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Early Automobile brakes 1918 to 1942

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I am doing a paper on the history of automobile brakes. What I have learned is that three names are involved with early automobile brakes-Wagner-Lockheed-Bendix. Herbert Appleton Wagner formed the Wagner Electric Corp and produced Brake parts thru the Wagner Brake Div. Circ 1920 onward.

Malcomb Lockheed patented Hydraulic brakes in 1918 and they appeared, with some changes. on Chrysler, Graham, and other cars from 1924 to the 60's.

Vincent Bendix developed four-wheel mechanical brakes about 1923 and sold them to GM, Willys, and others, up to about 1934. About 1935 onward Bendix introduced Hydraulic brakes. Bendix brakes were always self-energizing and easy to adjust because both shoes could be adjusted at the same time by their floating shoe at the toe anchors using a the star adjustment gear on an internal threaded sleeve.

The early Lockheed Hydraulic brakes were external contracting. My questions:

1). What year did Lockheed change to the internal expanding design?

2), Why did Lockheed change its name to Wagner-Lockheed and what year.

3). What year did Bendix begin the manufacture of internal expanding brakes?

4).How did Wagner play an important part in the development of brakes as his name appears on brake fluid, shoes and linings, master cylinders, and wheel cylinders. It would seem Lockheed and Bendix would have the patents on these brake parts.

Nash used a combination of these manufactures parts in the mid 1930's onward but mostly Lockheed on the Lafayette, and Bendix on the Ambassador lines for 1939-1940. Some 1939 Nash Lafayette cars have Bendix brakes.

5). How many Nash Lafayette cars used the Bendix brakes in 1939? Appreciate any enlightment.

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Just something for the accuracy of your paper here: Duesenberg Inc. was the first to introduce hydraulic brakes, in 1921, not only on passenger cars, but also on race cars--at Indianapolis in 1921, followed by the French Grand Prix at LeMans later that summer.


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Although I can't answer your questions accurately, I can say that Packard began to use four wheel brakes made by Bendix in 1923. They were internal expanding, three shoes --- two self-energized for the forward drection, one for reverse.

Chrysler adopted four wheel brakes with its new Six in 1924 (January 1924). They used Lockheed and I'm sure they were internal expanding.


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Chrysler Brakes:

Actually, the very first Chrysler hydraulic brakes were external contracting on all four wheels...I didn't realize this until I actually saw (and got to test-drive grin.gif) a 1924 Chrysler B-70 touring car about four years ago...

The brakes employed a hydraulic double-piston cylinder inside the drum, which acted on two curved levers (one on each side) that wrapped around the edge of the drum, and acted on the ends of the external brake-band. Very odd looking arrangment to a kid who'd only seen internal-expanding hydraulic brakes up to that point.

The Chrysler "52" four-cylinder (essentially a warmed-over Maxwell) continued using mechanical brakes until it was replaced by the Plymouth model Q in 1928.

I believe the change-over year to internal-expanding hydraulics for Chrysler was around 1928. They went to the fixed-anchor Lockheed set-up that they continued to use through 1956.

Some car makers used internal expanding brakes fairly early: the Model T among them - the rear-wheel brakes were internal-expanding mechanicals, although they were intended to be "emergency" or parking brakes; the "service brake" was a contracting band on the driveshaft (!).

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Very interesting. I didn't know about that detail of early Chrysler brakes. Thanks.

You're right -- even the first Model T's had internal expanding rear brakes, but they were simply cast iron shoes, no lining, operating against pressed-steel drums. Hardly worth anything even in an "emergency". They were OK as parking brakes, though.

Four wheel brakes were like the electric starter. Once one major manufacturer started to use it successfully, soon everyone had to have them to stay in the game. I'm not an expert here, but I would guess that by 1925 most manufacturers had four wheel brakes.

Hydraulic brakes were another story. Some adopted them very early, while others held out for years. Ford had cable mechanical brakes until 1939, but even Packard didn't adopt hydraulic brakes for its senior line until 1938 (?). Pierce Arrow was another to use mechanical brakes for a long time. Bugatti another... And these are big names in the industry.

Personally, I like cable-mechanical brakes on my cars. Yes, a little more annual maintenance, and you need to know how to adjust them properly, but when working well, they really do a great job. Hydraulics suffer from rust, deterioration of the seals, cracking in the hoses, etc. And as they said back then "One little leak makes all four brakes fail." Getting good seals was probably the challenge back in the 1920's and 30's. I don't think they had O-ring technology back then. Or if so, it wasnt' like it is today.

As an aside, today most braking is done on the front wheels, something like 70%. Back in the 1920's, engineers either didn't appreciate the physics or they were simply afraid of putting that much stress on the front wheels. My 1926 Packard does about 65% on the rear wheels, 35% on the front. The mechanism assures that you never get more braking on the front than the rear.

Interesting topic.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Here is what I have learned so far about early automobile brakes. Still need to know how Wagner Brake company figured into the picture. I assume they manufactured brake parts under licence to Bendix, and acted as a distributor to aftermarket parts to jobbers.


In 1901 a young inventor named Malcolm Lougheed (who later changed the spelling of his name to Lockheed) began design work on a four-wheel hydraulic brake system for the automobiles as they begin to appear on the scene.

