Alphabetical Index|A|B|C|D|E|F|G|H|I|J|K|L|M|N|O|P|Q|R|S|T|U|V|W|X|Y|Z


quicklinks|buses|cars|customs|designers|fire apparatus|limos|pro-cars|taxis|trailers|trucks|woodies

G.A. Wood & Co., Wood Hydraulic Hoist (& Body Co.), Gar Wood Industries
G.A. Wood & Co., 1908-1911: Wood Hydraulic Hoist Co., 1912-1914; St Paul Minn.; Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Co., 1913-1933; Gar Wood Industries 1922-1971; Detroit, Michigan & Wayne, Michigan; Gar Wood Industrial Division of Gar Wood Industries; Gar Wood Boat Division of Gar Wood Industries, Marysville, Mich.; Gar Wood Division of Sargent Industries 1971-1979; Gar Wood Division of Clement Industries, 1979-present; Minden, Louisiana
Associated Firms
Detroit Marine-Aero Engine Co., Detroit, Mich.; Hydraulic Hoist Mfg. Co., St. Paul, Minn.; National Lift Company, Waukesha, Wisconsin; United Metal Craft Co., Ypsilanti, Michigan; Phil Wood Industries Ltd., 1922-1971; Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Although Commodore Garfield A. Wood, (b. December 4, 1880 - d. June 19, 1971) remains well-known as America’s most popular and successful power boat racer, the business ventures that funded his hobby remain mostly undocumented, save for the initial creation (a hydraulic lift for dump trucks) that jump-started his business activities.

During his life he spent a substantial amount of his fortune on sleek, power-packed racing boats and in November of 1953 Gar Wood, the ‘Gray Fox of Algonac,’ (so-named due to his white hair and the Michigan town where his racing boats were constructed) was named one of the immortals of the sport by the American Power Boating Association, who listed his accomplishments as follows:

“Winner of four Gold Cups and first victor for the United States of the Harmsworth British International Trophy and successful defender of it seven times; he once beat a Twentieth Century Railroad train from Albany to New York by several minutes in one of his speedboats, and again raced and won against a train from Miami to New York.”

Wood won the Harmsworth Trophy with one of a long series (I thorugh IX) of Miss Americas and held the international motor-boat racing record from 1932 until 1937.

He's also well-known among wooden powerboat collectors for his beautiful mahogany-hulled runabouts which were constructed from the early 1920s into the late 1940s in Marysville, Michigan. Amongst today's collectors Gar Wood watercraft are considered the Buicks of the wooden runabouts, with Hacker Craft occupying the top spot (Cadillac) and Chris-Craft third position (Chevrolet).

Wood was awarded 30 US patents during his lifetime, most of which were related to hydraulic lifts and truck bodies although several were related to multi-engine marine drives, boats and an autopilot.

Gar Wood Industries specialized in the manufacture and distribution of boats, engines, hoists, winches, refuse compactors, truck bodies and trailers, buses, scrapers, blades, crane shovels and a attachments for the construction industry. A majority of the divisions follow:

Attachments Division (attachments, Buckeye ditchers and Continental scrapers for the construction industry); Boat Division (Gar Wood power boats, military vessels); Bus/Motor Coach Division (mfd. vehicles based on the designs of William Stout); Heating & Air Conditioning Division (AC units, gas heaters, water heaters, boilers); Hydraulic Hoist & Lift Division; Industrial Division; Road Machinery Division; St. Paul Hydraulic Hoist and Body Division (hydraulic hoists, truck bodies and truck road graders); Tank Division (truck tanks & trailers); Truck Body Division (refuse bodies and compactors); Winch Division (Gar Wood & Mead Morrison cranes, derricks, wreckers, etc.).

Several were named after their locations, rather than their line of business. The firm's main plant in Wayne, Michigan housed several divisions and was generally referred to as the ‘Wayne Division’. Wood’s second business enterprise (Wood Hydraulic Hoist Co.), a co-partnership with Grant Waldref, was located in St. Paul, Minn. and was later known as the St. Paul Hydraulic Hoist and Body Division. Established in 1950, the Richmond Division was a 130,000 sq. ft. facility located in the former Kaiser shipyard in Richmond, California that provided truck equipment to six western states. The plant that manufactured ditchers in Findlay, Ohio was referred to as the ‘Findlay Division’ and later on as ‘Buckeye Division’ (it was eventually acquired by The Superior Equipment Co.). The National Lift Company Division was a reorganization of the National Truck Equipment Co. of Waukesha, Wisconsin. The United Metal Craft Co. of Ypsilanti, Michigan was another subsidiary that merged into the parent company on October 16, 1958.

At one time or another Wood operated satellite factories in Wayne, Mich.; Ypsilanti, Mich.; Newark, NJ; Enterprise, Alabama; Mattoon, Illinois; Brighton, Mass.; Findlay, Ohio; Exeter, Penn; Los Angeles, Calif; San Francisco, Calif.; St, Paul, MN; Minneapolis, MN; Waukesha, Wis.; Richmond, Calif.; and Shewsbury, Shopshire, United Kingdom.

Gar's eight brothers (Harvey D., Winfield C., Logan T., George B., Edward J., Philip S., Louis E., and Clinton W. Wood) were all involved in the business with Philip (b.1893-d.1972) controlling the manufacture and distribution of Wood hoists and bodies in Canada through Phil Wood Industries, which was headquartered at 857 Tecumseh Blvd., Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

Gar Wood was born on December 4, 1880 in Mapleton, Monona County, Iowa to Walter Willis (b. March, 1849 in Ohio – d. Dec. 5, 1912) and Elizabeth (*Burr – b.1859 in Minn. - d. Jun. 23, 1932 in Detroit, Mich.) Wood. Our subject was named after recently-elected President James Garfield and Vice President, Chester Arthur. (*One source gives her maiden name as Benton.)

Walter W. Wood was a Civil War veteran who ran away from home at the age of 15 to join the Union Army where he served as a drummer boy. After the War Walter worked at a variety of jobs, eventaully settling in Mapleton, where he ran a small grocery store. In the 1860s his wife's family  relocated from New York to Minnesota, in order to establish a stagecoach line running between St. Paul and Duluth.

Garfield was the third born of *12 children, whose names and birth order follow: Harvey D. (b. Jan.1876 in Minn.); Bessie B. (b. Aug. 1877 in Iowa); Garfield A. (b.Dec.1880 in Iowa); Winfield C. (b.May,1885 in Minn.); Logan T. (b.Jan.1887 in Minn.); George B. (b.Oct.1889 in Minn.); Edward J. (b.Oct.1891 in Minn.); Philip S. (b.Jan.1893 in Minn.); Louis E. (b.Nov.1895 in Minn.); Ester B. (b.April,1897 in Minn.); Clinton W. (b.Nov.1899 in Minn.) and Dorothy M. (b.1902 in Minn.) Wood. (* Some sources state 13 children, but do not elaborate.)

The 1875 Minnesota State Census places Walter W. Wood in St. Paul Minnesota although they relocated to Mapleton, Monona County, Iowa, where they lived between 1877 and 1881, the 1880 US Census listing Walter, Lizzie, Harvey and Bessie Wood as Mapleton residents, with Walter’s given occupation as grocer.

About 1883, the Wood family moved to Osakis, Todd/Douglas County, Minnesota where Walter found work on the Great Northern Railroad during the winter and during the summer tourist season operated the Manitoba, a small steam paddleboat that took tourists up, down and across Lake Osakis, a 10-mile long resort lake located 120 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

Young Garfield's business career started around the age of 8 when he started working for a dairy farmer for a reported $40 a month. At the age of 12 he established his own Osakis Lake fishing excursions, taking visitors around the Lake for $1 per trip. He also tried his hand at constructing scale ship models propelled by small 'clockwork' motors constructed using components  sourced from spring-wound alarm clocks.

As he grew older he often worked for his father on the Manitoba, and at that time another ferry, the 61 foot 'Mary Mann' (aka 'Belle of Osakis' - named after the owner's wife Mary Mann), plyed the same waters and a rivalry developed between Captain Wood and the Mary Mann's pilot, Jacob Wesley Mann. In the September 1935 issue of The Rudder, Wood describes the day the two vessels went head-to head, an event which had a great effect on his life in later years:

“During the year of 1885 I received my first taste of boat racing. I was two years old then, and the Wood family had moved to Lake Osakis, Minnesota, where my father operated a clumsy old wood-burning steamboat, the Manitoba, as a ferry across the lake. There was another ferry on the lake owned by a Wesley Mann, and named for him, and considerable rivalry existed between the two boats. Whenever we met, an informal race took place; the speeds were slow but the excitement was terrific.

“When I was eight the race to end all races and decide for all time the championship of Lake Osakis was held. One day, when the Manitoba was plying over the lake in the course of her daily duties, the Mann appeared from behind going full speed. My father was the wheel of the Manitoba and my brothers and I (the entire crew) were looking after the fired and doing odd jobs around the deck. As soon as the Mann came abreast of us, we crowded on all steam and the race of the century began. Our old boat slowly but surely drew ahead, then, when we still had a mile or more to go, we discovered that we didn’t have enough fuel to finish at top speed.

“‘Break up the furniture,’ yelled my father, so we set to with axes smashing every available piece of woodwork and feeding it to the furnace. We won the race but there wasn’t a table or chair left on board when we got to shore. As nearly as I can remember we averaged eight miles an hour.”

Wood later recalled:

“I still feel the thrill of winning that race. The engines driving those paddlewheels fascinated me. I resolved right then that someday I was going to build race boats of my own.”

The entire Wood family moved to Duluth, Minnesota in 1890 as Walter had taken a position with the Lakeside Land Company, a real estate developer. The elder Wood then took a postion with the US Government as captain of the steam launch Tangent and the propellor-driven Vidette, two boats that were used for surveying the Lake Superior coastline during the planning and construction of the Duluth harbor. 12-year-old Gar was also provided with a government position, detailed in his 1935 article in The Rudder:

“Some years later, after the family had moved to Duluth, Minnesota, when I was nearly out of high school, three motor boats were bought and put in service in the harbor by the Government Engineering Department. I was intensely interested in them and when an expert from the boat factory came down to put the engines in shape I tagged him all around and succeeded in landing a part time job working around the boats.”

The 1896 Duluth directory lists his father’s occupation as capt., tug Mayflower, r. 4711 Pitt, Duluth. Garfield is not listed although his brother Harvey is, occupation engineer, same address.

