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Depression-era automotive bankrupcies

West Peterson

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West, there were a lot of them, and a number of others were on the downhill slope. Graham and Hupmobile lasted long enough to get some War contracts, otherwise they were done by 1940-41, and both had suffered a year or three when they were not producing any or many cars. Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, Stutz, Pierce Arrow, Peerless, DeVaux, Rockne, Continental, GM dropped Oakland, Diana, Marquette, Reo (the car line), LaSalle lasted through 1940, Durant, and those are the ones I can think of off-hand.

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Thanks, Earl.

When you take out the models that were dropped as opposed to <span style="font-weight: bold">companies</span> that went bankrupt, that's still not a lot... relative to the some 5,000 makes built before WWII.

I'm not asking for anyone to make this list (unless they want to), I was just wondering if anyone knew if this work had already been done. I was asked by a news columnist, and I couldn't answer the question without going through the standard catalog page by page.

How many car <span style="font-weight: bold"><span style="text-decoration: underline">companies</span></span> went bankrupt during the Depression.

I don't mean for this to sound trite when I say "that's not a lot." What I mean is that it shouldn't be a big list to put together. But it will/would take quite a bit of time.

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I culled this quickie list from my 1933 <span style="font-style: italic">Red Book</span> Used Car Market Report listing discontinued marques and those on the verge.

*American Austin (1932, re-emerged as American Bantam, 1938)

Blackhawk (Stutz)


*Continental (1934, formerly DeVaux)

*Cunningham (1936)


*Detroit Electric






Erskine (Studebaker)

Essex (Hudson)








Marquette (Buick)



*Pierce-Arrow (1938)

*REO (1936)


Rockne (Studebaker)

*Rolls Royce (Springfield, 1935)

Roosevelt (Marmon)





Viking (Oldsmobile)

Whippet (Willys-Overland)



* Individual companies as opposed to models or companion lines.

You should probably include <span style="font-weight: bold">Auburn</span>, <span style="font-weight: bold">Cord</span>, and <span style="font-weight: bold">Duesenberg</span> in the mix. This doesn't include the various obscure minor marques that fell by the road, and the "Depression Era" is subject to a range of years open to interpretation.

Of all the company bankruptcies, the most long-lived marque to survive receivership (1933) was Studebaker. The current talk that people won't buy cars from bankrupt companies loses its luster given that Stude held on for another 33 years.

The real shake-out happened after WW I, following the recession of '20-'21,

when scores of companies closed up shop prior to the Depression.

Should be a good piece to write about,


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Slight correction and I assumed it would show in a list of this sort. Peerless did not go bankrupt. Peerless directors decided in 1932 to stop building luxury automobiles and instead brewed beer. They saw that Prohibition was going to be repelled and contracted with Carlsberg I believe to brew that brand in America. I could be wrong on the brand, but the company did not go BK. Semantics I know, but still....

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If the question is how many auto companies stopped building cars during the Depression, then Peerless is one of them. You were close with the beer brand (Carlings), and reminded me of all those Black Label ads of yore.

Folks generally consider the end of car production as the end of the company, which as you pointed is not so. When I lived in NYC in the '80's, it was a surprize to learn that the Studebaker-Packard Corporation owned Madison Square Garden.

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">West,

I culled this quickie list from my 1933 Red Book Used Car Market Report listing <span style="font-style: italic"><span style="font-weight: bold">discontinued marques</span></span> and those on the verge.</div></div>

Since I didn't answer West's question as asked, I'll leave it to others to fine-tune and build upon the list above. Should be a very informative thread.


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<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: BJM</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Slight correction and I assumed it would show in a list of this sort. Peerless did not go bankrupt. Peerless directors decided in 1932 to stop building luxury automobiles and instead brewed beer. They saw that Prohibition was going to be repelled and contracted with Carlsberg I believe to brew that brand in America. I could be wrong on the brand, but the company did not go BK. Semantics I know, but still.... </div></div>

Thanks Tom,

That's wonderful. And thanks for the asterisks, as I really just wanted to know the companies that went bankrupt, as opposed to some of the models that were dropped. Great information on Studebaker, too.


Also, thank you. You understood correctly. The question was how many companies went bankrupt. I had never known that about the Peerless company. Very interesting.

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According to the Standard Catalog, RR of America went into bankruptcy in '35, after changing its name to the Springfield Manufacturing Company in 1934.

As noted early on the list isn't that large, and should provide plenty of fun to determine the answer to your initial question.


With Mabel serving up Carling's Black Label, the hours should fly by like minutes. grin.gif


PS. At 1:01 into the commercial, the <span style="font-weight: bold">Brewing Corporation of America, Cleveland, Ohio</span>

flashes on screen.

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Guest imported_PWN

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: West Peterson</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Countless? Couldn't have been. There weren't that many companies left by 1929. </div></div>

I would not be too sure about that.

Chandler did not go bankrupt either. They were sold to Hupp. In fact the Chandler Corporation is in business to this very day.



