Four Wheel Drive

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This article is about the vehicle manufacturer. See Four by four/Four-wheel drive for other uses.

The Four Wheel Drive Auto Company, more often known as Four Wheel Drive or just FWD, was founded in 1909 in Clintonville, Wisconsin, as the Badger Four-Wheel Drive Auto Company by Otto Zachow and William Besserdich.


Zachow and Besserdich developed and built the first successful four-wheel drive (4x4) car, the "Battleship", in 1908. Its success led to the founding of the company. "Badger" was dropped from the name in 1910, and the name was changed to FWD Corporation in 1958.

The success of the four-wheel drive in early military tests prompted the company to switch from cars to trucks. In two world wars, U.S. and Allied armies depended on such four-wheel drive vehicles.

FWD vehicles were made with a track width of 4 ft 8½in so they could quickly be used on a standard gauge railway line merely by changing the wheels.

A British subsidiary was set up at Slough in 1921. In 1926, the British FWD, also known as the Quad, was produced with a larger 70 bhp engine.

A Canadian subsidiary was set up in conjunction with Dominion Truck of Kitchener, Ontario by 1919.

A relationship with premier race car constructor Harry Miller resulted in the Four Wheel Drive Miller that competed successfully at Indianapolis in 1931 and later. This car, with lockable center differential, is arguably the first modern all wheel drive car. One example survives and...
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