While in Duluth Gar attended the Lakeside Elementary School but was more interested in his vocational career which in additiion to his job with the Federal government included a stint as a boatman for the Duluth Boat Club as well as an electrician for the Duluth Telephone Co. The 1899 Duluth directory lists his father as capt. str. Tangent, r. 5812 Grand Ave E., Duluth. Garfield is listed as a boatman, US Eng. Corps., same address. The 1900 US Census lists Garfield’s occupation as ‘boatman’, his father ‘Captain, steamboat’ and his older brother Harry ‘machinist, US Navy’, their address 5812 Grand Ave. E., Duluth, Minn. Gar detailed his experiences with operating early gasoline launches for the US Engineering Corps in his 1935 Rudder article:

“My first real job, which influenced my whole life, was partly due to a red-headed girl. The Army major in charge of the boats was in love with the girl and wanted to take her on picnics across the lake. He needed someone to run the engine for him so I was appointed, after demonstrating I could run the engines. The picnics were a decided success. The major made marvelous headway and I learned a lot about marine engines and boats.

“I worked on those boats several years, at a salary of 45 dollars a month. The boats were used principally to carry engineering inspectors from one job to another. In the day’s travel they got almost as much thrill as we do now from a major race. In those days there was no carburetion system in gasoline engines. We used high-test gasoline and air valves. The power would drop as the engines were used and usually after a few hours they were pretty weak. You would have to keep the air valve closed; if you opened it, there was a backfire. I decided that if I could get gasoline into the engine in conjunction with the air I could keep up power, so I experimented with a squirt can. I would open the air valves and squirt in gasoline; thus I had the crude equivalent of a modern carburetor. Those old-type engines had their spark fixed. Advanced spark had not yet been invented but by a system of trial and error I discovered that sticking a screw-driver between the spark cam and the roller advanced the spark and increased the power of the engine and made the boat run faster. With a squirt can and a screw-driver our engine was speeded up and we invariably won. We kept the secret.

“As we cruised over those Minnesota waters at eight or ten miles an hour I used to dream of myself building and driving the fastest boat in the world and winning important trophies. Little did I know that this ambition would be realized. But later events made them possible and I humbly thank the read-headed girl and hope that she lived happily ever after.”

His job with the US Engineering Corps ended soon after the turn of the century and in 1903 Gar embarked on a course of study at the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago. Founded in 1890 with a $1 million endowment by Chicago meat packer Philip D. Armour Sr., the institute provided its students with a well-rounded vocational education in architecture, chemistry, draughting, electricity, engineering, and library science.

Upon his return to Duluth Gar took a job with the Zenith Telephone Co.,  whoe wer in the midst of a $1 million expansion. The 1904 Duluth directory lists him living with his parents at 4890 London Rd., his occupation, electrician, the 1905 Minnesota State Census also places him in Duluth as a marine and electrical engineer.

In early 1905 Garfield took a position as the Duluth sales representative for the Minnesota Ford distributor. The Model T had yet to be invented, and the latest Ford was the Model N, successor to the Model A. His early interest in speed is revealed in a 1905 municipal court case where he was charged with carelessly and negligently operating an automobile at a high rate of speed, the May 30th, 1905 issue of the Duluth Herald reporting:

"Edward M. Kelley has brought suit against A. H. Smith and Garfield A. Wood, in municipal court to recover judgment for $60 alleged to be due as damages for running over and fatally injuring the former's dog. with an automobile. Mr. Kelley, in his complaint says he had a valuable fox terrier and that May 8. at London road and Forty-second avenue east Messrs. Smith and Wood came along in an automobile running at high speed and carelessly and negligently ran over the dog."

The 1906 Duluth directory lists him with his parents at 5812 E. Superior, his occupation, manufacturer’s agent. The 1907 Duluth directory provides a business address, 301 W. Michigan St. and a new home address, 1722 30th Ave. E., his occupation manufacturer’s agent.

He later stated he sold 10 cars in his first year in business but was eventually forced to close his doors due to a lack of new inventory. Wood later sued the Ford distributor and won his case, but by that time he had returned to working as an engineer, his occupation in the 1908 Duluth directory being 'electrical engineer'.

In early 1908 Wood left Duluth for St. Paul where he took a position with the local Ford dealer, the Northwestern Automobile Company, whose listing in the 1908-1909 St. Paul Directory follows:

“Northwestern Automobile Co., (W.E. Wheeler, pres. and treas.; George Dorr, vice-pres. and mngr.; Wm. Eggleston, sec.; 352 Market st.”

Wood was originally attracted to St. Paul via the racing boats of Duluth's resident yachtsman, Richard Schell, which were all constructed by the Joseph Dingle Boat Works, whose factory was situated on the shore of the Mississippi River. Wood recalled the move to St. Paul in The Rudder:

“When I stopped running the Government motor boats, automobiles were coming into general use and I decided to work as an automobile mechanic. Later I moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where I was married, and started selling the new automobiles Henry Ford was putting on the market.”

Wood supplemented his income from auto sales by teaching a course in automotive engineering at a local vocational school and by selling lightning rods to farmers, even inventing an induction-coil device to demonstrate their effectiveness. In 1909, in conjunction with Neils C. Christensen, Wood established his own automobile electric and novelty business, which was listed in the St Paul business directory starting as follows:

“G.A. Wood & Co. (Garfield A. Wood, Neils C. Christensen) elec. Novelty mnfrs., 100 E.12th

“Garfield A. Wood (G.A. Wood & Co.), rms 3281 E. University Av.”

The 1910 US Census list Garfield A. Wood in St. Paul, Minnesota as a boarder at 668 St. Peter Street, occupation electrician at an auto factory.

On September 14, 1910 (license taken out on September 12, 1910) he married Murlen M. Fellows (b. June 15, 1886 in Oakland, Alameda County, California - d. August 23, 1948 in Los Angeles - the daughter of Henry Romaine B. and Helen N. [Halliday] Fellows of Oakland, California) in Duluth, Hennepin County, Minnesota.

Although she was born in California, Woods met Murlen in Duluth while she was a student at Duluth's Central High School. After her 1904 graduation she attended the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, from which she graduated with a BA in 1908. Their marriage license, dated September 12, 1910, lists Gar’s address as 100 E. 12th St. St. Paul, Minn.

In his 1935 Rudder article Wood recalled his first cruise on the Mississippi:

“While I was in St. Paul a friend asked me if I would like to go on a cruise down the Mississippi with him in a new boat he had built. He wanted me to do the navigating and I was delighted to on a vacation.

“We took our wives along and arrived in Dubuque on the morning some motor races were being held. As we were going alongside the dock I saw a man tinkering with the engine of a racing boat called the Leading Lady. When we ran past her I asked the man in the boat if I could be of any help. He asked me aboard and, after a little while, we had the engine running nicely and took her down the river in a race. The banks of the river seemed to fly past me; I had never gone so fast in my life. When we got back, whistles were blowing and people were cheering and we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of an excited crowd. ‘You did that ten-mile run at 30 miles an hour,’ someone said. ‘You’ve’ broke the world’s record!’ The thrill of breaking a world’s record has never left me.”

The owner of the Leading Lady was William P. Cleveland, a chemist (invented an mine ore separator) and motor boat racing enthusiast from Joplin, Missouri. In 1911 Wood and Cleveland modified the hull and entered her in some races on the old Mississippi Valley Power Boat Association circuit in the Mid-West. They managed to win a few trophies but lacked the financing to be truly competitive.

Wood recalled the first boat he constructed on his own in his 1935 Rudder autobiography:

“When I returned to St. Paul I built my first real speed boat. She was a single-step hydroplane similar to our present Miss America, but crude and small, The Little Leading Lady. Her hull cost me 40 dollars and the engine was the same one used in the Leading Lady which had made 30 miles an hour. The Little Leading Lady made 34 miles an hour and won every race in which she was entered.”

Although Wood was now directly involved in power boat racing, his limited funds made it neccessary to keep his mind open to additional money-making opportunities. While purchasing gears to build more demonstrators for his lightning protection business, Gar stumbled onto his first big invention and one that was to establish his fortune: the hydraulic hoist for dump trucks. He recalled how he accidentally stumbled upon a coal deliveryman jacking up the front end of his Pierce-Arrow delivery truck in The Rudder:

“One day I saw a truck driver dumping a five-ton load of coal by hand and got the idea which supplied me with the money to do the thing I had always wanted to do – boat racing and building. It took that truck driver nearly half an hour of hard work to tip the truck body to dump the coal. Why, I though, isn’t there some mechanical contrivance operated by the engine to do all that work for him? I studied this problem for a time – in fact, I thought of little else. What I needed was something simple and foolproof that could be operated by simply pulling a lever or pushing a button. Then I remembered the hydraulic cylinder on the old Manitoba which my father had used in reversing his engines. It was built on the general lines that I wanted, but I had to have something to pump high oil pressure with.

“I sent for details and catalogues of every gear pump made. None seemed to answer the exact purpose - the pressure and power were too low – but I tried one out and found the manufacturer had underestimated the qualities of his own product.”

He recalled breaking the news to Murlen that he needed to spend their life savings ($200) to produce a working prototype:

“I've got a new idea, a mechanical device for dumping trucks. Shall I put money in it? She was a good sport and said to go ahead - that $200 would not make or break us.”

Wood approached the local Pierce-Arrow truck distributor, Grant Waldref, manager of Waldref-Odell Motor Car Company, with a business proposition - Wood would design and construct a working prototype, and if it proved successful, Waldorf would supply the financing to put in into production.

Wood spent approximately $100 on the finished prototype which consisted of a 4½ ft. by 5 in. hydraulic cylinder, supplied with a glycerin-based hydraulic fluid all of which was kept under pressure by a small pump driven by the truck's engine. The upper end of the piston rod carried the hoisting pulleys and the cables which would be attached to the front of the body to be lifted. A reinforced steel framework kept the the pulleys and piston rod in close alignment with the truck chassis and the body.

Once completed Wood installed the lift on a short dump body attacehd to one of the Northwestern Fuel Company's Pierce-Arrow coal delivery trucks and invited a number of local business men, including Northwest's owner, to the Pierce-Arrow garage for a demonstration, Wood later recalled:

“The owner of the truck and a group of other men, who had been attending a party, heard of our experiment one night, and hurried to the garage. We were alll ready for the final job. Most o them were top-hatted and in formal dress; but they climbed into the truck body and we started the hoist. It shot up too fast and rolled a dozen well-dressed gentleman unceremoniously onto the floor. They took it good-naturedly enough, and there was an immediate demand for the device.”

Wood formally applied for a US patent on his 'Hydraulic Dump' on October 21, 1912 for which he was awarded US Pat. No. 1165825 on Dec 28, 1915 half of which was assigned to Grant Waldref, the Twin Cities Pierce-Arrow dealer.

