Joseph Ledwinka


    Joseph Ledwinka & the Ruxton

Born in a swirl of fast deals and lawsuits, the Ruxton was nonetheless an excellent car. Shown here is a 1929 Ruxton. The car was conceived by Archie Andrews, an auto industry operator who served on the boards of Budd Co. and Hupp Motor Car Corp. The classic with its distinctive cat's-eye Woodlites was designed by Joseph Ledwinka. In his efforts to get the car built, Andrews forced a legal showdown with Moon Motor Car Co. of St. Louis, which drowned in a tide of lawsuits. Andrews went on to chair Hupp Motor Car Corp. until he was ousted by angry stockholders a couple years later. Some 500 Ruxtons were built by Moon in 1929 and 1930 and all are designated as classics by the Classic Car Club of America. The car was named for WilliamV. C. Ruxton, a Wall Street figure who never did invest in the venture.

The Woodlite headlamp style didn't seem to make its way to the taillamps as they did on some examples of Cord L-29s I've seen thus rounding out that menacing stance.

The Ruxton was built in  limited numbers to rival the Cord L-29 of the same time period. Production actually began in 1930. The Ruxton was made in the Moon and Kissel factories. Ruxton collapsed, along with Moon and Kissel, in 1931. Ruxtons are often remembered by their rakish profile and their bright, wacky paint schemes.

Ruxton was a troubled manufacturer from before the word go. Designed by William Muller the Ruxton uses frontwheel drive (which explains why the front wheels are so far forward of the radiator) and sits about ten inches lower than the average car of the period. Running boards were never part of the Ruxton design but odd paint colors were. An art deco griffin stands as the cars logo. Many of the examples built used the cat-eye Woodlite headlamps (personally some of my favorite headlamps of all time).

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Joseph Ledwinka & the Ruxton

During the late twenties, William Muller was working as an experimental engineer at Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company (producer of automobile bodies in Philadelphia), Muller persuaded management to allow him to develop a front-wheel-drive prototype. The idea was to sell the design to some manufacturer and provide the bodies by Budd. The prototype was completed by the fall of 1928. Joseph Ledwinka was the designer of the body and they used a Studebaker six engine. The wheel base was 130 inches and the car was a little bit over 63 inches high, when most cars were 10 inches higher. Archie M. Andrews a free-wheeling promoter and financier became interested. Andrews, who held several board of directorship in company's included Budd and Hupp Motor Car Corporation but he could not convince Hupp to build this new car. Andrews decided to do it himself and in April 1929 organized the New Era Motor, Inc. with the headquarters at 17 East 45th Street in New York City, but no factory. Without a factory he went out to search for a manufacture of the Ruxton. In his search he approached three company's Peerless, Gardner, and Marmon, which all three declined. With all of the turndowns it appear that he would not be able to produce the Ruxton, but that was not true. In November 1929 an announcement came from the Moon Company would build the Ruxton. No doubt the Moon people viewed the car as the perfect vehicle to lift their company out of a sales doldrums it had been in for the past few years. The Moon people did not count on losing their company and president in the process, but that's precisely what happened. Archie Andrews the canny promoter of the Ruxton, managed to obtain controlling percentage of Moon stock in exchange for the Ruxton design and patent rights. C.W. Burst and officers barricaded themselves in the Moon's St. Louis plant until Andrews, Muller and his gang broke in with court order in hand. Muller had been appointed president of the Moon Company. The entire matter of Moon control went to court thereafter, with suits followed by countersuits. But, by June of 1930 the Ruxton had joined the Windsor on the assembly line in St. Louis, Missouri and the Kissel Company of Hartford, Wisconsin. Andrews had also, maneuvered a deal with Kissel brothers. Instead of suing Andrew, in mid-September, rather than allow their company to fall into his hands, George and Will Kissel decided requested receivership. All Ruxton's transmissions and final drive assemblies were being produced Kissel. Because of this it stymied production in St. Louis. In any case the Ruxton venture had depleted the Moon Company's treasury. The factory's doors were closed on November 10th, following by receivership on November 15th. A total of aprox. 500 cars produced were in the Moon plant, with only about 25 cars assembled at the Kissel plant which included two special phaetons for the Kissel brothers. The majority of the Ruxton's were roasters and sedans. The roadster bodies were by Raulang and the sedan bodies were by Budd. They were good cars, and strikingly handsome, especially the sedans provided those wild multi-colored striped paint schemes. Most of them had cat-eyes Woodlites headlights and no running boards which where unseen during the early thirties. On the radiator, tire covers and large hubcaps was a beautifully stylized rendering of a griffin, the half-eagle, half-lion monster of classic mythology. Archie Andrews jumped from Ruxton, Moon and his now-bankrupt New Era Motors to Hupp Motor Car Corporation where he assumed the chairmanship of the board, until the courts and angry stockholders took it away from him. Andrews died in 1938 at age fifty-nine.

