There were two front-wheel drive cars that came onto the scene just prior to the onset of the Great Depression, the Cord L-29 and the Ruxton Sedan. Ruxton's front-wheel drive campaign was short-lived and the less remembered. Despite its technological excellent and ingenuity, the car was introduced during a rough part of history and the company struggled to find its financial footing. The final Ruxton automobiles were built in 1931.
Unusual horizontally-striped paint schemes were used to accentuate the long, lower silhouette of the body profile. Disc wheels were by Budd, and fabrics by famed designer Schumacher were featured for the interiors. The company slogan was, 'A car so low you can look over it. A car so smart you can't overlook it.' This example, one of only about 200 Ruxtons actually built before internal strif and the Depression killed the company in 1931, features the trademark Woodlite headlights and sidelights. Intriguingly, the car is named after a New York investor who never actually invested any money in the company, and who later went to court to prove that he had not.
Ruxton's featured a unique transmission setup which allowed the car to sit ten inches lower than other cars of its time.
This 1930 Ruxton Sedan is in the ownership of the Nethercutt Collection. It was shown at the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance where it won 'First in Class' and 'Best American Classic'. It is finished in horizontal bands of maroon and cream, designed by Joseph Urban. The fabric was designed by Schumacher of New York. The coachwork was by Edward G. Budd Mfg. Co., Coachbuilders, of Philadelphia, PA.
This 1930 Ruxton Sedan is powered by an eight-cylinder Continental 18-S L-head engine capable of producing 100 horsepower. The engine is unique to the Ruxton. The original price was $3195.
After a meticulous restoration, the present owners showed this car at the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and it was named First in Class and won the Classic Car Club of America trophy. By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2014
After determining that the Moon assembly plant was too antiquated, Ruxton struck a deal with Kissel Motor Car Company of Hartford, Wisconsin, to assemble complete Ruxton cars. Kissel's facility was ideal as they had previously been contracted to manufacture the complex Ruxton unitized transmission/differential assembly. As with most things Ruxton, this would quickly became a tangled affair. After feeling the grip of promoter Archie Andrews tightening for a corporate takeover, the proud Kissel brothers chose to file for receivership and preempt his move.
This car (chassis number 11005) is the earliest surviving car built at Kissel (where chassis numbers began with #11000) and is the eleventh of 12 total roadsters produced by New Era Motors. Kissel Company president George Kissel bought it new and retained it for several years. It then passed through the hands of Cameron Peck and other well-known collectors before finding its current owner, who revitalized the car.
The Ruxton, a low-production front-drive vehicle built by the New Era Automobile Company, had a fascinating and complicated history. Its use of front wheel drive allowed from a dramatically lower stance than most cars of its era, and that low stance is especially noticeable in this rare Phaeton body type. This Phaeton is one of just two known survivors of perhaps five initial production examples.
The tangled history of the Ruxton is echoed in that of the Ruxton phaeton. According to Wil Kissel, the phaeton was priced at $8,700, almost twice the price of the roadster. Recently located lawsuit records from body builder Baker-Raulang filed against Ruxton's parent company indicate that Baker-Raulang built ten complete phaeton bodies and shipped five for assembly. The other five bodies were held awaiting payment on the first, which did not occur. The company only assembled two complete phaetons. The remaining eight phaeton bodies were caught up in Ruxton's bankruptcy; due to the higher skill level required to produce a completed phaeton, the bankruptcy agent opted not to assemble any phaetons. This original Ruxton Phaeton body (568) was sold loose to well-known St. Louis-based body builder Frank J. Mueck, who placed it on an original Ruxton chassis (10C68). It is one of just two original surviving Ruxton phaeton bodies. When purchased by its current owners in 2003, the body wand and its appointments were so original that it was used to correct the second surviving car.
The Ruxton appeared a few months after the Cord L29, in early 1930. Its history is somewhat convoluted but, essentially, it was a product of New Era Motors. Most Ruxtons were manufactured in the Moon Motors plant in St. Louis, the rest at the Kissell Motors plant in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Four body styles were available: a roadster, sedan, phaeton and town car. Approximately 500 total cars were built.