Ulysses S. ‘Grant’ Waldref (b. Jan. 22, 1875 in Wells, Faribault County, Minn. - d. Mar. 27, 1950 in St. Paul, Minn.) born to Ambrose and Elizabeth (Jerome) Waldref. Married (#1) Olive Tozer on June 13, 1907 – produced 1 child, Grant Tozer Waldref, b. Jul. 25, 1908-d. Oct. 1, 1997; Married Catherine S. (??) in 1919, produced 1 child Jerome Waldref b.1921-d.2001). After college Waldref started his business career as an insurance salesman for the Mutual Life Ins. Co. of N.Y. in Clark, Minn., and by 1904 he became asst. mgr. of the firm’s St. Paul office and in 1910 partnered with Daniel A. Odell (b.1876-d.1935) a Wells, Minnesota banker in the establishment of the Waldref-Odell Motor Car Co. to handle the Pierce-Arrow car in the Twin Cities.

In late 1912 Wood and Waldref established the Wood Hydraulic Hoist Co. at 172 W. 5th street, St. Paul, in a building shared with Waldref's Pierce-Arrow agency. The building was razed in the late 1960s to make way for the St. Paul Civic Center which occupies the site today.

Wood's listing in the 1913 St Paul directory follows:

“Wood Hydraulic Hoist Co. (G.A. Wood) 172 W. 5th.

“Garfield A. Wood – (Wood Hydraulic Hoist Co.) r. Silver Lake.”

In 1913, Wood sold his interest in the company to Waldref and moved to Detroit, Mich. where he embarked upon the manufacture of hydraulic hoists and dump bodies in a big way. The interested parties' listing in the 1914 St. Paul directory reflects the various transactions:

“Waldref Motor Car Co. (Grant Waldref mgr.), 172 W. 5th.

“Wood Hydraulic Hoist Co. (Grant Waldref) 172 W. 5th.

“Grant Waldref (Wood Hydraulic Hoist Co.) mgr. Waldref Motor Car Co., rms. The St. Paul.

“Garfield A. Wood – moved to Detroit, Mich.”

The company continued under the name, 'Wood Hydraulic Hoist Co.' until August 17, 1917 when Waldref rerorganized the firm as the Hydraulic Hoist Manufacturing Company. The firm was highlighted in the 1920 edition of the Power Wagon Reference Book as follows:

“Hydraulic dumping bodies and hoists are made by the Hydraulic Hoist Mfg. Co., St. Paul, Minn. Company established 1912. Owner and gen. mgr., Grant Waldref; engineer, R. Lindbloom. Products: Hydraulic hoists in two sizes: light duty for 2 and 3 ton trucks, heavy duty for 3½ -ton and larger; dumping bodies in seven models of all capacities. Description: The hoists are made to fit the truck  on which they are applied, using cast-steel manifold bracket to support the pump and clutch and eliminate high-pressure pipe, standard type with pump mounted integral with base. A power take-off is furnished with hoists for trucks having a side opening in the transmission. The hoist equipment includes universal sheave action, standard hoist control, steel forged bases on all models, accurately machined parts, uniform and interchangeable. Bodies are furnished complete with wood sills, hinges, body arm braces and tail-gate mechanism with a double-acting tail-gate. Special qualities claimed: Highly efficient methods in manufacture; improved driving mechanism; cast-steel manifold.”

A 1928 listing for the firm follows:

“Hydraulic Hoist Mfg. Co. (St. Paul hydraulic hoists for motor trucks, St. Paul steel dump bodies for motor trucks.) Gen Offices; 292 Walnut St., St. Paul, Minn. Plant; St. Paul, Minn.; Pres., Grant Waldref; Vice-Pres. & Gen Mgr., Carl F. Foster; Sec., E.J. Redland; Adv. Mgr. and Sales Mgr., V.L. Farnsworth.”

In 1930 Waldref sold his interest in the firm to Gar Wood, Roads & Streets magazine reporting:

“Of general interest to the trade is the announcement that the property and assets of the Hydraulic Hoist Manufacturing Company, St. Paul, Minn., builders of the well known "St. Paul Hoist," have been purchased by the Wood Hydraulic Hoist and Body Company of Detroit, Michigan.

“Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Company announces that the business of the Hydraulic Hoist Manufacturing Company will continue under the same management and St. Paul hoists and bodies will be marketed through the same dealer organization, who have so successfully handled St. Paul hoists and bodies in the past.

“Plans are in effect to build a body plant at St. Paul or Minneapolis to take care of the requirements for bodies specified for shipment with hoists out of St. Paul. The name of the company has been changed to St. Paul Hydraulic Hoist Company. The body plant will concentrate on a standard line of steel dump bodies particularly for use with the ‘St. Paul hoist’.”

On April 6, 1935 a fire completely destroyed the St. Paul plant and all of its records after which it relocated to a new facility in Minneapolis. Grant Waldref passed away on March 27, 1950 leaving an estate of close to $1 million, the July 5, 1951 Associated Press wire service reporting:

“Estate Totals $922,814.24, St. Paul (AP) — An estate of $922,814,24 was left by Grant Waldref, pioneer St. Paul auto dealer and founder of the St. Paul Hydraulic Hoist Co. Waldref died March 27.”

Garfield A. Wood established his Detroit factory in leased quarters located at 560 Franklin Street, one block south of E. Jefferson Ave., a stone's thow away from the Detroit River, just one block west of the current location of the Renaissance Center. During the next few years all eight of Gar's brothers joined him in the business whose listing in the 1914 Detroit Directory follows:

“Garfield A. Wood (Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Co.) 560 Franklin St.

“Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Co., (Garfield A. Wood) Manufacturers of Wood Hydraulic Hoists and All Steel Dump Bodies, 560 Franklin St. Tel. East 242.”

His listing in the 1915 Detroit Directory:

“Garfield A. Wood (Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Co.) res. Windsor, Ont.

“Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Co., (Garfield A. Wood) Manufacturers of Wood Hydraulic Hoists and All Steel Dump Bodies, 560 Franklin St. Tel. East 242.”

In the build-up to the First World War Wood received a number of sub-contracts to supply Pierce-Arrow and Packard with hydraulic hoists and dump bodies for the US Allies and US Army. As a result, Wood became a very wealthy man pouring the profits into increased manufacturing capacity, an improved and more diversified product line and, most famously, into his hobby of power boat racing.

Wood eventually moved to Algonac, St. Clair County, Michigan to personally oversee the production of his powerboats which were constructed by Algonac's Chris Smith and Sons Boat Company from 1916 into 1921. By that time, he had placed the day to day operations of his business in the hands of his brothers and for all intents and purposes became a full-time power boat racer and constructor - having purchased a controlling interest in the Smith boat works.

His involvement with Chris Smith stems from his 1916 purchase of Miss Detroit I at a noonday meeting of the Detroit Exchange Club. Originally constructed for a Detroit racing syndicate, The Miss Detroit Power Boat Association, the 205 hp Sterling-engined vessel had won all three heats of the 1915 Gold Cup, America's most coveted power boat racing trophy.

During the 1916 racing season, Miss Detroit I had been soundly defeated by Miss Minneapolis, a brand new Smith & Sons craft, and the Miss Detroit Syndicate needed to sell their old boat in order to finance construction of vessel capable of defeating Miss Minneapolis.

At the start of the auction, Lee Barrett, secretary of the Miss Detroit Powerboat Association, made a plea for some local Detroiter to help out the syndicate, and Gar Wood, flush with cash from his booming hyrdaulic hoist business, stepped up to the plate and became Miss Detroit I's new owner.

Wood then got into his automobile and took a 50 mile trip north to see the craft, which was located at the yards of Chris Smith & Sons in Algonac, Michigan, a border city located north of Lake St. Clair, on the western shores of the St. Clair River. The trip proved to be an eventful one, and during the ensuing months he comissioned a new Miss Detroit III from the Smith & Son boat works, eventually purchasing a controlling interest in the firm, during which time he established a summer residence at Algonac to personally oversee its design and construction.

As Wood's numerous boat-racing adventures are already well-documented and are generally unrelated to the rest of his business activities, I will concentrate on the latter from this point on. However it shouldn't come as a surprise that the partnership between Gar Wood and Chris Smith brought results - with Wood driving and Smith constructing - the pair won 5 straight Gold Cups from 1917-1921 and 2 Harmsworth trophies in 1920 and 1921.

Smith and Wood parted ways in 1923, with Smith forming Chris-Craft and Wood forming Gar Wood Inc. While Chris Craft would produce a large varity of leisure boating craft, Wood specialized in the construction of expensive gentleman's runabouts for wealthy individuals such as William Randolph Hearst and P.K. Wrigley.

By that time, Wood had three factories in Detroit, one in Windsor (Ontario, Canada), and an assembly plant in Paris, France, and had sold more than 60,000 hoists, many of which were paired with a Wood-built dump body.

The Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Co.'s listing in the 1916 Detroit Directory indicates they had moved into their new Bellevue Ave. plant sometime in late 1915:

“Garfield A. Wood (Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Co.) res. Windsor, Ont.

“Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Co., (Garfield A. Wood) 1026-1028 Bellevue Ave.”

An improved hoist was announced in the May 12, 1917 issue of Automobile Topics:

“Wood Hoist Has Improved Features – Dumps 3-Ton Load in Twenty Seconds

“Though the Wood hydraulic hoist for dumping trucks has proved most satisfactory in service, experience has shown its manufacturer, the Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Co., Detroit, where improvements could be made, and accordingly the type ‘E’ hoist, which is designed for dumping loads of from one to three tons, is offered with a number of features that result in even more satisfactory operation than before.

“As is well known to truck users, the Wood hoist consists essentially of a hydraulic cylinder, supplied with oil under pressure by a small pump driven from the engine of the car. The upper end of the piston rod carries the hoisting pulleys and the cables which are attached to the body to ‘be tilted. Among the improvements the pivoted equalizing cross arm is important. It is of reinforced steel and carries the pulleys or sheaves, allowing the body arms to be set outside of the chassis line. This feature prevents distortion and avoids interferences with transmission, brake rods, gearshift rods and other parts. The clutch and pump driving mechanism are new and include positive locking jaws that cannot disengage while the hoist is in operation. A self-aligning drive clamp and ring compensate for inaccuracy in the driving shaft. The piston rod is of hollow Shelby seamless steel, designed to resist bending. The hoist will elevate the end of a body six feet, so that a three-ton load can be dumped in from 15 to 20 seconds.”

On March 31, 1918 the union of Gar and Murlen Wood was blessed with the birth of a son, Garfield Arthur Wood Jr. (b. March 31, 1918 - d. Jan 1997). A photograph to the right is a rare one that shows all nine Wood brothers together at one time. It was taken at the 1918 Gold Cup Races in Detroit and shows Gar Wood, Clinton Wood, Edward Wood, George Wood, Harvey Wood, Logan Wood, Louis Wood, Phil Wood and Winfield Wood.

After the birth of Garfield Arthur Wood Jr., Wood concentrated all of his intellectual effort on his racing career, leaving the day-today affairs of the Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Co. to his more than capable brothers. The change can also be seen in his patent applications. From 1912-1918 he applied for 18 patents, all of which were direcly related to his hydraulic hoists and truck bodies. Although he applied for another 12 patents in the years 1922-1945 they were all related to his boat racing activities, save for a couple of inventions he  developed for military use during the Second World War.

