Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Hupmobile - Ahead of It's Time

The Hupmobile was a cheaply made, easily maintained car with a 4 cylinder engine way back before anyone was really thinking about mileage. From 1909 until just before the outbreak of the Second World War the Hupp Motor Company of Detroit was turning out these snazzy; and also classic; automobiles.

Introduced at the Detroit Auto Show in February 1909 they caught on instantly; selling at about $500 bucks each.The manufacturer; Robert Craig Hupp; was a former employee at both Oldsmobile and Ford Motor Companies; and decided to take a gamble on his own. Organized in 1908; along with his brother Louis; they began the actual production of the first car in 1909. By 1910 the demand had increased to over 500 per year.

Robert Hupp had some disagreements with his financial backers and sold his shares in 1910. He then founded the RCH Automobile Company, but soon foundered. He even tried an electric car under that name and also the Hupp-Yeats Electric Car Company.

By 1912 he would be one of only two automakers who used all-steel bodies. The other company was an English firm; BSA; famous for their motorcycles. Hupp was also busy designing and manufacturing a 7 passenger vehicle which would become the forerunner of Greyhound Bus.

While Hupp was doing these new experimental things, the company he originally founded was prospering along with the nation. In 1924 Hupp Motors was the leading competitor of both the Ford and Chevrolet companies. But even before the Depression was in full swing the company had seen a drop off in sales. They tried bigger touring cars, but somehow they couldn’t compete with the Pierce Arrows and foreign touring cars which were common during the 1920’s. This was a strategy which proved fatal; as they were shutting out their former “bread and butter” customers; who then went to Ford.

Hupp Motors continued with trying new designs during the 1930’s; even using Ford bodies which were modified. But by 1936 they were selling off the plants and other assets; meaning it was only a matter of time until this classic automobile would be gone. Even the acquisition of the Cord Motor Company designs; with thousands of orders; couldn’t save the company now. Without the plants they had sold off, they couldn’t fill them. They turned to competitor Graham-Paige Motor Co.; who had troubles of their own and arranged to share the Cord die; and were built at Graham's facilities. That car was called the Hollywood, and was essentially the same as the Skylark.

In 1939 the death blow came with only 319 orders to fill. The following year saw the closing of the Graham facilities; essentially marking the end of both companies. But what a legacy of design features Hupp left behind. He was the first to design and introduce what he called “free wheelin” the precursor of today’s 4 wheel drive. He was also the first to offer heaters using fresh air, rather than the engine air which was less than pleasant. The new technology became standard in the industry after Hupp left the field in 1940.

For a look at more of Hupp’s cars, use this link;

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