The American Automobile Industry in World War Two
An American Auto Industry Heritage Tribute by David D Jackson

Overview      Lansing Michigan in World War Two   The U.S. Auto Industry at the Normandy Invasion, June 6, 1944    The U.S. Auto Industry and the B-29 Bomber   U.S. Auto Industry Army-Navy "E" Award Winners   The Complete listing of All Army-Navy "E" Award Winners   Sherman Tanks of the American Auto Industry   Tank Destroyers of the American Auto Industry    M26 Pershing Tanks of the American Auto Industry   M36 Tank Destroyers of the American Auto Industry   Serial Numbers for WWII Tanks built by the American Auto Industry   Surviving LCVP Landing Craft    WWII Landing Craft Hull Numbers   Airborne Extra-Light Jeep Photos  The American Auto Industry vs. the German V-1 in WWII   American Auto Industry-Built Anti-Aircraft Guns in WWII   VT Proximity Manufacturers of WWII   World War One Era Motor Vehicles  
Revisions   Links

 Automobile Manufacturers:  American Bantam Car Company   Briggs Manufacturing Company   Checker Car Company   Chrysler Corporation   Crosley Corporation   Ford Motor Car Company   General Motors Corporation   Graham-Paige Motors Corporation   Hudson
Motor Car Company  Nash-Kelvinator   Packard Motor Car Company      Studebaker    Willys-Overland Motors

General Motors Divisions:  AC Spark Plug   Aeroproducts   Allison   Brown-Lipe-Chapin   Buick   Cadillac   Chevrolet   Cleveland Diesel   Delco Appliance   Delco Products   Delco Radio   Delco-Remy   Detroit Diesel   Detroit Transmission   Electro-Motive   Fisher Body   Frigidaire   GM Proving Grounds   GM of Canada   GMC   GMI   Guide Lamp   Harrison Radiator   Hyatt Bearings   Inland   Moraine Products   New Departure   Oldsmobile   Packard Electric   Pontiac   Saginaw Malleable Iron   Saginaw Steering Gear   Southern California Division   Rochester Products   United Motors Service   Vauxhall Motors

 Indiana Companies:  Converto Manufacturing    Cummins Engine Company   Delta Electric Company   Durham Manufacturing Company   Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation   Howe Fire Apparatus   J.D. Adams Company   Magnavox  
Muncie Gear Works   Pierce Governor Company   Republic Aviation Corporation - Indiana Division   Ross Gear and Tool Company   Sherrill Research Corporation   Tokheim Oil Tank and Pump Company   Warner Gear   Wayne Pump Company   Wayne Works

Commercial Truck and Fire Apparatus Manufacturers:  American LaFrance   Autocar  
Biederman Motors Corporation   Brockway Motor Company   Detroit General   Diamond T   Duplex Truck Company   Federal Motor Truck   International Harvester   John Bean   Mack Truck   Marmon-Herrington Company   Oshkosh Motor Truck Corporation   Pacific Car and Foundry   Reo Motor Car Company  Seagrave Fire Apparatus   Sterling Motor Truck Company    Ward LaFrance Truck Corporation   White Motor Company

Other World War Two Manufacturers:  
Abrams Instrument Corporation   Air King Products   Allis-Chalmers   American Car and Foundry   American Locomotive   Annapolis Yacht Yard  
B.F. Goodrich   Baldwin Locomotive Works   Boyertown Auto Body Works   Briggs & Stratton   Caterpillar   Centrifugal Fusing   Chris-Craft   Clark Equipment Company   Cleveland Tractor Company   Continental Motors   Cushman Motor Works   Crocker-Wheeler   Dail Steel Products   Detrola   Engineering & Research Corporation   Farrand Optical Company   Federal Telephone and Radio Corp.   Firestone Tire and Rubber Company   Fruehauf Trailer Company   Fuller Manufacturing   Galvin Manufacturing   Gemmer Manufacturing Company   Gibson Guitar   Gibson Refrigerator Company   Goodyear   Hall-Scott   Harley-Davidson   Harris-Seybold-Potter   Herreshoff Manufacturing Company   Higgins Industries    Highway Trailer  Hill Diesel Company   Huffman Manufacturing   Indian Motorcycle   Ingersoll Steel and Disk   John Deere   Kimberly-Clark   Kohler Company   Landers, Frary & Clark  Lima Locomotive Works   Lundberg Screw Products   Massey-Harris   Matthews Company   Miller Printing Machinery Company   Motor Products Corporation   Motor Wheel Corporation   Naval Aircraft Factory   Novo Engine Company   Otis Elevator   Owens Yacht   Pressed Steel Car Company   R.G. LeTourneau   Samson United Corporation   Schweizer Aircraft Corporation   Shakespeare Company   Simplex Manufacturing Company   Steel Products Engineering Company   St. Louis Aircraft Corporation   St. Louis Car Company   Vilter Manufacturing Company   Wells-Gardner   W.L. Maxson Corporation   W.W. Boes Company   Westfield Manufacturing Company   York-Hoover Body Company  
   

 Other Lansing Companies that contributed to winning World War Two
Motor Wheel Corporation in World War Two

Recognizing a Company from my Hometown that contributed to winning World War Two
1920-1996 Lansing, MI
Goodyear purchased in 1964
1984-Current as Motor Wheel in Chattanooga, TN

This page updated 7-31-2022.

The Motor Wheel Mark of Quality sign above came from the former Motor Wheel cafeteria.  It is now at the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum in Lansing, MI.

Motor Wheel was formed in 1920 through the merger of five different companies.  These were Prudden Wheel, Gier Pressed Steel Company, Auto Wheel Company, and Wies & Leah Manufacturing Company.  Between 1920 and 1942, Motor Wheel produced 87 million wheels for the American Automobile Industry.  These were enough wheels to equip 17,000,000 vehicles with five wheels each.  During this period, Motor Wheel was the world's largest producer of automotive wheels and had one third of the American market. 

In 1932, Motor Wheel began producing brake drums using the newly developed centrifugal casting method developed by the Campbell, Wyant, and Cannon Foundry in Muskegon, MI.  Motor Wheel was the exclusive user of the brake drums produced by the new casting method.   In 1937 Motor Wheel built a foundry near its plants on the north side of Lansing and leased the facility to the Campbell, Wyant, and Cannon Foundry, which changed its name to Centrifugal Fusing.  Between 1932 and 1948, Motor Wheel produced 48,000,000 brake drums using the centrifugal casting method.  After World War Two Motor Wheel purchased Centrifugal Fusing.  In 1964 Goodyear purchased Motor Wheel.    

