One would have thought that a simple offer of “I’ll sell half of all the of cars that you can produce” would have been too sweet a deal to bicker about. After all, in a sea of automobile firms sailing forth with a great idea, only to founder from lack of sales or a host of other monsters lurking in the deep waters, how could anyone grouse about that?
As previously mentioned (in our prior episode on E-M-F), it all began in 1908 when Walter Flanders calculated that, in order for their Great Idea to take hold and flourish, E-M-F had to produce and sell at least 10,000 automobiles per year. Their purchase of other troubled firms soon provided buildings and equipment to do just that. But they had to grow fast and sell, as they were undercapitalized and would otherwise sink just like many other car companies.
So when representatives of the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Co. approached Walter Flanders about selling E-M-F cars at their many carriage dealerships, Flanders jumped on it. Studebaker had over 4000 outlets spread throughout the west and southwest; this was too good to pass up!
But Metzger and Everitt were not happy with the deal, especially since Studebaker would sell the cars for E-M-F but not be required to buy them at wholesale, a method that Ford later used to ensure that the dealers were motivated to move the cars and not let them sit. In addition, wholesaling the cars to the dealer would have generated some cash at HQ with which to produce more cars and keep the factory doors open.
So E and M, miffed about the deal, split off, leaving F to sink or swim. And here we are, still only in 1909, with E-M-F’s best years ahead of it!
Studebaker had previously pulled some shenanigans with the Garford Co. in order to take it over, which it did after a few nasty lawsuits, and Flanders soon found out that Studebaker was slow-walking sales of E-M-F cars in order to force him into bankruptcy so that they could then buy out and take over E-M-F. So he terminated the sales agreement with Studebaker in December 1909, obtained replacement dealers to fulfill sales of E-M-F automobiles, and the lawsuits started flying.
Studebaker tried on three different occasions and in two different states to prevent E-M-F from selling its own cars, and each time they were denied the injunction. Then they hired J.P. Morgan to secretly represent them and buy up all of E-M-F’s shares at a stellar price, which Morgan did by March of 1910. However, Flanders somehow maintained control of E-M-F’s board, required Studebaker representatives to vacate their board seats for Morgan replacements, and pocketed a nice profit for selling his shares of E-M-F. Studebaker now owned the company, but also, a mountain of debt.
Morgan then sold its control to Goldman, Sachs, & Co, who then forced Studebaker to re-incorporate as the Studebaker Corporation and merge in E-M-F. Studebaker, which nominally controlled its company but not its own board. Studebaker then hired a supervisor to supervise Flanders, the General Manager, in an effort to force him out.
Everitt and Metzger, along with their chief engineer Kelly whom they had hired away from E-M-F, were not sitting idly by. By September of 1909 they had incorporated as the Metzger Motor Car Co, and shortly after that, introduced the Everitt 30 for 1910. Another Kelly-designed vehicle, it closely resembled the E-M-F 30:
· The E-M-F 30 employed a 238 cubic inch engine on a 106”-108” wheelbase, depending on model, and its tourer weighed 1800 pounds.
· The Everitt 30’s engine displaced 226 cid, rode on a 110” wheelbase for the touring body, and weighed in at 2200 pounds.
Despite all of the legal skirmishes between E-M-F and Studebaker, Flanders had managed to jazz up the 1909 E-M-F 30 Roadster to make it an even nicer-looking model for 1910. Called the E-M-F 30 “Racy Roadster,” it dropped the second row of seats and installed in its place an oval tank, but kept an upright front bench and a relatively upright steering wheel as well. This model 30 would continue in 1911 unchanged, but acquire fore-door configuration for 1912.
In an effort to compete with Ford’s Model T, Flanders had also brought out the Flanders “20” line in 1910 with a 155 cid engine and (initially) a two-speed transmission, planted with a 100” wheelbase, and selling for $750. Three models were offered, with the “Racy Roadster” setting the style for subsequent years.
By 1912 only the Flanders 20 roadsters would sport the open-scuttle cockpit look, which would be shared by the 1912 Studebaker-Flanders Speedster as well as the 1912 Witt Special, named after racing driver Frank Witt, a driver for the E-M-F racing team. In November of 1911 the team of Witt, Evans, and Tower swept the light car field at the Savannah road races and captured the Tiedemann Trophy after scoring a 1-2-3 finish! Both the Speedster and the Special had a seat and steering column that were raked back, but the Special had larger wheels for a higher top speed, and its gas tank was round, not oval.
In 1912 financial difficulties forced the Metzger Motor Car Co. to voluntarily dissolve itself and reorganize as the Everitt Motor Car Co, all while continuing to build its Everitt 30. Heroically it retired the four-cylinder cars and started a six-cylinder line.
Coincidentally, Studebaker, in a move not unlike eating the goose that laid the golden egg, had forced out Walter Flanders on August 7, 1912 after he had produced record numbers of Flanders 20 and E-M-F 30 automobiles for them. For his troubles, Flanders was paid an undisclosed tidy sum and given the right to go open a car firm in any name that he felt like. And so, by golly, he immediately did!
On August 21, The Everitt Motor Car Co. board voted to change its name to the Flanders Motor Car Co. Walter Flanders, now back with his partners, announced two six-cylinder cars for 1913, a “40” that would have a 115” wheelbase and cost $1550, and a “50” that would have a 127” wheelbase and cost $2250. And so the old group was back in business. But, alas, not for long…
The topsy-turvy economy of 1912 spun the company into a loop in 1913, just as Flanders Motor had entered into a relationship with U.S. Motor Car Co. Orders dried up and the Flanders company crashed. Walter Flanders would stay on as chief executive to help reorganize the “new” company that emerged from the merger, that being Maxwell. Maxwell, in business since 1905, would go on under Flanders’ leadership to compete head-to head with Ford for the next several years in the low- and medium-priced automobile field, racking up impressive sales numbers. Departing once again, the other two principals, Everitt and Metzger, would high-tail it onto other ventures in the bubbling cauldron known as early twentieth century automobile manufacturing:
· In five short years since 1908, each had made millions.
· Their joint efforts had helped found Cadillac, raised up Ford to worldwide status, and helped forge the Studebaker Corporation.
· Each contributed to the industry of Detroit and made it a shining city in the early 1900s.
· Flanders’ leadership at Maxwell culminated with 75,000 units sold in 1917, after which he retired to become a gentleman farmer. This was Maxwell’s peak year, subsequently crashing in the post-war recession of 1920-21. However, this setback only prepared Maxwell for its comeback in the mid-1920s as Chrysler Corporation.
· Metzger, after serving as a fire commissioner in Detroit and also president of the Detroit Athletic Club, would become a state-wide distributer of the Wills Saint-Claire and a promoter of national air transport. He would also help Eddie Stinson get his aircraft company started in the latter 1920s.
· Everitt would continue in the automotive industry and reunite with his colleagues in 1921, including LeRoy Pelletier, to help birth the Rickenbacker Automobile Company.
The DNA of these three auto pioneers are scattered throughout and present in just about every major American auto company that we know today. And along the way, they even managed to foster a few awesome speedsters!
(Catalog photos & illustrations courtesy of the AACA library. Magazine ads courtesy of HCFI.org. Illustration of the 1912 Flanders Speedster courtesy of EMFauto.org. Flanders Speedster at auction photo copyright 2017 by Ronald D. Sieber)
Next post: the advent of the sport-bodied speedster. And if you haven’t done so already, please check out our index for previous posts that you may have missed!