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H & M Body Corp.
H & M Body Corporation, 1919-1925; Racine, Wisconsin
Associated Builders

In 1919 a mid-summer strike at C.R. Wilson & Co., their largest body supplier, left the Hupp Motor Car Corp. with a backlog of orders. Wilson had been supplying Hupp with approximately 1,000 bodies per month, and a sudden loss of that many bodies caused a corresponding drop in Hupmobile production and sales.

G.W. Kerr was appointed manager and a plant was acquired in downtown Racine at the intersection of Center St. and Washington Ave., two blocks east of the body plant of the Racine Mfg Co. at 6th and Marquette Sts. Hupp entered into a partnership with the Mitchell Motor Car Co. of Racine, Wisconsin, and the resulting firm was christened H & M Body Corp. in honor of its principal investors, Hupp & Mitchell.

While Hupp continued to purchase special bodies as needed from outside coach builders, most of their production bodies would be built at H & M Body who would ship them “in the white” to their Detroit plant where a staff of 300-400 would paint, trim and mount them to waiting Hubmobile chassis. A few bodies were made for other manufacturers, most notably, the Detroit Electric Co. for which they built production bodies between 1918-1920.

The arrangement suited Hupp so well that on August 1, 1921, they bought out Mitchell’s interest in the H & M Body Corp. and devoted the entire Racine factory to the production of Hupmobile bodies. That November, G.W. Kerr, H & M's general manager was appointed general manager of Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Work plant in Springfield, Massachusetts.

A schooner carrying a shipment of lumber from High Island, Michigan destined for the H&M plant capsized during a violent gale near Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 30, 1921, resulting in the loss of all 11 crewmen. As the cargo appeared to be salvageable, H&M contracted with a local tug to have the hull towed to shore. Its salvage was covered in the November 7, 1921 issue of the Racine Journal:

"Rosa Belle Being Unloaded 

"The schooner Rosa Belle, wrecked a week ago with the loss of 10 lives, is now resting on the bottom of the lake, north of the harbor. She was towed to that point late Saturday afternoon by the tug Gagnon which was engaged by the H.& M. Body corporation. The lumber is now being taken out of the hold, and when unloaded the wreck will be drawn high and dry on the north beach."

The arrival of the salvaged lumber coincided with the following announcement carried in the November 18, 1921 Racine Journal:



“A contract that-will bring hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of. Business annually to Racine has recently been closed by. the H. & M. Body corporation, who will at once begin production on an order for 6,500 bodies for the Hupmobile Automobile company, of Detroit. The cars will be shipped in carload lots of 34 bodies, the date for shipment to be received later in the year. Large orders are also expected from the Mitchell Motors company.

“At present the H. &. M. Body corporation is operating with a pay roll of 600 men but expects to increase production about 100 per cent by the first of the year.  It is said that 1,000 men will be employed by January 1st.

“These bodies have been made in Detroit and Springfield, Mass. The closed bodies have  been made by an eastern-firm, but the local corporation has received the order for the exclusive body manufacturing of the Hupmobile company. The bodies will be shipped un-painted and un-upholstered and will be finished in the Hupmobile plant.

“Commencing next week the firm will take an inventory. It is being done at this time rather than in December because the company wished to have it out of the way when it commences work on the big order just received.”

1922 production was slated at 10,000, but increased sales of Hupmobiles caused the order to be increased to 20,000. Unfortunately, that was more than the H & M plant could handle, so additional production bodies were sourced from the Auto Metal Body Corp., a subsidiary of the Springfield Coach Works of Springfield, Massachusetts.

As their body plant was located almost 400 miles away in Racine, Wisconsin, the Detroit-based Hupp became interested in establishing a satellite assembly plant in Racine. They tried to purchase the factory of the Mitchell Motor Company at their 1924 bankruptcy auction, but were outbid by Charles Nash, so another plan was devised. Their former body supplier, C.R. Wilson had just been re-organized into the Murray Body Corp., so they approached Murray’s new president, Allan Sheldon, with a proposal. Hupp would sell the H&M Body Corp. to Murray at a great discount, providing that Murray would guarantee to supply Hupp with all of the production bodies they required over the next five years.

It seemed to be a good idea at the time, but Murray soon discovered that the H & M body plant was located too far away to be managed effectively, and when combined with the added costs of transporting the bodies 400 miles to Detroit, the plant never turned a profit and never produced bodies for anyone other than Hupmobile.

© 2004 Mark Theobald -







Bill Cuthbert - The Hupmobile Story: From Beginning to End

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

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