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

Overview      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   Serial Numbers for WWII Tanks built by the American Auto Industry

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

General Motors Divisions
(Undergoing development) Aeroproducts   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

Truck and Implement Manufacturers:   American LaFrance   Autocar  Diamond T   Caterpillar   Clark Equipment Company   Cleveland Tractor Company   Federal Motor Truck   International Harvester    Mack Truck
   Marmon-Herrington Company   Massey-Harris   Pacific Car and Foundry  Reo Motor Car Company   R.G. LeTourneau   Seagrave Fire Apparatus   Ward LaFrance Truck Corporation   White Motor Company

Automotive Tire
   B.F. Goodrich    Firestone Tire and Rubber Company
 Updates and Additions  


Nash-Kelvinator Lansing Michigan World War Two Propeller Plants
Nash-Kelvinator in World War Two / WWII
Detroit, MI
(1916-1937 as Nash Motors)
Rest in Peace

This page last updated 1-22-2018.

Nash-Kelvinator came into being in 1937 when Nash Motors, an automobile manufacturer in Kenosha, WI since 1916, merged with Kelvinator Appliance, a maker of home appliances in Detroit, MI.   Even though Nash was the senior partner in the merger, company headquarters were in Detroit rather than Kenosha, because the CEO was from the Kelvinator and wanted to remain there.  In 1954, Nash-Kelvinator merged with Hudson to became American Motors.

With the exception of one-ton truck trailers Nash-Kelvinator did not manufacture products related to its pre-war product lines during WWII.  In fact, it was one of only three American automobile manufacturers to build complete aircraft, in this case the Sikorsky R-6A helicopter.  In fact, Nash-Kelvinator built more helicopters during WWII than Sikorsky and the rest of the aviation industry combined.

Nash-Kelvinator was the largest producer of American helicopters during World War Two.  It built the most advanced Sikorsky helicopter design of the war, the R-6A Hoverfly II, which is shown above at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH.  Author's photo.

The Nash-Kelvinator Plant in Lansing, MI won the Army-Navy "E" Award on September 17, 1943.
The Nash-Kelvinator Ranco Division in Columbus, OH won the Army-Navy "E" Award in January 1943.

Nash-Kelvinator World War Two Production Statistics:

(17,012) R-2800 Pratt & Whitney Radial Aircraft engines:   These included the R-2800-8 for the Vought F4U Corsair, the R-2800-10 for the Grumman F6F Hellcat and the R-2800-65 for the Northrop P-61 Black Widow. Production of the R-2800 actually began in late 1941 in the former Reo Truck plant at Mt. Hope Ave and Washington Street in Lansing, MI.  Due to increased production demand for both Hamilton-Standard Propellers being built by Nash-Kelvinator in Lansing the engine manufacture was transferred to Kenosha, WI.  Lansing concentrated on propeller production.  The Defense Plant Corporation spent $31.4 million n Kenosha on a new 204,800 square foot plant and equipment to produce the Double Wasp engine.  An average of 9,125 employees worked at the plant during the war, with peak employment reaching 11,500.

(158,134) Hamilton Standard Propellers:  Original production began in the former Reo plant on South Cedar Street, to the east of the main Reo complex.  After WWII the plant became John Bean.  Production later expanded to another former Reo Truck plant at Mt. Hope and Washington.  This plant became propeller manufacturing and final assembly for Nash-Kelvinator during WWII.    Motor Wheel used it for a while after WWII.  Then about 1960 it was the site of the first big box discount store in Lansing. 

Beyond the 158,134 propeller assemblies completed here were another 85,656 spare blades.  My grandfather was in charge of propeller balancing at this plant, which produced the second highest quantity of American propellers in WWII.  The propellers produced were both three and four blade configurations, including the four bladed type for the Vought F4U-4 Corsair and Douglas A-26 Invader.

(Over 200) R-6A Sikorsky Helicopters:  While many of the production numbers from WWII are somewhat "soft" since they change  depending the source, the R-6A helicopter production seems to vary more than normal.

The National Museum of the US Air Force (Air Force Museum):  219
Buying Aircraft:  Material Procurement for the Army Air Forces by Irving Brinton Holley, Jr:  201  This was part of a post WWII study by the Center of Military History - United States Army that has become the guidepost for World War Two production numbers and facts.
Storied Independent Automakers:  Nash, Hudson and American Motors by Charles K. Pride (Google Books): 262

Actually, other numbers beyond these three have been seen.  The numbers are not so important, which are 200+, but the fact that Nash-Kelvinator built more helicopters than any other company during the Second World War.  Also, the technology was in its infancy and leading edge at the same time.

Twenty more were apparently partially complete at contract cancelation in August 1945.  All were produced at the Nash-Kelvinator Plant on Plymouth Road in Detroit.

(650,000) bomb fuses, (204,000) rocket motors, (200,000) M3 6x30 binoculars and cases (There is also an M13 Nash-Kelvinator built 6X30 type binoculars which is not documented in the historical literature.  See the example below.), and (44,628) one-ton two-wheel cargo trailers.  Other products included aviation pressure gauges.