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Joseph Ledwinka an the Citroen Traction Avant (TA)

The genesis of the TA idea was perhaps two-fold inspired. First was the front wheel drive, integral chassis-body prototype built by Joseph Ledwinka of Philadelphia's Budd Company in 1931. Second was the fwd prototype conceived a year earlier at Issy-les-Moulineaux by Gabriel Voisin and Andrť LefŤbvre with a 3.2-litre Knight engine, Cotal gearbox and no differential. An ocean separated these independent ventures, but both can be linked to CitroŽn. In 1923 Andrť CitroŽn bought a Budd patent for an all-steel body and adapted it for mass production. Bodies were initially built by Budd in Philadelphia; then after the Budd-assisted setting up of a plant in France and the shipping of the dies, CitroŽn made the stampings itself. Andrť CitroŽn had made several trips to America, visiting Budd apparently each time and though Bill Muller had left Budd by 1931 (for his own front wheel drive Ruxton adventure) he recalled to Automobile Quarterly that Andrť CitroŽn did visit Budd that year. Doubtless he and the CitroŽn officials with him saw the Ledwinka prototype then. However, when it came time for the design of his new car, CitroŽn stayed at home; he hired Andrť LefŤbvre for the project. Production plans for the Voisin prototype had gone awry, and in their wake LefŤbvre had gone away - first to Renault where he found the ambience "stultifying," then to Quai de Javel. He, with associate Maurice Sainturat, came up with the TA. Though inspiration for its parts may have derived from the previous prototypes, the whole was an all-new design. As such, some aborning problems were to be expected. But the TA had more than its share.

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April 30, 1935, historical US patent # 2,000,000 was issued to Joseph Ledwinka for a vehicle wheel construction.

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Joseph Ledwinka & Budd

In America the Hupp Motor Car Corporation began marketing the steel bodied Hupmobile in
1913, followed by the Dodge brothers, who broke their association with Fords and began to
manufacture a Dodge car with all-steel bodywork in 1911 In France, the Citroen Company
were the first European manufacturers to adopt steel construction soon after World War I,
and it was not long before the Citroen Company's works at Slough were assembling
component parts brought over from France. All of which did not go unnoticed by William
Morris who, realising the importance of the new technical developments, visited the United
States in 1925 to study the American methods and in particular those of the Edward G. Budd
Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia who owned valuable patents to the system; and
from whom Andre Citroen had bought rights to manufacture all-steel bodies for his B12
saloons and tourers.

Edward Gowan Budd, who was bom in Delaware in 1870, had an early career with the
American Pulley Company who built up a thriving business machinating pulleys stamped
out of sheet steel. Then followed a spell with the Hale & Kilbum Manufacturing Company
where he and another engineer, Joseph Ledwinka, were employed on the design and
planning of steel body pressings. With this background and the foresight to see the
expanding use of steel body pressings in the motor industry, it is not surprising that in 1912
he and Ledwinka set up their own company employing twelve men and a capital of £15,000.
The Dodge brothers, John and Horace, who approached Budd, for pressed steel body panels,
were persuaded that all-steel body was a practical proposition. As a result of Morris's visit to
the United States, The Pressed Steel Co. of Great Britain was established in 1926 under the
auspices of the Budd organisation, J. Henry Schroeder & Cc (merchant bankers), and Morris
Motors Ltd (Morris withdrew their interest in 1930 as it inhibited the sale of bodies and
pressings to other motor manufacturers). The new company was located at Cowley, adjoining
the Morris works, where some of the largest presses in the country (including a 1,600-ton
American Hamilton, weighing 249 tons) were installed, making it, subsequently, the largest
body plant in Europe.

