management. The merger gave Andreoli control although Way and his family remained the second largest shareholders. Andreoli relocated Transairco's corporate office to his hometown of Akron, Ohio and all Delaware operations became divisions of Transairco Inc. which was, for all intents and purposes, was now a holding company.
The firm's listing in the 1971 Automotive News directory follows:
Way and Andreoli did not get along and with the year Way began to sell of their shares in Transairco, the family's share in the holding company dropping to just 26%. Although Way remained on the board of directors, he resigned as president and entered into negotiations to buy back the Sky-Worker and Divco operations from Andreoli.
In mid-August of 1972, Transairco agreed with Way and certain Transairco stockholders to incorporate a wholly-owned subsidiary, Correct Manufacturing Corporation - the name paid homage to Way's first company, formed back in 1941.
At Correct's first board meeting, on August 31, 1972, Correct accepted an offer from Transairco to acquire a majority of Transairco's manufacturing assets, including those of the Skyworker enterprise. Way and his family then swapped all of their shares in Transairco for all of the shares of Correct Manufacturing, at which point Correct ceased to be associated with Transairco. Andreoli was elected the first president of Correct on August 31, 1972, but Way became Correct's president and general manager on September 1, 1972 and Andreoli surrendered his shares in the firm to the Way family.
With Way back in control Correct Mfg.'s Divco Truck and Sky-Worker crane subsidiaries became profitable and remained so into the next decade until problems with the Skyworker's 50 foot boom arms and the ensuing litigation forced the company into bankruptcy in 1985.
The final Divco trucks were produced under the authority of the bankruptcy trustee in January, 1986, and the assets of the company were then liquidated soon afterwards. Glenn W Way died on November 21, 1988 at the age of 87. He was survived by his second wife, Pauline, and three children; Betty, Alton and Dwight.
Although they no longer manufactured Divco
trucks, the Divco-Wayne story continues below.
As early as 1964 Divco-Wayne started plans for the construction of a new plant, the problem was, they had selected a site in Florence, Kentucky. They had gone so far as to purchase an option on 107 acres in the Northern Kentucky Industrial Foundation Park, just south of Florence.
Not surprisingly, the Richmond community was reluctant to see the city’s largest employer leave, and a group of local businessmen, called the Committee of 100, entered into talks with Divco-Wayne to try and get the firm to stay. Divco-Wayne expressed an interest in a 100-acre parcel located northwest of Richmond, but pointed out that property had already been purchased in Kentucky.
They agreed to remain, providing that the city fathers provide them with the 100 acre parcel, which was conveniently located near the intersection of Interstate 70 and US 35. A fund drive to raise $150,000 was initiated and the local UAW offered to contribute $300,000 of a severance pay fund that would have been paid out if the firm left town.
The Committee of 100 managed to raise the necessary funds by Divco-Wayne’s August 31, 1964 deadline, and construction commenced on the $3.5 million facility. Included in the new facility were a number of new sheet-metal presses, multiple assembly lines and a state of the art paint and rust-proofing facility – all under one roof.
The new 550,000 sq. ft plant was constructed at 1100 Industries Rd. on a sprawling campus that’s visible from the south side of Interstate 70, 3˝ miles northwest of downtown Richmond. The facility opened in early 1967, and the firm’s old North E Street plant (between Ninth and Tenth) was put up for sale.
Since the 1920s many of Wayne’s buses had been shipped across the country and overseas in knocked-down (CKD) form for assembly by the local Wayne distributor. This practice was slowly phased out during the 1950s and 60s, and when the new plant came online the practice ceased entirely. Welles Corp., Wayne’s Canadian subsidiary would be the only authorized Wayne assembly facility.
Divco-Wayne introduced a Chevrolet Suburban-based Wayne-Sentinel ambulance starting in 1967. Early Sentinels featured a stock roof, but a raised roof soon became available when their production was moved to the Blytheville Cotner-Bevington plant.
Early Sentinels carried no builder's identity on their exteriors, but little details made their Miller-Meteor ancestry obvious, such as the ambulance identification decals in the quarter windows. Early '70's Cotner-Bevington ambulance literature showed Wayne Sentinels in production in the same photos as Cotner-Bevington ambulances.