The front-wheel drive Ruxton's lack of running boards and its 19-inch disc wheels aided in its low-slung look. Many Ruxton's featured Woodlite headlights adding to its exotic appearance. In comparison to the Cord, the Ruxton's were lighter and better balanced. To achieve this balance the transmission is divided into two pieces by placing lower and reverse gears in front of the differential, and second and third behind it. The current owner has owned it for more than 5 decades. When he restored it, he placed the body on the Ruxton show chassis, which had never been used.
Under the bonnet is a eighty-cylinder Continental engine offering 100 horsepower. The original price for this vehicle was $3,195. There were approximately 500 Ruxtons produced and only a handful left in existence.
The Ruxton was powered by a 269 cubic-inch Continental motor that developed 100 horsepower. Many Ruxtons featured the optional Woodlites, as installed on this car.
This Ruxton was owned for more than 50 years by Andy Adler of Millbury, Ohio, who donated it to the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Automobile Museum several years ago.
This Ruxton Roadster (chassis number 1009) was the last standard wheelbase car to be assembled in Philadelphia. It is the second of just two roadsters built there, and is often referred to as the 'fountain car' due to a well-publicized photograph of the car in front of a fountain in a park. Following its use by the factory this car became the property of the Andrews family and was held by them for several years before being sold to collector D. Cameron Peck. The car eventually became the property of well-known front-wheel-drive enthusiast Andy Adler in the 1950s and was restored to its current configuration.
This is an important car as it marks the end of Philadelphia production and was one of the few Ruxtons extant before the first car was assembled at Moon several months later in June of 1930. By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2014
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.
The relationship between Ruxton and the Moon Motor Car Company was complex and strained. Ruxton promoter Archie Andrews felt snubbed when Moon President Carl Burst Sr. did not offer him a seat on Moon's Board of Directors, so Andrews bought up enough stock to take over Moon. Yet, once Ruxton's management had won control of Moon, they realized the plant was antiquated and undercapitalized. It would be almost nine months until the first Ruxton rolled out of the Moon plant.
This Moon-assembled roadster (Chassis number 10C65) was the sixth of twelve Ruxton roadsters built in all assembly locations. Amazingly seven of the twelve survive today. Initially sold to a Wisconsin farm owner - who chose it due to its superior traction capabilities - this car was next owned by high school shop teacher L.G. Topliss - who let his students do all the mechanical work. In the early 1970s Carl W. Burst III, the grandson of Moon's former president and a champion of these cars, bought the vehicle and kept it for nearly 30 years. The current owners gave it a no-expense-spared restoration in 2007.
One of Ruxton's most noted features are its Woodlite-brand, cat-eyed headlights that typify the sleek look of the car and are adorned with a wing taken from the mythical griffin that serves as the Ruxton logo. Gone today are the rounded, oversized 'salad bowl' headlights and fender lights originally mounted on about 40 percent of Ruxtons. As Ruxtons aged and were scrapped, the Woodlites were salvaged and replaced the awkward-looking salad bowl lights.
This sedan (chassis 10C90) has had the sole surviving set of oversized lights installed. This car was purchased new by a Mr. Nichols from Pittsburgh who acquired it along with a second Ruxton (chassis 10C104) on the same day in 1931. These cars were reunited at the Pebble Beach Concours in 2014 for the first time since leaving Nichol's ownership in 1952. This car spent time in William Harrah's Collection, then disappeared following a 1987 auction. The car still has much of its original well-worn interior.
As with two-thirds of the surviving Ruxtons, this Roadster (chassis number 10C72) passed through the hands of collector D. Cameron Peck. Peck's love for the Ruxton had a significant impact on how many cars survived as he cherished them all. His interest ensured that they made it through the critical period when they were vulnerable to World War II scrap drives, particularly since there was no factory support for difficult-to-locate front-wheel-drive components. The roster of owners beyond Peck reads like a who's who of classic car collectors over the years, including J. Inskip, Robert and Herbert Horn, Walter Bellm, Leo Gephardt, Bill Lassiter, and Noel Thompson. For the majority of its life it was painted dark green with gray trim until its restoration in a stunning two-tone blue. It stands as the highest serialized surviving roadster from Moon production. It was shown at the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance after it was first displayed about 25 years prior.
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
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