He used a large cylinder and hollow tubes to transmit fluid pressure through individual cylinders at each wheel. Each wheel cylinder pushed opposing brake shoes against the drums (Internal Expanding) or pulled strap linings around the outside of the drum (External Contracting).

Between December 17, 1922 and July 1923 he received seven patents for his hydraulic brake designs. In 1923 he formed the Hydraulic Brake Company in Detroit, Michigan to manufacture his brakes.

In 1921, the first passenger car to be equipped with four-wheel hydraulic brakes was the Duesenberg.

Carmakers as a group were not quick to adopt Lockheed hydraulic brakes. The first Lockheed four-wheel hydraulic brakes appeared on Maxwell's higher priced Chalmers cars in the late fall of 1923.

Walter P. Chrysler was Chairman of Maxwell Motor Co. and wanted to adapt the Lockheed hydraulic brakes to his upcoming new 1924 Chrysler car line. However, there was a problem with the Lockheed brakes. Lockheed used rawhide cup seals to prevent hydraulic fluid leakage when the brakes were applied. These seals quickly dried out and shrank under heavy brake usage. Maxwell engineers came up with more resilient seals in the form of rubber cups and that solved the problem. Because the improvements were so substantial, Lockheed agreed to allow Maxwell the use of his brake system free of royalties provided Lockheed could incorporate the improvements in his original design.

Chrysler made these improvements to the Lockheed brake, and then gave the patent rights back to Lockheed. Chrysler used the improved brakes, calling them the Chrysler-Lockheed hydraulic brakes, on the 1923 Maxwell and then on the new 1924 Chrysler models. Chrysler continued to use Lockheed hydraulic brakes on all of its car lines from then on until 1962.

Lockheed brakes were first used on Nash cars in 1935 and thereafter on the Lafayette car line until 1939 and the postwar 600 series.

In spite of the advantages of hydraulic brakes by 1931 only Chrysler, Dodge, Desoto, Plymouth, Auburn, Franklin, Reo, Flint, and Graham used them. GM and Ford still had cable-operated mechanical brakes.

In fact, it was not until the mid-1930's that GM adopted Bendix hydraulic brakes across all its car lines.

In 1939 Ford became the last automobile manufacturer to switch to hydraulic brakes. They adapted the Lockheed system similar to the system used on the 1939 Nash Lafayette series.

Malcolm Lockheed sold his brake company to Bendix in 1932 for $1,000,000 and returned to California, and, ever the optimist, began gold mining again at his Ilex mine. He lived the last twenty-nine years of his life at Mokelumne Hill, in Calaveras County, CA. eventually forced to become a welfare recipient until his death on August 13, 1958. It was a sad end for a great--if stubbornly independent--inventor and entrepreneur.


Vincent Bendix made his impact on the automobile scene by inventing a unique starter device in 1911. His "Bendix Drive" was installed on an engine starter motor and it automatically disconnected from the flywheel as soon as the engine started.

It was first installed in the 1914 Chevrolet. It soon became the standard starter drive in many cars produced in the United States.

The Bendix Drive mounts on the end of the starter motor and automatically disconnects when the engine starts.

By 1919, Bendix starter drive production had soared to 1.5 million and nearly every vehicle produced in America was equipped with his Bendix drive. By 1922 Vincent Bendix was rich and ambitious.

In 1923 after meeting French engineer Henri Perrot at a European auto show, Bendix acquired the license to Perrot's shoe-brake and equalizing mechanisms patents. Using Perrot's patents he made improvements and came up with a workable mechanical four-wheel drive brake system.

To finance the new brake system, Bendix offered stock to the public for the first time in 1924, marking the official beginning of The Bendix Corporation.

Bendix opened a plant in South Bend, Ind. and began the manufacture of his Bendix mechanical four-wheel brakes. Production climbed from 650,000 brakes in 1926 to 3.6 million in 1928 mostly in supplying Bendix mechanical brakes to General Motors.

In the 1920's there were two schools of thought about the mechanical vs hydraulic brakes as to what was the better brake.

Bendix argued that mechanical brakes did not have any fluids "to leak out all over the garage floor." and that they were sure, safe and reliable.

Lockheed claimed the safety of equal application of force at each wheel made hydraulic better able to control skidding. The said there were no complicated mechanical rods and cables to stretch. They claimed rust and dirt made mechanical brakes unreliable, did not last long without problems, and were dangerous and in need of constant maintenance.

(Note: Since hydraulic brakes were eventually universally adapted they were the better brakes).

In 1929 Bendix renamed his company Bendix Aviation Corporation. Malcolm Lockheed, sold his Hydraulic Brake Company in Detroit, MI in 1930 for $1,000.000. to Bendix Aviation. The sale included some 56 brakes patents.

By 1931 the Bendix Avaition Corporation had bought up several manufacturing companies and was comprised of the following Divisions:

1). Bendix Mechanical Brakes, South Bend, IND

2). Lockheed Hydraulic Brakes, Detroit, MI,

3). B-K Vacuum Brake Booster Div. .South Bend,


4). Bendix Starter Drive, Eclipse Machine Co,

Elmira, NY

5). Stromberg Carburetor, South Bend, IND.

