Henney Carriage Works (later: Henney Buggy Co. and Henney Motor Co. ) was an American manufacturer of carriages, automobiles and automobile bodies .
Before the Second World War the company was mainly known for its hearses on Packard chassis and after the war by the electric car Henney Kilowatt.
Henney Motor Company
The Henney Motor Company was an American automobile manufacturer based in Bloomington (Illinois).
In 1951 the design department of Henney developed a Show Car, the Packard Pan American. From the outset it was only designed for exhibition purposes and only six vehicles were manufactured. It served as an important model for the Packard Caribbean.
1959-1964 the Henney Kilowatt was offered. These were a Renault Dauphine with an electric motor instead of the gasoline engine. The traction control was carried out by serial/parallel switching of batteries and motor windings through relays and diodes.
In 1959, a 36-volt system with 7,2 kW power of 18 x 2 volt batteries was introduced; reaching a top speed of 64 km / h. Recommended cruise speed 48 was km / h. The range was about 65 km.
From 1960, a 72-volt system has been used with 12 x 6 volt batteries; reaching a top speed of 97 km / h, the range was about 100 km.
The exact number of tags is not known, but there were 100 Dauphine ordered from Renault.
Ambulance and funeral vehicles
Since the 1920s, Henney was one of the best known manufacturers of ambulances and funeral vehicles producing up to 1200 vehicles per year.
Henneys were initially based predominantly on Dodge truck chassis; the engines came from Continental or Lycoming . The bodies were designed independently in each case. They consisted of Weymann bodies with leatherette, which was stretched over a frame made of ash wood.
After Dodge was acquired in 1928 by the Chrysler Corporation and this ended use of the Dodge chassis. Henney then manufactured her own chassis, which was built on Auburn, Buick, Cadillac, Pierce-Arrow or REO. 1934 Henney used the chassis from Cadillac, Lincoln, Oldsmobile, Packard or Pierce-Arrow.
From 1938, Henney built exclusively on Packard chassis. The link to Packard existed until 1954. Sensational hearses were created in the style of a Landaulet, wherein the loading area was covered by a fold-down soft top.
During the Second World War Henney continued production of ambulances. After the war, the operation continued under new management. Henney intensified the relationship with Packard offering limousines with 7 and 15 seats exclusively manufactured for commissioned work. 1950 Henney produced nine sedans behalf of the government with a Lincoln base which President Harry S. Truman used.
Mid-1950s saw sales of funeral and ambulances decline. With the simultaneous decline of Packard, Henneys economic situation deteriorated significantly in a short time. The management tried to merge with the commercial vehicle manufacturer REO; The efforts failed. A Move to Canastota, New York did not improve the production.
Henney ended in 1954. A restart with the electric car Henney Kilowatt failed early.
In addition to the ambulance and funeral vehicles Henney offered in the 1920s motorcars were sold but only to a small extent. 1929 Henney tried to establish a luxury passenger car, the Cord L-29. However, only four were produced and they were all sold to friends of the owner.
1959 and 1960 they produced the Henney Kilowatt, an electric car, with the body of the Renault Dauphine. The project was a collaborative effort between Henney and the National Union Electric Company, both of which were connected by the same CEO. The drive was supported by the Eureka Williams Company a vacuum cleaner manufacturer from Bloomington and designed by Victor Wouk. In two years approximately 100 vehicles were manufactured, of which only 47 were sold. The majority of the cars were took over by the National Union Electric Company.
Henney Carriage Works was founded in 1879 by John W. Henney. The company's headquarters was located in Freeport, Illinois. Up to the First World War the company produced exclusively horse carts. Later Henney produced carriages and buggies, as well as industrial carts and hearses. In the first decade of the 20th Century Henney transitioned to automobiles. Due to falling demand the company was liquidated in 1916. That same year, the son of John W. Henney founded a successor company named John W. Henney Co., and from 1927 as the Henney Motor Co. which made motorized vehicles.
Carriage maker Jacob Henney came to Stephenson County, Illinois from his native Pennsylvania in the spring of 1848, but found the business climate not to his liking and returned to his family in Pennsylvania late in the year. The Stephenson business climate had improved by 1854 and he finally brought his family to Freeport establishing a carriage manufactory in nearby Cedarville, where he remained for the rest of his life.