Meanwhile, in Germany, Budd was also setting up the Ambi-Budd Presswerke in Berlin. In
the initial stages, in order to get an early start, Morris purchased dies and jigs for two types of
steel body from Budds for £120,000, together with over four thousand drawings which had to
be converted for English manufacture. Teething troubles were inevitable, especially in view
of the show vehicles on stand 98 at Olympia for the 1927 Motor Show were narrow-track
versions, and the date would also account for the late (May 1928) Road Test carried out by
The Autocrat, in which the tester's veiled remarks suggest that he was not specially pleased
with the handling at low speeds Morris sources claimed a speed of over 70mph in top gear
and a petrol consumption of 22mpg.

 

   

For more information please read:

John R. Velliky - Dodge Brothers/Budd Co. Historical Photo Album

Biographies of Prominent Carriage Draftsmen - Carriage Monthly, April 1904

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Michael Lamm and Dave Holls - A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

George Arthur Oliver - A History of Coachbuilding

George Arthur Oliver - Cars and Coachbuilding: One Hundred Years of Road Vehicle Development

Hugo Pfau - The Custom Body Era

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Car

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Era

Richard Burns Carson - The Olympian Cars

Brooks T. Brierley - Auburn, Reo, Franklin and Pierce-Arrow Versus Cadillac, Chrysler, Lincoln and Packard

Brooks T. Brierley - Magic Motors 1930

James J. Schild - Fleetwood: the Company and the Coachcraft

John R. Velliky - Dodge Brothers/Budd Co. Historical Photo Album

Stephen Newbury -  Car Design Yearbook 1

Stephen Newbury -  Car Design Yearbook 2

Stephen Newbury -  Car Design Yearbook 3

Dennis Adler - The Art of the Sports Car: The Greatest Designs of the 20th Century

C. Edson Armi - The Art of American Car Design: The Profession and Personalities

C. Edson Armi - American Car Design Now

Penny Sparke - A Century of Car Design

John Tipler - The World's Great Automobile Stylists

Ivan Margolius - Automobiles by Architects

Jonathan Bell - Concept Car Design

Erminie Shaeffer Hafer - A century of vehicle craftsmanship

Ronald Barker & Anthony Harding - Automobile Design: Twelve Great Designers and Their Work

John McLelland - Bodies beautiful: A history of car styling and craftsmanship

Frederic A. Sharf - Future Retro: Drawings From The Great Age Of American Automobiles

Paul Carroll Wilson - Chrome Dreams: Automobile Styling Since 1893

David Gartman - Auto Opium: A Social History of American Automobile Design

Nick Georgano - Art of the American Automobile: The Greatest Stylists and Their Work

Matt Delorenzo - Modern Chrysler Concept Cars: The Designs That Saved the Company

Thom Taylor - How to Draw Cars Like a Pro

Tony Lewin & Ryan Borroff - How To Design Cars Like a Pro

Frederick E. Hoadley - Automobile Design Techniques and Design Modeling: the Men, the Methods, the Materials

Doug DuBosque - Draw Cars

Jonathan Wood - Concept Cars

D. Nesbitt - 50 Years Of American Auto Design

David Gartman - Auto Opium: A Social History of American Automobile Design

Lennart W. Haajanen & Karl Ludvigsen - Illustrated Dictionary of Automobile Body Styles

L. J. K Setright - The designers: Great automobiles and the men who made them

Goro Tamai - The Leading Edge: Aerodynamic Design of Ultra-Streamlined Land Vehicles

Brian Peacock & Waldemar Karwowski - Automotive Ergonomics

Bob Thomas - Confessions of an Automotive Stylist

Brooke Hodge & C. Edson Armi - Retrofuturism: The Car Design of J Mays

Gordon M. Buehrig - Rolling sculpture: A designer and his work

Henry L. Dominguez - Edsel Ford and E.T. Gregorie: The Remarkable Design Team...

Stephen Bayley - Harley Earl (Design Heroes Series)

Stephen Bayley - Harley Earl and the Dream Machine

Serge Bellu - 500 Fantastic Cars: A Century of the World Concept Cars

Raymond Loewy - Industrial Design

Raymond Loewy - Never Leave Well Enough Alone

Philippe Tretiack - Raymond Loewy and Streamlined Design

Angela Schoenberger - Raymond Loewy: Pioneer of American Industrial Design

Laura Cordin - Raymond Loewy

 


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