6). Scintilla Magneto, Sidney, NY.

7). Bendix-Westinghouse, Automotive Air Brake, Pittsburgh, Pennsivania

8). Cowdrey Brake Tester Div. South Bend, Indiana.

Bendix now controlled the market for brakes on automobiles, trucks, and airplanes, with the only other brakes on the market being the Chevrolet Huck and Midland Steeldraulic brakes.

STEELDRAULIC BRAKES - were used on the:

Auburn 1931 and 1932, 8 CYI., Hupmobile after 1927

Pontiac 1928 to 1932 Nash after 1929 (some)

De Vaux 1930 Durant 1930, 1931

Oakland 1928 to 1932 Dodge 4 and Standard

Within five years, as the owner of the Lockheed patents, Bendix converted their mechanical brakes to hydraulic.

Lockheed brakes were kept in production (along with the Bendix brakes) for the next 15 years. They were produced by the Wagner Brake Div-of the Wagner Electric Company under license to Bendix. Those brakes were called Wagner-Lockheed.

In 1948 Bendix was cited by anti-trust goverment interests for having a monopoly on brake systems and efforts to break up the firm failed.

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Don't forget about the Westinghouse Vacuum Booster installed on Chandler cars in 1927-1929. This was similiar to the B-K unit in that it provided boost for the mechanical brakes. Tripling the force applied to the wheels. My car has a restored unit on it now. Skinned Knuckels magazine did a great 7 piece series to restore it and research the history behind the unit.

They were also used on some Studebakers and about 50 Springfield Rollers.

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Since you're doing a paper on the history of automotive brakes, don't forget that in 1926, Stutz used a system called hydrostatic brakes. It used six "bladders" instead of brake shoes and used water instead of hydraulic fluid. This system lasted for one year, and then Stutz paid the royalties to have lockheed hydraulic brakes starting in 1927. Stutz even sold kits to dealers to convert the 1926 cars over to the new system in 1927. The bladder system actually worked OK, but one problem was water freezing in Northern climates. Alcohol was substituted in some caes, but remember this was the time of prohibition. I know of one man in Southern California who is currently driving his 1926 Stutz with the hydrostatic brakes and he says they work great. Someone in Austrailia has made new bladders, and I think there are a few cars down there running this brakign sytem too. Good luck on your paper.

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"In spite of the advantages of hydraulic brakes by 1931 only Chrysler, Dodge, Desoto, Plymouth, Auburn, Franklin, Reo, Flint, and Graham used them."

You're missing a lot of cars that used hydraulics in 1931 here. To name a few that are missing: Stutz, Duesenberg, Cord, Jordan Speedway series Z (1930 actually), Blackhawk (small Stutz), and I'm sure there are a few more I'm missing.

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<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body"> Between December 17, 1922 and July 1923 he received seven patents for his hydraulic brake designs. In 1923 he formed the Hydraulic Brake Company in Detroit, Michigan to manufacture his brakes. </div></div>

Did you happen to run across the address of this factory in your research? I have added it to the database of Detroit Auto Factories and Suppliers, and will eventually see if it is still standing, or find photos of it.

I'll check my hard drive to see if I copied the Rickenbacker ads. {factory still standing, but empty}

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Last week I posted on here if anyone had heard of Hydrostatic Brakes and was starting to wonder if anyone did or maybe even cared, especially marontar since he was doing the original inquiring. Anyways, I'm glad to see you brought it up!

About 20 years ago, or so, I had the pleasure of working on a 1926 Stutz AA Coupe. It was a all original, 52,000 mile car that we found sitting in a barn since 1959. It had already been converted to Lockheed hydraulics at Philadelphia Stutz in the early 30's. I still have the original manual from the vehicle and that is where I first learned of the Hydrostatic Brake systems. I thought they were very interesting. I hope you don't mind, but there are a couple things that should be corrected. Actually, each wheel used only one bladder and six brake pads. The other is that each vehicle left the factory with a 50/50 solution of alcohol and water, regardless of the vehicles destination or time of year. I hope someday to see a original system still in operation. That would be impressive. smile.gif

I've made a couple copies of the wheel units and have them attached.



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I agree with scott12180. My Midland Steeldraulic brakes have required replacement of front cables 3 times in 480,000 miles and complete replacement of clevis pins once at 350,000 miles. Other than that adjust them about once a year and whenever new linings are installed (about every 80,000 miles). Pushing the pedal down 3 inches locks all four wheels what more can you ask for.

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Neat stuff !

I'd never heard of Stutz's "Hydrostatic" brakes...

As far as Wagner & Lockheed go, the Wagner Electric Manufacturing Company of St. Louis goes back to the about 1900, making electric motors among other devices.

Franklin also jumped on the Lockheed bandwagon by the mid 1920's...before they stopped using wooden frame rails ( ash ) in their chassis frames.

Chrysler Corp. was one of the first, and also the last major auto-maker to use the Lockheed system and its derivatives, through 1962. Finallyfrom 1963 onward, Chrysler used Bendix design brakes.