In addition to the Sentinel, the Blytheville plant built the Chevrolet van-based Wayne Vanguard and Dodge van-based Wayne Medicruiser ambulances in the early 1970s.
At about the same time that negotiations were underway with Transairco, Drimmer & Glekel decided to get out of the transportation business. On June 19, 1967 the two partners and R.V. Hansberger, president of Boise-Cascade Corp. announced that Boise-Cascade was going to purchase the partner’s controlling 26% share of Divco-Wayne.
Drimmer & Glekel would receive approximately $11.9 million dollars of Boise-Cascade stock for their shares of Divco-Wayne. Hansberger also announced his intent to merge Divco-Wayne into Boise-Cascade through a $35.7 million exchange of the two firm’s common stock.
Divco-Wayne’s shareholder didn’t approve the first offer, but in October of that year, they accepted a second slightly more lucrative offer of $47.1 million. The merger was subsequently approved and on January 1, 1968, Divco-Wayne was absorbed by Boise-Cascade.
As Boise-Cascade had really only been interested in Divco-Wayne’s mobile home division, it came as not surprise when they sold off the firm’s transportation business in October of 1968 for $15 million. The purchaser was Indian Head Inc., a little-known manufacturer of textiles, glass bottles, metal products and auto parts.
Indian Head Inc. dated from 1953 when a former Textron executive named James Robison purchased the Nashua Mfg Co. which owned the trade name Indian Head. Robison renamed the firm Indian Head Mills and during the next 8 years he went on a buying spree, purchasing 11 additional companies.
In 1962 Robison began to divest himself of his textile firma and began to buy automotive-related businesses. In 1964, he purchased Metal Products & Auto Parts, in 1965, Detroit Gasket & Mfg. Co. and in 1966 Detroit Engine & Machine Co.
In 1966 Robison reorganized the firm as Indian Head Inc., and in 1967 purchased MGM Brakes and the following glass manufacturers; Obear-Nester Glass, Northwestern Glass, Pierce Glass, Laurens Glass and Mason.
The Wayne purchase included Welles, Ltd, Miller-Meteor and Cotner-Bevington. The buying spree did not end there; in 1969 Robison purchased Machinery Corp. and United Vintners. By 1970 Indian Head’s 22 subsidiaries employed 18,700 employees in 60 separate plants.
During the 1970s and 1980s a number of large bus line operators and contractors also served as Wayne Works distributors, Laidlaw in Canada and ARA Transportation being two of the largest operator/dealers. Laidlaw later entered the US transportation market in a big way and bought ARA in 1983.
The popularity of Suburban and van-based modular ambulances and the 1973 EMS Systems Act (see below) struck the death knell for a firm that specialized in building passenger-based emergency vehicles and Wayne closed the division at the end of the 1975 model year.
Wayne’s Sentinel and van ambulance production moved for a short time to a new facility west of Piqua, Ohio, then finally back to Piqua at Miller-Meteor’s Clark Avenue plant.
(The 1973 EMS Systems Act - passed in 1974, implemented four years later in 1978 - required that communities receiving federal funds for their programs had ambulances that met new federal specifications. Three chassis styles meet the criteria and are still in use today: Type I uses a small truck body with a modular compartment, Type II has a van body with a raised roof and Type III has van chassis with a modular compartment. Passenger-based vehicles were purposely excluded from legislation and the last American-made automobile-based ambulance was built in 1978. However a handful of automobile-based ambulances are still made in Europe using Mercedes E-Class and Volvo S-60/S-80 chassis.)
Under Indian Head, Wayne’s bus lineup remained basically unchanged until 1970 when the Wayne Papoose debuted. Built on a step van chassis, the awkward-looking vehicle was designed for use as an airport or courtesy bus, and was reminiscent of the Divco Dividend-based Bantam of 1959-1961. Like the Bantam, the Papoose was a failure, however it paved the way for the Wayne Busette, a far more attractive minibus that debuted in 1973.
Built on the most recent iteration of Chevrolet, GMC and Dodge’s light-duty forward control 1-ton van chassis (aka cutaway van), the Busette was a success. It molded the donor-vehicle’s cab and chassis to a 12- to 18-passenger bus body that rode over the 1-ton chassis dual real wheels. Initial versions used the passenger side cab door as an entrance, but a proper school bus doorway was soon made available. Available options included air-conditioning and an electro-hydraulic wheelchair lift.
