The Four Wheel Drive Auto Company is celebrating its 100th anniversary and will celebrate with a brief ceremony and tours of the FWD museum on Saturday, Aug. 14 beginning at 1:15 p.m. at the museum on 11th Street. Cake and coffee will be served.
FWD Historian Robert W. Gabrick is coordinating the celebration and Mayor Judith I. Magee will honor FWD with an official proclamation naming August 14, 2010 as “FWD Centennial Commemoration Day” and 2010 as “FWD Centennial Year”.
• Otto Zachow and William Besserdich, blacksmiths and machinists in Clintonville, Wisconsin, developed the ball and socket, patented in 1908, allowing a vehicle’s front wheels to steer without interfering with the delivery of power to the wheels.
• Zachow, Besserdich, and W.H. Finney established The Badger Four Wheel Drive Auto Company, in 1909; and with the assistance of attorney Walter A. Olen, who guided the company as President from 1910 until 1952, established The Four Wheel Drive Auto Company in 1910.
• The Four Wheel Drive Auto Company built the world’s first successful four-wheel-drive automobile, affectionately known as “The Battleship” in 1909.
• The Four Wheel Drive Auto Company made the important decision to specialize in four-wheel-drive trucks, contributing significantly to the transformation of the United States military starting with the 1916 Punitive Expedition, World War I and II, and beyond.
• Seeking to promote four-wheel-drive, The Four Wheel Drive Auto Company entered racecars in the Indianapolis 500 from 1932 to 1937, finishing as high as fourth in 1935.
• The Four Wheel Drive Auto Company established Wisconsin Central Airlines in 1945, which became North Central Airlines, then Republic Airlines, merging with Northwest Airlines, now Delta Airlines.
• The Four Wheel Drive Auto Company over the years produced specialized vehicles including buses and fire apparatus and trucks for road construction and maintenance, utility construction and service, oil exploration and production, the building trades, and snowplows. The company has been a major factor in the economic growth, prosperity, and well-being of Clintonville, Wisconsin, the United States, and the world.