Aside from the addition of hydraulic wheel cylinders (1930's) and self-adjusting mechanisms (late 1950's), the Bendix self-energizing drum brake has changed very little since c. 1930.

From an operational standpoint, the biggest disadvantage of the Lockheed brake through the 1940's and '50s' was the fixed-anchor design, which required finesse and special equipment to properly adjust.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Many thanks for all your input. The article is complete and going to press. Gave coverage to Bendix, Lockheed, Steeldraulic, Timkin Hydostatic, and Huck mechanical and hydraulic brakes (Chev to 1950).

The person who asked about the address in Detroit of Lockheed's Hydraulic Brake Company, it was 2843 E. Grand Blvd, Detroit, MI

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Franklin introduced hydraulic brakes on their 1928 Series 12 cars. That same year the Series 12-B long wheel-base cars were fitted with steel chassis frames, but the shorter cars retained the wood frame. In 1929 and onwards, all Franklins had steel frames; and of course hydraulic brakes.

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Scott, Packard used hydraulics on the juniors in 35 and on the seniors starting in 37. I have and like both systems on the seniors, both having power assist. A well maintained mechanical system will work fine, even with 6000 pound cars, in fact my 34 Cad is almost 7000 pounds and the power assisted mechanicals seem adequate to me.

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  • 5 years later...
Some car makers used internal expanding brakes fairly early: the Model T among them - the rear-wheel brakes were internal-expanding mechanicals, although they were intended to be "emergency" or parking brakes; the "service brake" was a contracting band on the driveshaft (!).

Just for the sake of accuracy, the Model "T" service brake was a band inside of the transmission. It did not operate on the driveshaft

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I can speak for Graham-Paige they were all hydraulic. My 1928 has external band, works good but you don't want to get them wet (I believe the reason they changed to internal?) the external are extremely easy to adjust. They originally used a "special" fluid it was a mix of alcohol and mineral oil, I would guess it had a tendency to boil easily?

My 1929 has internal expanding shoes with stamped drums, anyone today would recognize as conventional drum brakes. The 1929 brakes stops the car easily. I believe Paige used hydraulic brakes all the way back 1914? I have never seen a Paige without hydraulic (but I could easily be wrong on how far back).

You are missing some key points. In my 28 the master cylinder is not self adjusting, you have to fill the system yourself. There is a reservoir on the fire wall, you have to open the valve and pump in additional fluid, in 1929 they changed to self adjusting, the master cylinder would pump in the needed additional fluid.

The big point most people miss is the coefficient of friction of the brake lining. Early brakes were extremely low pressure systems and designed to use brake lining that was extremely aggressive. Cars in the late twenties were designed to travel a few hundred miles a year. So to get 5000 miles out of a set of brake lining was 5 years or more. As time progressed the pressures keep increasing and coefficient of friction got lower (brakes lasted longer). If you use the wrong coefficient of friction brake lining your brake system will never work correctly. If you can not lock up your brakes something is set up wrong.

I found Graham brake tests from 1929, the cars were stopping as fast from 50 mph as a mid 80's pick up trucks (pre anti lock, solid axel vehicles of similar weight). The big difference is road surface, in 1929 the roads tests were dirt and gravel.

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  • 1 year later...

I teach kids and just wanted to know if wagner lockheed corp has anything to

do with Lockheed martin (I know the martin part started in the 1990's but you

know what I mean) I know wagner lockheed did brakes. thanks so much! sorry if

this is any trouble. you can respond to my regular email: solacex@aol.com



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Though the title of this thread cites the period ofn 1918 to 1942, the first sentence of the enquirer's first post indicates no such restriction. It is often difficult to establish primacy, and different people had similar ideas and similar mistakes independantly. And the mistakes sometimes led to inspired developements; though more often faults in detail caused good ideas to be set aside. For example, when Gabriel Voisin was impatient to try out a prototype car, they immediately discovered that the back axle had been assembled with the crownwheel on the wrong side of the pinion, so he drove it backwards fast. The two wheel brakes were obviously much more effective on the leading end. On the other hand, when Hans Ledwinka moved from Nesseldorf to join the firm of Alexander Friedmann in Vienna in late 1902, he and his superior Knoller fitted a Friedmann steam car with pedal operated front brakes, but with those at the rear independantly controlled by a hand lever. The behavioural difficulty bof this uncoupled system provoked a chronic impairment of the zeal.

Isotta Fraschini similarly used an uncoupled system with pedal for the rear brakes and the hand lever for the front on many of their models after 1910. This may have been the reason that Ray Gilhooley was able to imprint his name in the language in celebration of his spectacular un-planned manouvre in his Isotta at Indianapolis. The detail of the front axle I-F brake actuation was excellent and elegant, and Pierce Arrow front brakes were by their licence until the 3 shoe Bendix brakes on their first straight 8 in 1929.

Two other popular means of applying front brakes in the 1920's were Perrot, and by cable. Cadillac used a derivative of the Perrot system from 1923 to at least 1927. In 1923, after Alan Powell from Melbourne took delivery at the factory of an A model Duesenberg which he had ordered 5 weeks earlier, he drove it in England and Europe before shipping it home to Australia. He was given an extended personal tour of the estate by Bugatti when he visited. He was also taken for a long ride on their test track, (a circuit of public roads) in one of their

T30 derivative racing cars, when one of the racing drivers unexpectedly turned up.

