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Autocar Company Inc.
Type Private subsidiary of Grand Vehicle Works Holdings, LLC
Founded 1897
Headquarters Hagerstown, Indiana, United States
Industry commercial vehicles
Products Trucks
Parent GVW Group

The Autocar Company is an American, Hagerstown, Indiana-based specialist manufacturer of severe-dutyCab Over Engine vocational trucks. Started in 1897[1] in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a manufacturer of Brass Era automobiles, and trucks from 1899. The last cars were produced in 1911 and the company continued as an innovative maker of severe-duty trucks. In 1953 Autocar was taken over by the White Motor Company which made Autocar their top-of-the-line brand. White was taken over in turn by Volvo Trucks in 1981 with Autocar continuing as a division. In 2001, it was sold to GVW Group, LLC, which revived Autocar as an independent company. Autocar now builds three models of custom-engineered, heavy duty trucks and has regained leading positions in several vocational segments.


1912 Autocar logo

The company was called the Pittsburgh Motor Vehicle Company but became the Autocar Company in 1899.[1] By 1907, the company had decided to concentrate on commercial vehicles, and the Autocar brand is still in use for commercial trucks. Based on the minutes of company board of directors meetings during 1903-1907 it is known that in 1903 the Board of Directors included the president, Louis S. Clarke, the secretary, John S. Clarke, as well as, James K. Clarke. Both Louis Semple Clarke and his brother John S. Clarke were members of the fabled South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club of Johnstown Flood fame.


Autocar founder Louis Semple Clarke (1867-1957), a successful mechanical engineer. Among Clarke's innovations were the spark plug for gasoline engines, a perfected drive shaft system for automobiles, and the first design of a useful oil circulation system. Clarke's insistence of placing the driver on the left hand side of the vehicle led to that standardization throughout most of the automotive industry worldwide, and consequently we drive on the right side of the road.[2] Clarke was also a talented photographer. His family were members of the elite South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club above Johnstown, PA, whose earthen dam at Lake Conemaugh burst on May 31, 1889, causing the Johnstown Flood.[3]

Clarke sold his interest in Autocar in 1929 and retired from business. He died in Palm Beach, Florida, on January 6, 1957, and is buried in Allegheny Cemetery, in Pittsburgh.


The first car in 1900 was a single cylinder chain drive runabout. About 27 were made. The 190] Autocar was equipped with a tonneau, it could seat 4 passengers and sold for US$1700. The horizontal-mounted flat-2, situated at the front of the car, produced 11hp (8.2kW). This was a somewhat unusual engine design for the time, with most companies producing inline designs. A 3-speed transmission was fitted. The steel and wood-framed car weighed 1675lb (760kg). The early cars had tiller steering.

In 190] the company was selling the Type XII car for $2,250 and another it called the Type X for $1,000. It discontinued the Type XI and sold the last of them in 1905. The cars now had wheel steering with left hand drive.

The Type X was a runabout. During the 1905-190] model year the company produced 1000 Type X cars. The manufacture of 500 Type XV runabouts was authorized for 1907 in place of 500 touring cars (Type XIV) in addition to the 1000 runabouts already planned. At special meeting on [June 19 1906 held at 711 Arcade Building, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the board authorized the hiring of a general manager by the name of Harry A. Gillis at a salary of $10,000 per year. Production of 300 Type XVI cars and 500 Type XVII were authorized during a Board Meeting on November 21, 1906.

Commercial vehicles were made from 1907 and soon outnumbered cars. The last cars were produced in 1912 but the company continued as a truck maker until 1953 when they were taken over by the White Motor Company. White was taken over in turn by Volvo in 1980 with Autocar continuing as a division. In 2001 Andrew Taitz purchased the company and structured it under Grand Vehicle Works Holdings, which used the Autocar brand name for their line of trucks.[4]

Subsidiary of White/Volvo

In 1953 White purchased Autocar, which continued through to the 1970s as part of the "Big Four" White brands. In 1980, with White insolvent, AB Volvo acquired the U.S. assets and brands, to become Volvo-White LLC. Volvo produced trucks under both the White and Autocar brands, with a majority of Autocar products becoming Cab forward models which were also re-badged Western Star for sale in the Canadian market through the early 1990s.

Volvo-White bought GMC's heavy truck business in 1987 creating the Volvo WhiteGMC brand. Volvo dropped any reference to White, and is now Volvo Trucks North America. Autocar remained a part of Volvo until 2000, when the trademark was withdrawn from the market. After Volvo acquired the North American operations of Renault Trucks in 2001, as the merged company would have an excess/uncompetitive share of the refuse truck market sector, Volvo agreed to sell select vehicle designs for the Xpeditor low cab forward heavy duty product, intellectual properties and the Autocar Company brand rights to Highland Park, Illinois based Grand Vehicle Works Holdings, LLC (GVW).

Contemporary activities

Autocar dump truck

The Autocar company now employs 200 at its manufacturing facility in Hagerstown, Indiana. The company produces LCF Class 8 trucks, primarily for refuse and waste disposal. The company’s Xpeditor product line offers state-of-the-art features ranging from improved ergonomic cabs, integrated controls, and a new hybrid drive refuse truck. The company has a nationwide service network in the US. Autocar’s customer base includes large fleets, private fleets and municipalities in the United States and Canada.


Current models of Autocar trucks
  • Autocar ACX - In current production
  • Autocar Xpeditor
  • Autocar XSpotter - In current production
Former models of truck
  • Autocar A-64/AT-64
  • Autocar A-75
  • Autocar AP - Offroad design
  • Autocar AU
  • Autocar DC
  • Autocar KK
  • Autocar CK - (Half-Cab Cement Mixers)
  • Autocar RL
  • Autocar RM
  • Autocar U
  • Autocar E³
  • Autocar WX[5]
  • Autocar WXLL[5]

Former car models
  • Autocar Type X
  • Autocar Type XII
  • Autocar Type XV
  • Autocar Type XVI
  • Autocar Type XVII

See also


  1. Volvo Truck Center
  2. Clarke, Louis Semple, Death notice, "Time" magazine, Monday, Jan. 21, 1957
  3. See examples of his photos at:
  4. "Autocar". GVW Holdings.
  5. 5.0 5.1

External links

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