The company still exists today in Chattanooga, TN and produces heavy duty brake drums with the centrifugal casting method.  In 1984, the brake drum operation of Motor Wheel Corporation moved to Chattanooga, TN.  In 1996 the remaining wheel making operations in Lansing, MI closed down.  The Motor Wheel name currently continues today and produces heavy duty brake drums with the centrifugal casting method.


During World War One, Auto Wheel Company was contracted to produce 500 sets of wheels for the Class B, Standard Motor Truck, more commonly known as the Liberty Truck. The Prudden Wheel Company was contracted to produce another 250 sets of wheels and 500 sets of wooden wheels for that vehicle.  In 1919 the two companies would merge with two other companies to become the Motor Wheel Corporation.  Document courtesy of Warren Richardson.


This World War One Class B Liberty Truck has been restored to operating condition by the First Division Museum in Wheaton, IL.  Author's photo.


This and the next two photos are a collection of wheels produced by Motor Wheel that are on display at the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum.  The collection shows a wide variety of wheels that the company produced while in Lansing.  Originally, Motor Wheel manufactured wooden wheels before the technology for metal wheels was developed.  Author's photo.


 Author's photo.


 Author's photo.

From almost the start of this website in 2013, Motor Wheel was on my list of companies for which I wanted to do a page.  However, I was not able to find very much information on what the company produced during World War Two.  There was not enough information to author what I thought was needed to present an adequate history of the company during this important period in the nation's history.  In early July 2021, I was able to discover slightly more information on Motor Wheel in World War Two.  The additional information was enough to do a page on the company, but it would still not have the depth of information I was really seeking to tell the true and entire story of Motor Wheel during World War Two.  This would all change in early September 2021 as I visited Lansing, MI, and one of my stops was the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum. 


My primary purpose for visiting the Olds Museum was to photograph the actual building, as I had discovered it was the same building that the Hill Diesel Company occupied during its existence in Lansing.  The classic "being in the right place at the right time" would allow me to find enough information to write this page.  While taking this photo, I noticed a museum employee exiting the museum archives.  In previous trips I had not even noticed the entrance to the archives.  I asked the employee if he was the archivist, to which he answered "Yes."  I then asked him if the archives had any information on the history of Motor Wheel in World War Two, to which he replied in the affirmative, and told me to follow him into the archive area. 

The R.E. Olds Transportation Museum had just recently acquired a complete set of the "Motor Wheel News," the company's employee newsletter for the years 1940-1945.  The newsletters had enough information on Motor Wheel's World War Two products to allow me to now produce a page on the company and its contribution to winning World War Two.  All by being at the right place at the right time.

Since I started this website in 2013, I have looked at several company newsletters from World War Two.  Normally, only about 1% of the content of these newsletters address the information I am seeking.  Also, due to wartime censorship restrictions, production numbers were not allowed to be published by companies during the war, as enemy agents could use it to determine the war production capacity of the country.  Also, in the particular case of the "Motor Wheel News," many of the articles about its war products were somewhat vague.  But I think I have been able to find enough information to tell how the Motor Wheel Corporation was an important manufacturer of products that helped win World War Two.

I want to thank Mr. Rick Kaiser, Operations Manager for the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum, for spending over an hour with me in researching Motor Wheel and several other Lansing companies during my visit to the museum in September 2021.  I highly recommend this museum to anyone visiting Lansing, MI.  This is a first class museum.

Motor Wheel Corporation won the Army-Navy "E" Award five times during World War Two.


On March 9, 1942 the U.S. Navy congratulated Motor Wheel for its production of one million 40mm shell casings.  The U.S. Navy had only expected Motor Wheel to complete half of that amount by that date.  For this, Motor Wheel was awarded the  Navy "E" Award on  June 9, 1942. 


On August 15, 1942 Motor Wheel replaced its Navy "E" flag with the Army-Navy "E" flag as companies were allowed to do.
Motor Wheel Corporation won its second Army-Navy "E" Award on November 15, 1942. 
Motor Wheel Corporation won its third Army-Navy "E" Award on May 15, 1943.
  Motor Wheel Corporation won its third Army-Navy "E" Award on December 10, 1943.
Motor Wheel Corporation won its third Army-Navy "E" Award on February 1, 1945.


Motor Wheel World War Two Production:  Motor Wheel was highly diversified in its products during World War Two.  While the company manufactured wheels for both trucks and tanks, it built many other military products to help win World War Two.  In 1941, Motor Wheel received its first military contract for three-inch anti-aircraft projectiles.  By the end of November 1941, Motor Wheel was awarded three other military contracts.  One was from the Army for 400,000 75mm semi-armor piercing projectiles.  The U.S. Navy also contracted the company for three-inch anti-aircraft projectiles.  This made economic sense, as Motor Wheel was already producing this type of projectile for the Army.  Motor Wheel also contracted with the Navy for brass 40mm shell casings for which it was already noted that it won the U.S. Navy "E" award in June 1942.  The company was also sub-contracting other military products to other manufacturers at this time.  These were the first of many contracts and a multitude of products Motor Wheel would build during the war. 


This docent on the destroyer escort USS Slater is showing the tour group how a three-inch anti-aircraft projectile would be loaded into one of the ship's three-inch dual purpose guns.  This photo shows the size of the type of shell Motor Wheel was producing in late 1941.  Author's photo.


This photo from the December 15, 1944 issue of "Motor Wheel News" shows a long display table with components the company was producing for the war effort.  The related article described the individual items.  The next three paragraphs are a direct quote from the "Motor Wheel News" that describe the contents of the display.  These three paragraphs are the most extensive listing of Motor Wheel Corporation products made during World War Two. 

 "Supply truck wheels, combat wheels for "ducks," combat wheels for tank destroyers, combat spiders, Centrifugal brake drums for fighters, three-inch high explosive projectiles, 40mm gun casings, 75mm armor piercing shot, implement discs, driver discs for M18 Hellcat tank destroyers, idler wheels for M4 Sherman tanks, road wheels for Hellcats, amphibian wheels for "alligators."