When he eventually got back to his car he found a team of mechanics and draughtsmen had the cylinder haed off and the brakes apart for study. He became annoyed at Bugatti agin when he told me about it 60 years later. He said that it never did him any good. " He never improved his engine design, and he continued to operate his brakes with 'çlothes-line wire' ".

Duesenberg's hydraulic brakes were derived from the patented after-market accessory system of the Hydraulic Brake Corportaion of California. That design had a long, multi-stepped piston, which required 6 or 8 inches movement, according to Duesenberg engineer William Beckman. They overcame this by a changed master cylinder, which rocked on a pivot pin at its base. Fred Benson was kind enough to send me the engineering drawings in 1984, because I was lacking this. The design of the brakes was very elegant, with one vertical slave cylinder per wheel. Those for the front wheels were in the top of the kingpins.

The extra leverage of the toggle system closely equalised the effectiveness of leading and trailing shoes going forewards. The brakes were so much superior to anyone else's, that they were still more than good enough in reverse. Line pressure was up around 500psi, whith a pressure gauge in the dash cluster. The cars could stop from 30mph in 30 feet, and from 50mph in 86 feet. Murphy won the 1921 French Grand Prix by a margin of 15 minutes. But after the race Rolland-Pillain charged Duesenberg with infrigement of their hydraulic brake patent which they had exhibited at a Paris show in 1910, but intended to put into production in 1922. They must have been inspired by Selden!

Disc brakes are nearly as old as the industry, but of the principle , later used by Harry Miller for his Gulf cars, and as used for some aircraft in WW2. I had a useful number of multi-disc units for Lightning, which went to an aircraft parts dealer about 25 years ago. Dr Frederick Lanchester may have been the first inventor of these. The disc with friction pads as introduced by Jaguar at LeMans, was an hydraulic version of the disc handbrake on the back of the transmission of some WW2 trucks like Diamond T and Federal.

DeWandre made vacuum power assist units for mechanical brakes in the 1920's, as used on Minerva, some Isotta Fraschini, and on Chenard Walcker, for instance. These probably were also made for hydraulic brakes for some.

The gearbox-driven servo booster for the mechanical brakes of Hispano Suiza was sufficiently admired to be used under licence by Rolls Royce for many years after WW2. Royce used this for mechanical rear brakes, but incombination with hydraulic front brakes; and this may be in recognition that the boost assistance decreases proportionately as the forward velocity decreases. By contrast, the assistance increases with a vacuum system when you want to slow down, because the inlet vacuum increases when you close the throttle to slow down.

Caleb Bragg was a wealthy owner-driver, who started the 1913 Indianapolis 500 from pole position. Now many Mercer owners will tell you, that apart from a very few of the last cars with 4 wheel brakes, when you want a Mercer to stop in a hurry it will stop in its own time. Later he devised the Bragg Kliesrath vacuum power assist system, which was used by Stutz from 1929 and on the J model Duesenberg. The link-rod between the brake pedal and the hydraulic master cylinder incorporates a valve, which controls a large vacuum slave cylinder. There is also a control on the dashboard which allows the driver to select the power of the assistance, such as when the road is icy.

That is about the extent of my references and firsthand personal knowledge.

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Four-Wheel Hydraulic Brake History

Malcolm Loughead vs. Frederick S. Duesenberg:

The Case of Bragging Rights to the First Four-Wheel Hydraulic Brakes


A *Footnote to Automotive History

Bert A. Linderman, Stutz, And the Timken Hydrostatic Brake

Loughead vs. Duesenberg

The names of two men are commonly associated with the advent of hydraulic brakes. They are Californian Malcolm Loughead and Frederick S. Duesenberg of Indianapolis. Loughead filed for his first of many hydraulic brake patents on January 22, 1917 (left below). His filing illustrates an external-contracting-band brake actuated by a single-acting wheel cylinder mounted on one end of the band and in turn yoked to the opposite end. The band is anchored to the axle at its midpoint. The claims are, however, broader and would include a structure with the wheel cylinder mounted inside the drum as was done in production. In his abstract, Loughead makes clear that he intends this brake to be used at all four wheels although nothing is claimed in this regard.¹ This patent was issued December 4 of the same year. Duesenberg filed his first two hydraulic brake patent applications on November 16, 1920 (right below). In these he illustrates, with related claims, an internal-expanding-band brake with a single-acting wheel cylinder mounted at one end of the band and its piston rod pushing against the opposite end. Like Loughead, he anchors his band at its midpoint describing it as equivalent to two independent shoes. Duesenberg goes even further than Loughead in describing the means of mounting brakes to front steering axles but, like Loughead, he makes no claim of invention in this regard.¹ These patents were not granted until 1926 and 1929 indicating that the original claims must have been much broader than were finally allowed.


