There were cars made in Wayne before Ford? Yes! The first was made by a man named Charles Collier, a Civil War veteran, he moved to Wayne around 1900 and opened a bicycle repair shop at the corner of Brush and Newberry. Known as a tinkerer, Collier put bicycle tires on a buggy body and made a two- cylinder gas engine from scratch. It was the first car in town and caused much amazement, and it is said he “ran around in it for years”.
Next, in 1910 a Company named Swift Automobiles came to town and built a large two-story factory building on Clinton Street. They planned on making 5,000 cars per month, if they could raise the stock. One sample car was made and displayed around town, but the stock was never fully sold so production never started, and the company was done by 1912.
The next company was Harroun, named for Ray Harroun, the winner of the first Indy-500. He came to Wayne in 1916 and bought the closed Prouty and Glass Carriage factory and added an additional 1.2 million square feet of factory space. Harroun managed to raise the capital and began production, making a few thousand cars before WWI forced them to stop and switch to artillery shells. After the war they tried to go back to cars but struggled and closed in 1920. One and a half Harroun cars are known to exist today.
In 1923 the abandoned Swift factory was bought by the Detroit Air Cooled Car company, which was going to make a unique lightweight six-cylinder car in three different models. Some cars were actually made, orders were placed, and dealers were lined up, but again not enough stock was sold and the company folded within a year. No known cars have surfaced other than a few pictures. The factory, abandoned and full of the car company’s blueprints, designs and tooling, burned down a few years later.
In 1924 the abandoned Harroun plant was bought by Gotfredson, an auto body maker and upholsterer. They would use the factory to make heavy duty trucks as well as bodies and upholstery for the Paige motor company in Detroit. Eventually Paige bought the factory, then merged with Graham to become Graham-Paige Motors. The model 610 was made exclusively at the Wayne plant, as well as bodies for other Graham-Paige models. They survived the depression but sales were slow, and the Wayne plant closed in 1936. Wayne was without a car maker until Ford arrived in the 50s.