His son, John W. Henney, born in 1842 learned the carriage building trade under his father's watchful eye and left the firm to apprentice with several regional firms before becoming superintendent of the Wiley Carriage Shop of Kansas City, Missouri. John returned to Cedarville in 1868 and assumed control of his father's shop, modernizing it with steam power and modern milling machinery, being one of the first builders in the nation to utilize it. His business and reputation grew and in 1879 he moved the business to Freeport naming it, John W. Henney & Company. The first Henney plant was located adjacent to Freeport's main rail line on South Chicago Ave and West Jackson St. Most of their early business was focused on fine carriages and buggies, but they also offered a line of commercial vehicles and funeral coaches starting in the late 1890s.
In 1912 Henney's son and namesake, John W. Henney, Jr. became superintendent of the busy plant at the age of 29. A new larger plant was constructed that totally filled half of a city block, but his timing was unfortunate as the golden age of carriage building was coming to an end. Now called the Henney Buggy Company, the firm was eventually liquidated and the modern factory sold to the Moline Plow Company in 1915. Moline enlarged the plant and built the Stephens Salient Six automobile there from 1916 to 1924.
With plenty of cash in hand, young John W. Henney, Jr. was soon back in business as the John W. Henney Co. after purchasing the former Maurer building which was conveniently located between the Illinois Central Railroad lines and the Pacotonica River. Early production consisted of truck bodies and a motorized Henney funeral coach was added late in 1916, built on an assembled chassis with a six-cylinder Continental engine. Henney also purchased the building now known as the Lena Casket Company in East Freeport to make wooden frames for the coach bodies as well as walnut gun stocks for the US Army.
By the early 1920s the Henney name was among America's best known in the funeral car trade. In the decade that followed, the company produced approximately 30 limousine and sedan passenger cars to custom order, as well as a production run of 50 sport phaetons in the early 20s that were designed by Herman Earl (1878-1957) whose previous credits included work with Haynes-Apperson, Schacht and Halladay. He later worked for Des Moines Casket Company, and finally ended up in Piqua Ohio with the Meteor Motor Car Company where he worked for almost 25 years up to his retirement. The Henney passenger cars were, like the Henney hearses, powered by six-cylinder Continental or eight-cylinder Lycoming engines.
The 1923 Henney catalog showed a handsome light-grey 12-column carved-panel funeral coach built on a light truck chassis which featured huge nickel-plated disc wheels. In a speech given to the Professional Car Society in 1978, H. Reid Horner, Henney's director of personnel from June 1928 through November 1954 recalled that the firm utilized Dodge Brothers chassis in the period immediately following World War I.
The Moline Plow Company liquidated the Stephens car operations in 1924, and Henney moved back into their old building offering a full line of limousine-style coaches on their own assembled chassis which included a 70hp Continental six-cylinder engine. In addition to their distinctive cycle-style front fenders (Henney's resembled the popular Kissel Kar), these unusual coaches were now available with imitation leather - called Meritas fabric, a nitrile-coated imitation leather similar to Zapon - stretched over an ash frame. Like a Weymann, the body was incredibly light and the heavy Meritas fabric prevented the drumming frequently heard in other coachbuilt metal-bodied vehicles. Meritas-covered bodies were anywhere from 300 to 500 lbs lighter than a comparable metal-clad body.
A new funeral coach for 1924 was the landau-limousine, a Meritas-bodied coach which featured a Meritas-covered top with nickel-plated landau bars on the very attractive rounded rear quarters. Henney also offered a Meritas-clad short-wheelbase combination sedan-ambulance that also featured the increasingly popular landau bars.
Henney's modern-looking 1926 coaches included stylish cycle fenders and shortened running boards with integral step plates beneath each door. Options included a choice of a single side-entrance attendant's door or an extra-wide double side door that allowed easy access for a gurney or casket. More expensive coaches featured landau-bars, spot-lights and stylish Gordon spare tire covers and offered customers the choice of a Meritas-covered body or an all metal-skin sprayed with Dupont's new DUCO lacquer. The 1926 catalog displayed Henney's popular 7-passenger landau sedan-ambulance as well as their new Light Six line which was designed to compete with Mort and other low-priced coaches.
The name of the business was changed to the Henney Motor Company in 1927 and shortly thereafter John W. Henney Jr. sold his interest in the firm roughly a year before the stock market crash in 1929. During his absence the Henney Motor Co. produced 100 taxicabs on stretched Model A Ford chassis as well as their normal professional car line. They also supplied 3-piece ash roof rails to Ford who used the sub-assemblies on the 1929 Model A Fordor body framework.
