The company survives today and operates as FWD-Seagrave building heavy-duty four-wheel-drive trucks and fire apparatuses.
Recently, the FWD Foundation, formed to preserve the history of the Four Wheel Drive Auto Co., purchased the former Topp Steward tractor factory in the city to convert it into a new and larger FWD Museum.
Mark Thomas and Marcia Olen, the granddaughter of Clintonville lawyer Walter A. Olen announced the purchase. Olen was the first president of FWD and ran it for many years after Besserdich and Otto Zachow developed a system for powering all four wheels of a vehicle. The three men founded FWD in 1909.
“The museum on 11th street is wooden and oil soaked,” Mark Thomas said. Thomas is a former Clintonville resident who works with the foundation and museum. “We are concerned that a fire could destroy important history, but the building will stay and may be turned into the shop it once was.”
The new home of the FWD Museum encompasses 60,000 sq.-ft. and is a concrete and steel structure. It will provide more space for the museum as well as room for a library, research area, offices, gift shop and meeting room.
“The history of FWD is important to the world,” Thomas said. “The present museum is too small to adequately represent that history. There isn’t anything newer than 1916 in that building and a lot of history has been made since 1916.”
Five trucks have been donated to the museum since 2012 and more donations are being worked on. The goal is to have 21 FWD trucks in the museum by the end of 2016. The corporate entity FWD Seagrave has also entrusted the museum with a substantial quantity of patterns and documentation.
While the foundation continues to seek donations of historically significant vehicles and print and paper material from the public, part of the building may be leased out for income. There is no set schedule for completion of the move, but the foundation wants to develop a “Friends of the Museum” program and attract volunteers to work there. The goal is to make the museum an asset for the city.