Marmon-Herrington - 1931-1963 - Nordyke & Marmon Machine Co. - Indianapolis, Indiana - Marmon Transmotive - 1973-present - Louisville, Kentucky


Marmon-Herrington as you might recall was a major trolleybus builder of the 1950's. Probably the last thing they ever did in the Indiana shops.


In March 1950, Ford withdrew from the transit bus business and sold its entire motor coach operation to Marmon-Herrington, who enjoyed a previously-established relationship with Ford converting their trucks to four wheel drive. Marmon-Herrington were already building electric trolley busses and the new gasoline-powered buses employed Ford engines and drivetrains. The only change needed was a substitution of a new Marmon-Herrington badge for the old Ford badge.


Welles Corporation Ltd. of Windsor, Ontario built Marmon-Herrington buses under license during the early 1950s. The resulting inter-city vehicles were called WMH Motor Coaches or Wells-Marmon-Herrington coaches.


This company was formed by Walter C. Marmon and Arthur W. Herrington to develop all-wheel-drive trucks, initially for military purposes. Production began in March 1931 when the company received an order for 33 T-1 4 x 4 aircraft refueling trucks powered by 6-cylinder Hercules engines. These were followed by a variety of 4 x 4 and 6 x 6 vehicles for the US and Persian armies used as general load carriers, mobile machine shops, wreckers and balloon winch trucks. Reconaissance, scout and armored cars were also made, some with 4-wheel-steering as well as 4­wheel-drive.

In 1932 Marmon-Herrington built the first all-wheel-drive truck and trailer combination for oil pipe construction in Iraq. Also in 1932 there was a very special project, a 40-passenger articulated coach ordered by the Nairn Brothers for the Damascus to Baghdad desert run. The 6 x 6 tractor was powered by a 90 hp 6-cylinder diesel engine and fitted with a sleeper cab. This was coupled to a luxurious tandem-axle coach 66 feet long, the combination weight being 30 tons. Air springs were added to the tractor's front. semi-elliptic springs. This freighter-bus was still in service during World War II, now operated by the Royal Air Force.

More important than the complete trucks that Marmon­-Herrington built was their work on the conversion of light vehicles to 4-wheel-drive. They began with a 1936 Ford V­8 'h-ton open cab pick-up which was supplied in some numbers to the US and Belgian armies, and followed this with a variety of Ford conversions, 6 x 6 as well as 4 x 4, for use as military squad cars, fire trucks, mortar carriers, machine gun trucks, earth boring machines, ambulances, bomb carriers and others. Cabs were either full-enclosed originals or completely open without doors or even a wind­shield. Civilian conversions were also made on Ford V-8 cars and trucks, and sold with the Marmon-Herrington nameplate. In 1937 a 'h-ton Ford was completely reworked with semi-forward control and a canvas-top cab for use as a US Army ambulance. Another important development was the conversion of a Ford 1 ½ -tonner into a half-track with powered front axle, the first time this layout had been seen. Most of Marmon-Herrington's con­versions were on Fords, but some Dodge, Chevrolet, GMC and International trucks received the treatment, all carrying M-H nameplates. Civilian production was always less important than military, but a range of Ford- and Hercules-powered trucks were offered during the 1930s, in sizes from 1 ½  to 20 tons. A number of these were used in road-building projects. During World War II Marmon-­Herrington built 4 x 4 cabovers to Autocar design, and 4 x 2 short slope-nosed tractors to International design, as well as 8-wheeled armored cars, half-tracks and snowplows.

In 1945 Marmon-Herrington branched out into two completely new fields, those of multi-stop delivery vans, and passenger vehicles. The vans had forward control and front-wheel-drive, and were known as Delivr-Alls. They were made in two wheelbase lengths, and the engine was removable as a unit together with the front frame section, drive train and steering wheel. The Delivr-All was in production from late 1945 to 1952. Trolleybus production began when Charles O. Guernsey, midwest sales manager of ACF-Brill, persuaded Marmon-Herrington that there was a substantial market for lightweight trolleybuses which Brill were no longer producing. About 1,500 trolley­buses were built by M-H between 1946 and 1955, and virtually every US transit system that operated such vehicles bought some of them. The largest fleet was operated in Chicago, whose transit system purchased 349 in a single order in 1950. In April 1950 M-H got into the lightweight motor bus business by taking over production and sale of the 27- and 31-passenger transit buses formerly offered by Ford. Both these and the trolleybuses became unprofitable by the mid 1950s, and the company turned to the manufacture of milling machinery, although they continued to make some all-wheel-drive conversions, and in 1959 made a final batch of trolleybuses for Brazil. For 1961 they listed three school bus chassis, powered by Ford V -8 engines, and in the same year they won a contract to re-engine almost 1,000 Greyhound Scenicruisers with Detroit Diesel 8V-71 engines. This was their last major piece of automotive work, and in 1963 Colonel Herrington's 25% of stock was acquired by the Fritzker family of Chicago who later acquired most of the rest, and converted the company into a private holding company for a diverse group of enterprises. These included the all-wheel-drive conversions on a variety of chassis, but the highway tractor which M-H was working on was sold to their Southwest distributor who put it into production under the name Marmon. In 1973 Marmon­Herrington's Knoxville, Tennessee plant built a single one-man cab Ford-powered 4 x 4 construction truck.


