Mac’s Motor City Garage presents another batch of obscure Detroit automotive makes. How many do you recognize?
MCG honestly doesn’t know how many automobile manufacturers have been based in the Detroit area. We only know there’s been a lot of them over the last century or more, and that so far we’re only scratching the surface. For your review, here are the features we’ve done to date:
+ Five forgotten Detroit-built cars Thomas-Detroit, Anhut, Krit, Rickenbacker, Columbia
+ Four more forgotten Detroit-built cars Hupp-Yeats, King, Northern, Harroun
And now, five more forgotten makes with origins in the Motor City.
One of many unrelated makes to use the Detroit name, the Detroit Air-Cooled of 1922-23 was also marketed as the D.A.C. Its most novel feature was the engine, a fan-cooled aluminum V6 with a narrow 30-degree bank angle and pullrod-actuated overhead valves. Sources estimate that around 100 vehicles were produced at the company’s Wayne, Michigan plant.
Forgotten today, the Divco delivery car was once ubiquitous in American neighborhoods, delivering milk, bread, and other goods. The venerable Model U, shown here, was introduced in 1938 with a signature rounded nose and a step-down frame that permitted a stand-and-drive operating position. Divco vehicles were manufactured in various locations around the Motor City, including the Continental plant on Jefferson Avenue and a dedicated facility on Hoover Road.
A large and expensive assembled car powered by a big 48 hp Continental six, the Benham was a successor brand to the S&M (Strobel & Martin) auto, also of Detroit. The circa 1913-14 operation might be best remembered today for its chief engineer, Owen Skelton, who later found fame as a member of Chrysler’s renowned engineering team, the Three Musketeers: Skelton, Carl Breer, and Fred Zeder. Production was only in the dozens, evidently, but one Benham car in unrestored condition resides at the Canton Classic Car Museum in Canton, Ohio.
The short-lived Owen automobile of 1910 featured a 120-inch wheelbase, tall 42-inch wheels, a factory on East Grand Boulevard next door to the Packard plant, and Detroit Tiger Ty Cobb (shown here) as celebrity endorser. The effort failed to thrive, but the Owen brothers emerged a few years later as the producers of the Owen Magnetic, the pioneer hybrid auto that employed the Entz electric transmission.
Starting in 1932, the Hudson Motor Car Co. phased out its Essex companion brand and introduced a jazzy new name, Terraplane, for the company’s junior line. In 1933 a Terraplane with straight-eight power was available—one of the few value-priced cars that could match the new Ford V8 in performance. Bank robber John Dillinger was a fan. The 1935 Terraplanes (shown here and in the lead photo above) turned heads with their bold, advanced styling. The Terraplane ad pitch: “On the sea that’s aquaplaning, in the air that’s aeroplaning, but on the land, in the traffic, on the hills, hot diggity dog, that’s Terraplaning!”