On November 2, 1921 Duesenberg filed for a patent covering a single-acting, vertical, wheel-cylinder actuating a pair of rigid shoes via a force multiplying toggle mechanism. In the case of the front brakes the wheel cylinder is integral with the kingpin and was fed with fluid through the front axle. The shoes anchor on a single pin. Later, Fred filed for a patent on November 13, 1923 as a continuation of his earlier application of November 2, 1921 resulting in Patent # 1584280 issued May 11, 1926 which illustrates and claims a similar structure brake with improved toggle system and individually anchored shoes using two anchor pins. The first Duesenberg cars were introduced at the New York Automobile Show in late October 1920 as 1921 model cars. These and all Duesenberg cars that followed were equipped with four-wheel hydraulic brakes of the improved design described above without material change through the end of Duesenberg production in 1937. The Duesenberg brake could quite accurately be called a hydro-mechanical brake because it uses a force-multiplying toggle mechanism interposed between a single-acting wheel cylinder operating radially with respect to the drum. See illustration below taken from an undated Duesenberg brochure from the early 20s—Series J Duesenberg brakes are similar.


Unlike the simplistic master cylinder depicted in the first Loughead patent (see illustration), both Loughead and Duesenberg patented numerous hydraulic master cylinder designs. Some, in both cases, are extremely complicated. Which, if any, of these were actually produced and when I don’t know, but all Series J Duesenbergs were equipped with Lockheed box-style master cylinder invented by Loughead in 1926. (Before Lockheed brake fluid appeared Duesenbergs used a mixture of water and alcohol.)

In 1919 Loughead formed “The Four-Wheel Hydraulic Brake Company” in Los Angeles and to gain field test experience began offering his brakes as an aftermarket retrofit. At the same time he began using the tradename Lockheed to better convey the correct pronunciation of his name.² (The compound word “Four-Wheel” was soon dropped from the company name.) The first announced use of Lockheed hydraulic brakes in production was by Chalmers On November 11, 1923. (The Hydraulic Brake Company placed a full page ad in the Sunday November 18 Los Angeles Times noting the Chalmers announcement and stating that “10 more major companies will follow soon.”) In so doing Chalmers upstaged Chrysler which as planned made its announcement January 5, 1924 coincident with the introduction of the six-cylinder, all-new Chrysler automobile. This seems strange since Walter P. Chrysler controlled Chalmers at the time and going back many years Chrysler has claimed in print to have built the first cars with four-wheel hydraulic brakes.³ Chalmers’ offered the Lockheed brakes as an option whereas they were standard equipment on the Chrysler. These brakes were Lockheed external-contracting band type with the wheel cylinders inside the drums. On January 31, 1924 Loughead filed for a patent on brake fluid consisting of a mixture of castor oil and alcohol. The last external band Lockheed brakes were used by Kissel, McFarlan, Moon, Paige and Peerless in 1928 by which time Lockheed internal-expanding brakes were used on many cars.

On July 10, 1922 Loughead filed for a patent disclosing what would become the classic Lockheed brake -- two rigid internal shoes individually anchored on pins at their lower adjacent ends and actuated at their upper adjacent ends by a fixed double-acting wheel cylinder. In January 1927 Reo became the first to introduce this new brake with their new 1927 Flying Cloud model (see illustration below). This Lockheed-style brake was last used in the U.S. on 1955 Dodge and Plymouth cars.


[Bendix hydraulic brakes were not introduced until 1932 on the new Auburn 12. These were based on the Bendix mechanical “Duo-Servo” design using a Lockheed-style, double-acting wheel cylinder in place of the cam. For this reason I have not included Vincent Bendix, a prolific inventor of brakes and brake features, among the above pioneer hydraulic brake inventors. (Bendix had a cross-licensing arrangement with Henri Perrot and used the Perrot control system (Perrot U.S. Patent # 1,076,311) with the mechanical version of the “Duo-Servo” brake.) “Duo-Servo” style hydraulic brakes are still in production today (2012). Interestingly in 1930 Bendix Aviation Corporation, maker of Bendix brakes, bought The Hydraulic Brake Company from Malcomb Loughead and other investors. By then all Lockheed brakes were being manufactured under license by the Wagner Electric Company in St. Louis. Bendix continued to use The Hydraulic Brake Company as a patent holding and licensing company for many years, not only for brakes, but for such things as varied as the Bendix washing machine.]

There are, however, two other men who also deserve recognition in regard to early hydraulic brakes for automobiles. In particular, Sir Frederick Henry Royce of Rolls-Royce, who applied for a U. S. patent on June 6, 1914¹ disclosing a rigid shoe external-contracting brake having two trailing shoes and two, somewhat remote, fluid-operated, wheel-cylinders. A brake of this type would be very stabile with maximum fade resistance, but would require great application force and indeed the illustration shows gigantic wheel cylinders. It seems evident that Royce did not contemplate the use of this brake at the front wheels. The patent was issued (and made public) on January 2, 1917 (see left above). (Is it more than coincidence that Malcomb Loughead filled his first application less than three weeks later?) I find no evidence of this brake ever having been produced and in fact the first use of hydraulic brakes by Rolls-Royce was not until 1946 and then on the front only. These were Girling brakes with two rigid, floating shoes and a single, double-acting wheel-cylinder. Adjustment was by wedge and plungers in the anchor block. And then there is Bert A. Linderman the inventor of the Timken Hydrostatic Brake who we are soon to meet – read on.