What wasn't built but was planned.  Plans early in the war called for Nash-Kelvinator to build  a Sikorsky designed four engine sea plane under a licensing agreement.  All or most of the WWII magazine advertisements indicated that this was one of the product lines along with aircraft engines and propellers.  Due to changing military requirements, the need for this type aircraft decreased, and the project was dropped.  The aircraft had an experimental designation of XJRK-1.  It would have carried 37 passengers.  Artist's renditions, as shown below in the advertisement, are the Sikorsky JR2S that was in production and not a military secret.  Final assembly of the SJRK-1 aircraft would have been in New Orleans, where the assumption is that it would have been built adjacent to Lake Pontchartrain and then launched from the lake.  Sub-assemblies would have been made in Grand Rapids, MI and Kenosha, WI.

Nash-Kelvinator was 27th among United States corporations in the value of World War II production contracts.

Another view of the Nash-Kelvinator built R-6A Hoverfly II at the Air Force Museum.  Author's photo.

Author's photo.

This is a Nash-Kelvinator built pair of M13 6X30 Binoculars for the war effort in World War Two.  All of the documentation shows that Nash-Kelvinator made M3 6X30 Binoculars.  Very little information can be found on the M13, and no information can be found on the difference between the two types.  Looking at online auctions, both types were made and are for sale.  This 1944 set built was found at a military show in Fishers, IN in 2013.  The person selling them kindly let me take them outside for better light.  Author's photo.

This pair was on sale for $79.50.  Author's photo.

 On display at the Vermillion County War Museum is this pair of 1943 Nash-Kelvinator M3 6x50 binoculars, one of 200,000 made at the Ranco Division in Columbus, OH.  Author's photo added 11-2-2015.

Author's photo added 11-2-2015.

The Ranco Division also made the binocular cases along with aviation items, including altitude controls and pressure gauges.  Author's photo added 11-2-2015.

The binocular cases being manufactured in the Nash-Kelvinator body plant in Milwaukee, WI.  Photo courtesy of Ken Schroeder added 3-14-2016.

This worker is building one of 204,000 rocket motors manufactured by Nash-Kelvinator during WWII.  Photo courtesy of Ken Schroeder added 3-14-2016.

 This Nash-Kelvinator publicity photo shows the warhead added to its rocket motors, ready to fire on a beach landing in the South Pacific.  Photo courtesy of Ken Schroeder added 3-14-2016.

This rocket on display at the Indiana Military Museum in Vincennes, IN has a rocket motor similiar to the Nash-Kelvinator built motors.  Author's photo added 1-22-2018.

Nash-Kelvinator (Mt. Hope Ave Plant) in Lansing, MI  - See the link above for a complete story on the company's Lansing propeller operation in WWII.

Author's photo.

Author's photo.

Nash-Kelvinator built 17,012 Pratt & Whitney R-2800's, like this one shown here at the P-61 display at WWII Weekend in Reading, PA.  They were built in a new government plant in Kenosha, WI during WWII.  The models built by Nash-Kelvinator, first built in Lansing, MI and then Kenosha, WI, went into the Hellcat, Corsair and Black Widow fighters.  The R-2800-65 version of the 2,000 hp engine was on display with the Black Widow restoration in 2011.  Author's photo.

This is one of only four Northrop P-61s "Black Widows" that still exist in the world, and the only one that will ever fly again.  This P-61 is being rebuilt by the Mid Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, PA, and was seen on display at the Museum's annual WWII Weekend in June of 2011.  The engine to the left could very well be a Nash built R-2800-65 Model that the company built for the "Black Widows" during the Second Word War.  Author's photo.

A WWII ad showing the Vought F4U Corsair climbing towards the sun, powered not only by Nash-Kelvinator R-2800 built engine, but quite possibly a propeller built in Lansing, MI by my grandfather.

Eleven R-6 helicopters are under construction in this WWII photo of the Nash-Kelvinator Plant on Plymouth Road in Detroit, MI.  Depending on the source the company either built 201, 219,or, 262 of these during the war.  In any of the cases, the key thing is that Nash-Kelvinator was the largest producer of helicopters during the war.  Sikorsky built 151 helicopters during the war.

Three Nash-Kelvinator built Sikorsky R-6 helicopters airborne at the same time in 1944.  Photo courtesy of Ken Schroeder added 3-14-2016.

This ad along with other Nash-Kelvinator ads show and make reference to a Sikorsky four engine flying boat that the Nash was to build with final assembly being in a new plant in New Orleans, LA.  The need for this type aircraft diminished as the war progressed as more and larger aircraft carriers were built.  The aircraft pictured here is a JR2S.

Despite of the fact that Nash-Kelvinator never built the proposed flying boat in production, it did spend a lot of time and money on this wooden mock-up at its Milwaukee plant.  Photo courtesy of Ken Schroeder added 3-14-2016.

This photo is interesting due to the American automotive industry's importance in the construction of this late model B-24 (J, L, or M model).  Firstly, this is a Ford built B-24 at the Willow Run, MI plant.  The Lansing, MI Nash-Kelvinator plant built the propellers being installed, and the 100,000th milestone has been reached.  My grandfather, Frank Dominik, while not in the photo, played an important part in this.  He was the supervisor of the propeller balancing department back in Lansing.  It was his responsibility to assure that the engines on this B-24 were not affected by vibration issues due to out-of-balance blades.  The engines on this aircraft were also provided by US auto companies.  Both Buick and Chevrolet built the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engines that powered the Liberator.  The .50 caliber machine guns that defended this aircraft against attacking fighters could have been manufactured by any one of three General Motors Divisions; AC Spark Plug, Frigidaire, or Saginaw Steering.

Nash-Kelvinator built 44,628 one-ton two-wheel cargo trailers during WWII.  Photo added 4-30-2017.




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