Within a few years, the company was able to expand its manufacturing facilities and to increase the number and variety of models produced. In December of 1928, Hupp began acquisition of the Chandler Motor Car Co. manufacturing assets in Cleveland, Ohio and produced some of its automobiles there for the next eight years. At the 1932 Indianapolis 500 automobile race, a Hupmobile finished in 5th place, further enhancing its reputation for durability. The Chandler Motor Company produced automobiles in the United States of America during the 1910s and 1920s. ... Nickname: The Forest City Motto: Progress and Prosperity Official website: www. ... Indianapolis 500, 1994 The Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, frequently shortened to Indianapolis 500 or Indy 500, is an American automobile race held annually over the Memorial Day weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana. ...

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Guest Bob Kerr

Something else that is interesting is to look up production figures during those years. 1933 seems to have been the toughest year with the lowest production figures for most companys. People also have forgotten about the mini depression in the eary 20s as was mentioned above. That one did eat a lot of companys! The companys that did survive the 29 crash and aftermath must have learned something from the early twenties panic. Oldsmobile I know just barely made it through both of them and went to a 3 day work week at one point in 33 and rotated employees to not have to lay off so many. International Harvester only built the cheaper tractors in 33 also. Hey brother , can you spare a dime?

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Studebaker underwent bankruptcy and re-organized in the 30's. Their President, Albert Erskine, was fired - he later committed suicide. They were the only auto company to survive bankruptcy during the Depression.

In 1966, Studebaker Corp. simply stopped making cars, and continued doing business as one of the first conglomerates. Today it exists as a business leasing company - Studebaker Worthington.

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The question to be asked is not how many car companies went bankrupt but How many new US car companies started in the past 50 years. Zero. OK, there was the continuation of the Studebaker Avonti and maybe Bricklin and a couple other niche manufacturers, but none the lasted or amounted to much. (Saturn doesn't count)

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Good point about Peerless, Bryan. They didn't go bankrupt, they made millions selling beer. As I understand it from Richard Wager's book <span style="text-decoration: underline">Golden Wheels</span>, only 1,145 cars were sold by the end of the third quarter of 1931, and car production ended 11/4/31. Some radical new prototype cars were being developed for the 1933 model year, but it was decided "...shareholder interests would not be served by continuation in the automotive industry, but by making and distributing a product which 'cost less than ten cents and was either consumed or thrown away.' " So the 1933 "models" were Carlings Black Label and Red Cap Ale rather than cars.

If someone wanted to study the carmakers that went bankrupt after the stock market crash, they could look at the cars shown at the NY Auto Show of 1929...and then see which lines of cars were still around at the start of the war (for us) in '41. I believe there were 93 models of American cars at that show (earlier, I said makes instead of models -- my mistake).

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Keiser, I think that boat has already sailed.

The big 3's biggest problem is too many automobiles already produced and setting on car lots around the country. Even if they get a bailout, how can they justify building more until Americans have enough credit or money to buy cars again?


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Some of you might find this out of place, but during the heat of the meltdown, Rush Limbaugh suggested that (1) the government give the American People the money to pay their mortages and loans off - thus saving the banking industry, AND then (2) for Congress to buy all the cars & trucks not currently sold thus saving all the auto makers - and then selling off or giving away the cars as they liked.

His figures estimates that doing these two things would have "fixed" the problems for less than the billions earmarked to save the economy.

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You are so NOT out of line on this one... God bless you for stepping up to base. I must say that Rush missed out on this one because there should be a part 3) in addition to the excellent suggestions listed in item 1 & 2 a goodly portion should go to the brave men and woman returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with disabilities... God bless America!!!

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West, the list is huge, grab a copy of the Standard Catalog of American cars to 1942. The number of defunct auto makers is huge.

And, does anyone remember that Great Britain had a car industry once?

BTW, for anyone who does not have a copy of the three book series of Standard Catalogs originally put together by Krause Publications. The first two volumes have been put out of print after 30 years of production thanks to the now parent company F-W. The 1806 to 1942 Edition has seen prices between $250 and $350 on ebay and Amazon already. If you spot one at Hershey or another swap meet grab it. These books are the backbone to any car collector’s book shelf.


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Ok West,

You got me on a technicality. Yes, a lot more went down for the count early on. I think I counted almost 240 companies gone by 1903, which is a unbelievable statistic. Many more to come before WW I as you mentioned. Add in the truck companies and it is off the hook. I would still call the number that did bite the dust during the Depression significant, if you don't want to call it huge. Today we are only talking about 3 companies. Of course they are giant by comparison and that is the big difference. When some of the fledgling car makers on left us, they did so without a ripple to the national economy.

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How come you Americans always miss Canada ? Durant Motors went bust May 4 1931 so we rounded up the parts and continued the Durant models 614 / 618 June 1931 to end of 1932 and model 633 1933 under Dominion Motors which also produced the Frontenac June 1931 to end of 1933. Then Co faded into history. Continental lasted until end of 1934 and that too faded into history.

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Locomobile was Durant as was Dort and of course Star











De Vaux




Another Canadian you missed is Gray Dort made in Chatham Ont. There were hundreds of little Co's that vanished.

Perhaps we need another William Durant who founded GM / Chevrolet by buying up car Co's. Chev was the renamed Little Car Co, Billy bought and put that name on it. He almost bought Ford to add to GM and Henry changed his mind at the last second.

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