Saturday, July 14, 2012

Flint- the Vehicle City

It use to be all about wheels in this city.  Flint certainly has a very fascinating past, which we discovered yesterday at the Sloan Museum.  The wheels pictured above once hauled logs.  Flint was a logging town but it did not meet the demise of other such towns in Michigan.  After the lumber ran out, the town started making carriages and wagons.  In 1900 numerous businesses in the town built a total of 100,000 vehicles which were used for transportation and hauling.  The Durant-Dort Carriage Company of Flint became the top producers of carriages in the world.  William Durant used his expertise in that business to manufacture cars and became the founder of General Motors.  In 1911 he approached Louis Chevrolet about designing a car for him, using the features of a car created by William Little and a car called the Classic Six designed by Chevrolet- that car became the Light Six. The goal was to create a more marketable car. The Classic Six,  pictured below, is the oldest running Chevrolet in the world.  We saw this car at the Buick Automotive Gallery, located in another building near the Sloan Museum.
  An interesting twist to this story is that Durant named his new company Chevrolet,  however he had a dispute with Louis Chevrolet and Chevrolet left the company of his name to return to his racing career.  He did go back to the company in 1933 as an engineer.
 I asked a staff member at the museum where the name Buick came from.  She informed me that David Buick was an inventor- his first invention was applying vitreous enamel to cast iron bathtubs.  After that his interest turned to engines and making spark plugs. He founded the Buick Company in 1906, which later became part of General Motors.  With the auto industry up and running, Flint became a boom town in the early 1900s.  Its population was 150,000 in 1925.  In 1929 30 % of its population was foreign born- many people came from around the world to work in the auto plants.  At this time also many homes were razed to make room for auto factories, parking lots and garages.  Places to live became hard to find in Flint.  Of course all that changed for Flint when the depression years arrived, and shortly after that World War  11.  With the war women were then recruited to work in the factories of Flint.  The city has not since seen the boom years of the early 1900s.
Before closing, I want to mention the logo of Chevrolet, which is referred to as a bow tie.  It is not certain where Durant got the idea.  He second wife claims that he saw the design in an advertisement for small coal briquets ( "CoalEttes") when they were vacationing  in Virginia.

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