According to H. Reid Horner, from the late twenties until the adoption of the Packard chassis in 1937, Henney frequently mixed-n-matched chassis and engines from different manufacturers.
"Chassis used in varying amounts during this period included Stephens (one assembled in our factory using a Continental motor), Velie/Buick/Auburn (using Lycoming motors), Pierce Arrow/Reo (a special car marketed by National Casket), Pontiac economy model, Oldsmobile - Progress Model."
"In addition we occasionally built a hearse or an ambulance on a chassis specified by the customer. This might be a Cadillac, LaSalle, Rolls Royce, Lincoln, Cord and others."
In 1927 Henney introduced the NU-3-Way coach, a funeral car equipped with a three-way casket table patented by a Los Angeles inventor, William H. Heise. Very similar to Eureka's, the Heise table could be loaded from either side or from the rear. A bronze Heise tag can be found on the table framework of Henney's 3-way coaches.
"Mr. Henney was repelled at the way hearses had to be backed up to the curb for loading, which he thought was very undignified. The 3-way idea was developed by a man named Heise out on the west coast, but Ed Richter perfected it. The 3-way feature added about $100.00 to the price of the car but Henney did very well with it. Henney was soon selling more than half the 3-ways in the industry, and we sold side-servicing equipment, including the mound, track and carrier to some of our competitors."
The Henney Deluxe line continued mostly unchanged as did their lower-priced Light-Six models which were easily distinguishable by their old-fashioned artillery wheels. Henney coaches were offered with either a leather-back landau roof or a plain painted-metal roof treatment. As always, plain, frosted, leaded or combination frosted/leaded windows were available on all of their coaches.
In 1928 Henney was awarded a government contract to supply 23 ambulances to the United States Veterans Bureau (now the Veterans Administration) for use at their medical facilities. The NU-3-Way funeral coach featured prominently in their print advertising. This side-loading coach featured a Heise casket table that extended out 36" from either side of the vehicle and allowed easy loading and unloading of the casket. Previous side-loading coaches had small rollers inlaid into the floor that allowed bearers to slide the casket around. The Heise 3-way table allowed the casket to be firmly attached to the vehicle eliminating all chance of a mishap that could occur during inclement weather or on hilly streets. You could also load it from the rear, if the coach was equipped with a back door.
The 1929 Henney line featured a re-designed chassis with swept front fenders plus a longer and lower body with incredibly wide front and rear doors specially designed to take full advantage of their Heise 3-way tables. Henney claimed that the wide pillarless door opening could support over 1500 lbs. at its center. Heavy wrought-iron bracing placed within the strong ash-framing made it possible.
During the year, Henney launched what amounted to a smear campaign against Eureka, Sayers & Scovill, Meteor and Silver-Knightstown falsely accusing them of marketing side-servicing coaches built with bootleg casket tables. Ads that appeared in the nations funeral and mortuary magazines falsely stated that Henney was the exclusive licensee of the patented Heise casket table. In 1930 Eureka, Meteor and Sayers & Scovill filed suit against Henney and eventually won an injunction against them. In a year when they could ill afford it, Henney's victims' business suffered, while Henney's prospered.
As a direct result of their attack on Eureka, Henney won a contract to supply Reo-chassised coaches to the National Casket Company who had just canceled their contract with Kissel because Eureka supplied Kissel with their funeral coach bodies.
Having survived the crash with his cash reserves, John W. Henney Jr. easily regained control of the company in 1930 and soon conceived a high-priced luxury car similar to the L-29 of his good friend, Errett Lobban Cord. The magnificent convertible sedan that resulted was powered by a Lycoming straight-eight and set on Henney's 137-1/2-inch wheelbase chassis. Only four examples were built and all were sold to Henney's friends and large customers.
1930 and 1931 Henney's rode on a purpose-built chassis that closely resembled that of the auto industry's style leader, Cadillac. Their ambulances were advertised as being completely equipped, and their NU-3-Way side-loading coaches were racking up sales at the expense of their competition. In addition to the frosted/leaded/beveled or plain rear quarter-window options, new interior window treatments were available as well and included wicker window inserts, mini-blinds or airline-style draperies.
Henney offered the industry's first electric-powered casket table in 1932 which was designed by William H. Heise, the designer of the original 3-way table. A centrally located motor was placed under the casket frame in a specially designed hump or "mound" that could be operated from either side of the vehicle using switches imbedded in the compartment walls. The "electric" option was available on select Henney and National-Reo NU-3-Way coaches.