We have been leaders and innovators in design, engineering, and manufacturing since 1851. Find out where we've been and where we're going.

When it comes to longevity, few American companies can compare to Marmon-Herrington. When it comes to innovation in engineering and manufacturing, the list is even shorter! The original company bearing the Marmon name was formed in 1851 as the Nordyke and Marmon Machine Company, specializing in the manufacture of flour mill machinery. With a long-standing reputation as a top engineering house, the company entered the fledgling auto industry around the turn of the century.

For the next three decades, The Marmon Car Company produced some of the world's finest cars. The Marmon Wasp won the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, and the Marmon Sixteen was the height of luxury in touring sedans. When the Great Depression drastically reduced the luxury car market, the company innovated again. The Marmon Car Company joined forces with Arthur (Colonel) Herrington, an ex-military engineer involved in the design of all-wheel drive vehicles.

The new company, called Marmon-Herrington, got off to a successful start by procuring contracts for military aircraft refueling trucks, 4x4 chassis for towing light weaponry, commercial aircraft refueling trucks, and an order from the Iraqi Pipeline Company for what were the largest trucks ever built at the time. In addition to large commercial and military vehicles, company leaders recognized a growing market for moderately priced all-wheel drive vehicles.

This gave birth to the Marmon-Herrington Ford. The conversion of commercial truck chassis to all-wheel drive is the primary focus of our company today.

In the early Sixties Marmon-Herrington was purchased by the Pritzker family and became a member of an association of companies which eventually adopted the name The Marmon Group.

Today, Marmon-Herrington no longer manufactures complete vehicles, but is the premier supplier of all-wheel drive conversions to the medium- and heavy-duty truck market. We are the only converter to produce pre-engineered conversion kits, which we market through a network of distributors, including modification centers located adjacent to truck manufacturing plants. The manufacturers install these kits on a "ship through" basis, reducing vehicle freight charges.

In addition, Marmon-Herrington has recently expanded to supply components to truck manufacturers who provide all-wheel drive options on their assembly lines. Frequently, OEMs call on us to use our engineering expertise in vehicle design, as well.


In the 1930s, when Marmon-Herrington had found that in addition to specialty vehicles there was a growing market for moderately priced all-wheel drive vehicles, they started to co-operate with Ford Motor Co. Large numbers of commercial Ford truck chassis were converted with Marmon-Herrington's All-Wheel Drive Conversion kits. 

These Ford/Marmon-Herrington trucks were bought in massive numbers by the military around the world. Below follows a list of countries that bought all-wheel drive chassis or chassis/cabs at Marmon-Herrington, and suited them for their own needs.

Marmon-Herrington's expertise on all-wheel drive vehicles was also called upon when the Canadian automotive industry geared up for war production: "Immediately after the war was declared, the Ford Motor Company of Canada were charged with the responsibility of developing a 4x4 truck for army use. Obviously, they had very little experience in this field [...] Consequently they went to the Marmon-Herrington Company, Indianapolis, who in peace time supplied conversion material to convert Standard Ford 4x2 trucks into 4x4 models for various commercial peace time usage. [...] these joints were unsuitable [...] [the weight of the more or less cab over engine design and heavy army wheels/tires put too much load on the front axle joints.] To solve this problem, "Bendix-Weiss and Rzeppa joints were chosen by General Motors and Ford respectively [...] [They later realized that the "Tracta" type was better but they were already tooled up with the above types, so left it as it was.] (The Design Record, Vol. 4, p. 27).


Despite its antiquated looks, the Marmon-Herrington armoured vehicle remained the mainstay of the British armoured car regiments in the Western Dessert until 1942. Marmon-Herringtons were used by the Indian Army in the Middle East, and the British and Indians between them had almost 1200 vehicles. They stayed in service until the end of the Tunisian campaign, some of them being used also in Italy. The British had also used them in Malaya. The South Africa, the original and main user of the type, had over 4500 in total, and they were also used by the RAF for airfield defence in this region. 

The venerable american Marmon-Herrington company was one of the pioneers of the American auto industry. It was originally involved solely in civilian machinery and cars. Only in 1930s the Marmon Car Company was joined by Colonel Arthur Herrington, an ex-military engineer involved in the design of all-wheel drive vehicles. What followed was the development of military vehicles. Their armoured car concept was not an entirely original design, but rather a 4x4 conversion for a commercial 4x2 truck chassis suitable for use with a variety of armoured car bodies. In 1939, South Africa purchased these kits together with chassis from Canadian Ford and subsequently built them to armoured cars.  Therefore, the car as a whole was acutally a South African product. 135 of the initial Mk. I model  were manufactured, followed by 887 Mk. IIs. There were also a Mk. III and Mk. IV which looked compeletely different from the first two models. Mk. III was the most numerous version, 2260 being produced in total. The Mk. IV appeared too late to see combat in the North African campaign, and by the time it arrived, better British and American vehicles were already available in quantity.

