FRONT WHEEL DRIVE – IN THE BEGINNING

A few weeks ago I posted a few photos and some information on the early development of front wheel drive automobiles. In answer to a number of responses, including one from noted automotive historian Kit Foster, here are a few additional photos of the Christie racers built between 1906 and 1908.
These cars were built in a number of configurations including two cylinder, four cylinder and four wheel drive with an engine at each of the car. Additional front wheel drive applications developed by Walter Christie included a motorized conversion for horse drawn fire equipment.
A surprising number of companies and innovators worked with front wheel drive, four wheel drive, and even four wheel steering, during the first decades of the 20th century.
The Cord is recognized as the first commercially viable American built front wheel drive automobile though it sold in limited numbers. Financial issues as well as internal problems resulted in the early demise of Ruxton, a contemporary of Cord.
One of the more intriguing “what if” stories pertaining to the development of front wheel drive in the prewar years stems from several experimental projects conducted by Checker. In addition to a prototype front wheel drive taxi, the company also tried a rear wheel drive with rear mounted engine configuration and a four wheel steering, four wheel drive Jeep type vehicle.

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