Bogie wheels and hubs for M4 Sherman tanks, propeller domes for fighters and bombers, fuse seat liners, rockets and motors, 40mm armor piercing cartridge cases, three-inch anti-aircraft projectiles, three-inch 50 cal. H.V. projectiles, three-inch semi-armor piercing projectiles, dolly wheels for trailers, torpedo fuel tanks, hemisphere bomb noses, 57mm T4 containers, cylinder head covers, body rim guards for aerial bombs, sleeve bearing retainers for "ducks."

Aeroplane brackets, Centrifugal brake drums for Superfortresses and Flying Fortresses, spacers for amphibian "ducks," brake drums for trucks, spider plates for machine gun mounts, hubs for 155mm gun mounts, hubs and drums for 105mm gun mounts, tractor wheels."


This parade float shows what appears to be armored vehicle road wheels and an idler wheel.  Behind the wheels are several types of shells.  In the middle are several cylinders.  The cylinders have rounded tops welded to them and are for an unknown product. 

For wheels and brake drums, production numbers shown in the next section are for only OEM production.  Both products, especially brake drums, would have needed a constant supply of spare parts.  Brake drums throughout the life of both trucks and aircraft would have been replaced many times.  

As I noted above, for many years I was unable to find any information on Motor Wheel in World War Two until September 2021 when I gained access the Motor Wheel letters.  In early 2022, I became aware of available information on major war contracts issued by U.S. Government agencies during World War Two.  In the case of Motor Wheel, these were the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy, and their contracts are listed in the table below.  The information in the table supports the narrative and information from the newsletters and adds dollar amounts and the dates of the contracts.  Shells, shot, cartridge cases, and rocket bodies were main types of products supplied to the Army and Navy by Motor Wheel.  The total of all of the contracts was $87,320,000.

Motor Wheel Corporation's Major World War Two Contracts
The information below comes from the "Alphabetical Listing of Major War Supply Contracts, June 1940 through September 1945."  This was published by the Civilian Production Administration, Industrial Statistics Division.  Table added 4-5-2022.
Product - Customer Contract Amount Contract Awarded Completion Date
Shells - Army $71,000 7-1940 5-1941
Shells - Army $308,000 3-1941 8-1941
Forgings - Projectiles - Navy $6,320,000 6-1941 7-1942
Shells - Army $229,000 7-1941 10-1941
Cartridge Cases - Navy $6,889,000 9-1941 11-1942
Shells - Army $231,000 11-1941 1-1942
Shot - Army $1,291,000 11-1941 7-1942
Shells - Army $308,000 1-1942 7-1942
Material Ordnance - Navy $7,264,000 2-1942 7-1943
Shot - Army $958,000 2-1942 9-1943
Shells - Army $647,000 3-1942 1-1943
Shot - Army $604,000 5-1942 12-1942
 Ordnance Equipment - Navy $10,927,000 6-1942 7-1944
Shell  Machining HE3 - Army $2,888,000 6-1942 10-1944
Shells - Army $978,000 7-1942 6-1943
Shot - Army $4,883,000 9-1942 5-1944
Shot - Army $1,122,000 10-1942 3-1943
Shot - Army $1,122,000 10-1942 3-1943
Shells - Army $573,000 12-1942 1-1943
Cases Cartridge - Navy $9,920,000 3-1943 2-1944
Bomb Parts - Navy $1,290,000 4-1943 7-1944
Cartridge Cases - Navy $8,171,000 6-1943 9-1944
Projectiles AA - Navy $2,417,000 8-1943 6-1944
Waterproof Gun Covers - Navy $280,000 9-1943 6-1944
Dummy Nose Plugs - Navy $57,000 1-1944 8-1944
Rockets MK 10 - Navy $1,003,000 3-1944 3-1945
Metal Containers T4 - Army $354,000 3-1944 6-1944
Protecting Caps - Navy $366,000 5-1944 1-1945
Wheels  Spacers - Army $3,829,000 5-1944 12-1945
Projectiles AA - Navy $1,740,000 6-1944 2-1945
Cart Cases 40mm MK 2 - Navy $6,488,000 8-1944 4-1945
Protecting Caps MK 3 - Navy $490,000 9-1944 1-1946
Rocket Bodies - Navy $628,000 9-1944 4-1945
Projectiles - AA MK 31 - Navy $1,234,000 11-1944 7-1945
Rocket Bodies - MK 10 - Navy $606,000 2-1945 1-1946
Rocket Bodies - MK 10 - Navy $513,000 4-1945 2-1946
Projectiles - Navy $65,000 7-1945 12-1945
Amm Protecting Caps - Navy $346,000 7-1945 6-1946
Total $87,320,000    

 

Motor Vehicle Wheels:  Motor Wheel was the supplier for the wheels on the most produced and famous American truck of World War Two, the GMC CCKW 2-1/2-ton 6x6 truck.  It also furnished the wheels for GMC DUKW and the Studebaker US6 2-1/2-ton 6x6 truck.  It produced many of the road and idler wheels for the M4 Sherman tank series and for the M18 Hellcat tank destroyer.  It was the exclusive supplier of road wheels, return wheels, and idler wheels for the M26 Pershing tank.  Motor Wheel was an important supplier of these products for the war effort.


This is the classic GMC 2-1/2-ton 6x6 truck and is the long wheelbase version CCKW-353.  Author's photo.


For the United States, World War Two  was the first completely mechanized war.  There were tanks, jeeps, tanks, armored cars, tank destroyers, halftracks, and trucks that were used by the U.S. military.  They came in all sizes from the 1/4-ton 4x4 Jeep to the 10-ton wrecker.  But there is one truck that comes to a person's mind when thinking or thinking of a trucks from World War Two, and it is the GMC 2-1/2-ton 6X6.  It is the definitive truck of World War Two!

A Notable Quote from "The Great Crusade" by General Dwight D. Eisenhower:  "Incidentally, four other pieces of equipment that most senior officers came to regard as among the most vital to our success in Africa and Europe were the bulldozer, the jeep, the 2-1/2-ton truck, and the C-47 airplane."