Henney introduced beaver-tail styling to their coach bodies in 1933. By 1934 they had abandoned assembly of their own chassis and were building on Cadillac, Lincoln, Oldsmobile, Packard and Pierce-Arrow chassis. Less expensive models were built primarily on Oldsmobile chassis during the mid-Thirties and were designated as Henney Progress coaches. Heise's electric 3-way casket table was marketed as the "Elecdraulic" and was standard equipment on a few high-priced NU-3-Way coaches. The Henny Arrowline was introduced in 1934 and was built exclusively on Pierce-Arrow chassis. Unfortunately, Pierce-Arrow went bankrupt during 1937-8, so Henney looked to Packard to furnish chassis for their high-priced coaches. By the end of 1935 Henney introduced the popular Henney 800 series that was built on a Packard 120A chassis. The Funeral Auto Company of Louisville, Kentucky purchased eight identical Arrowline funeral coaches during 1936. Funeral Auto Co. were just one of the many funeral livery services across the country that rented out hearses and limousines to metropolitan funeral directors who either couldn't afford to own one, or didn't have the room to park these huge coaches at their place of business. As today, hearses are an extra-cost item in most funeral services and can be rented as needed by smaller funeral homes. In large cities like New York City, the cost of parking a large coach can quickly exceed its cost, so funeral and limousine livery services remain popular to this day. Henney also built a handful of 1935-36 coaches on stretched Auburn chassis. Henny Arrowlines were built from 1934-1937.
During the 1930s, Brantford Coach & Body of Brantford, Ontario built Henney bodies under license for sale in Canada.
By 1936 both Packard and General Motors were offering extended-wheelbase commercial chassis to the professional car industry. The Packard chassis was based on their successful 120 Series while G.M.'s were offered by their Buick, Cadillac, LaSalle and Oldsmobile divisions. Consequently all Henney coaches were built on purpose-built Oldsmobile and Packard commercial chassis from 1936 onward, although Bernie DeWinter reports that they built a single Cord 810/812-based funeral car sometime in 1936-1937. The only other Cord 810/812 professional cars were built by Owen Bros. of Lima, Ohio.
1937 was the final year for Oldsmobile-chassised Henney-Progress coaches as Henney made a permanent switch to the Packard chassis in 1938 and would remain with them until their demise in 1954.
At the 1937 National Funeral Director's Convention, Henney introduced a streamlined flower car as well as a self-leveling suspension system that they called the Leveldraulic. The flower car was built on a Packard chassis, featured a collapsible convertible top, and could be used as a first call car or to transport altars, chairs and other necessities to the home of the deceased or to the gravesite. The complex Leveldraulic system used a number of electric motors and hydraulic pumps and actuators to assist in leveling the coach while the casket was being loaded or unloaded on hills and uneven roadways. The manually operated system could also be used to level an uneven load and was available on both Henney funeral coaches and ambulances.
"Weather-Conditioner" air-conditioning appeared on Henney ambulances for the first time in late 1938. Developed by their new partner Packard, the mechanical system included a huge evaporator, called a 'cooling coil,' which took up most of the equipment cabinet that separated the driver from the rear compartment. This cumbersome AC system lacked a compressor clutch and could only be controlled with the blower speed switch. The horsepower-sapping pump was on whenever the engine was running and the only way to turn it off was to remove the drive belt to the compressor. Packard started installing the system in on production Packards in 1939 advertising that purchasers would "Forget the heat this summer in the only air-conditioned car in the world".
GM's Cadillac Division tested an R-12-based vapor compression system in 1939 and introduced it on 300 1941 production vehicles. The gradual acceptance of fresh air heating and the cowl ventilator started a trend toward modern automotive air-conditioning that gained in popularity in the late 1940s though automotive air conditioning was not an instant hit - only 10,500 cars were sold with the option by 1953. In 1938, Nash had offered a different evaporative cooling system called the "Weather Eye" that reduced interior temperatures by passing interior air over a water bath, but the cooling portion was ineffective and it was not a true air-conditioning system as we know it.
Late in 1939, Henney proclaimed that the current years production of 1200+ vehicles was "The Largest Number of Funeral Cars and Ambulances Ever Produced By One Company in a Single Year." To celebrate their record, a commemorative booklet titled "The Story of the 1200th Henney-Packard Produced during 1939" was distributed to the firm's distributors and employees. Another entitled "Program Of Progress" followed in 1940.