The Busette had a low headroom of only 63” so in 1976, a higher headroom version called the Transette was added to Wayne’s cutaway van bus series. The higher headroom made the vehicle better suited to airport use and by the end of the decade Wayne Transette minibuses had become the primary rent-a-car shuttle bus in the country.
Despite the ready availability of cutaway van chassis, none of Wayne competitors would release their own minibuses until 1979 when the Thomas Mintour debuted.
For many years bus manufacturers knew that their bodies’ Achilles heel was their joints, or places where panels and body parts were fastened together, which tended to separate in rollovers. Although exterior guard rails - used since the 1930s – protected occupants in moderate side-collisions, they did little to protect them in a severe accident or rollover.
The Ward Body Co. of Conway, Arkansas had conducted a rollover test on one of their school bus bodies in 1967 and had noted that despite their increased use of rivets, the joints continued to separate under sever stress.
Wayne engineers decided to attack the problem in a novel manner, rather than strengthen the joints, which the believed would not result in any significant protection, they decided to look into strengthening the guardrails. In fact they decided to turn the entire bus body into one giant guardrail through the use of continuous longitudinal interior and exterior panels in the sides and roof of the body.
The design depended upon the use of long roll-formed steel panels that ran the entire length of the body. By reducing the number of joints, the risk of separation was significantly reduced and by using a sandwich of interconnected inner and outer panels, they could further strengthen the body shell, in effect giving it a wraparound guardrail.
Branded the Lifeguard, the new school bus design debuted in 1973 and would remain the firm’s greatest achievement since the debut of the Wayne all-steel body in 1930.
Additional benefits to the Lifeguard included lower weight, reduced quantities of fasteners and a consequent reduction in man-hours needed for assembly. The only downside was the initial investment in roll-form presses that were capable of producing the extra-long body panels.
It wasn’t until April 1, 1977 that the Federal Government would address the issue of school bus safety when the U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for school buses took effect. And the government’s solution – increase use of adhesives – did not fully address the problem.
In 1975 Indian Head Inc. was purchased by the Thyssen-Bornemisza Group B.V., a Dutch holding company owned by Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (1921-2002). Thyssen-Bornemisza is mainly notable for his world-class art collection and his series of marriages to some of the world’s most beautiful women.
Under Thyssen-Bornemisza, Indian Head Inc. sold off much of its North American holdings.
Although Wayne incurred huge expenses when it re-tooled its Richmond facility in order to produce the Lifeguard body, they remained profitable into 1980 and were spared the Thyssen axe. However, the firm’s Cotner-Bevington plant in Blytheville, Arkansas was closed down in 1975 and it assets were sold to the Mid-Continent Conversion Co., a small ambulance builder located in Kansas City, Missouri.
Mid-Continent would later become Stratus Specialty Vehicles. Located at 12600 N. Woodlands Ave., Kansas City, the firm is now doing business as Mid-America Coach, specializing in mid-size bus, mobility and wheelchair van, shuttle, and small bus sales.
In a 1979 news article, Wayne’s president, Dwayne Shields, told the story of Wayne’s stillborn entry into the taxi-cab market:
The 1973 EMS Systems Act had virtually eliminated all passenger car-based ambulance production by 1977 and Miller-Meteor only built 21 ambulances during the year. Only four were built in 1978 and by 1979 Miller-Meteor was reduced to a single line of professional vehicles - hearses. With sales down and prospects dim, The company announced the end of operations on November 1, 1979 and on December 13, 1979 the plant was closed down. There would be no 1980 Miller-Meteor products.
The company laid-off 252 employees and terminated the contracts of their 34 North American distributors.
The two legendary 1983-1984 Miller-Meteor three-door Eldorado hearses were the brainchild of Spencerville, Ohio's Jack Hardesty, the owner of a small funeral home supply company called the Barron Corp. Hardesty was also Lima, Ohio's first sports and imported car dealer and went on to found the Lima Coach Co, a hearse conversion company that specialized in Dodge Caravans.