Although Fred Duesenberg was first to employ four-wheel hydraulic brakes and first to invent and employ internal expanding-shoe hydraulic brakes, Malcolm Loughead was the first to invent hydraulic automobile brakes for four-wheel application--these were, however, external-contracting band brakes introduced in production quantities in late1923 three years after Fred Duesenberg introduced his brakes in late 1920. Neither Malcolm nor Fred could claim first invention of four-wheel brakes or the hydraulic brake by itself. The honors for the former go to Henri Perrot, a Frenchman working for Argylls Ltd., manufacturer of the Argyll automobile in Alexandria, Scotland. Henri filed for a U. S. patent covering his four-wheel (mechanical) brake system on January 14, 1913 and a patent, # 1076311, issued October 21 of the same year (see right above). The 1912 Argyll 15HP was the first car equipped with Perrot's brake system. The honors for the latter probably belong to Frederick Henry Royce, however it is doubtful to me that his hydraulic brake was ever manufactured.

*Footnote to Automotive History

In its October 11, 1938 edition, The New York Times stated in a formal obituary “Bert Arthur Linderman, industrial engineer and inventor, died Sunday in the New York Hospital at age 67. He lived in Homestead, Florida. Mr. Linderman was President of the Linderman Devices, Inc., manufacturers of brakes for automobiles, with offices at 55 Liberty Street; the Canadian Linderman Company of Woodstock, Ont.; the Linderman Devices, Ltd., of Woodstock, Ont., and chairman of the board of the Muskegon Machine Company, Inc., of Newburgh, N. Y.”

Bert Linderman was probably the son of Albert T. Linderman an inventor who held at least 16 patents most or all of which dealt with finish-milling machinery for wood. In particular he invented a machine for cutting, gluing and joining dovetails simultaneously and a machine to cut, glue and join double dovetails that came to be known as a “Linderman Jointer.” These were manufactured by the Muskegon Machine Company at Muskegon, MI which appears to have been founded by Albert Linderman.

Bert Linderman was literally a “chip off the old block.” Bert racked up at least 26 patents: 8 relating to wood milling machinery, 7 relating to brakes, 4 to clutches (1 of these for a locomotive) and 11 to other things ranging from electric panels to a machine to compact the snow in a snow removal truck. All of his brake patents relate to the concept of an internal expanding arrangement of usually six, identical, individually-anchored shoes placed end-to-end in a full circle inside a drum. These were actuated radially by an inflatable inner-tube-like bladder that is collapsed flat until inflated by air or hydraulic fluid composed of 50% water, 50% alcohol. (If it hadn’t been for prohibition 100 proof gin might have worked great.) In the case of Linderman’s automotive brake a copious amount of fluid is needed, but seemingly at a low pressure compared with a traditional hydraulic brake. To this end a large volume master cylinder is employed using a rolling diaphragm and plunger rather than a piston with seals (see illustration). Bert’s first brake patent was filed on July 14, 1924. At this time Linderman would presumably have been familiar with both the Duesenberg and external-contracting Lockheed brakes. In his first brake patent Linderman cites only two principal or important objectives that are said to be advantages over other hydraulic brakes available: “…a brake which will not require adjustment to compensate for wear…” and “…a pneumatic or other fluid pressure brake (hydraulic if desired) wherein the air or other fluid pressure will be applied to and felt at the surfaces brought in contact for braking as contradistinguished from pneumatic and other fluid pressure braking organizations wherein the fluid pressure is employed merely for the actuation of bands, shoes and the like.” This latter so-called advantage is quite a mouthful for which I find no evidence suggesting it would be of any advantage whatsoever. (The 1927 “Stutz Series AA Information Book” -- owner’s manual -- provides a page of alleged advantages.)

In any event, Bert was able to sell the idea to the Timken Detroit Axle Company (Timken) a major supplier of both front and rear axles (the latter then including mechanical brakes) to many individual automobile manufacturers. (This company should not be confused with the Timken Roller Bearing Company.) Linderman’s brake offered Timken the potential of becoming an early supplier of front as well as rear brakes, not only to its current customer Stutz, but to the industry at large. This led to Timken taking a license to manufacture and sell Bert Linderman’s brake from “Linderman & Company” (later to become Linderman Devices, Inc.) an entity Bert Linderman established as a patent holding and licensing company. In the end, however, Stutz became the only customer for this brake. Timken sold it as the Timken Hydrostatic Brake and Stutz referred to it as merely a Hydrostatic brake. Who coined the term Hydrostatic and what it was based on is a mystery to me. In any event this brake was introduced on the first Stutz eight-cylinder car, the 1926 Model AA. It was still shown in the 1927 Stutz Model AA owner’s manual, but there is evidence that Stutz made a mid-year change to the then new internal-shoe Lockheed brake before the end of 1927 Model AA production. I have heard comments that Stutz offered a conversion kit of some kind for unsatisfied owners, but have seen no proof of this. It is obvious that today there would be problems replacing the rubber bladders and rolling diaphragms, but just what the operational problems were back when the cars were nearly new is not known to me. I would guess that the bladders would be subject to failure if overheated and there may have been difficulty maintaining uniform and consistent torque output from brake to brake on the vehicle. (Timken and its successors have long since exited the passenger car axle business, but have at the same time for many years dominated the market for heavy duty truck axles and brakes. Currently the name is Meritor Corporation—when I worked for them in the 70s it was Rockwell International Automotive Operations. At the time I was a neighbor and friend of a retired Timken engineer, Nelson Brownyer, who would have been around when the Hydrostatic Brake was introduced. I wish I had known about this brake then and could have gotten a firsthand report.)

