If someone asked you who invented the steel body, would your answer be Henry Ford, Ransom Olds, Charles Duryea?
Name anyone but Edward Budd, and you'd be wrong.
Budd developed the steel-bodied car in 1912.
Prior to Budd's achievement, makers of auto bodies made heavy use of wood and fabric, an outgrowth of their roots as wagon builders.
It's not surprising that Budd's fame is limited. He left the limelight to his customers.
He paid his workers well so he could attract the cream of the crop. He also was among the first to offer fringe benefits to his employees. Many of the things workers take for granted today were eye-poppers when Budd introduced them. He gave his workers free life insurance shortly after the company was formed. He set up the country's first industrial clinic staffed by a full-time physician. He paid men and women at the same rate and had employee communications programs.
Today, Budd Co. is part of Thyssen/Budd Automotive, a global source for components.
Budd products are on some 100 current models. It has 9,000 employees and 25 facilities in North America.
Budd's first customers were John and Horace Dodge, who founded Dodge Brothers in 1914. Budd persuaded them to use the all-steel body his engineers had designed, and the Dodge Touring Car was an instant success. Budd soon was building 500 bodies a day and shipping them to Detroit from his plant in Philadelphia.
The generally recognized firsts that Budd designed and produced include the pillarless hardtop, the all-steel sedan, the all-steel coupe, the aerodynamically styled car, the unibody car, automotive disc brakes and dual truck wheels. Neither Budd nor Dodge (the customer) followed up on the pillarless hardtop, which Budd built in 1915. Buick brought that body style to the market in 1949.
When Budd opened his plant in Philadelphia in 1912, he had 13 employees. By the end of the decade, he had more than 14,000. When the Great Depression set the auto industry on its ear, he started a new stainless steel fabrication business.
His engineers designed and his workers began producing the world's first stainless steel streamliner trains, the company says.
After World War II, Budd helped produce the new-look American cars. 'Budd helped automakers translate their designs into steel panels that could be joined soundly and aesthetically into a solid passenger car,' the company says. In many cases, Budd produced all the panels and the customer assembled them, using plant fixtures designed by Budd.
When the Ford Thunderbird was launched in 1954, Budd Co. produced all the body components, assembled the body and shipped it ready for painting to Ford's Wixom, Mich., assembly plant each day.