During the First World War the Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Co. supplied large numbers of lifts and truck bodies to the Allies, but soon after the Armistace was signed, got back to business as usual as evidenced by the following article / advertisement in the June 15, 1919 Commercial Car Journal:

“Wood Hydraulic Hoist and Steel Dump Bodies

“Hydraulic hoists and steel dump bodies are so universally used and are so commonly seen that the dealers and, in fact, contractors do not give them the investigation and thought that they should. They know that dump outfits work but it is not generally known that a dumping unit saves a great deal of money. The Wood Hydraulic Hoist and Body Company, of Detroit, have been making hoists and steel dump bodies for years and have given the dumping proposition a great deal of study.

“One essential factor that must be adhered to is the proper load distribution, so that the chassis is not subjected to any undue strain. Likewise, with the proper load distribution, no undue strain is placed on the hoist which goes to make a perfect dumping unit. The makers state that with a Wood hoist it is possible to dump a capacity load in 15 seconds. After the commodity has been dumped, the driver can start immediately without waiting for the body to come back into position. This seems a small item but in figuring the cost of a job every minute counts.

“In road building dumping units are absolutely necessary. When a restricted tail-gate device is used in connection with a dump body, sand or gravel can be spread along the road in any desired thickness. This, in itself, saves dollars in labor and time. In using an end dump body, the commodity can be placed just where it is needed and, by use of a vertical hoist located directly behind the driver's seat, the proper lift is obtained. The Wood hoist can be installed on any make of chassis and, if at any time the dump unit is not needed, it may be taken off the chassis very easily.”

After World War I, Gar Wood acquired 4,500 surplus Beardmore, Fiat, Hispano-Suiza, Mercedes, and Liberty aero engines from the US government and several manufacturers forming the Detroit Marine-Aero Engine Company to convert them to marine use, the December 9, 1921 issue of the Wall Street Journal reporting:

“Detroit - Detroit Marine Aero Engine Co. is being organized here and will erect a factory in Highland Park. Negotiations with the Government for purchase of 50 carloads of engines and accessories have been completed. The engines will be marketed as they stand for aviation purposes and rebuilt for marine uses. Among the men interested in the enterprise are A.A. Schantz, president of D. & C. Navigation Co., Garfield A. Wood, president of Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Co.; Carl G. Fisher and James A. Allison of Indianapolis.”

The firm was capitalized at $100,000 and all four partners were prominent Detroit yachtsman: A.A. Schantz ran the Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Co., a Great Lakes passenger ship line; Carl G. Fisher and James A. Allison were longtime business partners. Both helped found the Indianapolis 500, Fisher made a fortune in real estate and Allison went on to found the Allison Engine Co. which was acquired by GM in 1928.

According to Gar's nephew, Walter W. Wood, the son of Logan T. Wood:

"I remember Detroit Aero-Marine Engine Co. as a warehouse with crated engines stacked three or four high. Most were Libertys - built by Packard, Ford, Marmon Herrington and others. I remember my father remarking that Liberty engines could be had for less than the price of the cheapest hoist and body."

Gar Wood Inc. used the Liberty engines in their 33-foot 'Baby Gar' runabouts, and by the late 1920s most every high-speed runabout in the country had an engine sourced from Detroit Aero-Marine.

The 1920 Detroit Directory lists the following address for the firm:

"Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Co.; Garfield A. Wood, pres.; Carrie Wood, secretary; 4196 (formerly 1026-1028) Bellevue Ave.; Steel Body Plant at 7935 (formerly 1789) Hartwick; and Plant No. 3 at 7930 (formerly 84) Guilloz St."

In 1921 Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Co. moved into a new facility located at 7924-7960 Riopelle Street, between Clay Ave. (now Clay street) and Euchild Ave. in the Hamtramck township of Detroit, which was located across the street from Plant No. 3 at 7930 Guilloz St.

The firm's listing in the 1921 Detroit Directory follows:

“Garfield A. Wood (pres. Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Co.) res. Algonac, Mich.

“Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Co., (Garfield A. Wood, pres.; Carrie Wood, sec.) 7924-7960 Riopelle Street, plant 7930 Guilloz.”

The 1923 Detroit Directory only lists the 7924-7960 Riopelle St. address so it's assumed that Wood had consolidated its Detroit operations into the new plant by this time.

A new remote-controlled underbody hoist was introduced in the February 15, 1922 issue of The Commercial Vehicle:

“A New Wood Hoist – is of the under-body type and works by hydraulic pressure, controlled from the driver’s seat

“A new Wood hoist, of the under-body type, has been placed on the market. The construction of this hoist is very simple, consisting principally of a hydraulic cylinder assembly which acts directly on cams attached to the underside of the body by means of rollers carried on a cross-shaft at the end of the piston rod.

“Pressure for operating the hydraulic piston is obtained from the Wood gear pump, which is the standard pump used on the Wood vertical and horizontal hydraulic hoists. The pump consists of two cut steel spur gears which operate in oil.

“The rollers on the end of the piston rod act directly on inclined tracks attached to the underside of the body, thus transmitting motion of the piston to the body, tilting same on its hinges to the correct dumping angle.

“Control is from the driver's seat. The hoist is a complete unit ready for attachment to the chassis. Loads are dumped in from 10 to 15 sees.'

“Three sizes of hoists are built, the Model F-1 for a 1 to 1 ½ -ton chassis, the Model F-2 for 2 to 2 1/2 tons, and the Model F-4 for 3 to 7½ tons. Prices are respectively $220, $340 and $375. These prices cover the hoist assembly, power take-off, body cams, and control parts.

“Two models designed for use on Fords and the Reo Speed Wagon are also manufactured.

“This type of under-body hoist enables the full length of the loading space on the chassis to be utilized. The hinging point for the body is on top of the chassis frame at the extreme rear end, resulting in the maximum height of the body rear end from the ground line when fully elevated. This feature enables the body to discharge its load in a heap or pile directly at the end of the body, and does not necessitate moving the truck ahead to discharge the load as would be the case if the body rear end was close to the ground when the body is elevated.

“A combination body of all-steel construction, type J-1, has been designed for the hoist. This body has removable sides and a double-acting tailgate. With the sides removed and the tailgate opened level with the floor a smooth platform is obtained, the tailgate forming an extension to same.

“This type of body is particularly adaptable for general haulage purposes and permits the use of a truck for general haulage purposes even when dumping of a load is not required. This body with its removable sides permits loading over the edge of the platform when brick, hollow cement blocks, and bag cement are handled.

“The company has also brought out other body types of all-steel construction, especially designed for use with the new hoist.”

In 1922 Gar Wood laid the cornerstone of the Detroit Yacht Club, whose clubhouse was designed along Spanish Renaissance lines by George D. Mason & Co., Detroit architects. It stands upon a small man-made island reclaimed at the expense of the club’s stockholders in exchange for a 99-year lease from the city.

By 1929 Gar Wood Inc.'s small Algonac plant was no longer capable of meeting the demand for Gar Wood boats and using experience gained in the volume production of hoists and truck bodies, Wood made plans for a new, modern factory designed to be the finest boat building factory in the world.

In 1930 at Marysville, Michigan Gar Wood opened the new factory that could produce 1200 custom quality boats a year. The same excellent standards of quality, finish and performance that had been a Gar Wood tradition would be maintained, with higher production and a new variety of models. Such was the optimism when the new Gar Wood factory opened right on schedule just 3 months after the nation was rocked by the stock market crash.

In 1930 Road & Streets magazine announced that Wood Hydraulic Hoist and Body Company had purchased the Hydraulic Hoist Manufacturing Co. of St. Paul, Minnesota, a firm originally found by Gar Wood in 1912:

“Of general interest to the trade is the announcement that the property and assets of the Hydraulic Hoist Manufacturing Company, St. Paul, Minn., builders of the well known "St. Paul Hoist," have been purchased by the Wood Hydraulic Hoist and Body Company of Detroit, Michigan.

“Wood Hydraulic Hoist & Body Company announces that the business of the Hydraulic Hoist Manufacturing Company will continue under the same management and St. Paul hoists and bodies will be marketed through the same dealer organization, who have so successfully handled St. Paul hoists and bodies in the past.

“Plans are in effect to build a body plant at St. Paul or Minneapolis to take care of the requirements for bodies specified for shipment with hoists out of St. Paul. The name of the company has been changed to St. Paul Hydraulic Hoist Company. The body plant will concentrate on a standard line of steel dump bodies particularly for use with the ‘St. Paul hoist’.”

Galion and Wood built all of the the dump, coal and garbage bodies offered by Ford on their heavy-duty AA and BB chassis during the 1930s. Wood also built longer low-sided hydraulic dump bodies as well as some long tree-service bodies that were built on stretched AA chassis with bogie wheels.

In December 1933 the company name was changed to Gar Wood Industries, which prospered during the Depression, posting profits of $48,668 for 1934; $684,306 in 1935, and $911,515 in 1936. From 1934 to 1936 sales doubled from $4.7 million to $9.4 million respectively.

In April of 1934 Gar Wood met President Franklin D. Roosevelt off the coast of Bemini aboard the USS Nourmahal to give him a demonstration of a new launch specifically designed for Naval service. Although  Roosevelt thought highly of the craft, Naval brass was less enthused and the craft didn't see production. The  launch was surprisingly similar to the PT Boats that proved extremely useful to Navy in the Pacific theater during the Second World War. Unfortunatley the PT Boat contract went to Elco with Gar Wood's Marysville plant relegated to building pilotless powerboats for use in training Naval gunners.

The June 16, 1936 issue of the New York Times formally announced Wood's pending retirement:

“GAR WOOD TO SELL PART OF HOLDINGS; Company Files Statement With SEC Covering 320,000 Shares of $3 Par Stock. CONTROL IS CUT TO 56.3% Detroit Concern Takes Option to Purchase at $9 a Share

“WASHINGTON, June 15. - The Gar Wood Industries of Michigan has filed under the Securities Act of 1933 a registration statement providing for the sale of 320,000 shares of $3 par value common stock held by its president, Garfield A. Wood, the motorboat racer. There are outstanding 800,000 shares of stock of which Mr. Wood owns or controls 770,446 of about 97 per cent. After the disposal of the 320,000 shares he will hold 56.3 per cent. The company has no funded debt.

“Mr. Wood has given to the Shader-Winckler Company of Detroit the right to purchase the 320,000 shares at $9 a share, an aggregated of $2,880,000, at any time within ninety days after the stock is legally available for sale to the public. If such stock is purchased Mr. Wood has agreed not to dispose of the remaining stock owned or controlled by him within a period of 180 days after the 320,000 shares are offered.

“The Shader-Winckler Company agrees not to sell any of the stock purchase by it at a price exceeding $11 a share. It may offer, however, a portion of the stock to dealers at the offering price less a commission of 50 cents a share.