Other users of the Marmon-Herrington included New Zealand, Free Greek, Free French and Polish armed forces. Some examples were also captured and used by Germans.


At the time M-H was the only company making all-wheel drive vehicles with their own cab and chassis systems. Marmon had been making cars since 1911 and in 1931 joined forces with Arthur Herrington, an ex-military engineer involved in the design of all-wheel drive vehicles to give the company a new lease on life when car sales plummeted during the Great Depression. Hauling twin and triple trailer loads of heavy iron pipe only four 1932 Marmon-Herrington rigs were needed to complete 70% of the pipeline between the oilfields at Kirkuk, Iraq and the seaports at Haifa in Palestine and Tripoli in Lebanon. The Nairn brothers also purchased Marmon-Herrington all-wheel drive units for their semi-truck operations in the Middle East.

According to Marmon historian Don Chew of Brighton, Colorado, the roads used by the bus operations were so well packed on the Baghdad to Damascus run by 1935 the need for all-wheel drive trucks diminished and Whites replaced the Marmons. Norman Nairn was knighted by the Crown for his historic trucking effort in 1948, but by that time the end of his operation was in sight. Air transport quickly displaced the bus service as the preferred method of travel and the oil companies had long before developed their own transportation systems. In 1950 Norman retired and gave the company to his employees. By 1956 the enterprise went out business for good. While it lasted the efforts of the Nairn brothers to tame the desolate Iraqi desert met with unprecedented success largely due to creative efforts and stamina of Marmon-Herrington trucks.


The Marmon Group began in 1953 as The Colson Company, a small manufacturer of casters and wheeled products. A series of acquisitions of other small metal products manufacturing companies led to the 1964 merger with the Marmon-Herrington Company (successor to the Marmon Motor Car Company), and the formation of The Marmon Group.

Over the years, The Marmon Group has grown steadily. Sales totaled $51.8 million in 1965, topped $100 million in 1970 and passed $200 million two years later. Since that time, the Group has grown almost 21-fold in revenues and every other significant measure. In 2001, net earnings for The Marmon Group were over $300 million, on revenues of $6.8 billion.

The growth of The Marmon Group resulted in part from the ability of Robert and Jay Pritzker to identify companies with significant growth potential, acquire them, and streamline management and operating procedures. Put simply, Jay Pritzker through the years has been in charge of acquisitions while Robert has had responsibility for overseeing operations of companies within the group.


    For more information please read:

George P. Hanley & Stacey P. Hanley - The Marmon Heritage

Dennis E. Horvath & Terri Horvath - Indiana Cars: A history of the Automobile in Indiana

Paul G. McLauglin - Ford 4x4s 1935-2001 Photo History

Ed Strauss & Karen Strauss - The Bus World Encyclopedia of Buses

G.N. Georgano & G. Marshall Naul - The Complete Encyclopedia of Commercial Vehicles

Albert Mroz - Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks & Commercial Vehicles

Donald F. Wood - American Buses

Denis Miller - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trucks and Buses

Susan Meikle Mandell - A Historical Survey of Transit Buses in the United States

David Jacobs - American Buses, Greyhound, Trailways and Urban Transportation

William A. Luke & Linda L. Metler - Highway Buses of the 20th Century: A Photo Gallery 

William A. Luke & Brian Grams - Buses of Motorcoach Industries 1932-2000 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Greyhound Buses 1914-2000 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Prevost Buses 1924-2002 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Flxible Intercity Buses 1924-1970 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Buses of ACF Photo Archive (including ACF-Brill & CCF-Brill)

William A. Luke - Trailways Buses 1936-2001 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Fageol & Twin Coach Buses 1922-1956 Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Yellow Coach Buses 1923 Through 1943: Photo Archive

William A. Luke - Trolley Buses: 1913 Through 2001 Photo Archive

Harvey Eckart - Mack Buses: 1900 Through 1960 Photo Archive

Brian Grams & Andrew Gold - GM Intercity Coaches 1944-1980 Photo Archive

Robert R. Ebert  - Flxible: A History of the Bus and the Company

John McKane - Flxible Transit Buses: 1953 Through 1995 Photo Archive

Bill Vossler - Cars, Trucks and Buses Made by Tractor Companies

Lyndon W Rowe - Municipal buses of the 1960s

Edward S. Kaminsky - American Car & Foundry Company 1899-1999

Dylan Frautschi - Greyhound in Postcards: Buses, Depots and Post Houses


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