For the United States Army in Africa and Europe, the 2-1/2-ton truck General Eisenhower refers to is the GMC CCKW.  The CCKW was exclusively used by the Army as the Studebaker version went to Great Britain and Russia, and the International Harvester version was also sent overseas on Lend-Lease, or were used by the U.S. Marines and Navy.  

The Motor Wheel Corporation part number for the CCKW series 20x7 wheel was 82023.

GMC World War Two Trucks Accepted by Detroit Ordnance, US Army
The information below comes from "Summary Report of Acceptances, Tank-Automotive Material, 1940-1945"
Published by Army Services Forces, Office, Chief of Ordnance-Detroit, Production Division, Requirements and Progress Branch January 21, 1946.
Type 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 Total
CCW-353 0 707 22,687 255 0 0 23,649
CCKW-352 244 20,372 22,657 9,325 954 440 53,992
CCKW-353 7,929 30,424 88,329 121,518 125,732 89,717 463,649
AFKWX-353 0 0 613 1,619 4,000 1,000 7,232
Total 8,173 51,503 134,286 132,717 130,686 91,157 548,522

 

Number of Motor Wheel Corporation Wheels made for the GMC CCW, CCKW-352, CCKW-353, and AFKWX-353 Trucks
 
Type 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 Total
CCW-353 - 11 Wheels per Truck 0 7,777 249,557 2,805 0 0 260,139
CCKW-352 - 12 Wheels per Truck 2,928 244,464 271,884 111,900 11,448 5,280 647,904
CCKW-353 - 11 Wheels per Truck 87,219 334,664 971,619 1,336,698 1,383,052 986,887 5,100,139
AFKWX-353 - 11 Wheels per Truck 0 0 6,743 17,809 44,000 11,000 79,552
Total 90,147 586,905 1,499,803 1,469,212 1,438,500 1,003,167 6,087,734


This GMC 1941-1942 CCW-353 6x4 is minus its outer back wheels. Motor Wheel Corporation supplied 260,139 wheels for this type of truck.  This particular example has a 210 CFM Roi Air Compressor mounted on the bed.  Author's photo.


This steel enclosed cab CCKW-353 shows the location of the spare tire underneath the body of the truck.  This was the supply version of the truck.  Motor Wheel manufactured 5,100,139 wheels for the 463,649 long bed CCKW-353.  Author's photo.


The CCKW-352 was a short bed version of the truck and was intended to be a prime mover of artillery.  Due to the lack of space underneath the short bed body, the spare tire and fuel tank were moved between the cab and the body.  This movement allowed for a second spare tire to be placed in this area on the truck.  Therefore, Motor Wheel had to supply twelve wheels for this type of vehicle.  This amounted to 647,904 wheels.  Author's photo.


GMC built 7,232 of the AFKWX-353, which was a cab over engine design with a longer cargo body for transporting bulky loads.  It had the same wheel base as the CCKW-353 and had a 15 or 17 foot body which was three or five feet longer than the CCKW-353 series truck.  Like the CCW-353 and CCKW-353, the AFKWX-353 had one spare tire underneath the body.  It required eleven tires per vehicle.  Motor Wheel Corporation supplied 79,552 wheels for the AFKWX-353 during World War Two.  Author's photo.


This is the Studebaker US6 2-1/2-ton 6x6 truck which was provided to foreign countries either through direct purchase or Lend-Lease.  In 1941, Motor Wheel supplied brake drums and hubs for 5,714 US6 trucks destined for Great Britain when the normal supplier could not furnish these parts.  Author's photo.

DUKW:  The April 1, 1944, edition of the "Motor Wheel News" notes that Motor Wheel Corporation supplied the wheels for the GMC DUKW.  The Ordnance Supply Manual shows that prior to serial number 406, the disk and rim used a Goodyear "L" rim in GM part number 2182022.  For serial numbers starting with 406, a wheel assembly used a Firestone "CV" rim with GM part number 2182087.  It appears that Motor Wheel was a subcontractor to both of these companies, supplying wheel components to both Goodyear and Firestone for use on the DUKW.  There were 21,147 DUKWs built during World War Two.  Motor Wheel as a subcontractor supplied 124,882 wheels for this very important vehicle.


Author's photo added 12-25-2021.


Author's photo added 12-25-2021.

Gun Carriages:


The 155mm "Long Tom" is identified in the "Motor Wheel News" as having wheels and hubs built by Motor Wheel on the north side of Lansing, MI.  There were 494 155mm cannons produced during the war.  Each carriage had ten wheels indicating Motor Wheel would have provided 4,940 wheels and hubs for the weapon.  Author's photo.


Motor Wheel Corporation supplied hubs and brake drums for the 8,536 105mm howitzers built in World War Two.  Author's photo added 12-25-2021.

Road, Idler, and Track Return Wheels for Tracked Vehicles: 

Author's Note:  There were several different names for the different types of wheels used on World War Two tracked vehicles.  Road wheels were also called boogie wheels.  Sometimes they were also described as disks.  The track return wheels were also described as rollers in some publications. 

M4 Sherman Tank Road and Idler Wheels:  Motor Wheel made an undetermined amount of road wheels for the Sherman.  There were six types of road wheels manufactured for the Sherman tank with the Vertical Volute Suspension System (VVSS).  Motor Wheel is documented as producing what was known as the stamped spoke type.  There were 40,661 Sherman tanks produced with VVSS.  There were another 13,942 gun motor carriages and other types of vehicles that were built on Sherman chassis equipped with VVSS.  Each vehicle had twelve road wheels, resulting in at least 655,236 road wheels required for original equipment.  If Motor Wheel built 10% of the Sherman VVSS road wheels, it would have produced over 65,000. 

Motor Wheel was a subcontractor to the final manufacturer for this product.  After the basic metal wheel was assembled, it needed to go to a rubber tire company which then vulcanized a rubber tire around the outer diameter of the wheel.  The last step in the process was then installing the bearings in the unit.  Motor Wheel also produced the smaller idler wheel in the stamped spoke design. 


This M4A3(75)VVSS is equipped with stamped spoke road and idler wheels like Motor Wheel built.  Author's photo.


The photo shows the rubber tires were vulcanized onto the wheel.  Motor Wheel only built the basic wheel.  The final supplier of the road and idler wheels installed the bearings, making them ready for installation onto the tank.  A considerable number of spares were needed for the road wheels, as debris that the tank ran over in operation caused the rubber wheels to disintegrate during use.  Author's photo.