Included was a list of Henney's factory showrooms and regional sales reps and distributors which follows:
- Henney Canadian Co. Ltd., 340 Confederation Life Bldg., 17 Queen St. East., Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- Henney New England Co., 1265 Boylston St., Boston, MA
- Henney New England Co., 123 W. 64th St., New York, NY
- Henney Motor Co., 2900 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL
- Henney Pittsburg Co., John G. Fair, 1123 Penn Ave. Wilkinsburg, PA
- Brantford Coach & Body Co. Ltd., Brantford, Ontario, Canada
- Wm. H. Heise Co., 733 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
- Wm. H. Heise Co., 1724 E. 13th Ave. Seattle, WA
- A. Geissel & Sons, 485 N. Third St., Philadelphia, PA
- Williams Carriage, Hearse & Auto Co., St. Louis, MO
- C.F. Loflin, Asheboro, NC
- C.A. McCarthy, 1312 E. 72nd, Chicago, IL
- R.F. Chaffee, 1040 N. Windomere St. Dallas, TX
- H.S. Agar, 286 N. Liberty St., Delaware, OH
- Charles Mack, 808 W. Forest Ave. Detroit, MI
- Roy M. Anderton, 1403 Hudson St., Denver, CO
- John H. Spearing, 3575 N. Keystone Ave., Indianapolis, IN
- Harold T. Keister, 731 Pecan Blvd. Jackson, MS
- L.D. Penticoff, 3839 Springfield Blvd., Jacksonville, FL
- E.A. Lattig & C. F. Wenninger, 4040 Main St., Kansas City, MO
- R.P. Gibbs, Lebanon, TN
- P.E. Knauff, Marion Hotel, Little Rock, AR
- Harold H. Wright, 3717 Morris Blvd., Milwaukee, WI
- Harry W. Smith Co., 2100 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN
- John Weekly, 6350 N. 33rd St., Omaha, NE
- C.J. Gilliland, Sterling Hotel, Wilkes-Barre, PA
- C.F. Loflin, Raleigh, NC
- C.F. Loflin, Richmond, VA
- Donald Deane, West Coxsackie, NY
Henney offered a Formal Limousine model in 1939. This limousine-style hearse featured huge 30" wide x 36" tall art-deco metal shields featuring the owner's name mounted on all three rear compartment doors. When equipped with Henney's Leveldraulic suspension and Elecdraulic NU-3-Way casket table, this coach was the most technologically advanced hearse available this year. Long wheelbase airport limousines were in great demand during the late 1930s and Henney built a number of 8-door (4-doors per side) using extended-wheelbase Packard chassis.
Henney also introduced a Landaulet funeral coach this year that was its answer to the laundau-style coaches offered by their competition. The Landaulet was a dedicated side-servicing coach and was available in town car or enclosed drive versions. Henney styling had evolved slowly but surely during the late 1930s and the Landaulet hearse featured a rather dramatic roofline complemented by its shortened side windows built exclusively for the Landaulet. The roof was not covered using synthetic leather, its padded Burbank-covered top and large landau bar gave it the appearance of an expensive 4-door convertible sedan. In Landaulet town cars, the divider panel was hinged in the middle, allowing the casket easy access to rear compartment when the driver's seat was slid forward. Most other 1939 Henney coaches featured a more conventional rear roofline with an integral rear door. (See The Professional Car - Issue #34 Winter 1984)
Henney also introduced a very unusual "Super Formal" coach in 1939 which was continued through 1940. The centerpiece of the "Super Formal" was a huge, slightly heart-shaped window that was used in place of the standard Henney side compartment glass. A picture exists that shows a 1939 Henney Super Formal Town Car Hearse on a Packard Super Eight chassis with a Manning nameplate on the front doors. (TPC#60) The 1940 catalog show a regular (non-town car) Super Formal Coach although no pictures of the vehicle exist and it may never have been built.
Henney flower cars were mildly redesigned in 1940 and were available painted, or with a Burbank-covered faux-convertible roof. Access to the casket compartment was through small side doors located behind the driver's door or through the tailgate which had built-in casket rollers that matched those on the compartment floor. The height of the stainless steel flower deck was hydraulically adjustable so that different-sized floral tributes could be accommodated and a tonneau was included to cover the bed when not in use. Henney also manufactured a small number of sedan-ambulances using standard Packard limousines with a removable B-pillar that could accept a gurney through the passenger-side doors as well as a few multi-door airport limousines built using stretched sedan chassis. New this year was Henney's graveside jukebox, the "Singing Chapel On Wheels". A compact record player/amplifier installed under the right-side instrument panel, it included two remote speakers located under the hood and could provide music during the graveside ceremony.
