A front-wheel drive posh car in the early 1930s? A few thousand bucks will buy you a Cord... or a Ruxton.
The Ruxton is a forgotten manufacturer, often overlooked when considering early pioneers in automotive design and mechanics. One of their biggest automotive achievements was the use of front-drive automobiles. In 1966, Oldsmobile introduced the Toronado, a front wheel drive vehicle and the only American built front-drive vehicle since the Cord. When Ruxton introduced their version, it was roughly the same time that Cord introduced theirs however it was Cord that survived longer.
1930 Ruxton Saloon by aldenjewell, on Flickr. A bold claim of "the first front-wheel drive" title
William Muller, an employee of Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Co. of Philadelphia and a racing engineer, was instrumental in design and development of many of the components on the Ruxton. The body was styled by Budd Manufacturing Co's chief engineer Joseph Ledwinka. The resulting automobile was a large and luxurious automobile with the engine in the front and unconventionally powering the front wheels. Because it was front-drive, the vehicle was able to sit lower than most cars and lowering its center of gravity making it stable at speed.
1930 Ruxton Hansom by aldenjewell, on Flickr (This is page 3 of a 4-page ad which appeared in Aug. 2, 1929 Life magazine)
Archie Andrews, a member of Budd's board of directors and a Wall Street financier was fascinated by the vehicle and immediately acquired the prototype. He approached Hupmobiles with hopes of having them produce it. When negotiations fell through, Andrews decided to produce the vehicle himself. In 1929, he formed the New Era Motors Inc. He hired Muller as vice-president. Muller handled the engineering aspects while Andrews sought financial backing which he found in a New York stockbroker named William Ruxton. Andrews decided to name the automobile after his new found friend, unfortunately, Andrews never received any money from Ruxton.
1930 Ruxton Roadster, Phaeton & Saloon by aldenjewell, on Flickr (page 4 of the same ad)
Andrews approached Gardner Motor Co, located in St. Louis. Just like the incident with Hupmobiles, the Gardner Motor Company showed desire but eventually pulled out of the deal. Disappointed, Andrews approached Marmon Motor Car Company located in Indianpolis. One the day the agreement was signed, the stock market crashed and Marmon Motor Car Company declined the agreement. Jordan, Stutz, and Pierce were approached by Andrews but none wanted to build the Ruxton. Finally, a deal was struck with the Moon Motor Car Company and by the middle of 1930, the Ruxton had begun produced.
1929 Ruxton Model C Roadster (what a psychodelic paintjob!) by Rex Gray, on Flickr
The facilities, according to Muller, were unsuitable so Andrews approached the Kissel Motor Company concerning the use of their facilities. They agreed and soon the Ruxton was being produced in St. Louis at the Moon facility and in Hartford, Wisconsin at the Kissel Motor Company.
1929 Ruxton Muller Prototype at Amelia Island 2010 by gswetsky, on Flickr
The Ruxton was one of the most unique American automobiles ever built and this one-of-a-kind front drive prototype with body by Budd is truly unique. It was built by William Muller, designer of the Ruxton as a 'little, sporty supercharged roadster for fellows....who enjoyed fast road cars.' Oh did he succeed! At the Indianapolis 500 in 1930 it was nicknamed 'The Alligator,' following a tug of war on the infield with the Cord L-29 pace car. Bill Muller drove the car for several years after Ruxton closed its doors in 1930.
1930 Ruxton engine by dmentd, on Flickr
The engine that powered the Ruxton was a Continental 4.4 liter side-valve, straight-eight cylinder engine capable of producing 100 horsepower. The three-speed manual gearbox was of Muller-design and was rather unique. It was split with the second and third gears behind the worm-drive differential and the first and reverse gears in front of it.
1930 Ruxton Saloon by dmentd, on Flickr
1930 Ruxton 5-passenger Sedan by Jack Snell "Snappy Jack", on Flickr
1930 Ruxton Phaeton by aldenjewell, on Flickr
1930 Ruxton Model C Rauch & Lang Phaeton by Rex Gray, on Flickr
The Great Depression was a difficult time for many. The ones that were hurt the most were the manufacturers that offered mostly high-priced, luxury automobiles. Since the Depression greatly reduced the amount of spending power of many individuals, they were often the first to go out of business. The Ruxton cost roughly $3,000, a price tag that was out of the reach for most buyers. After about 500 examples produced, Ruxton closed its doors and ceased production.
1930 Ruxton Roadster by aldenjewell, on Flickr
1930 Ruxton Roadster by Latvian98, on Flickr
* An article by Daniel Vaughan @ Conceptcarz
Headline picture: 1930 Ruxton Model C Rauch & Lang Phaeton hood ornament by Rex Gray, on Flickr