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Friday, February 25, 2022

Frank Brogan, a humble inventor from Cincinati with nearly 1,000 vehicle creations

Humble Inventor Since the beginning of the development of motorized vehicles, it seems that the existence of minimal motoring (small, no-frills, basic transportation) has never satisfied the American automobilist. In 1912, development of the cyclecar as a simple vehicle began in Europe and quickly spread to the United States, where more than 200 manufacturers grew and shriveled within 18 months. After Ford stopped producing the Model T in 1927, start-ups like Martin, Littlemac, American Austin, and Bantama tried to fill the economy car void. However, people prefer large used cars over small ones.
Here's a sleek 1946 Brogan Doodlebug looked like an escapee from an amusement park.. (Picture from: TimAlderman)
But during World War 2 the supply of reliable used vehicles dwindled, but not with the creativity of individual automotive enthusiasts in creating simple and compact vehicles. One who were highly creatives such Frank Brogan believed attitudes would change. And through the B&B Specialty Co., his-owned company based in Rossmoyne, Ohio, primarily manufactures screws, fasteners, and other machine products. Besides that he also created a lightweight Brogan Foldable Monoplane that can be towed from the airport to the owner's house for storage in the garage. 

Then he also had time to design a scooter for his daughter, and in 1944, he was asked by his wife to design a small car that could be used to make shopping tasks easier for women whose husbands took their primary vehicles to work. So, Frank Brogan then engineered a small and sleek vehicle for 2 passengers called the Brogan Doodlebug. Due to its unique name, it is most likely taken from a small insect called the doodlebug. This vehicle features a very sleek steel body with the headlights and windshield posts seamlessly blended in. Furthermore, the open-top, doorless three-wheeled vehicle is about 96 inches long and has a wheelbase of about 66 inches, and can be rotated to its own length. 
Frank Brogan’s creations were highly creative but marginally marketable. (Picture from: TheOldMotor)
The vehicle is powered by an engine mounted on the rear. It is also mentioned that the engine installed in this compact car can be chosen by the buyer, at that time two choices were provided, namely the one-cylinder Briggs & Stratton engines or the Onan air-cooled two-cylinder. The Brogan Doodlebug can reach a top speed of 45 mph and travel nearly 70 miles on a gallon of gasoline.

Brogan's tiny Doodlebug vehicle is built specifically for women, so he makes sure it's easy to operate and maintainance. Gear-shifting was automated using a mercury-actuated system similar to fluid drive, which eliminated the clutch pedal. Replacing the hidden front tire simply required popping out the grille and unscrewing two bolts. The engine was removed quickly, by raising the rear deck cover, remove the three pins, remove the gas line, and lift the engine from its position next to the five-gallon fuel tank and battery. Frank Brogan refered an October 1944 clipping from The Washington Post, which featured Ray Russell’s Gadabout in his patent application.
B & B Specialty Company built and sold hundreds of Brogan-Cycles. (Picture from: TheOldMotor)
After the Doodlebug appeared in popular national-wide newspapers and magazines, Brogan received an average of 200 postcards and letters each month covering purchase and distribution requests that came from across the United States and about 20 foreign countries. At that time Brogan made 30 Doodlebugs by hand and sold them for $400 each before realizing that he was actually losing about $100 for each the car he produced.😯 Tooling for mass production required $150,000 which he didn't have, so he suspended the Doodlebug sales.

Instead, he used the same chassis design for the three-wheeled Errand Boy delivery scooter, and developed the four-wheeled Brogan-Truck pickup and delivery van. The Brogan-Trucks feature one steerable wheel at the front and three independent wheels at the rear with power transferred via a chain to the center rear wheel. The odd configuration eliminates the need for expensive differentials. The price of the Brogan-Truck starts at $450, and at the time Frank Brogan managed to sell over 200 units. But he still wanted to build a passenger car.
1951 Broganette Ice Cream Truck, and Roadster that has doors fold down. (Picture from: TheOldMotor)
As quoted from The OldMotor, in 1951, B&B Specialty Co. introduced the $500-priced Broganette Roadster powered by a two-cylinder Onan engine as the answer to the demand for small and cheap cars. At that time he managed to sell less than a dozen of these vehicles before starting to modify the design with different bumpers, trim and fenders. He completed 50 more before losing a nearly half-dozen others in a fire-blazes that destroyed his factory in 1958.

Three months later he managed to reorganize his company in Cincinati which became known as B&B Manufacturing by employing around 16 workers, the company is back in producing scooters and golf carts. The company was also among the first to manufacture go-carts, by offering the Twin-B Runabout and Hornet.
Ten-horsepower Doodlebug rolled on a 66-inch wheelbase. (Picture from: TheOldMotor)
Frank Brogan finally sold his shop in 1959, but he continued to occupy the corner of the building that produced his last two-seater small car called the Brogan Street-Cart. As the name suggests, the Street-Cart is meant for driving around the city. All the features installed on his small car were attempted to meet the regulations that existed in America at that time, such as front and rear bumpers, a brake on each rear wheel, headlights, taillights, turn signals, and a horn.
Frank Brogan made 30 Doodlebugs by hand and sold them for $400 each before realizing that he was actually losing about $100 for each the car he produced. (Picture from: TheOldMotor)
The tubular Street-Cart frame is enveloped by a simple sheet metal body from which a pair of small headlights flared above angular fenders; the engine is enclosed in a perforated aluminum rear deck. Uniquely, the small car is claimed to be able to reach a top speed of 35 mph using small wheels like those usually attached for a lawnmower or a child’s coaster wagon. Brogan only sold about 23 Street-Carts before he passed away in 1974.😢

In all, Frank Brogan had made nearly 1,000 miniature cars, trucks, bicycles, and wagons. The variety of vehicles launched from his humble block-and-frame machine shop has made him a celebrity in and around Cincinnati. But his refusal to perfect or advertise his innovative products widely is preventing him from reaching a wider audience and reaching his full potential as a small passenger vehicle manufacturer. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | THEOLDMOTOR | ATLASOBSCURA | TIMALDERMAN ]
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