Just before the London Blitz of 1940, Packard presented a fleet of Henney-Packard ambulances to the American Ambulance Corps in Great Britain. For four and a half years, these Henney-built ambulances sped through the bomb-pocked and rubble blocked streets of London, transporting casualties for emergency treatment.
Henney offered a Packard seven-passenger sedan conversion that were marketed as combination cars, built for use as either a conventional limousine, or a side-loading invalid car or sedan ambulance. The right front seat was removable and the passenger-side B pillar was designed to either stay on the car or come away with the door, enabling a wheeled cot to enter from the right side.
The model ended with the introduction of the Clipper, which featured front-hinged rear doors, eliminating the possibility of the removable B-Pillar, and Henney salesmen suggested customers still desiring such a conversion on the Clipper should contact Lagerquist in Des Moines, Iowa whose small size enabled it to do the rather substantial custom work required to reinstall the rear door hinges to the C-Pillar. Not surprisingly only a handful of these postwar conversions were built, none by Henney.
Packard introduced their new streamlined Clipper during the spring of 1941 just as Cadillac introduced their new redesigned Series 60-62 models. However the Clipper had to wait until the after the war before placed in service underneath Henney coaches. All pre-war 1940s Packard-Henney coaches were built using the older Series 120, 160 and 180 chassis although some Clipper-influenced styling made its way onto the older chassis by 1942. Henney was the largest professional car builder in the country yet only managed to produce 300 vehicles before the firm turned to war production work early in the year.
Civil Defense vehicles were in short supply at the start of the war and Henney filled the void with a number of attractive numbers purpose-built for domestic service. Henney deserves credit for being the first professional-car manufacturer to produce a modern modular-styled ambulance body. Built on a Packard chassis, the extra-wide box-back ambulance included room for four patients and was painted with an art-deco paint scheme that integrated beautifully with the cross-shaped windows. Later versions included black-out trim and just like today's retired modular ambulances, the boxy Civil Defense Henneys were popular as used work-trucks during the late Forties and early Fifties. Portions of the large Henney plant were re-tooled to make parts for the Packard-built Rolls-Royce Merlin aircraft engines. They also produced Army ambulances, two-wheel trailers and nose caps for WWII heavy bombs and munitions.
John W. Henney, owner of the Henney Motor Company and son/namesake of the firms founder, died in Freeport, Illinois on November 26, 1946 and the family sold the firm to C. Russell Feldmann (1898-1973), a millionaire businessman whose original claim to fame was 1927's Transitone radio, one of the first units mobile designed exclusively for installation in an automobile. The Transitone was not only bulky, but costly ($150) and initial sales were well below expectations. However, by 1930 the radio's bulk had been greatly reduced and sales had increased to the point where the radio giant Philco became interested in Feldmann's Automobile Radio Corporation, purchasing it in December of 1930.
Another one of Feldmann's prize possessions was the National Union Radio Corp. a firm he founded in September of 1929 in order to acquire the assets of three radio tube manufacturers; Sonatron Tube Company; Televocal Corporation; and the Magnatron Corporation. The National Union Radio Corporation became Henney's parent company when Feldmann purchased the coachbuilder in 1946.
Feldmann had weathered the Depression better than most, and bought a controlling interest in the Detrola Corp./International Detrola Corp. (1931-1948), one of the world's largest radio manufacturers. The reason that you may not be aware of them, is because Detrolas products were usually re-badged and sold by the county's major retails chains as their own product. They manufactured Western Auto's Truetone radios, Sears & Roebuck's Silvertone radios plus as many as 100 other brands for smaller national chains and retailers. International Detrola was acquired in 1954 by the Newport Steel Corporation, another Feldmann-controlled corporation.
Feldmann gave Henney immediate access to large amounts of capital that was previously unavailable, strengthening their already healthy position in the industry as well as their relationship with Packard. The firm's acquisition coincided with an agreement to manufacture Packard's new 7-passenger limousine and 8-door 15-passenger airport limousines which were both in great demand immediately after the war. Production finally exceeded demand in mid-1947 and Henney re-tooled in preparation for production of their brand-new 1948 coaches that were unveiled at the 1947 National Funeral Director's Convention. Contrary to popular belief, Henney only built Packard limousines for the 1946-47 model year. 1948-50 Packard limousines were built by Briggs as Henney was too busy building hearses and ambulances to do any extra contract work, even for Packard, an important business partner.