This example of an M4 Sherman tank with VVSS shows the bare road wheels with no rubber tire.  The road wheels and idler wheel at the rear of the tank are the stamped spoke type that Motor Wheel manufactured.  With the rubber wheels off, this photo shows the wheel as it came off the Motor Wheel assembly process, minus the bearings.  Author's photo.


The M36 tank destroyer was converted from the earlier M10A1 tank destroyer.  The three-inch main gun was replaced with a more powerful 90mm main gun in a new larger turret.  The drive train to the M10A1 and similar M10 used the same Vertical Volute Suspension System as the Sherman tank.  This particular M36 has five of the six road wheels and the idler wheel with stamped spoke wheels like Motor Wheel made.  As the war progressed, it was not unusual  to find several different types of road wheels on the Sherman type vehicles.  Damaged road wheels were replaced with whatever was available, many of the wheels having been salvaged from destroyed vehicles.  Author's photo. 

M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer Road, Idler, and Return Track Wheels:  Motor Wheel was the supplier of the road, idler, and return track wheels for this Buick-vehicle built in nearby Flint, MI.  There were 2,507 M18 tank destroyers built. 

Buick-Built World War Two M18 Tank Destroyers Accepted by Detroit Ordnance, US Army
The information below comes from "Summary Report of Acceptances, Tank-Automotive Material, 1940-1945"
Published by Army Services Forces, Office, Chief of Ordnance-Detroit, Production Division, Requirements and Progress Branch January 21, 1946.
Included are the number of wheels and track rollers that Motor Wheel Corporation manufactured for this vehicle.
Type 1943 1944 Total
M18 Tank Destroyer 812 1,695 2,507
Road Wheels - 20 per Vehicle 16,240 33,900 50,140
Idler Wheels - 4 per Vehicle 3,248 6,780 10,028
Return Track Rollers - 16 per Vehicle 12,992 27,120 40,112


This restored M18 Hellcat shows the Motor Wheel-built road wheels, idler wheel, and return track rollers.  Author's photo.  


  With the tracks off of this M18, it can be seen that there are two road wheels per axle or twenty per vehicle.  There also two idler roller and track return wheels per axle.  The total number of track return rollers was sixteen per vehicle and four idler wheels per vehicle.  Motor Wheel Corporation manufactured the steel wheel and then sent it on to another supplier to add the rubber tire.  Author's photo.


Motor Wheel produced 50,140 M18 road wheels, 40,112 track return rollers, and 10,028 idler wheels during World War Two.  Both the road wheels and the return rollers needed to be sent to a rubber company to vulcanize the rubber tire on.  All three types of wheels were then sent to the final supplier to add the bearings.  Author's photo.


Production of the M18 was discontinued in 1944 after a short two year production run because the 76mm main gun was not able to penetrate the armor of German Panther and Tiger tanks as expected.  Because of this, 640 M18s had their turrets removed and the interior of the vehicle configured as a troop carrier.  This new vehicle was designated as the M39.  The M39 continued to use the same Motor Wheel Corporation-built wheels as the M18.  Author's photo.

M26 Heavy Tank Road, Idler, and Return Track Wheels:  Motor Wheel had the exclusive contract for these components. 

Chrysler and Fisher Body-Built World War Two M26 and M45 Pershing Heavy Tanks Accepted by Detroit Ordnance, US Army
The information below comes from "Summary Report of Acceptances, Tank-Automotive Material, 1940-1945"
Published by Army Services Forces, Office, Chief of Ordnance-Detroit, Production Division, Requirements and Progress Branch January 21, 1946.
Included are the number of wheels and track rollers that Motor Wheel Corporation manufactured for this vehicle.

Type 1944 1945 Total
M26 - Fisher Body 40 1,689 1,729
M26 - Chrysler   473 473
M45 - Chrysler   185 185
Total 40 2,347 2,387
       
Road Wheels - 24 per Vehicle 960 56,328 57,288
Idler Wheels - 4 per Vehicle 160 9,388 9,548
Return Track Rollers - 20 per Vehicle 800 26,940 27,740


This is a Fisher Body-built M26 Pershing with Motor Wheel Corporation-produced road wheels, idler wheels, and return track rollers.  Motor Wheel shipped the road wheels to the Kelsey-Hayes Company which was responsible for adding the rubber tire and the installation of the bearings and hub assembly.  Author's photo.


This un-restored M26 shows two Motor Wheel-produced road wheels without the rubber tire.  Author's photo.


This image shows the final assembly of two Motor Wheel wheels, or disks as described by the U.S. Army, into the final assembly which was completed by Kelsey-Hayes. 


This image details the track support roller assembly with two Motor Wheel rollers. 

Landing, Vehicle, Tracked Road Wheels (LVT):  The Motor Wheel Corporation produced an undetermined number of road wheels for the LVT series of tracked landing craft.  The "Motor Wheel News" only has one reference that the company was producing boogie, or road wheels, for the LVTs.  The article has two photos that show two different types of LVTs.  One was the type LVT which had the prime contractor as the Food Machinery Corporation.  The Reo Motor Company in Lansing was producing boogie wheel assemblies in its nearby plant on the south side of Lansing.  Motor Wheel could have been a supplier to Reo for the wheels.


This is an LVT-4 for which the Food Machinery Corporation was the prime contractor.  Author's photo. 


This photo shows the boogie wheels for the LVT-4.  Author's photo.  


The LVT-3 was developed and built by the Ingersoll Steel and Disc Division of Borg Warner in Kalamazoo, MI.  One of the photos in the "Motor Wheel News" article on the LVTs shows an LVT-3 landing at Okinawa in 1945.  The historical record is unclear for which type of LVT Motor Wheel was making boogie wheels.  Author's photo.

Motor Vehicle and Aircraft Brake Drums:  Motor Wheel Corporation produced the rear brake drums and hub assemblies for the GMC CCKW truck series.  It also produced brake drums for the B-17, B-24, B-29, and P-47 aircraft.  All Motor Wheel brake drums utilized castings furnished by Centrifugal Fusing of Lansing, MI.

