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Saturday, September 16, 2023

BFGoodrich's Forgotten Venture into the Automotive World

Unique ONES - When World War II came to an end in 1945, Americans were eager to embrace their love affair with cars once more. Surprisingly, one American tire manufacturer, B.F. Goodrich, decided to take a unique step into the automotive world during this time by introducing its very own prototype automobile.
This Goodrich Willys Saloon might have played a pivotal role in promoting Goodrich's groundbreaking development in 1947. (Picture from: MacsMotorCityGarage)
The details surrounding this one-of-a-kind vehicle may be scarce, but we'll shed light on what we do know. Much of our information comes from the late Robert C. Lichty, a distinguished automobile historian and writer who readily identified the car when presented with a photograph. It appears that around 1946, B.F. Goodrich Co. undertook the construction of this prototype car within its Akron, Ohio fabrication facilities.

However, it's essential to note that BFGoodrich, now a division of Michelin since 1990, had no intentions of competing directly with Detroit's auto manufacturers, which were their primary clientele. Instead, the purpose behind this endeavor was to craft a distinctive demonstration tool to showcase its extensive catalog of automotive components and accessories.
This is the 1941-42 Willys Americar that served as the donor vehicle for the 1946 B.F. Goodrich Saloon. (Picture from: BeverlyHillsCarClub)
Taking a closer look at the side profile of this remarkable car reveals significant insights into its origin. The fundamental body shell is evidently borrowed from a 1941-42 Willys Americar four-door sedan, and it's possible that the chassis and drivetrain were also sourced from the same vehicle, although this remains unconfirmed. Nevertheless, the Willys origins have been artfully concealed with entirely new sheet metal extending forward from the cowl and a lengthened rear deck, creating a more elongated and striking appearance.

Furthermore, the front fenders have been extended rearward into the doors, aligning with the popular styling trends of that era. The car's bumpers, grille, and lamps have been meticulously redesigned, and a prominent bright-metal emblem featuring the letter 'G' graces the front of the hood. To the discerning eye, the exterior design appears to be the work of a seasoned automotive stylist.
The 1946 Goodrich Saloon clearly adopts its basic body shell from the 1941-42 Willys Americar four-door sedan, as seen here. (Picture from: BeverlyHillsCarClub)
According to Bob Lichty, several components of this automobile bore the B.F. Goodrich signature, including the tires, wheels, battery, seat covers, and rubber goods. Notably, this vehicle might have played a pivotal role in promoting Goodrich's groundbreaking development in 1947—tubeless tires. The post-war period witnessed a surge in the demand for auto parts and accessories due to the shortage of new cars, making it an opportune time for such marketing efforts.
B.F. Goodrich Co. undertook the construction of its saloon prototype within its Akron, Ohio fabrication facilities in 1946. (Picture from: MacsMotorCityGarage)
Moreover, the suspension system reportedly incorporated Goodrich's torsilastic components, which were marketed under the Velvet-Ride name. While bonded-rubber suspension systems didn't gain popularity in passenger cars, they found widespread use in buses and recreational vehicles. Interestingly, Preston Tucker's Tucker 48 also employed torsilastic suspension elements, sourced from multiple suppliers.
Notice the remarkable distinction between the Goodrich Saloon prototype and its donor vehicle, evident in the design of the front grille and primary headlights. (Picture from: MacsMotorCityGarage)
According to another reputable historian, Terry Boyce, the powertrain of this unique vehicle featured a Nash six-cylinder engine. The fate of B.F. Goodrich's prototype-demonstrator remains a mystery to us. Like many one-off vehicles created for marketing and promotional purposes, it seems to have vanished without a trace once its commercial duties were fulfilled, leaving behind only a handful of photographs as evidence of its existence.

In conclusion, B.F. Goodrich's foray into the world of automobiles serves as a fascinating chapter in automotive history. While their venture may have been short-lived, the innovative spirit and commitment to quality that defined BFGoodrich's tire manufacturing legacy were clearly evident in their ambitious foray into automobile production. Today, this forgotten prototype stands as a testament to the tire manufacturer's dedication to pushing the boundaries of what was possible in the world of automotive engineering. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | MACSMOTORCITYGARAGE | AUTOPUZZLES | BEVERLYHILLSCARCLUB ]
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