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Chapter IX. With the Gray Motor Company, Detroit

n my regiment, there was a small, but very attractive man who was a graduate of West Point, and on that account he was made a Major - Major Pool. He had gone through West Point, but had then served the minimum time and then had resigned and married a woman of enormous wealth. I had told him one day something I'd found out during the one year I had worked for McCord. That in a company, the management doesn't really know too much about what goes on as far as personnel is concerned. But the personnel has all kinds of ideas about different people in the management, and thinks of some of them as "Imbeciles", and of that other as "fools", while for others they have great respect when they feel the man really knows his job. Well, before we parted, Pool said to me, "remembering what you said there, I would like to see if I can't place you in a company in which we have taken a substantial ownership - it's called the Gray Motor Company, and it's in Detroit. Owing to my ownerhip, I'm sure they will employ you. But I'm afraid the amount of money they will pay you is is very small, Because they start young engineers out for very little money - I don't see how they can do that as a regular thing, but apparently they do. I will pay you an additional three hundred dollars a month - but don't tell anyone at the Company."

I didn't say anything to anyone about it. They put me in the engineering department, to report to the chief engineer. I was very impressed by him and his draftsman assistants. I learned from them that you musn't forget any nut or bolt or anything that's in the material.

he President of the Company was a man named Mulford, who had invented "Car cards" - those advertising cards above the windows in subway cars and buses. He could talk anybody into anything. The Gray Motor Company made motorboat engines, but he thought they should make an automobile motor; they should get one designed, and call it the Victory motor - you know, there had been the Liberty airplane motor. And it was going to be a wonderful truck motor, and he had hired this new chief engineer to design it. We eventually went into production on this motor, and were able to make quite a few. There were quite a number of assembled cars in those days - you could buy a chassis from one company, and a motor from another, brakes from someone else, and so on. That's the way Chevrolet started, incidentally.

But you needed sales engineers to go out and arrive at different companies with an engine. I would arrive with an engine in a car and say, "this is a complimentary engine which we are bringing to you to test in case you want to use it for a small truck or an automobile."

People never refused the engine, because it was for free. So there wasn't any problem about getting engines into a lot of different places, but there was of course a continual talk, talk, talk, trying to get them to try it - put it in their car and see how it worked.

Well, our engine had a bug in it which I didn't know about, and it took some time to find out. It would lose oil out of the rear end of the motor if you tipped it up very much. There was somebody who was making a 4-wheel-drive gimmick, and they would demonstrate this thing, running it over a coal pile - and the thing would do anything - but when they used our motor, the oil just poured out of the back end. So I lost that sale. Still, it was my job to try and talk people into trying the motor, and we did succeed in putting it in quite a few small companies. But it wasn't really a very good engine, as I found out as time went on, and we never made a great success of it.

hile I was with this Company, I made heat seals to detect whether motors had been overheated. Somebody runs a gasoline motor with something wrong and boils the water out. Now, as soon as the water boils out, the engine gets really hot, and it's just tragic what this does to the engine - it just ruins the engine; and then he won't admit he overheated it. So I thought, well, why not make a little round seal, which has the name of the manufacturer, and it's made of fusible alloy, and you just put it in the engine by driving a pin in a little hole. Now, if the engine has been overheated, this seal wil melt and run off. So I got up a little seal, and I mailed out letters to motor car manufaccturers which said, "This seal is made to protect your reputation, and you can say if you want that your guarantee is void if the owner lets the engine get so hot it melts this seal, - or at least you can avoid some of the stigma that attaches to having your engine just go bad because it was overheated." It was a little pamphlet. And I got a surprising number of motor people. It was in the days of the assembled car. I never got one of the big people - I never got Dodge, or Studebaker, or any of those, but I had all kinds of manufacturers who more or less had assembled cars. But the problem was how to make the seals. Because you had to get the right porportions, for a favorable alloy. You can get stuff that contains antimony - and antimony with other things. And you can arrange for it to melt at almost any temperature you want.

The only way I could think of was to get an iron frying pan, put it on a lathe and machine the bottom flat, and then make up this mixture and pour it in the frying pan, and after it cooled, you had a sheet the size of the bottom of the frying pan, about 1/16 inch thick, of the right alloy. In order to make it, I said to my boss there, "would you mind if I hired somebody to come in - I can show him in ten minutes what to do - to cast these things?" He didn't object, and I hired a man who was very, very funny man, - I had put in the advertisement 'no experience necessary' - and I got a man who was a butcher. This butcher took to this job and worked like beaver - he made these things as fast as he could. And he said, "This is the mot marvellous job I've had since I don't know when." Anyway, this butcher cast all these sheets, and I had made these heat seals and got a die cutter to make a die to stamp them out. Then all you had to do was make a little bit of a hole in the head of an engine, and put a brass pin in and just drive it in.

Actually, I sold quite a few of them. It never amounted to any great sum of money, but I got an income from it for quite a while. Some people would send back engines which were ruined, but which had obviously been repainted - when you really burn an engine, the paint more or less burns off. But they didn't get a seal back, and they had no way of replacing it, so they couldn't cover up the fact that they had overheated their engines.

When Pool left the Company, I told Mulford what he'd been paying me to work for the Company. I said, "What I want to know is whether you'll pay me what you have been paying me, or whether I'm leaving."
"All right", said Mulford. "We'll pay you."

There was an old-fashioned yacht club on the Lake above Detroit, and my boss Mulford belonged to it, and it used to have motor-boat races. There was an old closed cabin motorboat there that had a couple of potent engines installed secretly by Mulford, because he could take them from the factory - and that thing went along at a very good clip. It was a wonder when it was first tried, but then other people crept up and boats that would absolutely plane appeared - fast for those days. So Mulford wanted a surprise.

"ammond," he said,"I'd like you to do something for me. Everybody knows just how fast that boat goes. It used to be a wonder, but now of course its getting beaten. What I'd like you to do is go down there and measure things up and figure out whether we could put four engines in there - two on each shaft."

Well, eventually, taking motors from the factory, we got'em all shoe-horned in there in the most extraordinary way. Nothing appeared different on the outside of the boat, and so when it was entered in the contest everyone said, "Well, that isn't anything - there are several boats that can beat that thing."

But when it took off with the four engines - it happened to be lousily designed, and carried the most enormous wash - but with that amount of power and the size of the boat, with any reasonable design you could have easily flown it as an airplane! It won the race of course - and Mulford was so pleased with that!

Hammond became chief engineer for Gray Motor Company. But the urge to be an independent inventor and make his fortune was too strong within him, and this position couldn't hold him for long.


 
   
Chapter X. The Tickless Clock, Teleview and Classified Patent   Index

ęCopyright 1974, Stuyvesant Barry All Rights Reserved May not be copied, published, used on anyone else's web pages or in any way without express written permission.


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