“The company manufactures, sells and distributes a variety of products such as truck equipment, steel and aluminum trailers, winches, cranes electric car pullers, pole derricks, machinery, heating units, oil burners and fender guards and in the manufacture of motor coaches of rear engine design and construction. It has plants and agencies throughout the United States and distributors in England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, South America, Mexico, the Philippine Islands and Hawaii.

“The company was incorporated in January, 1922. In the year ended on Dec. 31 last, remuneration was reported as follows: Garfield A. Wood, president, $50,000; Logan Wood, vice president and general manager, $28,000; Glen A. Bassett, treasurer, $10,000.”

In 1937 Gar Wood Industries purchased the assets of Gar Wood Inc., the maker of motorboats, and operated it as a division, the January 5, 1938 edition of the New York Times reporting:

“Gar Wood Industries Expands

“Gar Wood Industries, Inc. has acquired the entire assets of Gar Wood Inc., motor boat builders of Marysville, Mich.”

Gar Wood's younger brother Logan passed away unexpectedly on March 28, 1936, the March 29, 1938 issue of the New York Times reporting:

“LOGAN WOOD, BROTHER OF SPEED-BOAT RACER; Detroit Industrialist Dies in California of Pneumonia

“San Francisco , March 28 (AP) - Logan Wood, Detroit industrialist and brother of Gar Wood, the speed boat builder and racer, died here today from a heart ailment and pneumonia. His age was 51. Mr. Wood, who was head of the Gar Wood Industries of Detroit, entered a hospital several days ago after becoming ill at the San Mateo home of a sister, Mrs. James C. Work. Burial will be at Detroit.

“Detroit, March 28. – Logan Thomas Wood was one of eight brothers of Gar Wood. He left here late in February for California, and during the floods which ravaged the Los Angeles area he contracted a severe cold which developed into pneumonia.

“Gar Wood flew to California from New York Sunday. Mrs. Edith Hancock Wood, wife of Mr. Wood, left by train last week and arrived at her husband’s bedside a short time before he died.

“The other surviving brothers and sisters are Harvey, Winfield George, Edward, Philip, Louis and Clinton W. Wood. Mrs. Frank McAllister and Mrs. Elizabeth Doston.”

Wood also manufactured some very streamlined tank bodies and semi-trailers in the mid-thirties. They also offered matching wheel spats - or fender skirts - that could be installed on the rear wheels of truck cabs, offering a very streamlined appearance to their customers. Both Gar Wood and Heil produced tank bodies specifically designed for use on the 1935-39 Dodge Airflow trucks.

"From from truck to bin - no dump and shovel" was the sales pitch for Wood's purpose-built semi-enclosed coal delivery body with a built-in conveyor released in 1938 as the 'Truckveyor'. Another specilized truck body introduced at the time was the 'Load Packer' a fully-enclosed refuse body equipped with heavy-duty hydraulic rams that packed the contents, allowing for a greatly increased capacity over the rubbish bodies offered by the compeitition. Although the LP-100 Load Packer was very pricey, it eventually caught on and by 1949, when it was replaced by the LP-200, Wood had delivered over 2,500 examples.

Another profitable line for Gar Wood was its Industrial Heating and Air Conditioning Division whose 1938 catalog offered a wide array of components:

"Manufacturers of Oil Burners, Oil Fired Air Conditioning Systems and Boiler Burners, Oil Fired Water Heaters and Gas Fired Air Conditioning Systems."

The flyer offered details on: "General Types of Equipment, Characteristics of Oil burners, Tempered-Aire Unit, Gas Fired Tempered-Aire, Model R Boiler Burner Unit, Rating and Dimensions, Indirect Air Conditioning Equipment, Conversion Oil Burners, Attic and Commercial Ventilator, and more".

During the 1930's Gar Wood Industries branched out into the construction equipment industry through the purchase of the Tractor Equipment division of the Continental Roll and Steel Foundry Co., the manufacturer of 2- and 4-wheel Continental Scrapers. Four-wheeled Gar Wood-Continental cable-controlled scrapers came in 9- to 19-yd. sizes while their hydraulic-controlled line offered capacities of 8- to 20-yds. The two-wheel line of scrapers were offered in capacities of from 3 to 11 yds. Also availaible were a line of cable- or hydraulically-operated rippers and one-to-three unit sheeps-foot rollers.

Gar Wood Industries got into the bus manufacturing business at about the same time. Soon after he completed a streamlined street car for Pullman, aircraft designer William B. Stout came up with a lightweight bus built along the same lines. Financing was secured to construct a prototype and Gar Wood's Detroit shops were selected to construct it. Stout applied for a domestic patent on the bus body's construction on August 19, 1936, and on June 7, 1938 was awarded US Patent No. 2119655 which he assigned to Gar Wood Industries Inc.

The unusual-looking streamliner consisted of a steel-paneled integral steel-tube monocoque chassis equipped with a rear-mounted flathead Ford V-8 that supplied motive power to the rear axle from the rear. A hatch at the front of the body held the spare tire and many of the suspension components were sourced from Ford. The unusual snout was said to improve airflow at highway speeds, and when combined with the lightweight coachwork the Stout-based coaches required significantly less fuel than their competition. After extensive testing by the Dearborn Coach Co., the firm ordered 24 examples to replace their aging fleet of Safeway Six Wheel and Fifth Avenue coaches. While the prototype Model C's headlights were placed abnormally low, production coaches featured a more conventional location, approximately 12 below the windshield. Dearborn Coach placed the first fleet of Gar Wood Coaches into service on the Dearborn to Detroit run on October 10, 1935.

A reported 75 of the original Gar Wood Type C coaches were constructed into 1937 when they were replaced with the more conventional-looking Model D coaches of which a reported 100 examples were constructed into early 1939. The Stout-designed Gar Wood bus was announced to the trade in the May 11, 1935 issue of The Automobile / Automotive Industries and to the public via Leslie Avery's United Press Newsire column dated October 12, 1935:

“Introduction of 1936 Automobiles Is Two Months Earlier This Year

“By Leslie Avery

“William B. Stout, noted airplane designer, finally has marketed his idea for a rear-engined car, and to none other than the famous boat builder and racer, Gar Wood. Gar Wood Industries Inc. , have taken Stout's Scarab passenger automobile as a model for a bus and produced a 24-passerger vehicle that weighs only 6,000 pounds. Its extreme lightness is possible because of close adherence to all-metal airplane construction, in which field Stout was a pioneer.

“With a smooth, streamlined exterior the body is built on a framework of steel tubing. All connections and joints are welded, with no screws, bolts or rivets used. This makes any kind of motor adaptable to the bus, since it has no chassis. The light sheet steel covering welded over the metal tubing is said to make a chassis superfluous.

“Advantages claimed for the vehicle are decreased wind resistance decreased weight per passenger necessitating less horse power quick acceleration cutting- the time between passenger stops, rear mounted engine leaving gasoline and oil fumes behind and cutting vibration to a minimum and elimination of the step at the door. The passenger steps directly from the curb to the interior.”

The bus was also described in a July 4, 1936 UP Newswire article:

“Advanced Designs Given Industry By Bus Builders


“United Press Staff Correspondent DETROIT, July 4.—(UP) — Aviation, in its infancy a -heavy borrower from the automobile industry, is partially repaying its debts today by donating advanced design to motor bus body construction.

“Heavily indebted to aviation engineering is the streamlined vehicle recently developed in the William B. Stout institute's Dearborn laboratories which also developed lightweight Pullman cars, the Ford Tri-Motor airplane and the Scarab motor car.

“The new bus is an aviation engineer's conception of how such a vehicle should be constructed. It is light, revolutionary in appearance and body and engineering design.

“It is now in construction at one of the larger industrial plants of Detroit. A few already are on the highway; more are certain to be because of the low cost, operation economy and riding comfort.

“Today I visited; the Gar Wood industries plant where the bus is being manufactured. Stanley E. Knauss, engineer and plant manager, took me through.

“On a busy production floor, the skeleton bodies of the buses look more like .air-plane fuselages. A closer examination reveals they are built the same way. Light, tubular steel is shaped into the rigid frame. All, joints, are welded. There are no bolts, rivets, screws or wood. It looked like the framework of a small dirigible.

“Instead of the customary method of construction where a body is mounted on a heavy chassis that carries the motor, axles, transmission, wheels and other mechanical parts, in the new bus the various parts were mounted directly to the body and chassis frame.

“‘You see,’ said Stanley proudly, ‘it's like a bridge. Each, part supports another and each stress and strain has been figure mathematically. The same principle is being used in the manufacture of Lincoln Zephyrs. Other automobile manufacturers are experimenting with the idea.’

“The engine is in the rear of the coach, this idea was developed by Stout in his Scarab automobile, but no automobile employing it is in actual production. Rear location of the motor permits a short drive shaft to the rear wheels and eliminates the long torque tube, which ordinarily takes up room in the regulation passenger car.

“‘The same thing,’ Stanley told me, ‘could, have been achieved through employment of a front wheel drive, but that would have been more expensive. By placing the motor to the rear we can use a standard engine. In fact, in this job you will find a Ford V-8, but a Chevrolet or Plymouth engine could be used just as well.’

“The skeleton frame, in a completed bus, is sheathed in aluminum on the inside and steel on the outside. The entire weight of each coach is only 7,300 pounds as compared with 15,000 pounds weight of the average transcontinental bus.

“We stepped into the completed job. The first thing I noticed was the space. A tall man - a 6-footer wearing a hat - could have walked the length of the vehicle without stooping.

“‘That,’ Stanley pointed out, ‘is because the body can be lowered because of elimination of the drive shaft.’

“The inside, looked like a cabin plane, except there were 24 seats, two abreast. The seats are the same as in a modern transport plane—the reclining type. The windows, as well, were sliding planes, of glass instead of the old street car type, which nobody ever has discovered how to open.

“Stanley sent for ‘Steve,’ a driver, who took me for a ride. That was a revelation.

“‘Here,’ Steve said to me, ‘you take the wheel.’

“‘But,’ I answered doubtfully, ‘I’ve never driven a bus.’

“‘Hell, take the wheel.’

“I mind bus drivers. I took the wheel, but nothing happened. It was like driving a kid’s velocipede. I could have turned it with my little finger. I did. Then too, I didn’t have to look over a long hood. I’m not a six-footer.

“‘You see,’ Steve said, ‘the weight of the motor in the rear takes the weight off the front wheels. You don’t tire driving one of these.’

“Then I noticed something else. Usually riders who sit in the front of a motor bus can't hear a word of conversation, but here we were talking in ordinary tones. I remarked about it.

“‘Yeah,’ Steve said, ‘I drove one of these for a week on the Dearborn run, and I knew when every baby was going to be born and who was stepping out with who by the time I quit.’