The underlying illustrations show the Timken Hydrostatic brake, its components and the special master cylinder.


In Memoriam

The Hydraulic Brake Pioneers

At Their Last Stop

Frederick S. Duesenberg 1932

Sir Frederick Henry Royce 1933

Bert Arthur Linderman 1938

Malcolm Lockheed² 1958

All of the material herein is based on domestic U. S. patents and historical evolution however I am not aware of any concurrent European hydraulic brake development during the period covered.

(To see and read any of these patents go to Google and type in the patent #. You can search there also by inventor's name, assignee's name or subject, but you cannot count on finding all patents that might apply because of Google's typos. For instance you would have to type in "Peerot" to find # 1076311 above. Searching with the patent office's website is very laborious for patents prior to 1976 and even there you can't be sure you have found all that you might want to find: US Patent Full-Text Database Manual Search)

I wish to acknowledge the great help of both Steve Pugh, CCCA member from Manhattan Beach, CA who lists no less than four Model AA Stutz cars including two 1926s and two 1927s, and Larry Fickeisen of Camano Island, WA who owns a beautiful 1928 Model BB Stutz roadster, but has resisted joining our club. I also want to acknowledge the invaluable help of the archive files of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and particularly the Los Angeles Times.

¹ Henri Perrot has the honor of inventing the first successful means for operating mechanical brakes on a steering axle that eliminated variation in the braking effort as the steering was turned and the axle moved relative to the frame going down the road. His patent was filed in January 1912. This enabled the first successful four-wheel brake system. Still, it cannot be said that Perrot invented the concept of “four-wheel brakes.” Any patent examiner would have considered it obvious that four brakes would give better stopping ability than two. Hence no novelty arises in regard to the basic idea. All invention having to do with four-wheel as opposed to two-wheel brakes lies in design details that permit achieving this objective in a practical manner. Since hydraulic brakes are connected to the frame with a flexible hose either individually or via the axle, like Duesenberg, they are readily adaptable to front wheels. Bottom line: neither Loughead nor Duesenberg can be said to have invented “four-wheel brakes” nor “four-wheel hydraulic brakes,” and Frederick Royce has the honor of having invented “hydraulic brakes.” Fred Duesenberg does have the honor of having designed and introduced, on his own automobile, the first successful four-wheel hydraulic brake system. However, Malcomb Loughead established the first and eventually most commercially successful hydraulic brake-system business producing brakes of his own design.

² In 1934 Malcolm Loughead formally changed his last name to Lockheed. He said he was tired of being called “log head.”

³ In The Birth of Chrysler Corporation and Its Engineering Legacy, written by Carl Breer about 1960 and edited by Anthony J. Yanik and published by SAE in 1995, Breer relates that Walter P. Chrysler told his engineering group working on the new Chrysler car in 1923 that Chalmers would soon be going into production with Lockheed hydraulic brakes. Seemingly at the time this was of no great concern to him since he could have stopped or held it up. Could this revelation on Chrysler’s part have led his engineering group to follow suit?




Edited by duropowr
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In 1923, the "Chrysler Engineering Group", was synonymous with the Maxwell/Chalmers Engineering Group, at the Jefferson Avenue plant in Detroit, under the direction of Walter P. Chrysler. The Chrysler motor had already been tested on a number of modified 1922 Chalmers cars, to hide their identity. I'm pretty certain that Chrysler was also responsible for introducing the optional Lockheed hydraulic brakes on the 1923 Chalmers, prior to including them on his 1924 Chrysler.


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Scott mentioned the Model T as having external brakes on the rear. These were not the primary braking system but only for parking as they were cast iron on cast iron. The primary braking was a band on a drum in the transmission. When you count the number of Model T's made Henry Ford was the largest manufacture of brakes far exceeding the companies mentioned.

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Studebaker in 1925 and 1926 provided hydraulic assisted 4-wheel brakes in cars equipped with disc wheels, as an option. The system is very interesting, with pistons installed inside the shift box, sharing the same oil. Such pistons assisted the braking process pushing the rods, acting over the mechanical brakes. Very engineerious, but complex and did not last...

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5 minutes ago, JRA said:


Studebaker 4 wheel hydraulic brakes - 1925/1926: in reality a hydraulic assisted mechanical brakes system.


And also a precursor to today's ABS brakes. 


It compensated for slippery surfaces and provided greater braking effort to the set of wheels that have the better stopping power.  There was even a pressure differential gauge on the dashboard to show the compensation between the front and rear wheels.



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When I was quite young I lived in Tacoma. The downtown is on a steep hill.

I remember riding in an old Studebaker with my sisters boyfriend.

He said it had hill holders. They worked well.


I also remember when my mom got her first automatic transmission. She went into town more often after that.

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