In 1929, New Era Motors of New York announced the arrival of the Ruxton Automobile to compete with the likes of Cord. Archie Andrews, a financier and a director at Hupp Motor Corporation, championed the new brand. Production began in June, 1930 at both the Moon and Kissel auto factories.
Ruxtons were motivated by a 100 horsepower, 4.4-liter, straight eight Continental engine, connected to a three-speed manual front-drive transaxle. Features included deDion front suspension, leaf springs and four wheel hydraulic brakes on 130-inch wheelbase. Ruxtons are low, rakish and without running boards.
It is fully restored and meticulously maintained. The car has received several accolades, among them a perfect score from the Antique Automobile Club of America and a third place at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in 2005. This is one of four known.
During the Ruxton's incubation William Muller envisioned a new front-wheel-drive car, faster and more nimble than the standard 130-inch wheelbase model. Accordingly he quietly began constructing it. The Ruxton was one of the most unique American automobiles ever built and this one-of-a-kind (chassis number 1004) 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! This second car was built after regular production began. It was Muller's personal interpretation of a factory hot rod with a shortened 114-inch wheelbase. Bearing a grille badge with 'Muller Front Drive' in place of the Ruxton logo, it earned the nickname, 'The Alligator at the Indianapolis 500 in 1930, 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. Muller said that when he ran into rain - roofless - he would simply 'duck and go faster.' The car was commissioned by Muller to be destroyed in the 1950s - he did not want anyone else to have his dream when his priorities had shifted - but the man tasked with the car's demise was talked into secretly selling it to collector Cameron Peck.
The unique rear portion of this car was derived from a Dodge roadster body.
The car is powered by a correct, supercharged Continental 18S-6 100 horsepower engine. The body is as-original; there's no top. Only 17 Ruxtons exist today and this is the only Muller front drive version.
Ruxton, along with Cord, entered the front wheel drive field early. This roadster is one of 18 known surviving Ruxtons out of an original production of 289 cars, of which a majority were closed cars. A product of New Era Motors in St. Louis, its arrival on the market just as the depression took hold resulted in just a six-month production run.
After building just two roadsters in Philadelphia, Ruxton's parent company, New Era Motors, had plans for much more significant production when assembly moved to Moon in St. Louis. However supplier issues coupled with friction between New Era and body building Baker-Raulang resulted in total roadster production of only eight Moon-built examples.
This car (chassis number 10C64) possesses its original body tag, marking it as the fifth roadster built, and the fifteenth Ruxton chassis off the Moon line. Its first owner was the dentist of Archie M. Andrews, the Wall Street financier responsible for forming New Era. This car would eventually pass through the hands of collector D. Cameron Peck, who bought as many examples of the marque as he could locate in the 1940s and 1950s. It has been known as the S. Ray Miller car more recently; Miller had it comprehensively restored. This Ruxton has been visible in recent years as a true mascot, promoting the mystique of the Ruxton through appearances at events throughout the country.
The Ruxton sedan body was designed by Joseph 'Led' Ledwinka. He took an English-built Wolseley 21/60 and altered the body panels to sit on the low-slung Ruxton chassis by widening the body four inches and 'channelling' it over the frame rails, making it so low that running boards were eliminated. The Sedan sat 10 inches lower than contemporary models while providing significantly more headroom. It was advertised as 'A car so low you can look over it. A car so smart you can't overlook it.'
This car (chassis number 10C56) was purchased new by a church for their charismatic minister, with the standard $4,500 price discounted to $3,900 out of deference to the church. The church kept the car for over 50 years, when it was sold to a parishioner. By the late 1990s the car was in a private collection on Long Island. When the car was finally restored, it was finished in multiple shades of Joseph Urban blue, and it typifies the low-slung look of the Ruxton sedan. It has been heavily reworked by its current owners to ensure authenticity.
The Ruxton was the brainchild of William Muller, who convinced his employer, Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia, to invest in the front-wheel-drive prototype. Although the effort began at Budd, the project was quickly moved to the Board Machine Company, and New Era Motors was soon established as its parent company.