“Another thing I noticed was there was no smell of burned gasoline.

“I gave the wheel back to the driver and walked to the rear. We were crossing railroad tracks but I hardly noticed the bounce. I was almost as quiet in the back of the bus as in the front. But it was there I got my biggest surprise.

“Usually for the fellow that has to sit over the rear wheels with my feet jack-knifed against my stomach. But it wasn’t like that today. The seats are built over the axles and are raised in a normal position. There’s even a foot rest.”

Stanley E. Knauss was a longtime associate of Stout’s, and helped found the Stout Metal Airplane Company which was organized in late 1922 by Knauss, Stout and Glenn H. Hoppin. He also served as vice-president of Stout Airlines and a director of Stout Engineering. From 1935 to 1937 Knauss oversaw production of the Gar Wood bus as Manager of the Motor Coach Division of Gar Wood Industries Inc., being replaced by H. Sydney Snodgrass upon his resignation in 1937.

The bus was also visited in a January 13, 1937 article carried by the Science Service Newswire:

“Aircraft Builders Design New Bus With Low Operating Costs

“Detroit, Jan. 13. – A new light weight motor bus, designed, engineered and built by aviation personnel, seized the spotlight of discussion here this morning at the meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers. The economies achieved with these novel motor coaches in experimental operation, promise to turn borderline profits with heavy, present day equipment into real black ink on the accountant’s books of the operating companies.

“Here are the achievements of the new coaches after several hundred thousand miles of operation:

“1 – Gasoline mileage cut in half for an ordinary coach of similar seating capacity
“2 – Tire mileage of 60,000 miles a seat.
“3 – Brake lining lasting 40,000 miles.

“The new buses which bring a clean break with automotive conception of engineering and apply the lessons learned in aviation were conceived by William B. Stout, well known in aeronautical circles. These were described at the technical sessions of the SAE by Stanley E. Knauss, of the Gar Wood Industries, Inc., of Detroit.

“Double Problem

“Besieged on one side by lower fares and improved coach accommodations on railroads and on the other by rising fuel costs, the only hope of the motor bus operator is to find a coach with lower operating cost and more passenger appeal, said Knauss.

“To get rid of vibration, noise, heat and odors for the passengers the new coach has its engine in the rear. And it has special springs instead of truck springs now in use which Knauss pointed out, tend to give a truck ride. A 24-passenger bus weighs only 6,500 pounds because its framework is of metal tubing, welded throughout.

“The light weight permits smaller power plants to be used and the auxiliary transmissions and clutches which are readily available by present mass-production techniques. Repair shops for such motors are plentiful and the bug-a-boo department of most bus operators – the stock room – can virtually be eliminated.”

The Abstract of Knauss’ SAE technical paper ‘The Chassisless or Unit-Car Question,’ first published in the January 1937 issue of the SAE Journal, follows:

“The experience gained over a period of many years in the development of light-weight, high-strength structures is now finding its way into the bus industry.

“Investigation of present-day bus operations showed the need for a road vehicle that would carry the greatest possible payload of passengers with a smaller horsepower engine without dragging along a load of dead weight and useless structure that would eat up gasoline instead of miles.

“A motor coach is now available in which are incorporated aircraft materials, design, and construction features resulting in a vehicle that is approximately 1000 lb. lighter than the lightest conventional design with the same engine horsepower and seating accommodations.

“Motor-bus operators today can reduce costs by the use of light-weight equipment provided there is no sacrifice of strength and reliability. They must also meet the ever-increasing demands of the public for quietness, comfort, absence of vibration and engine odors - all of which can be accomplished by placing the engine in the rear which automatically gives a better distribution of weight than has heretofore been possible with the front-engine design.”

A circa-1938 brochure from the Dutch Diamond T distributor, N.V. Beers, shows a Diamond T Tyoe ET Coach, which looks identical to the Gar Wood Model D., so it's possible a few Gar Wood buses ended up in the Netherlands at the start of the Second World War. The very same design was also licensed by the French bus manufacturer Isobloc who produced small numbers of the vehicles before and after the War, albeit with a facelifted front end.

Manufacture of the coaches was eventually transferred to Gar Wood's Marysville Boat plant as the Detroit facility changed over to war-time production. In August, 1939 Gar Wood Industries sold off their bus manufacturing operation to the General American Transportation Co. of Chicago, the August 12, 1939 issue of the New York Times reporting:

“Buys Gar Wood Division

“Chicago, Aug 11 – General American Transportation Corporation today announced acquisition of the motor coach division of Gar Wood Industries, Inc. This is the second step taken by General American within six months toward diversification of its activities. Last March the corporation, which is engaged in the construction and leasing of railroad freight equipment, with headquarters in Chicago, acquired the controlling interest in Barkley-Grow Aircraft Company, Detroit. Max Epstein, chairman, said the new unit will be transferred to Hegewisch, Ill., adjoining the company’s present car-building plant. Executives of the bus division of Gar Wood Company will be retained by General American.”

This corporation then organized General American Aerocoach Corporation which commenced building Gar Wood coaches under the Aerocoach brand name. The former Model D Gar Wood Coaches were renamed the Aerocoach Type EFI (33-passenger) and Type EFS (37-passenger).

Several months before the official entry of the United States into the Second World War, Gar Wood decided to retire, the August 19, 1941 issue of the New York Times announcing:

“CHANGES IN HOLDINGS; Gar Wood Sold Most of Interest in Gar Wood Industries

“Washington, Aug. 18 (AP) – Garfield Wood, Detroit, disposed of more than three-fourths of his common stock holdings of Gar Wood Industries, Inc. in June, the Securities and Exchange Commission reported today. In a supplement to tis monthly summary of stock transactions by officers, directors and principal owners of corporations, the SEC said Mr. Wood sold 356,000 common shares on June 19, leaving him 100,444 shares. In addition, he owned 91,328 shares of 5 per cent preferred at the end of the month.”

Although some Gar Wood pleasure craft were offered in 1942, they were essentially left over 1941 models and the Marysville plant converted over to war-effort production of target boats and military tug boats. The target boats were 34’ (serial #s 0-19 delivered from 3/42-8/42 and serial #s 19-29 delivered from 9/42-10/42) radio controlled Navy Type JR; the tugs were 46’ (serial #s 877-886 delivered from 11/43-12/43) and 47’ (serial #s 887-900 delivered from 1/44-3/44), Navy Type MTL.

The April 22, 1942 New York Times announced Wood's transition from President to Chairman:

“Heads Executive Group of Gar Wood Concern

“The board of directors of Gar Wood Industries, Inc., was increased from five to seven members at the annual meeting yesterday.

“Garfield A. Wood, former president, was elected chairman of the board and Glen A. Bassett, former vice-president and treasurer, was made president. John J. Bergen of John J. Bergen & Co. Ltd., vice president, was named chairman of the executive committee and Edward Boehm, former vice president, was made treasurer.

“New directors elected were Ralph S. Jenkins, vice president and general manager of Gar Wood; Francis A. Callery, vice president in charge of finance, Consolidated Aircraft Corporation; Carroll E. Gray, president and chairman of Burr & Co., Inc., and A.W. Harrington, president and chairman of the Marmon-Herrington Company, Inc. Messrs Wood, Bassett and Bergen were re-elected directors.”

On June 1, 1942 Gar Wood Jr., who had earlier followed in his father's footsteps as a speedboat pilot, married Katherine Vincent, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank D. Vincent of Tulsa, Oklahoma. They met while the junior Wood was attending Tulsa University. At the time the Junior Wood was serving in the US Army as a Second Lieutenant. The union was blessed with the birth of a son (b.1947) and daughter (b.1954) but ended with divorce in 1960.

Gar Wood Industries was a longtime military supplier of hoists and dump bodeis to the US Government and during the Second World War constructed tow trucks and service bodies for the US Army.During the War Gar Wood sales and profits soared from wartime spending. Sales in 1942 and 1943 hit new records of $22.9 and $37.9, respectively. In 1944 the company employed 3,500, up from 1,600 a decade earlier. Sales in 1944 were $44.4 million and net income was $1 million.

Gar Wood was struck by lightning on April 29, 1944 as he was exiting from his just-landed plane at Miami’s Thirty-Sixth Street Airport. Wood suffered a cut over one eye when the bolt hurled him into the side of the airplane. The April 30, 1944 issue of the New York Times reported on his recovery:

“Gar Wood Recovering

“Miami, Fla., April 29 (AP) – The speedboat racing champion, Gar Wood, was recovering today from slight injuries received yesterday when he was struck by lightning at the Thirty-sixth Street Airport. ‘He said he feel pretty good,’ reported an attaché at the hospital where Mr. Wood and two companions, also injured by the bolt, were treated. Miss Gertrude Robinson and Melbourne Vandenburg were less seriously hurt than Mr. Wood, who is 63 years old.”

In 1944 the Air Force commissioned Gar to design and build a twin-hulled 120-ton 188' plywood ship, called the Venturi. The ship was a modern take on Albert Hickman's Sea Sleds that were popular in the 1920s-30s. The multihull crafts were designed to have the air pressure passing underneath the deck help raise the boat up out of the water. In practice the curved inner hulls compressed the air creating a venturi. The ship, for which Wood received $350,000, was launched  on November 14, 1944. But before she could be put into use World War II came to an end and he purchased the Venturi back from the government for $25,000. In 1946 he bought Fisher Island, formerly the palatial estate of the William K. Vanderbilts, its harbor serving as the home of the Venturifor the next decade. Wood put another $600,000 in the ship fitting her with four 16-cylinder 1200 hp diesel engines capable of turning up 4800 hp. The interesting ship was covered in great detail in the November 1949 issues of Popular Science and Modern Mechanix.

Gar Wood nearly lost his life when the Venturi broke up in the Atlantic in 1954, the May 14, 1954 issue of the New York Times reporting:

“GAR WOOD SAVED AS SHIP FOUNDERS; His 'Unsinkable' Twin-Hulled Craft Down Off Bahamas -- 8 Others Also Rescued

“MIAMI, Fla., May 13 (AP) -- Gar Wood, speedboat racer, and eight other persons were rescued today after Mr. Wood's "unsinkable" twin-hulled yacht Venturi broke up in heavy seas and sank in the Bahamas near Great Isaac Light.

“The boat builder and designer, who is 73 years old; his secretary, Jean Berry, 24; and his housekeeper, Jodie Rodriquez, were brought to Miami by a Coast Guard helicopter that had lifted them out of a lifeboat wallowing in the rough water.

“The Venturi’s Captain, C.A. MacCallum, and five crew members, all from Miami, were taken to Great Isaac and will be brought back in a Coast Guard patrol boat. Great Isaac is about sixty-five miles due east across the Gulf Stream from Ford Lauderdale, Fla.