Motor Wheel was one of two suppliers that supplied brake drums for the GMC CCKW series of trucks.  It all depended upon which type of axle was used in the vehicle.  Timken-Detroit Axle Company was the primary supplier of axles for the CCKW.  These were known as split axles due to the type of differential it used.  Motor Wheel supplied the rear brake drums and hub assemblies for this type of rear axle.  Timken-Detroit supplied the front drums on these type of axles.  However, the Timken-Detroit Axle Company was not able to supply all of the axles required. Chevrolet also supplied axles for the CCKW series trucks.  These were known as banjo axles, again due to the type of differential manufactured by Chevrolet.  These axles did not use Motor Wheel brake drums.

An estimated 50% of the CCKW series trucks were assembled with Timken-Detroit axles.  Motor Wheel Corporation supplied an estimated 1,097,044 rear brake drums and hub assemblies for the vehicle.


This is a pristine GMC CCKW-353 airborne cargo-dump.  All airborne cargo-dumps were equipped with Timken-Detroit split axles and Motor Wheel brake drums.  Author's photo


The Timken-Detroit split differential axle with Motor Wheel brake drums.  Author's photo.



 The Motor Wheel part number for the rear conventional brake drum was 80026A.  The part number for the demountable type was 82517A.  

Motor Wheel CCKW Truck Series Rear Split Axle Part Numbers
Part Type Part Number
 Rear conventional brake drum 80026A
Rear demountable brake drum 82517A
Rear conventional hub assembly with brake drum - left 82004
Rear conventional hub assembly with brake drum -right 82003
Rear demountable hub assembly with brake drum - left 82514
Rear demountable hub assembly with brake drum - right 82513
Rear conventional hub assembly 82005
Rear demountable hub assembly 82005


This October 1, 1943 "Motor Wheel News" article shows truck axles being uncrated and then assembled into 6x6 trucks.  These are GMC 2-1/2-ton CCKW trucks from the size of the wheels and the split type of differential.  The photos state that not only were the wheels built by Motor Wheel but also the hub and drum assemblies.  What is missing from the article is an exact identification of the vehicles.  The newsletter editor may have found these photos and used them as a generic example of the war products being manufactured by the company.  If so, he was lucky to have found photos of GMC CCKW axles with split axles built by Timken-Detroit.  They could very well have been Chevrolet banjo type axles.  Maybe he knew the difference. 


This is the B-17F Memphis Belle on May 17, 2018, 50 years to the date that she completed 25 combat missions over Europe.  This photo was taken several hours after the dedication of the Memphis Belle at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.  The Memphis Belle, which is one of the most famous aircraft of World War Two, came equipped with Motor Wheel brake drums.  Author's photo.


The front page of the November 1, 1942 issue of the Motor Wheel News had photo of three P-47s in flight.  The caption underneath the photo noted that the P-47s were equipped with parts produced by Motor Wheel.  Most likely the parts were brake drums similar to the ones the company was building for the B-17.  Author's photo.


The drum would have fit in each of the wheels of the main landing gear.  Author's photo.


The "Motor Wheel News" notes that the company made parts that were on the B-24.  It has to be assumed these were brake drums.  The B-24 was the most widely produced American heavy bomber of World War Two with 18,493 built.  Author's photo.

The B-29 Program:  Motor Wheel was the exclusive supplier of both the brake drums and propeller domes for the B-29 Superfortress. 


The B-29 Enola Gay was equipped with brake drums and propeller dome built by the Motor Wheel Corporation in Lansing, MI.  Author's photo.


Author's photo.


This the B-29 Bockscar at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, OH.  It is one of 3,763 B-29s were built by four different companies during World War Two.  Author's photo.


A close-up view of one of the Motor Wheel-built propeller domes on Bockscar.  Motor Wheel was the exclusive manufacturer of the propeller domes as described in the November 1944 edition of Motor Wheel News and supplied at least 15,052 propeller domes plus spare units for the war effort.  Author's photo.


The above page from the Motor Wheel News shows parts of the manufacturing process for the propeller domes.  Note that none of the workers were wearing safety glasses.


Motor Wheel also made brake drums for the B-29 bomber.  This is the outside port wheel and tire for Bockscar.  The ridges on the outer diameter of the Motor Wheel brake drum can actually be seen from the 12 o'clock to 2 o'clock position.  The drawings below show the ridges in more detail.  Author's photo.   

 Motor Wheel was most likely the exclusive supplier for the B-29 brake drums.  While this was not specifically stated in any edition of the "Motor Wheel News," when the workers of its casting supplier went on strike in 1945, brake production for the B-29 came to a halt.  Based on this, Motor Wheel Corporation would have produced a minimum of 30,104 plus brake drums plus spares.  Each B-29 had two sets of brakes on its four main wheels.   Brake drums on the B-29 were a high maintenance item and there would need to be a constant flow of spare parts for replacement.  Motor Wheel was a sub-contractor to the company that supplied the brake assembly for the aircraft. 


This image shows that the brake drums were actually made of two pieces.  It also shows the ridges in the outer diameter.  The purpose for the ridges may have been to give the brakes more surface area to assist in their cooling.


This image shows the two sets of brakes on the B-29 main landing gear.

Shells and Rockets:  Motor Wheel Corporation produced several types of projectiles, shell casings, and rockets during World War Two. 


The U.S. Navy awarded Motor Wheel Corporation its first Army-Navy "E" award in June 1942 for the production of one million 40mm shell casings, twice the amount the Navy had expected in the same time period.  Author's photo.

The "Motor Wheel News" indicates that the company signed a contract with the U.S. Navy in late 1941 for the manufacture of 40mm shell casings.  Five months later, in March 1942, it was announced that Motor Wheel had produced a million shell casings.  This was a very short time period to produce this volume as there had to be time to make the tools and set up the equipment.  This was a significant accomplishment on the part of Motor Wheel. 

Assuming production began in December 1941, this would have been an average rate of 333,333 shell casings per month.  No doubt there was a ramp up time with more casings being produced in early March 1942 than at the end of 1941.  However, if one uses the 333,333 per month production rate for the remaining 40 months of World War Two, the Motor Wheel Corporation manufactured at least 13,333,320 40mm shell casings for the U.S. Navy.  The company no doubt produced more than this amount, as it added equipment and became more experienced in the manufacturing process. 