Henney's all-new 1948 coaches were powered by a 160 hp straight-8 built on Packard's new 158" wheelbase commercial chassis. Packard's 22nd series "inverted bathtub" styling was controversial and Henney's prices were expensive, yet they produced close to 2,000 coaches in 1948 and were once again the largest professional car manufacturer in the world. In order to provide adequate interior headroom and maneuverability for the casket and gurney using the new Clipper bodies, Henney was forced to section the body in order to raise it by a couple of inches. A consequent extra row of teeth was also added to the bottom of the new eggcrate grill, a similar system to that used by Flxible to match their coaches with the Buick chassis.
Funeral coaches were available with either NU-3-Way side-servicing or dedicated rear-loading versions. Ambulances, hearses and combination coaches were all available in either straight limousine styles or with a textured landau roof over the blanked-in rear quarter windows. Combination coaches were only available as rear-loaders, but could be changed from a funeral coach to an ambulance by simply snapping in the ambulance badge on the inside of the rear quarter windows, unfolding the attendant's jumpseat, and placing a removable Federal beacon on the roof. All of the pre-war options remained including air-conditioning, leveldraulic suspension, elecdraulic 3-way casket tables, and the "Singing Chapel On Wheels". Ambulances could be ordered with an illuminated roof-top "ambulance" sign and pod-shaped warning lights and a choice of sirens.
Henney's flower car was clearly the most beautiful of its brand-new 1948 professional cars. Standard equipment included a stainless-lined casket compartment as well as an all stainless flower deck topside. As with most other flower cars, a body-colored folded faux-cabriolet top was built onto the rear of the flower deck. A conservative-looking service car was also offered that used the limousine-style body with all the windows blanked-in.
In 1950, Henney was awarded a special contract to build a fleet of nine custom-built, long-wheelbase Lincoln Cosmopolitans for the Truman White House. The contract stipulated that the coaches be armored by Henney's competitor, the Hess & Eisenhardt Company of Rossmoyne, Ohio, as they were the only armoring firm "approved" by the federal government.
Entering government service with the convertible that became the "bubbletop," these armored Lincolns were primarily used during the Truman and Eisenhower years, and at least one survives. It is on display in the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Mr. Truman's home town, Independence, Missouri.
A great influence on the postwar Henney designs was their designer, Richard Arbib. In the late 1930's Arbib began his career working with Harley Earl as a consultant to GM Styling. After a stint in WWII, his penchant and talent for car design brouight Arbib to the Henney Automobile Company. His creativity reached new levels with the 1950 and 1953 Packard Monte Carlo show cars and the handsome 1951-1954 Henney-Packards professional cars. Henney converted a 1951 Packard 250 convertible into the Pan American show car for Packard to display at the 1952 New York Auto Show. It was an instant hit and eventually saw production as the Packard Caribbean from 1953-1954.
After an absence of four years, Packard reentered the long-wheelbase limousine business in 1953, offering a 149-inch wheelbase Eight-Passenger Sedan and a Corporate Limousine whose bodies were built by Henney. Only 150 were built in 1953, including 100 eightpassenger sedans and 50 limousines. Even fewer were built for 1954, (65 sedans and 35 limos) and the limousine ended production that year.
Henney built a prototype Packard "Super Station Wagon" in 1954. Built using a long-wheelbase (159") Packard professional car chassis and a Henney ambulance body, it included four center opening side doors, Henney's distinctive curved rear quarter windows plus a fourth side window inserted into the C-pillar exclusive to the Super Stations Wagon.
In 1953 and 1954 Henney offered a budget-priced short-wheelbase (127") companion to their long wheelbase (156") professional cars. In order to keep down it's price, the Junior's chassis, unlike that of the Senior, was from the budget Packard series and the interior trim was made from cheaper materials. Henney was well into the production of the Junior before it realized that they were losing money on every Junior built and instituted a huge price increase that effectively killed the model. Total production of the appropriately-named Henney Junior's totaled 500, 380 in 1953 and only 120 in 1954. A substantial number of the 1953 coaches were sold to the US Government at a loss a fact that helped contribute to Henney's already-poor financial picture.
The Junior was awkward-looking at best, a window between the side door and the rear quarter window would have helped the car's looks immensely. Another factor that hurt the car was its rear compartment length, which looked good measured at the floor, but translated into a less than ideal length at the beltline because of the angle of the rear of the body and the amount of floor length that ran under the top of the front seatback. Stiff competition from emerging "budget" coach producers in Indiana and Tennessee doomed the project, and Packard's cancellation of their long-wheelbase chassis for the 1955 model year doomed the full-sized coaches as well.
