The Big Car Database


Atlas Motor Car Company
Industry Automobile Taxicab Truck
Fate bankruptcy
Successor none
Founded 1907
Defunct 1913
Headquarters Springfield, Massachusetts, United States
Key people
Harry A. Knox
Products automobiles
Parent none
Subsidiaries none

The Atlas car was built in Springfield, Massachusetts from 1907-1911 (and became the Atlas-Knight for 1912–1913).

After Harry Knox left the company that had been building Knox cars in Springfield, he established the Knox Motor Truck Company in 1905 to produce Atlas commercial vehicles. His former partners at his previous firm took him to court over the name. After he was forbidden from using the Knox name, he formed the Atlas Motor Car Company in late 1907.


Harry Knox had proposed to the people producing the Sunset in California that he produce the car under license. At first they refused, but changed their mind after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The Atlas of Springfield was thus based on the Sunset, even using the same two-stroke engine. This same 2-cylinder 22 hp engine was used in the Atlas delivery vans and taxicab, starting in 1908. Harry Knox refined the engine and developed a 3-cylinder 34 hp version of it. Later, a 60 hp 4-cylinder version was offered. The firm entered an Atlas in the 1909 Vanderbilt Cup, being the first two-stroke car to enter a major long-distance road race. This fact was promoted in subsequent promotional materials. Not long after, the two-stroke engine fell out of favor in the marketplace, and Knox added a Knight sleeve-valved engine in 1912. These cars were called Atlas-Knights, and were bigger, five- or seven-passenger touring cars that cost approximately $3500. The company was bankrupt by early 1913, supposedly due to problems acquiring engines. Harry Knox then moved to Indianapolis to assist the Lyons brothers in producing the Lyons-Knight.

A 1920 Atlas - Lambert Manufacturing Co. catalog offered a number of bodies for the Model T and Model One-Ton chassis. 

Wagner's Ford Trucks since 1905 claims that many Atlas bodies were exported to Mexico.

A 1920 Atlas catalog shows a screen side canopy express body with a partially open cab. Another image shows an open-sided bus.  For 1921 Atlas offered an attractive 10-passenger open bus body for Model T and TT chassis that featured a more enclosed rear compartment, roll-down storm curtains and a large rear step. Although Atlas specialized in open-style bodies designed for warmer climates, they also manufactured closed side panel trucks as well as express bodies with integral flared rails to facilitate easier loading.

Although some very early Ford trucks were sold with commercial bodies, Ford discontinued the program in 1913.

For over ten years Ford had literally given away their truck body business to independent builders around the country and in 1923 decided to stop being so generous, and implemented a new fully equipped Ford Truck sales program starting with the 1924 model year.

Some of the 1924 Ford brand commercial bodies were built at Ford's Highland Park plant while others were outsourced from various suppliers who included Budd and Simplex Manufacturing. The first body made available was an all-steel express body, a canopy express body became available later in the year in three popular styles; totally open, screen-sided or with roll-up curtains.

The new Ford bodies were stocked by larger dealerships and could be ordered individually through regional Ford distributors by smaller dealers, who couldn't afford to keep them in inventory.

Following closely behind the express bodies was Ford's new enclosed cab which were easily identified by their sloping windshields and half moon openings in the rear quarters. By the middle of 1924 Ford had 8 distinct fully equipped (cab, chassis & body) light trucks available across the nation. Within 5 years many of the small commercial builders found themselves out of business, while larger ones prospered, providing that they were official Ford body suppliers.

In 1925 Ford introduced an optional body for their runabout which attached to the chassis in place of the rear deck. That body was the first production Ford pickup truck, a vehicle that  eventually became the most popular motor vehicle in North America, and remains so today. The official name of the vehicle was the "Ford Model T Runabout with Pick-Up Body", and it sold for $281 fob Detroit. It featured four stake pockets and an adjustable tailgate, and required a 9-leaf rear spring.

Ford also introduced an enclosed cab to go along with their open cab in their new truck body program during the same year.

There was also an Atlas Carriage Co. in Cincinnati, Ohio who made carriages from 1880-1910.

Dec. 1922 - Atlas Body Works, Inc., Bridgeport, Conn., manufacturer of automobile and bus bodies, has awarded the contra t for building an addition to its plant. The structure will be one-story high, 80 ft. x 90 ft., of brick and steel construction, and it will be modernly equipped throughout.