“Ran Into A Bad Storm

“Mr. Wood said the 188-foot Venturi was ‘going twenty-two to twenty-three knots in deep water when we ran into a bad storm. The waves were high, ten feet or more, and we came into it so suddenly – we didn’t have time to slow down.’

“‘A valve opened on the port side and then another one gave on the starboard side and we began taking water,’ Mr. Wood said. “I was forward checking the compass when this extremely big wave hit. Some of the front streamlining on the bow, sort of an airlift, broke off and I knew we were in trouble.’

“Mr. Wood explained the 120-ton Venturi was made of wood and was 10years old.

“‘I guess maybe she’d become brittle,’ he admitted. ‘The waves kept pounding the port side and she began to settle down in the water. There are twenty bulk-heads in each of the twin hulls and they held a long time.’

“Still Favors Design

“Mr. Wood said he still thought the design was basically ‘unsinkable’ and if he ever built another it would be made of iron. He would not say if he planned to build another one.

“‘Captain MacCallum notified the Coast Guard as soon as we began settling,’ Mr. Wood said. ‘We stayed aboard three hours. When the Venturi was five foot above water – the deck normally is twenty-two feet above the waterline – we decided to abandon and got into the lifeboat.’

“Miss Berry pulled a ligament in her left leg climbing into the lifeboat. No one else was reported injured.

“A Coast Guard patrol plane reached the scene first and hovered overhead until the helicopter arrived from Miami to continue the rescue work.”

The April 24, 1945 issue of the New York Times announced the election of banker John J. Bergen as Chairman of Gar Wood Industries:

“Elected to Head Board of Gar Wood Industries

“John J. Bergen, chairman of the executive committee of Gar Wood Industries, Inc., has been elected chairman of the board of directors of the company and of the St. Paul Hydraulic Hoist Company, a subsidiary, according to an announcement by Glen A. Bassett, president. Mr. Bergen, also is president of the investment banking concern of John J. Bergen & Co., Ltd., and is chairman of the executive committee of United Aircraft Products Inc., and a director of Blair & Co.”

In early 1945 as World War II wound down to its final campaigns, a series of advertisements from the ‘new’ Gar Wood boat division began to appear. The new management of Gar Wood Industries decides to restyle their boat line and Norman Bel Geddes, noted industrial designer, is retained to give Gar Wood boats a complete new look. This was a decision of great magnitude because it meant total re-tooling of their patterns, costly new set ups and high production costs.

Dodge’s Newport News plant, established in 1931 closed sometime in 1936, reopening in 1941 for work on several water- and air-craft defense contracts. After World War II, it was sold to a new owner who leased the building to Gar Wood Industries, where truck bodies and hydraulic dump trucks were built, as well as boats.

Gar Wood Industries purchased the Horace E. Dodge Boat and Plane factory in Newport News, Virginia in 1946 in order to manufactured the firm’s new 16’ Ensign, of which 550 examples were produced between Sept 1946 and April 1947.

At the 1947 Boat Show Gar Wood shocked the public by displaying 4 models that had all painted finishes – no varnished mahogany. Whether this decision was for dramatic showmanship to attract attention or due to the lack of quality mahogany was never determined. However, in less than 6 months from the show Gar Wood boats would cease production forever.

Gar Wood produced boats from 1921 to 1947 excluding the four years of World War II. It is estimated that over 10,000 Gar Wood boats were built during that period.

Gar Wood Industries purchased the Buckeye Traction Ditcher Co. (started in 1893) in 1947. Gar Wood supplied earthmoving attachments to Allis-Chalmers, Euclid and International Harvester Corp. during this period. In 1947, the Buckeye Traction Ditcher Co. was purchased by Gar Wood Industries, which continued the Buckeye products. In 1971, Gar Wood became a division of Sargent Industries, and ditcher production was transferred from Findlay to Wayne, Mich. By that time, though, ditcher sales were dwindling, and the machines were produced only a short time under Sargent's control. The Wayne plant closed in 1972 when production ended.

Gar's wife, Murlen, died in Hollywood, California, from heart disease on August 23, 1948, while visiting her sister. In her will, she said that her husband was wealthy and didn’t need her money but that she wanted him, her “beloved skipper,” to have her ring “which has been my lodestone through a long and happy voyage.”

Gar Wood Industries, Inc., entered into four contracts with the Corps of Engineers in the years 1951 and 1952 for the manufacture of crane shovels and related equipment. Allis-Chalmers bought out Gar Wood’s attachments division in 1953.

While Hollywood’s attempts to make a deal with Wood for his life’s story all failed, in 1952 he hired a team to make the movie for him. Titled Time to Move, the project ran over budget and was dropped after a few months of filming.

The 10th anniversary of Gar Wood's Mattoon, Illinois plant was celebrated in the May 7, 1955 issue of the Daily Journal Gazette (Mattoon, Illinois):

“Let's Keep Things Humming Boys: Gar Wood Plant Marks 10 Years In Mattoon - Where There's Production There's Plans

“Anyone who has driven along Route 16 east of Mattoon has noticed the large industrial plant shown above. The huge factory houses Gar Wood Industries' divisions devoted to the manufacture of gigantic earth moving equipment and hydraulic hoists.

“The decision of Gar Wood, which has headquarters in Wayne, Mich., to locate a factory here was made in 1945 and construction was started immediately. In 1946, the plant went into production manufacturing earth moving equipment which is in use in practically all parts of the world.

“In 1953, the company moved its St. Paul, Minn. Hydraulic Hoist division to Mattoon for consolidation with the local plant. When the consolidation was completed, employment at the plant rose from approximately 300 to 500. While there are natural variations in the employment total, the plant at present has a staff of 475 persons working on two shifts. One shift works from 7 a. m. to 3:30 p. m., the other from 3:30 p. m. to midnight.

“In addition to its plants In Mattoon and Wayne, the company has plants in Findlay, O., Richmond, Cal., and Ypsilanti, Mich. It has sales branches all over the United States.”

The September 7, 1957 issue of the New York Times announced the construction of a new truck body plant in Exeter, Pennsylvania:

“Gar Wood To Build Plant

“Gar Wood Industries, Inc. will build a new plant in Exeter, Pa., to make dump bodies. The company now has truck equipment factories in Wayne, Mich.; Mattoon, Ill., and Richmond, Calif.”

In his autobiography, Malcolm X (real name Malcolm Little), states he worked at the Gar Wood plant in Warren, Michigan and at the Ford assembly plant in Wayne Michigan. He had the plants and locations backwards.

The July 1967 issue of Popular Mechanics visited Gar Wood’s Fisher island estate, where he was busy finishing plans on an electric car, the Gar Wood Super Electric Model A:

“Gar Wood: An Old Sea Dog Is Up To New Tricks,

“by John Fix

“For years a strange phenomenon has persisted among south Florida motorists traversing MacArthur Causeway, between Miami and Miami Beach. They stop on the shoulder of the road and sit gazing at a pine-girded blob of land in Biscayne Bay. At times they have been heard to mutter, ‘wonder what the old boy’s up to now,’ and occasionally a pair of binoculars will make a timid appearance.

“For the blob of land is Fisher Island, the carefully guarded hideaway estate of multimillionaire inventive genius Gar Wood, who at one time was the world’s greatest speedboat racer. His island has been the scene of strange goings-on that have piqued the curiosity of South Floridians for nearly three decades. The 87-yer-old Wood, who live alone on the 230-acre island – except for a crops of servants and the daytime assistance of three mechanical engineers – holds more US patents than any other living American.

“Recently a rumor was confirmed: Gar Wood has perfected a commercially feasible, battery-powered electric automobile. Gar himself admitted that a body-less prototype of such a vehicle was even them scooting about the paved roads of the island, always behind the screen of the Australian pines.

“Later Wood released figures and permitted a few photographs. The auto, he reveals, is 9 feet, 10 inches in length and weighs 450 lbs, not including the batteries, which weigh 65 pounds apiece. Those batteries are eight 12-vold lead-acid conventional storage batteries connected in series. They may be recharged from an ordinary house current at a cost of about 20 cents. The car has a top speed of 52 mph and is powered by two specially designed 90 volt 2-hp d.c. motors.

“Gar won’t talk about cruising range per batter charge for his vehicle until road test are completed, but he chuckles as he remarks that if the results of preliminary tests were to be disclosed, excited auto bigwigs would be sloshing a watery pathway to his door. And with the use of more efficient (but considerably more expensive) batteries that have been developed in recent years, Gar points out, the range might be extended many times. Gar is trying to keep costs down and he hopes to be able to market a battery-powered auto with fiberglass body which will sell for less than $1500.

“The secret of the economy, speed and smoothness of Gar’s electric auto is a patented device which he invented two years ago and put to work successfully in battery-powered golf carts, where jolting starts and battery heating have been dangerous and annoying problems.

“The device is the Gar Wood Power Control Unit, and it works in conjunction with a foot accelerator. It has no rectifiers, no solenoids, no electric switches nor any electronic devices. It enables the battery-powered auto to glide quietly through five forward speeds and five speed sin reverse. A full voltage is fed continuously to the motors; changes in velocity are accomplished by a reduction in amperage. Side benefits are the extension of battery life and – since there is not heating – the use of lighter gauge wiring.

“The experimental auto bears a neatly engraved, chromed plaque labeling it as the ‘Gar Wood Super Electric Model A’. Except for a scarcely perceptible motor whine, the Gar Wood Super Electric Model A is virtually noiseless. “We’ll get rid of that with a Fiberglas housing,” promises the inventor. And, as anyone knows, the electric auto gives off none of the toxic gases of the combustion engine.”

Gar Wood died of stomach cancer on June 19, 1971, about a week before a planned civic celebration in Detroit to honor the 50th anniversary of his first defense of the Harmsworth Trophy. George Van of the Detroit News eulogized him as follows:

“To the public, he was Tom Swift, Jules Verne, Frank Merriwell with a little bit of Horatio Alger thrown in.”

The following obituary appeared in the June 20, 1971 issue of the New York Times:

“Gar Wood, a Financier and Boatsman, Is Dead

Miami, June 19 (AP) – Garfield Arthur (Gar) Wood, a millionaire industrialist and powerboat racing enthusiasts credited with inventing the lift for dump trucks died today of a stomach ailment. He was 90 years old.

“Survivors include his son, Gar Wood Jr., a resident of Japan; three sister, Mrs. Bess Wood Boston of Franklin, Mich., Mrs. Frank McAllister of Lakeland, Fla., and Mrs. Esther Word of Oakland, Calif.; four brothers, Philip of Bal Harbour, Fla., Clinton of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Winfield of Minneapolis, and George of Detroit.

“The Gray Fox

“Gar Wood, by investing 50 cents in a small polished cylinder began an intensive career struggling with the first hydraulic lift for dump trucks and built that investment into a $50 million personal fortune.

“In the early 30’s he designs a high-speed powerful launch for the Navy and spoke with President Franklin D. Roosevelt about its possible combat use. The President liked the vessel but Navy brass scoffed at what was later to become the hit and run P.T. boat of World War II.