C. Russell Feldmann was a tireless industrialist, a wheeler-dealer from the old school. As Henney's business began to fall off, he brokered a deal to purchase truck manufacturer Reo. However, the idea ran into legal challenges and delays, and ultimately failed; the legal rights to it were transferred to Bohn Aluminum in 1954, which completed the sale shortly afterward. Reo ended up, along with Diamond T and Autocar, with White Motor Company. White combined Reo with Diamond T in 1967 to create the Diamond Reo line, which it sold in 1971 to Francis Cappaert. The brand closed in 1974, was resurrected by Ray Houseal and Loyal Osterlund a year later, and lasted another 20 years; White was purchased by Volvo in 1980.
Henney did not die when its professional-car business did. During his Reo negotiations, Feldmann had become aware of a struggling Reo customer in Canastota, N.Y. and purchased the firm, giving the still surviving Henney Motor Co. a new subsidiary, the Oneida School Bus Co. It was inside the Canastota factory that Henney assembled the first transistor-regulated electric car, the 1960-61 Henney Kilowatt.
The Kilowatt was a joint project between National Union Electric Corp., the Eureka Williams Corp., the Exide Battery Corp. and a collection of public utilities headed by the Atlantic City Electric Co. and was initiated by National Union Electric's Feldmann and Atlantic City's president, B.L. England. National Union Electric Corp. manufactured batteries for the Exide Battery Corporation, and Exide's chief executive, Morrison McMullan Jr., participated in the vehicle's development as well. Curtis Instruments was hired to build the complicated speed controller which was designed by Victor Wouk, an electrical engineer at Cal-Tech.
The Kilowatt was produced using Renault Dauphine's supplied to Henney by the French automaker without a drivetrain. Two models were produced, 1959's 36-volt version used 18 two-volt batteries and had a top speed of 40 mph. Although the car could travel over 40 miles on a single charge, its somewhat pokey top speed was deemed unacceptable so an all-new 72-volt system was developed by Victor Wouk using a new controller and 12 6-volt batteries. It debuted on the 1960 Kilowatt which had a top speed of 60 mph with a range to match (60 miles per charge).
Renault sold 100 rolling chassis to Henney for the project, but less than half that number were built as Henney's parent company, National Union Electric Corp., was unable to produce the revised 72-volt systems cheaply enough to keep the car within it's $3600 target price. The unfinished Kilowatt chassis were reportedly sold to a Renault dealer in Florida who retrofitted them with standard Renault drivetrains, and then sold them as new, stock Dauphines.
An article in U.S. News & World Report states that 32 Henney Kilowatts were purchased by various US electric utilities. twenty-four (24) 1959 Kilowatts and eight (8) 1960 models. Of the often-reported figure of 47 completed Kilowatts, it's unclear when the remaining 15 cars were produced, or who purchased them. The article states that some may have been sold as 1961 or possibly 1962 models.
According to George L. Hamlin "a few unsold Henney Kilowatts remained in storage at the Eureka Williams facility in Bloomington, Illinois for several years, ultimately being sold to an entrepreneur who stripped off the Henney identification and sold them to Yuppies under the name 'Tiffany.'"
Of the documented 32-47 Henney Kilowatts produced, two remain in a drivable state and it's believed that four to eight others remain in various un-operable states. Even though the Henney Kilowatt never reached mass production volume, its transistor-based electric technology paved the way for modern EVs like GM's EV1.
Henney Motor Co. sold the Oneida School Bus Company to Marmon-Harrington in 1960, following the Kilowatt's failure and late in the year National Union Electric Corp. merged with the Eureka Williams Company with the resulting firm reorganized as the Eureka-Williams Corp. Eureka-Williams continued to build lead-acid batteries, vacuum cleaners and a new line of steel office furniture and was eventually purchased by the Swedish vacuum cleaner giant AB Electrolux in 1974.
C. Russell Feldmann retired to his hometown of Greenwich, Connecticut but soon became active in the booming Manhattan real estate market. Just prior to his death, Feldmann purchased the massive (575,000 sq ft) McGraw Hill building at 330 West 42d Street for $15 million.
© 2004 Mark Theobald - Coachbuilt.com, with special thanks to Bernie DeWinter IV, George L. Hamlin and Thomas A. McPherson