March 04, 2024


Badger Four Wheel Drive Automobile Co. (1909-1911)
Four Wheel Drive Automobile Co. (1911-1960)
FWD Corp. (1960-2003)
Clintonville, Wisconsin

This is an FWD radiator script (various dates)     mjs
Size: 266mm wide 190mm high

The FWD evolved out of the inventions of two machinists, Otto Zachow and William Besserdich, who devised and patented a double-Y universal joint that allowed the front wheels of a vehicle to be powered and steered at the same time. After some unsuccessful attempts with experimental cars, the two machinists found financial support and, in 1909, set up the Badger Four Wheel Drive Automobile Company to manufacture automobiles using their patented universal joint. The first few cars were called the Badger or the Badger F.W.D.

In 1911, the two machinists established their own Four Wheel Drive Automobile Company and began to build FWD cars but, after building about 12 cars, car production was dropped in favour of commercial vehicles.

The US Army tested one of the first FWD cars, which had been converted to a scout truck, and made a grueling 1500-mile cross-country test run on very poor roads. The test was a success and with the outbreak of World War I the US military ordered so many FWD trucks that Kissel, Mitchell and Premier were licensed to build them in addition to the output from the FWD plant in Clintonville. By the time the war was over, 15,000 Model B FWD trucks had been built for the US military making FWD the largest producer of four-wheel-drive trucks in the world.

After the war, the military FWD trucks were allocated to state highway departments and FWD was kept busy supplying spare parts at first and then new vehicles as the demand for new trucks grew. A new plant was opened in Canada and, in 1921, FWD bought the Menominee Motor Truck Company (see Menominee). The Standard Model B FWD truck continued to be built until the early 1930's.

A wide range of new models of trucks and other commercial vehicles, including fire engines, tankers and snowplows, were introduced over the years as the FWD company grew. FWD supplied the US military with trucks during World War II. After the war, FWD continued to expand its range of vehicles and in 1963 FWD acquired the fire apparatus division of Seagrave Corporation (see Seagrave), which included Maxim (see Maxim).

FWD continued to build trucks for special applications but conventional truck production began to fall. By the mid-1990's, truck production had almost ceased. In 2003, the FWD Corporation and its assets were sold to an investment company.


I have not found any photos or illustrations of the Badger cars produced in 1909 to 1911 and there are very few photos to indicate any emblems that may have been used by the early FWD passenger cars. The  following original period photo shows an FWD car in 1911 with what may be a small rectangular radiator emblem, but this is far from clear and may be an illusion:

FWD motor car with possible rectangular rad emblem (1911) itsajeepworld

However, the following original period photo of one of the first FWD motor cars being field tested by the US military, after conversion to a scout car with a truck body, clearly shows a rectangular emblem or nameplate now mounted on the radiator core. However, the emblem is covered in mud, so the detail cannot be seen.

FWD scout car with radiator nameplate/emblem under military test conditions (1912)    dpl

The following rectangular brass Four Wheel Drive Automobile Co. nameplate appears to predate the now famous "FWD" logo, which suggests that it may have been made for the FWD motor car. This FWD nameplate is extremely rare.

This appears to be an FWD car nameplate (c1911)    mjs
Size: 83mm wide 38mm high

The following oval-shaped, painted brass FWD emblem appears early but I have not seen it on a vehicle, If you can identify this FWD emblem, please let me know, in order to update this post.

This is an FWD emblem (dates unknown)    mjs
Size: 115mm wide 70mm high   MM: None

The following original period photo shows a convoy of FWD Model B trucks taking part in the Mexican Punitive Expedition of late 1916 to early 1917. These FWD trucks have a conventional brass radiator surround with no radiator emblem but the "FWD" logo is displayed using a brass script on the radiator core.

FWD Model B trucks with "FWD" radiator script (1916-1917)  dpl

Close-up showing conventional rad & FWD rad script

A typical FWD radiator script example is shown above at the top of this post. FWD radiator scripts can be found in a variety of sizes and in both brass and plated metal.

By 1917, FWD Model B 3-ton capacity trucks built for the US Army for the First World War had a cast iron radiator with the radiator "emblem" cast into the radiator tank top, see examples shown below. 

FWD Model B trucks in US military service (1917-1918)    keymilitary

Close up showing FWD radiator "emblem" (c1917-1930's)  pinimg

FWD Model B trucks for the US Army during the First World War were built not just by FWD but also under license by other motor vehicle manufacturers, including Mitchell. The following are examples of serial plates for FWD Model B trucks built by Mitchell. These Mitchell FWD serial plates are rare.

This is a Mitchell built FWD Model B serial plate (c1917)  mjs
Size: 128mm wide 83mm high

This is a Mitchell built FWD Model B serial plate (1918) mjs
Size: 100mm wide 174mm high

The FWD Model B truck was continued into the early 1930's, see part of a 1920's FWD advertisement, which shows the same truck design:

FWD truck ad illustration (c1920)  pinimg

There was a change in FWD truck design from about 1931 with the engine placed forward of the driver under a longer hood and with an aluminum radiator, which carried a new rectangular emblem on the top of the radiator and the "FWD" script on the radiator core, see examples shown below:

FWD trucks showing radiator emblem & script (1930's) wheelsage

Close-up showing FWD radiator emblem & script (1930's)

FWD truck showing painted radiator emblem (1930's)  oldengine

If you have details of this painted, cast aluminum FWD radiator emblem, please let me know, in order to update this post.

However, the extra heavy duty M series FWD trucks in the 1930's did not have a radiator emblem but did display the "FWD" script on the sides of the hood, see example shown below:

FWD M series truck with hood side script (c1939)  pinimg

The hood side "FWD" script continued to be the only external identification on later FWD trucks and fire engines, see examples shown below:

FWD fire engine with hood side script (c1946)   pinimig

FWD fire engine with chrome scripts (1950)   theshopmag

This is an example of the smaller chrome hood side FWD script:

This is a chrome FWD hood script (1950's)   mjs
Size: 150mm wide 100mm high

There was a new round painted, chromed metal FWD radiator emblem in the late 1950's, see example shown below:

FWD fire engine with radiator emblem & hood side script (c1957)    truckfax

This is the round FWD radiator emblem shown below:

This is an FWD radiator emblem (c1957-1960)    lktec
Size: 130mm wide 125mm high   MM: Unknown

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