When Miller-Meteor went out of business in 1979, Barron Corp. purchased the trade name of the once-famous coachbuilder. He also owned the local Ziebart franchise, and most of the work on the second Eldorado was done in the large Ziebart shop. Bud Bayliff assisted Hardesty in building and engineering the first 1983 Eldorado prototype which was constructed at Bayliff's Lima, Ohio body shop.
In late 1984 Hardesty sold the rights to the Miller-Meteor trade name along with the tooling for the Eldorado coaches - which also happened to fit Cadillac's new 1985 front-wheel-drive DeVilles - and the second 1984 Eldorado prototype to Collins Industries of Hutchinson, Kansas. Hardesty's front drive tooling was the basis for the 1985 Collins-built Miller-Meteor-Cadillac front drive coaches which were produced in Hutchinson through 1992.
The Heritage Coach Co. of Skippack, Pennsylvania, a division of Lankford Buick Pontiac GMC Inc. of Norristown, PA, purchased the Eureka tooling and trade name from the firm's receivers. Within the year Mark Lankford and Bob Williams had established a new firm called CCE Inc. to manufacture Eureka-badged funeral coaches and limousines in a new plant in Norwalk, Ohio. In 1993 the firm, now known as Eureka Coach, CCE Inc., purchased another classic funeral coach producer - Miller-Meteor - from Collins Industries of Hutchinson, Kansas.
Located at 600 Industrial Parkway in Norwalk, Ohio, CCE Inc. was a union (UAW) shop that employed from 80 to 120 employees and enjoyed a QVM ‘‘Qualified Vehicle Modifier’’ rating from Ford Motor Company as well as Cadillac's ‘‘Master Coach Builder’’ certification.
In 1999, CCE Inc. sold the combined Eureka and Miller-Meteor operation and trade-names to the nation's largest producer of funeral vehicles - Accubuilt Inc. who moved it to their new (in 1995) 175,000-square-foot facility in Lima, Ohio.
In August 2001, Accubuilt purchased the assets of Vartanian Industries, a small shuttle and wheelchair van converter and moved their operations to the Lima, plant.
Today, 220 skilled Accubuilt employees manufacture $45.90 Million Dollars worth of quality vans and professional vehicles for five distinct brand names: Vartanian, Eureka Coach, Miller-Meteor, S&S (Sayers & Scovill) and Superior.
The entire bus industry experienced a notable decrease in sales as the baby boomers completed their educations and in 1979-1980 a number of Wayne’s competitors were sold, reorganized or liquidated. Ward Bus was the first to go and in 1980 the Superior Coach division of Sheller Globe.
Wayne started experiencing losses in 1981 and by 1983, the losses were reportedly in the millions and the firm warned the UAW and its distributors that the firm was up for sale. The Union made a number of concessions to help keep the firm in business, and in 1985 Wayne Corp. and its Canadian subsidiary, Welles Corp. Ltd. were sold to Richmond Transportation Corp.
Richmond Transportation was formed in late 1984 by California venture capitalist Jack M. Dekruif and a group of current Wayne executives headed by Terry G. Whitesell. The firm remained solvent into 1986 and its Chaperone line of cutaway buses did well in the marketplace against tough competition.
While the firm was owned by Thyssen, it had been privately held and in the fall of 1986 Dekruif and Whitesell had hoped to take the firm public. However the stock market crash of October 1986 forced the cancellation of its IPO.
The Canadian transportation giant, Laidlaw, had been Wayne’s largest customer for a number of years, but in 1986 they split their new bus orders between Wayne and the reorganized Ward Bus of Conway, Arkansas which was now doing business as AmTran Corp. (American Transportation Corp.).
During the 1960s and early 1970s Wayne produced a rear-engined transit-style bus for the US Government on a military contract which ended in 1973. Wells Corp. also developed a rear-engined transit prototype, but it was never placed into production.
A May 1987 fire destroyed the Drouillard Rd. plant of Welles Corp. in Windsor, Ontario. With the cooperation of the city of Windsor, Welles was able to stay in business, and rebuilt the factory on the former Sheller-Globe CAW Mfg. facility located on Marentette St.
In 1988 Wayne introduced an all-new transit (flat face) bus called the Lifestar. Unlike many transit-style buses, the Lifestar was designed as a front engined bus and was built for use on a General Motor’s new purpose-built S-7 forward control chassis. Like the Lifeguard, it included Wayne’s continuous longitudinal interior and exterior side and roof panels.
