The Jefferys Quad and Nash Quad — 4x4 Ancestor to the Willys Jeep
The “Quad” in the Jefferys and Nash Quad tells exactly what it was: a four wheel drive vehicle, one of the first successful ones ever to be made. There were other four wheel drive vehicles made at the time, but none enjoyed the reputation or success of the Jefferys Quad.
The company responsible for the Quad was built, from the ground up, by Thomas Jeffery. Jeffery, an innovative tinkerer and inventor, had emigrated from Great Britain at the age of 17, in 1862. He always had things to do to earn a living, using his mind and his hands.
Thomas Jeffery and Rambler
Jeffery settled in Chicago, where he built several models of high quality and fairly priced telescopes. As his fortunes increased, he cast about for other things to do and make. He found one well paid enterprise in construction of models for inventions through the Unites States Patent Office. He was able to see what lay ahead for possible new enterprises for industrial things.
One such exercise allowed him to meet a future business partner. Jeffery had already put together a new bicycle with a vastly strengthened frame, using a far less expensive manufacturing method, through the use of flared tubing, brazed together on a production line. The partner offered to put up the initial money to get the company started; Jeffery quickly agreed, though he had enough money of his own to do so, allowing him to save his own capital. Together, the two men set up and built the Rambler, a totally new concept in bicycles. Sales took off.
Part of the reason for the high success rate was their interaction with John North Willys, a young innovative sales person in Canandaigua New York. Bicycles suddenly became the rage in America, and Rambler, thanks to Jeffery and Willys, became the number two seller very quickly.
In 1882, Jeffery invented the “clincher” tire, quickly selling patent rights to Dunlop. It was made from garden hose, but had wires on the edges to allow the tire to “clinch” to the bicycle rim, keeping them from rolling under and pulling off. Dunlap called it the “pneumatic tire.” It gave a far better ride and handling than the hard rubber types used up to then. It was thought, although not ever known, that Willys had a role in its development, but no documentation has ever established this. Presumably, Willys sold a lot of Dunlop bicycle tires when he acquired Overland in 1907. It became the basis for all modern day tires, to this day, with Chrysler taking it to new heights in the 1940s with its “safety rim” wheels.
The profitability of the Rambler Bicycle Company is unknown, but Willys sold enough of them to earn a cool million dollars each year, in his early years with the bicycle! We can extrapolate that it made plenty of money for Jeffery.
Jeffery encountered his first automobile concept in 1895. He tinkered around, and by 1897, had built his first Rambler automobile. He chose the name because of the reputation established by the bicycle. He could not produce it in the bicycle factory due to space limitations; and his partner did not want it there. Jeffery then sold his share out to his partner, using some of the proceeds to buy the empty plant where Sterling bicycles had been made, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He and his son Charles built more experimental models, the A and B, in 1901; both used a steering wheel instead of the then-standard tiller, as Columbia had recently done, though the C, which went into production, used the tiller.
Jeffery took some time to manufacture automobiles, adopting a production line system, the second to do so. (Henry Ford was hardly first in production line technique; he just took it to usury proportions for thousands of workers!) Ransom Olds had, with Oldsmobile, been the first car manufacturer to install a production line.
By 1902, Jeffery's facility was on line and producing cars. It took awhile for advertising to catch up, but for the full year 1902, 1,500 Model B and C cars were built. Not quite a profit, but enough that Jeffery was more convinced than ever he was on the right track.
Jeffery continued to innovate, changing the prerequisite steering tiller to the easier and more controllable steering wheel (Columbia had done the same shortly before). He also included, at no charge, a spare wheel, mounted tire, and jack and wrenches to enable the changing of a flat tire on the road. The cars quickly gained a solid, dependable reputation, with low maintenance costs, and high resale values.