This remotely aimed quad-mount 40mm anti-aircraft gun on the U.S.S. Hornet CV-12 is expending 40mm ammunition at an impressive rate in fighting off attacks by Japanese aircraft in 1945.  Ammunition loaders are feeding in four-round clips as fast as they can be handed to them.  Empty shell casings, some of them possibly made by the Motor Wheel Corporation, litter the deck.  Each barrel for short bursts could fire at a rate of 120 rounds per minute.  This scene played out on every 40mm on every U.S. Navy ship in the Pacific Ocean when under attack.  The U.S. Navy needed ever 40mm shell casing it could produce!

Motor Wheel Corporation was one of the initial contractors for the U.S. Navy's 40mm program.  Production of the actual shells began in March 1942 with 15,000 rounds produced.  At the beginning of the program, Motor Wheel was producing shell casings faster than the ammunition factories could turn out the actual rounds.  Production sharply ramped up; and by the end of the war, the U.S. Navy had purchased a total of 191,559,000 rounds of 40mm ammunition.

The 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun is one of the most iconic weapons of World War Two.  The U.S. Navy procured at least 39,200 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns that were mounted on every type of ship the Navy had during the war.


One of the smallest craft that mounted 40mm Bofors was the PT boat.  This is PT-305 which was built by Higgins Industries.  Author's photo.


Ready ammunition containers behind  the 40mm Bofors on PT-305 show the size of the shell casings that Motor Wheel produced during World War Two.  Author's photo.  


The U.S. Navy purchased over 10,000 single mount 40mm Bofors guns that used Motor Wheel shell casings in their ammunition.  This single mount is on the USS Cod.  Author's photo.  


This dual mount 40mm anti-aircraft gun is one of nearly 10,000 that defended Navy ships from aircraft attacks during World War Two.  During Japanese suicide attacks on American ships in the Pacific, weapons like these used significant amounts of ammunition with Motor Wheel-shell casings.  This example is on the USS Sullivans.  Author's photo.


The battleship USS Massachusetts bristled with 40mm anti-aircraft guns as did every other battleship during World War Two.  The battleships were large enough to mount the large quad mounts on the ship.  The 40mm Bofors had a rate of fire of 120 rounds per minute.  For short bursts, a quad mount like this one could fire at a rate 480 per minute.  The U.S. Navy needed every one of the over 13million 40mm shell casings Motor Wheel made during the war.  Author's photo. 


One of Motor Wheel's first contracts in November 1941 was for 400,000 75mm semi-armor piercing shell projectiles.  Shown here are two armor piercing shells which are very similar to the semi-armor piercing type.  Author's photo.


How cool is this?  This photo is of a Motor Wheel Corporation M72 armor piercing shot with tracer that still exists.  Image courtesy of www.ww2ammo.com added 7-31-2022.   


This image shows the "M.W." designating Motor Wheel and a date of 1942.  Image courtesy of www.ww2ammo.com added 7-31-2022.

Mark 10 7.2 Inch Rockets (Hedgehogs):  Motor Wheel built the Mark 10 rocket which was used on destroyers and destroyer escorts in anti-submarine warfare.  Motor Wheel manufactured the head, tail, fins, and shrouds.  They were then sent to a Naval munitions plant, where either 30 pounds of TNT or 35 pounds of Torpex were added to the head.  A small rocket motor was added to the tail, which gave the weapon a range of 250-280 yards when it was fired over the bow of the ship.


This U.S. Navy inspector is holding a Mark 10 rocket, as rocket heads move on a conveyor through the paint shop in the background.  Production of the completed 7.2 inch began for the U.S. Navy in July 1942 with 2,000 manufactured.  By the end of production in February 1945, 509,000 had been made.  This was a very important weapon in the war against the U-boat.


I could not have planned this photo any better!  This photo was taken five years before the writing of this webpage on the Motor Wheel Corporation, but the docent on the USS Slater is holding the Mark 10 rocket in a very similar pose to the U.S. Navy inspector in the previous photo.  The photo reveals that the head of the weapon was assembled from three pieces.  The weld line can be seen going around the radius of the head where the top plate and the main cylinder are joined together.  The spinner on the fuse would not activate the weapon until it had traveled far enough to keep it from exploding by accident while still over the ship.  The Reo Motor Car Company on the south side of Lansing could very well have manufactured the spinner and detonator assembly, as it was a large manufacturer of this product.  Author's photo.


Twenty-four Mark 10s were mounted in the launcher.  Each rocket tail was mounted on a long cylinder called a spigot.  The spigots were oriented so that when all 24 projectors were fired in rapid sequence, they fell in an elliptical pattern 140 by 120 feet, 250-280 yards in front of the moving ship.  The Mark 10 projectors would only detonate on contact with an enemy submarine.  This was unlike the depth charges that were set to go off at a certain depth.  Author's photo.  


The USS Slater is the only Cannon Class Destroyer Escort on display in the world.  It is located on the Hudson River in downtown Albany, NY.  Author's photo.


The Mark 10 rockets were deployed from between the number one and number two gun positions.  Author's photo.


The "Motor Wheel News" makes note that its rockets were used for shore bombardment during amphibious landings by American forces.  The Mark 10 was modified and with a 3.5-inch rocket motor and achieved a range of 1,200 yards.  These were used to destroy mines and obstacles in the shallow water at the shoreline.  7.2-inch rockets like those built by Motor Wheel were first used in mid-1944 and launched from modified LCMs. 

The U.S. Army also used a version of the Mark 10 rocket for use as demolition charges fired at enemy positions.  The Army designated it as the T37, which was fired from twenty round launchers mounted on Sherman tanks.  Motor Wheel may have also produced this weapon for the U.S. Army.  However, the historical record is unclear on this point. 

Torpedo Fuel Flasks:  Like the shells, projectiles, and rockets described in the previous section, Motor Wheel Corporation also built a product for torpedoes that was totally foreign to its normal civilian product line.  Like many other companies in the United States during World War Two, Motor Wheel was able to use its engineering and manufacturing capabilities to produce totally different products for the war effort.