“Mr. Wood also financed the Chris-Craft Boat manufacturing company and expanded his industrial holdings into a vast network of nationwide factories and assembly plants.

“In the early 40’s he sold out and retired to Miami’s Fischer Island. From there he traveled about the continent in a twin-engined seaplane and worked on endless mechanical projects.

“In May, however, he sold his Fisher Island estate, formerly owned by William K. Vanderbilt. Another 150 acres of the 220-acre island owned by Mr. Wood in 1959 were sold out to a group headed by R.G. (Bebe) Rebozo, a friend of President Nixon, who reportedly owned a piece of the deal. Mr. Nixon later sold his interest.

“Immortal of Racing

“Mr. Wood, who long was known as the ‘Gray Fox of Algonac,’ the town of Michigan where his swift power craft were built, was one of the immortals of motor boat racing.

“The sport honored him as such in November, 1953, when the American Power Boating Association, speed boating’s supreme ruling body, chose him on its fiftieth anniversary as one of ten members of its first ‘honor squadron.’

“A listing of Mr. Wood achievements at the time of his election to this newly created ‘Hall of Fame’ read as follows:

“‘Winner of four Gold Cups and first victor for the United States of the Harmsworth British International Trophy and successful defender of it seven times; he once beat a Twentieth Century Railroad train from Albany to New York by several minutes in one of his speedboats, and again raced and won against a train from Miami to New York.’

“Mr. Wood won the Harmsworth Trophy with one of his long series of Miss Americas. He held the international motor-boat racing record from 1932 until 1937, when Sir Malcolm Campbell exceeded his speed of almost 125 miles an hour.

“Devoting most of his life to speed and mechanical power, Mr. Wood spent large sums of money on his sleek, power-packed racing boats.

“The fortune that made possible their construction came from his invention of a hydraulic hoist for motor trucks. This device lifted the front end of the truck so that the load slid out the rear. He also patented a device to prevent airplane accidents caused by clogged gasoline lines or fuel pump failures. A Pilotless speed boat he invented was designed as a moving target for Navy gunners.

“Since the end of World War II, he had built small boats for the Navy. He also manufactured hydraulic hoists and heating equipment.

“Another of Mr. Woods products was a flat-bottom, twin-hull vessel of unconventional design that utilized the Catamaran principle for maximum stability. The experimental ship, named the Venturi was said in 1949 to have been the outgrowth of twenty-eight years of planning.

“This unusual craft, after cruising successfully in all kinds of weather ended up in a storm off the Florida coast on May 13, 1954. Mr. Wood and two women who had been aboard were picked up from a life raft by a Coast Guard helicopter. Six other men also were rescued. The Venturi was said to have been developed at a cost of $600,000.

“Born in Mapleton, Iowa, on December 4, 1880, Mr. Wood was one of twelve brothers and sisters. He was christened Garfield Arthur Wood for the President and Vice President of the United States who were inaugurated in the year of his birth, but was generally known as Gar or Commodore.

“The ‘Gray Fox’ nickname conveyed a trued impression of Mr. Wood’s appearance. He was tall, wiry and gaunt, and had white hair.

“He attended Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago and after graduation went to Duluth and sailed on Great Lake freighters. A mechanical urge turned him to the automobile industry, but eventually he obtained a job as a marine motor mechanic.

“His first real speed-boat race was in the Missippi Power Boat Regatta at Duluth in 1911 in a craft he had reconditioned for its owner. Mr. Wood drove the boat at thirty-two miles an hour, a record at the time.

“‘I was speed boat crazy from that moment,’ he once said.

“‘Speed boat racing,’ he said later, ‘is a mechanic’s game. I guess that’s why I like it.’

In 1971, Sargent Industries purchased Gar Wood Industries, - Gar Wood Division of Sargent Industries produced dump bodies and hoists. Ditcher sales were already slowing badly, and the Buckeye ditchers were only produced for a short time under Sargent, before production ceased.

In 1975, the Heil Co. purchased Gar Wood, and consolidated Gar Wood's operations with its own., the Gar Wood refuse compactor becoming a Heil through simple badge engineering. The February 1979 issue of Trailer / Body Builders annoucned the sale of Gar Wood to Clement Industries:

“Clement acquires Garwood. Garwood, a company that first built a dump truck in 1912, was acquired by Clement Industries of Minden, Louisiana. Garwood Division of Sargent Industries produced dump bodies and hoists.”

A number of Gar Wood's original designs continued to be offered by Clement into the mid-1990s.

© 2014 Mark Theobald for

Appendix 1 – Garfield A. Wood US Patents:

US Pat. No. 1165825 - Hydraulic Dump - ‎Filed Oct 21, 1912 - ‎Issued Dec 28, 1915 to Garfield A. Wood assigned one half to Grant Waldref

US Pat. No. 1223462 – Truck body door latch - ‎Filed Sep 25, 1916 - ‎Issued Apr 24, 1917 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1271968 – Gear pump - ‎Filed Mar 15, 1915 - ‎Issued Jul 9, 1918 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1271969 – Hoisting and dumping mechanism - ‎Filed Aug 21, 1916 - ‎Issued Jul 9, 1918 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1271970 – Gear pump - ‎Filed Aug 28, 1916 - ‎Issued Jul 9, 1918 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1271971 - Hoisting Mechanism for motor vehicles - ‎Filed Aug 28, 1916 - ‎Issued Jul 9, 1918 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1271972 - Hoisting and dumping mechanism - ‎Filed Dec 8, 1916 - ‎Issued Jul 9, 1918 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1271973 – Dumping truck - ‎Filed Dec 26, 1916 - ‎Issued Jul 9, 1918 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1271974 – Truck body dumping mechanism - ‎Filed Aug 1, 1917 - ‎Issued Jul 9, 1918 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1271975 – Truck body dumping mechanism - ‎Filed Jan 15, 1917 - ‎Issued Jul 9, 1918 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1271976 – Hoisting device - ‎Filed Jun 6, 1917 - ‎Issued Jul 9, 1918 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1271977 – Hoisting Mechanism for motor vehicles - ‎Filed Aug 28, 1916 - ‎Issued Jul 9, 1918 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1271978 – Hydraulic hoisting device - ‎Filed Mar 15, 1915 - ‎Issued Jul 9, 1918 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1292204 – Truck body construction - ‎Filed Jan 5, 1918 - ‎Issued Jan 21, 1919 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1325661 – Driving mechanism for truck body hoists - ‎Filed Dec 23, 1918 - ‎Issued Dec 23, 1919 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1325662 – Truck body tilting mechanism - ‎Filed Jan 15, 1917 - ‎Issued Dec 23, 1919 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1325663 - Truck body tilting mechanism - ‎Filed Jun 23, 1917 - ‎Issued Dec 23, 1919 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1406131 – Dumping Truck - ‎Filed May 9, 1918 - ‎Issued Feb 7, 1922 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1508906 - Method and means of preventing salt-water reaction and galvanic action in water-cooled engines - ‎Filed Jun 29, 1922 - ‎Issued Sep 16, 1924 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1894478 – Propeller construction - ‎Filed Oct 11, 1930 - ‎Issued Jan 17, 1933 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1919760 – Marine reverse gear - ‎Filed Sep 17, 1928 - ‎Issued Jul 25, 1933 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 1942737 – Gyroscope Control (for airplanes) - ‎Filed Sep 3, 1929 - ‎Issued Jan 9, 1934 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 2086328 - Automobile clutch control power device - ‎Filed May 7, 1934 - ‎Issued Jul 6, 1937 to Ray W. Harroun assigned to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 2086593 – Boat - ‎Filed Dec 24, 1934 - ‎Issued Jul 13, 1937 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 2107357 – Vacuum actuated automobile control - ‎Filed Jun 16, 1932 - ‎Issued Feb 8, 1938 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 2123295 – Safety device for aeroplanes - ‎Filed Feb 8, 1937 - ‎Issued Jul 12, 1938 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 2228548 – Multiengined power device - ‎Filed Aug 29, 1938 - ‎Issued Jan 14, 1941 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 2263202 – Marine drive - ‎Filed Jun 21, 1938 - ‎Issued Nov 18, 1941 to Garfield A. Wood

US Pat. No. 2264559 – Automatic pilot for aircraft - ‎Filed Jul 30, 1938 - ‎Issued Dec 2, 1941 to Garfield A. Wood & Bert G. Carlson assigned to Sperry Gyroscope Co.

US Pat. No. 2464957 – Boat - ‎Filed Feb 27, 1945 - ‎Issued Mar 22, 1949 to Garfield A. Wood







Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark - Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942

Lou Smith Library and Marion Clayton Link Archives – Antique Boat Museum, Clayton, New York –

J. Lee Barrett - Speed Boat Kings, 25 Years of International Speedboating, pub. 1939

WPA Michigan Writer’s Project - Michigan: A Guide to the Wolverine State, pub. 1941

William B. Stout - So Away I Went, pub. 1951

Thomas S. LaMarre - Stout's Scarab, Automobile Quarterly, Vol 29, No. 4

Ralph Barker - The Schneider Trophy Races, pub.1971

Norm Swinford - Allis Chalmers Construction Machinery and Industrial Equipment, pub. 2002

Jeffrey L. Rodengen - The Legend of Chris-Craft, pub. 1988

Anthony S. Mollica - Gar Wood Boats: Classics of a Golden Era, pub. 1999

Anthony S. Mollica – Dodge Boats, pub. 2003

Anthony S. Mollica & ‎Christopher J. Smith - Building Chris-Craft: Inside the Factories, pub. 2010

Kevin Desmond - Power Boat: The Quest For Speed, pub.1988

Kevin Desmond - Race Against the Odds: The Tragic Success Story of Miss England II, pub. 2004

Jack & Ken Schramm - The Dearborn Coach Company, The Dearborn Historian, Vol. 45 No. 1, Winter 2005 issue

John Fix  - Gar Wood: An Old Sea Dog Is Up To New Tricks, Popular Mechanics, July 1967 issue

David Ouse  - Forgotten Duluthian Gar Wood, powerboat racing legend, Zenith City Online, Vol 2., No. 4; April, 2013 issue

The Gadget King of America, Popular Mechanics, October 1934 issue

The Speediest Craft Afloat, Popular Science, June 1929 issue

Gar Wood's Mystery Boat, Popular Mechanics, September 1935 issue

Tom Crew - Early Chris-Craft Runabouts

Fred Farley - The Gar Wood Story

Submit Pictures or Information

Original sources of information are given when available. Additional pictures, information and corrections are most welcome.

Click Here to submit pictures or information


quicklinks|buses|cars|customs|designers|fire apparatus|limos|pro-cars|taxis|trailers|trucks|woodies

© 2004-2014, Inc.|books|disclaimer|index|privacy