Not one to go at things until they were established, Jeffery did not begin earnest auto production until 1902. By then, the car, the facility, the lines, advertising, and parts were all established. As well, the first dealership, under John North Willys, was operating in Canandaigua New York. Willys sold 2 Ramblers that first year, then 8 the next, and 20 the next. Arranging financing was the key, and Willys found out how to get banks to agree.
Thomas Jeffery passed away in 1910 at the age of just 65. His son inherited the company, changing its name to Jeffery to honor his father. He did not have his father's driving spirit, but he invented conventional (two wheel) drive trucks and they were introduced in 1910, and quickly established as solid a reputation as the cars. Profits were excellent, and the future appeared bright.
Development of the Jeffery Quad
Before World War I, the US Army had been diligently searching for a vehicle to replace their mule teams. A sort of “go anywhere”, 24 hour job that would outclass the mules, which were becoming difficult to obtain, maintain, and provide adequate care for.
In early 1913, the Army came calling on the Jeffery company. At that time, the military was not ideal customer; they were exceptionally slow in paying, and wishy-washy about their requirements. Even with this visit, they were not exactly certain of what might be able to replace mule teams. There were still many higher-up ranks that didn’t want anything but mules, even in the face of mechanization of the armed forces by other nations. The captains and the majors of the Army purchasing bureau had to tread lightly. However, one Army Officer and Mr. Jeffery hit it off. After the official visit, that officer came back to see Mr. Jeffery, and a vehicle was discussed that would not only meet requirements, but would be seen by the world as the vehicle to have in their military as well. Within a few days, the Jeffery Motor Company introduced the QUAD.
It was remarkably innovative, yet conventional as well. It was constructed on a 1.5 ton (3,000 lb) chassis. Power came through a Buda 312 cubic inch 4 cylinder gasoline fueled engine. Water was cooled by a full stand up radiator that rode on the extreme front of the chassis, ahead of the driver and passenger positions, which were not under a cab; they were like a mule wagon, wide open. The engine drove a constant-mesh 4-speed transmission, connected to the drives by propeller shafts to automatic locking differentials. They were centrally located on the upper face of substantial I-beam axles. Half shafts then delivered the drive, by universal joints, mounted directly above the steering kingpins, to a pinion.
The steering was four wheeled, not unlike the modern Torsen differentials used today, with an internal tooth ring gear in each of the four wheels. This kept the differentials up high and out of the way of items in the roadway, allowing for amazing road clearances.
Word spread quickly. In any trial, the Quad proved itself more than capable. Military people from around the world jumped to buy the new Quad. In 1913 alone, Jeffery sold 5,578 of them. Some customers wanted the truck built as a 4x2, and some were made this way, but only in 1913.
Production figures for 1914 were 3,096. In 1915, 7,600 Quads were sold.
The Nash Quad 4x4
In 1916, Jeffery sold the entire company to Charles Nash, who had just left General Motors’ presidency, due to repeated clashes with the smarmy William C. Durant; James T. Storrow, a financier with Lee Higginson & Company. The pair paid $5 million for the company, and immediately changed the name of the company from Jeffery to Nash. The Quad became the Nash Quad while the Jeffery car became the Nash Rambler. Nash and Storrow reportedly tried to get Walter P. Chrysler to run it, but Durant offered Chrysler a stunning $500,000 per year to stay with Buick; had Chrysler made the move, he would likely not have run across “the Three Musketeers” and ended up forming Chrysler. (It is possible he would have ended up with his name on a line of Nash cars.)
The 1916 list price for the Nash Quad, $2,850, was substantial when compared with a conventional 1.5 ton truck for $990. Even so, Nash sold 11,000 Quads in 1916. Nash did quite well, and Quad production continued for 15 years, a testament to the original design. Company books showed a total production of 41,674 Quads.
Two sales were recorded for our friends in Australia. One in 1917 went to a mining concern in Koomooloo Station, and one in 1918 went to Burra. The truck in Burra survives, and has been renovated to original condition, a remarkable find.
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