Three prototypes were constructed bearing chassis numbers 1000, 1001, and 1002. In the fall of 1929 this car (chassis number 1003) would mark the official debut of the Ruxton, showing a glimpse of the final Amos-Northup-designed roadster body. The factory retained this car press, shows and demonstrations. After Ruxton's demise the car was tucked away. Ruxton aficionado Leroy 'Doc' Forsythe later purchased the car from a New Jersey used car lot in 1952. By 1984 the Imperial Palace Collection in Las Vegas had restored the car, and then subsequently sold it to collector John O'Quinn. Its current owner acquired the car in 2010 and has since corrected many items on the vehicle while retaining its unique early production features.
The Ruxton's creators suffered many complications in attempting to produce the vehicle. After producing only eleven total cars in Philadelphia, prototypes included, New Era Motors failed at several attempts to secure a manufacturing home. After a successful hostile takeover of the Moon Motor Car Company in St. Louis, they were still plagued by supplier issues and antiquated manufacturing capabilities.
This car (chassis number 10C50) is the first Ruxton assembled at Moon. Despite being titled a 1929, it rolled out of the Moon factory in June of 1930. Its multi-colored, mahogany-toned paint scheme was designed by Joseph Urban, the art director, film designer and architect, who with his daughter Gretl created two distinctive Ruxton paint schemes. One of the originators of Art Deco style, Joseph Urban's multiband paint scheme created the effect of an even lower and longer car.
This car was restored in 2007 by the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum, and Gretl Urban, then aged 99, was consulted on the original paint color and interior fabrics.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The facilities, according to Muller, were unsuitable so Andrews approached the Kisser 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 Kisser Motor Company.
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.
A spare tire was mounted on the outside in front of the driver's door. There were no running boards and the fenders were long and slightly sloped. An optional 'Woodlite' headlamp was available.
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. By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2007
William J. Muller was a development engineer at Budd and Briggs, an automotive body building contractor, and a proponent of the front wheel drive system. It was common practice for coachbuilding companies such as Budd and Briggs to demonstrate new ideas and capabilities to major manufacturers to stimulate business.
The Ruxton was conceived by Muller with designs created in 1926 and a prototype version completed two years later. It had a proprietary chassis with a Studebaker six-cylinder engine and Warner gearbox. The prototype was brought to New York in 1929 where it generated much interest and curiosity. The front-drive system allowed the car to sit very low, around 10-inches lower than most of its competitors. In the front center of the vehicle was the emblem created by Budd. It was an oval with a '?' in its center.
The front-drive prototype interested Archie M. Andrews who quickly formed New Era Motors, Inc., with the intent to build it with assistance from Muller. The car was named the Ruxton, in hopes of landing financial backing from William V.C. Ruxton, an influential businessman living in New York. Unfortunately, the businessman was not interested.
A few short months after the formation of the New Era Motors, the production version was complete. The drive-train was completely different, now being powered by a Continental 18S eight-cylinder unit. The engine was mounted further forward in the engine bay which aided in weight distribution. The move forward was made possible by splitting the transmission with the low and reverse in front of the differential. Second and third was placed behind it. Also, the crown and pinion gearing was replaced by worm drive.
The Ruxton had only one other front-wheel drive competitor at the time: the Cord L-29 which had been introduced in late 1929. In comparison, the Ruxton was lower, had better balance, lighter, had better unsprung weight, and had better ride and handling. Cord, on the other hand, had its own manufacturing plant and an established dealer network. Muller and Andrews were still searching for interested personnel to produce their vehicle. Many established manufacturers were approached but most declined. The list included Gardner in St. Lous, Hupp Manufacturing, and Indianapolis-based Marmon.
The car was eventually produced by Moon while manufacture of the transaxles and several complete cars were subcontracted to Wisconsin-based Kissel Company.
The Ruxton's were doomed from the start; the demise of the economy due to the Great Depression plus the lack of an established dealer-network meant only a handful would ever be created. It is unknown exactly how many examples were created, though it is believed that around 500 were created. Other estimates put that number much lower, at around 100. In modern times, fewer than ten are known to exist. By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2008