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The Norwalk Underslung – A Noteworthy Car Built in West Virginia

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  • The Norwalk Underslung Six, the “Motor”, July 1912

The Norwalk Motor Car Company originated in the town bearing its name in Ohio, just south of Sandusky in 1910. The effort by Arthur E. Skadden who had earlier built the Auto Bug was short-lived, and ended apparently after only four cars were built by going bankrupt within the year. Skadden next connected with several investors in Martinsburg, West Virginia, who liked his ideas, equipped a factory to build cars, and put him in charge of running the new facility.

When Norwalk production started up again in 1912 with the Model 45, it was built in a conventional manner, and was very much the same as the original. A six followed early in production, and an underslung model was also quickly added to the line-up. In 1913, a change was made to a pair of medium and large-sized sixes, the four was dropped, and the advanced and interesting Vulcan Electric Shift four-speed transmission was added.

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  • Full details of the Vulcan Electric Transmission, “The Automobile” July 10, 1913, and the electric brake lock, “The Automobile” December 12, 1913

Two different models were offered in 1913: the Model A with a 4-inch bore x 5-inch stroke – 40/60 hp T-head six, used in both 127-inch and 136-inch wheelbases; the flagship Model B featured a 4.25-inch bore x 5.5-inch stroke – 50/70 hp T-head six and a very long 144-inch wb. chassis. More details of both power plants and the accessories used with them can be found in the center image just below.

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  • “The Automobile” January 6, 1913

On the left and right above, can be seen illustrations of the Model A Roadster and the the Tourer, both of which were on the shorter wheelbase. The larger models were called the Special Roadster, a two-passenger and the Special Tourer, which seated six. Another attractive body style offered was the Four-Passenger Roadster that can be seen below.

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  • Four-Passenger Roadster, “The Automobile”, June 1913

Standing on wheels and tires that stood 40 inches tall, a luxurious Model B Underslung Six-Passenger Touring, can be seen in the photo just below taken in front of the factory. The impressive machine with modern styling shared the same basic design of the American Underslung but took the concept to new heights with the use of the Vulcan Electric Shift Transmission, and the electric brake lock. Both devices eliminated the shift and brake levers and were operated by a pushbutton-controlled switch box, located just in front of the steering wheel.

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  • Norwalk Model B Underslung Six-Passenger Touring in front of the factory

All of the up-to-date features did not guarantee the new company success. Financial difficulties affected company, and it was reported to have gone into receivership in 1914. Very few Underslungs were built from that point on, and the factory was ordered to be sold in early 1915.

According to local historians, in 1918 the Norwalk name was used for a new enterprise that manufactured assembled cars and a truck. Two Norwalk-built fire trucks were put into use by Martinsburg firefighters. The company finally closed its doors for good in 1922.


What is thought to be the only known surviving automobile produced by the company, is this 1914 Norwalk Underslung Six-Passenger Touring Car. It was owned by a rancher in Longmont, Colorado who sold the car to a group that worked to bring the car back home to Martinsburg. More photos can be seen along with other information about the car at The Friends of the Norwalk Foundation.

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9 responses to “The Norwalk Underslung – A Noteworthy Car Built in West Virginia

  1. We are very lucky to have a 1909 Auto-Bug built by Arthur Skadden and the Norwalk Motor Car Company, and at least 4 others survive. 2 within 5 miles of me, and another in Cleveland.

    Arthur Skadden was a local boy who came back to Norwalk from the Pittsburg area after a successful manufacturing venture there. He formed the company here in 1909, and even though the auto-bug was his first product he went on to manufacture the “Norwalk 35 ” and the “Norwalk 45” before they moved out of town in the middle of the night.

  2. The assembled cars that Norwalk made included the Piedmont and the Stork Kar – there may have been others (?) – which all used the same 4 cyl Lycoming engine. There is some info in The Standard Catalog. I know that some examples of the Stork Kar were sold in New Zealand and I heard of the existence of some remains of one many years ago.

  3. The Norwalk shown above is on display at the Rural Heritage Museum, Hagerstown, MD. I saw it on a visit there Aug 2014. Obviously, it must be on loan from the foundation in Martinsburg.

  4. I have had the tremendous privilege of meeting and talking to Mr. C.C. Roush of Martinsburg W. Virginia. He was for 55 years the go to mechanics shop in Martinsburg and still is a extremely knowledgeable on all things automotive , mechanical and historical. He now resides in NC and has shown me actual photos of the Norwalk factory and Underslung along with numerous other items and pics from a wonderful bygone era . He is as far as I’m aware of the only man whom still has many original factory parts for a Norwalk Underslung. I am blessed to have met and know Mr. Roush.

  5. When I was 17 years old in 1975, I worked on the car while it was owned by Don Christenson of Franktown, Colorado. Mostly shining it up and filling in spots where the paint had chipped.

    Mark Cosson
    Fairbanks Alaska

  6. Have you or anyone ever heard of vehicle named The Shack, supposedly built in West Virginia in the early nineteen hundreds?

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