Most likely Motor Wheel built the torpedo fuel flasks for the Pontiac Motor Division of General Motors in nearby Pontiac, MI.  Pontiac produced 4,526 Mark XIII aerial torpedoes for the U.S. Navy.  International Harvester built another 763 Mark XIII aerial torpedoes at its McCormick Works in Chicago, IL.  It would have made sense for Motor Wheel to supply both nearby companies with the same type of part.  This would have made a total of 5,289 Mark XIII torpedo fuel flasks.  Other types of torpedoes for surface ships and submarines along with the Mark XIII were also built by the Amertorp Corporation in Forest Park, IL, a suburb of Chicago, IL.  It produced a total of 8,391 torpedoes.  If Motor Wheel produced fuel flasks for these three companies, it would have manufactured 13,680 of the components.  The other torpedo manufacturing plants were on the east coast which would probably have had different suppliers for the product.  In total, 57,653 torpedoes of all types were produced during World War Two.


The Mark XIII aircraft torpedo.  The thirteen-foot long weapon consisted of 1,225 assemblies of 5,222 individual parts.  The gyro, which guided the weapon to its target, turned at 9,000 rpms.  It had a diameter of 22.5 inches and weighed 2,216 pounds, of which 600 pounds was the Torpex explosive. The internal steam turbine propelled the Mark XIII at 33 knots for a maximum range of 6,300 yards.  The Naval Torpedo Section, Amertorp Corporation, Pontiac, and International Harvester produced the Mark XIII during World War Two.  The four companies built 17,000 torpedoes.  1,500 were used in combat.  Author's photo.


Motor Wheel was contracted during World War Two to manufacture brass fuel flasks for  torpedoes used by both U.S. Navy submarines and torpedo bombers.  This "Motor Wheel News" photo shows the flasks being assembled from two separate stamped pieces during World War Two.   Note the brass fittings on the sides of the flasks in the photo.   Author's photo.  


The Motor Wheel-built brass fuel flask can be seen in this cutaway of a submarine type torpedo.  The brass fitting can be seen at the top of the flask.   Author's photo.

The Motor Wheel Corporation Plants:  The company had a large complex of several manufacturing plants on the north side of Lansing bounded from south to north by East Saginaw Street to McKinley Street.  The western boundary was Larch Street.  I lived on the south side of Lansing and was only vaguely aware of the Motor Wheel plants. I was most aware of the large plant just east of Larch Street which was visible as I traveled north out of Lansing to Camp Grayling.


This is the former the corporate offices of the Motor Wheel Corporation.  During World War Two, the address was 716 East Saginaw Street.  Until I started researching the company, I was unaware of this plant.  While I lived in Lansing, I should have had occasion to drive by this location and notice it.  The reason I probably did not notice this building is that in 1961, Motor Wheel moved its headquarters to Plant 2 on Larch Street.  It also then demolished the large factory complex at this location.  It is unknown why this particular building was saved.  By the time I would have driven by, there would have been no "Motor Wheel" sign on the building nor large factory complex to look at.  

In any case, this is an elegant looking structure which today has been repurposed into the Motor Wheel Lofts with a current address of 707 Prudden Street.  Originally, this structure was the factory for the Prudden Wheel Company, making this building over 100 years old.  This building is L-shaped and is the only building of the factory complex still standing.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Prudden Wheel Company Building.  The author's photo is looking west down the south side of the building.


This is the west side of the structure.  During World War Two there were four sets of railroad tracks in this area.  The building in the left portion of the photo is a new structure that replaced the former razed factory buildings.  Author's photo.


This photo is looking northwest at the repurposed former Motor Wheel corporate offices and factory complex.  The smoke stack has the name "Prudden' on it.  Author's photo.


This Sanborn map shows the complex in 1951.  Today Summit Street is Prudden Street.  As the current Google Maps satellite image below confirms, most of the original structure was razed, with only the L-shaped original building still standing.  A comparison of the two images shows that where the rim department used to be in 1951 is now a parking lot.  The east end of the L-shaped building was a parking garage and offices.  It no longer exists either.


Note that May Street is the northern boundary to this facility.  Satellite image courtesy of Google Maps. 


This Sanborn map shows that Motor Wheel Corporation Plant No. 1 was directly to the north of the Saginaw Street plant.  It was also razed in 1961 and today is a parking lot. 


This current satellite image shows the entire former two Motor Wheel plant locations as they are today.  Satellite image courtesy of Google Maps. 


This is the Motor Wheel complex I remember on North Larch Street, which was the western boundary to the facility. 


McKinley Street was the northern boundary to Motor Wheel plant 2.


The former Motor Wheel plant that I remember still exists.  In the 1970s I would see it from the U.S. 27 overpass each summer as I went to and from Camp Grayling in northern lower Michigan.  Satellite image courtesy of Google Maps.   


Centrifugal Fusing Company was on the north side of McKinley Street.  The company used the centrifugal casting method to make truck and aircraft brake castings for Motor Wheel during World War Two.  Directly to the west of Centrifugal Fusing was a Motor Wheel plant.  In 1937, Motor Wheel built the two plants and then leased them to Centrifugal Fusing in order to have its supply of brake castings next to the Motor Wheel complex. 


The former Motor Wheel and Centrifugal Fusing factory complex still exists.  The railroad tracks that were the eastern boundary of the complex have been removed.  McKinley Street is now blocked where the railroad tracks used to be, and McKinley Street in front of the complex is now private property.  In 1984, Goodyear, the owner of Motor Wheel at the time, spun off the centrifugal casting operation and the associated machining operation into another company that moved the operations to Chattanooga, TN.  Today that new company continues the name of "Motor Wheel."  Satellite image courtesy of Google Maps.


This 1945 aerial photo shows the Motor Wheel Corporation looking north.  Image added 12-25-2021.

 

In December 1945 Motor Wheel purchased this factory at the corner of South Washington Avenue and West Mount Hope Avenue in Lansing, MI.  The plant was purchased from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.  During World War Two Nash-Kelvinator built aircraft propellers in this factory.  Prior to World War Two, Motor Wheel Corporation had developed a furnace it marketed under the name "Duo-Therm."  After World War Two, this factory was dedicated to building furnaces.  This plant was in my neighborhood, and I remember a big Motor Wheel Corporation sign on the top of this factory.  By 1961, Motor Wheel had vacated this building, and it was the location for the first large discount store in Lansing.   Apparently, the Duo-Therm business proved not to be as profitable for the company as expected.


This is the plant today.  During World War Two, my grandfather worked in this plant supervising mostly women workers in the propeller balancing department.  Author's photo.

 

 

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