1914 American Underslung

The American Motors Company - no relation to the company of the same name formed in 1954 by the merger of Nash and Hudson - introduced the Underslung in 1907. This chassis design by Fred Tone (where the frame rides below the axles), is said to have been inspired by seeing a shipment of chassis stacked up-side-down. The underslung design was utilized by a small number of brands in the early years - Norwalk being the most notable.

American (manufactured in Indianapolis, Indiana) was formed in 1905 by two lumber barons who hired Harry Stutz to design their first car. Offered in 1906, this car was a more conventional chassis design with engines sourced from Light Inspection Car Company also of Indiana. Upon Stutz's leaving in 1906, Fred Tone was hired - ironically Tone left Marion and Stutz filled his position there (staying for 4 years and influencing their racing program).

By 1911 the company only offered the underslung type chassis (adopting the term as a model name) with up to 7 different body/engine configurations offered. This same year the company was reorganized with J.I. Handley assuming the presidency. An attempt was made to introduce lower priced models and expand production. Ultimately this created cash flow problems, and in 1914 the company was adjudged bankrupt with the assets being purchased by Handley. Handley had already recapitalized the Marion Motor Car company (also of Indianapolis; he purchased the majority stock from John Willys). Handley combined his interests in both companies, along with his purchase of Imperial Motor Car Company, under the name Mutual Motors Corporation. Everything was moved to Jackson, Michigan (home of the Imperial company), but it appears the Underslung was never revived.

There are only three known, surviving 1914 American Underslung Model 644's, with one residing in the Nethercutt Museum, another in the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum, and the last finding a home with the Dragone brothers (this is the ex Bill Harrah car).

photo credit: Motor World, April 10, 1913

American Motors Company plant in Indianapolis (photo credit: mychurchgrowth.com)

photo credit: Horseless Age, Nov 11, 1914

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