The Lifestar featured a standard length flat-face bus body mounted on a short-wheelbase chassis. A small turning radius enabled it to easily navigate crowded city streets, however it also gave the vehicle a harsher ride than a comparable long-wheelbase bus.
The S-7 chassis had been designed for the Lifestar and General Motors hoped that other bus manufacturers would adopt it. They didn’t, and after two years of limited manufacture, GM discontinued the unprofitable chassis in 1989.
One resourceful Wayne bus dealer - Bus & Bodies Inc. of Plaistow, New Hampshire – liked the Lifestar so much that he located a suitable Korean-built short-wheelbase chassis that would fit, and imported then under the Asia-Smith brand. Asia for its continent of origin and Smith for Bus & Bodies’ owner, Milton H. Smith.
Unfortunately the Asia-Smith chassis was not well received and Wayne contracted with Navistar to supply them with a replacement, a forward control version of their popular International 3800 bus chassis, which was called the 3900 FC.
Leftover Asia-Smith chassis were sold to New Bus Inc., a small Chickasha, Oklahoma bus manufacturer that took over the bus manufacturing facility of Carl-Built, Inc., which had been started by Carl Greene Jr., a Superior Coach bus dealer. A handful of New Bus / Asia-Smith forward control buses were built between 1989 and 1990.
Wayne’s conventional-chassised Lifeguard buses continued to struggle in the decreasing school bus market and in April of 1990, Richmond Transportation announced that the Welles Corp. assembly plant in Windsor would close for good in June of that year.
At about the same time Wayne sold the rights and tooling for their Busette cutaway buses to Mid-Bus, a small bus manufacturer headquartered in Lima, Ohio. Mid-Bus was formed by former employees of the Superior Coach Co. in 1981 and relocated to Bluffton, Ohio in 1995. It was purchased by the Collins Bus Corp. of South Hutchinson, Kansas in 1998, and the Bluffton facility was closed in 2007 and operations were consolidated with those of its parent company in Kansas.
In late 1989 Navistar had introduced a chassis which could be used with the Lifestar body and Wayne Lifestar production on the International 3900 FC chassis commenced in 1990. Other firm’s purchased the International forward control chassis, and of particular importance was its adoption by AmTrans, formerly Ward Body Co.
AmTrans developed a both a front- and rear-engined bus using the 3900 FC chassis, and Navistar like it so much that they purchased a 1/3 interest in the firm (American Transportation) in early 1991.
The purchase would prove to be the proverbial “final nail in the coffin” for Wayne. Navistar, their chief supplier had just purchased AmTrans, their main competitor. Although Navistar continued to supply Wayne with chassis, the firm’s future looked bleak, and industry insiders were more succinct, predicting that Wayne would be out of business in a matter of months.
The insiders were correct and in August of 1992, Richmond Transportation Corp., - Wayne’s owner – filed for bankruptcy protection. In February 1993 a military contractor named BMY Wheeled Vehicles purchased most of the firm’s tangible assets for $2.1 million.
BMY, a subsidiary of the Harsco Corp., transferred all bus building operations to its Marysville, Ohio plant at 13311 Industrial Parkway where it continued to manufacture small numbers of Lifeguards and Lifestars under the Wayne Wheeled Vehicle brand. Various chassis were utilized and a number of Lifestars were built using CCC forward control chassis between 1992 and 1995.
Unfortunately Harsco’s BMY-Wheeled Vehicles Division, which was for many years a major manufacturer of 2˝-ton trucks for the US Army, did not see the contract renewed and Harsco pulled the plug their Marysville operations in 1995, and along with it Wayne Wheeled Vehicles.
In 1995 Carpenter Industries closed down their antiquated Mitchell, Indiana factory and moved into the former 550,000 sq. ft. Wayne plant in Richmond where they produced school buses and walk-in vans into 2000 when the plant was shut down. In 2005 a revitalization plan was proposed by a group of Richmond investors who purchased the facility in the hopes of turning it into a mixed-use business park.
© 2004 Mark Theobald - Coachbuilt.com, with special thanks to Bernie deWinter IV.
Appendix 1: Divco Patents