Fisher Body is an automobile coachbuilder founded by the Fisher brothers in 1908 in Detroit, Michigan; it is now an operating division of General Motors Company. The name was well known to the public, as General Motors vehicles displayed a "Body by Fisher" emblem on their door sill plates until the mid-1990s.
Fisher Body's beginnings trace back to a horse-drawn carriage shop in Norwalk, Ohio, in the late 1800s. Lawrence P. Fisher (December 14, 1852 in Peru, Ohio – March 21, 1921, Norwalk, Ohio) and his wife Margaret Theisen (January 8, 1857 in Baden, Germany – October 13, 1936 in Detroit, Michigan) had a large family of eleven children; seven were sons who would become part of the Fisher Body Company in Detroit. Lawrence and Margaret were married in Sandusky, Ohio, on May 11, 1876. Margaret Theisen Fisher resided at 101 Longfellow St., Detroit after her husband died.
The Fisher brothers were:
- Frederick John (January 2, 1878 – July 14, 1941) - 54 Arden Park, Detroit
- Charles Thomas (February 16, 1880 – August 8, 1963) - 670 W. Boston Blvd., Detroit
- William Andrew (September 21, 1886 – December 1969) - 111 Edison Ave., Detroit
- Lawrence Peter (October 19, 1888 in Norwalk, Ohio – September 3, 1961 in Detroit, Michigan) - 383 Lenox St., Detroit
- Edward F. (February 23, 1891 – January 17, 1972) - 892 W. Boston Blvd., Detroit
- Alfred J. (December 7, 1892 – October 9, 1963) - 1556 Chicago Blvd, Detroit.
- Howard A. (March 10, 1902 – April 13, 1942)
In 1904 and 1905, the two eldest brothers, Fred and Charles, came to Detroit where their uncle Albert Fisher had established Standard Wagon Works during the latter part of the 1880s. The brothers found work at the C. R. Wilson Company, a manufacturer of horse-drawn carriage bodies that was beginning to make bodies for the automobile manufacturers. With financing from their uncle, on July 22, 1908 Fred and Charles Fisher established the Fisher Body Company. Their uncle soon wanted out and the brothers obtained the needed funds from Detroit businessman Louis Mendelssohn who became a shareholder and director. Within a short period of time, Charles and Fred Fisher brought their five younger brothers into the business.
Prior to forming the company, Fred Fisher had built the body of the Cadillac Osceola at the C. R. Wilson Company. Starting in 1910, Fisher became the supplier of all closed bodies for Cadillac, and also built for Buick.
In the early years of the company, the Fisher Brothers had to develop new body designs because the "horseless carriage" bodies did not have the strength to withstand the vibration of the new motorcars. By 1913, the Fisher Body Company had the capacity to produce 100,000 cars per year and customers included: Ford, Krit, Chalmers, Cadillac, and Studebaker. Highly successful, they expanded into Canada, setting up a plant in Walkerville, Ontario, and by 1914 their operations had grown to become the world's largest manufacturer of auto bodies. One reason for their success was the development of interchangeable wooden body parts that did not require hand-fitting, as was the case in the construction of carriages. This required the design of new precision woodworking tools.
The Fisher Body and Buick Chassis were built in Saint John New Brunswick Canada in the 1920s.
Fisher Body Corporation and General Motors
In 1916, the company became the Fisher Body Corporation. Its capacity was 370,000 bodies per year and its customers included Abbot, Buick, Cadillac, Chalmers, Chandler, Chevrolet, Churchfield, Elmore, EMF, Ford, Herreshoff, Hudson, Krit, Oldsmobile, Packard, Regal, and Studebaker.
The company constructed their signature factory, the Albert Kahn-designed Fisher Body 21, on Piquette Street, in Detroit, in 1919. The building is now part of the Piquette Avenue Industrial Historic District. At the time, the company had more than 40 buildings encompassing 3,700,000 square feet (344,000 m²) of floor space.
In a 1919 deal put together by president William C. Durant, General Motors bought 60% of the company. The Fisher company purchased Fleetwood Metal Body in 1925, and in 1926 was integrated entirely as an in-house coachbuilding division of General Motors. Fisher Body as a unique entity was dissolved by being merged with other GM operations in 1984.
Extent of operations
From its beginning in the "horseless carriage shop" in Norwalk, Ohio, to its sale in 1919 and 1926 to General Motors, the Fisher Body Company was built by the Fisher brothers into one of the world's largest manufacturing companies.
The company owned 160,000 acres (650 km2) of timberland and used more wood, carpet, tacks, and thread than any other manufacturer in the world. It had more than 40 plants and employed more than 100,000 people, and pioneered many improvements in tooling and automobile design including closed all-weather bodies.
Fisher Body's contribution to the war effort in both World War I and World War II included the production of both airplanes and tanks. Alfred J. Fisher was Aircraft Director for Fisher Body. Fisher body developed the unsuccessful Fisher P-75 Eagle heavy fighter.
On August 14, 1944, the Fisher brothers resigned from General Motors to devote their time to other interests, including the Fisher Building on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit. The brothers also mounted a bid to take-over Hudson Motors, but their tender offer fell short of its market value and the effort was rejected by stockholders.
On January 19, 1972, the last of the Fisher brothers died. The seven brothers donated millions of dollars to schools, churches, and other charitable causes and were active in directing those endeavors.
The Fisher family has continued on in the automotive industry with Fisher Corporation (metal stamping), General Safety (seat belts), Fisher Dynamics (seat mechanisms & structures), and TEAMLINDEN (seat mechanisms).
On July 22, 2008, Fisher Coachworks, LLC was launched with Gregory W. Fisher, grandson of Alfred J. Fisher, as CEO. The new company is developing a prototype of the GTB-40, a hybrid-electric 40' transit bus that uses Nitronic, a stainless steel alloy developed by Autokinetics of Rochester Hills, Michigan, that allows the bus to be half the nominal weight of a standard transit bus and achieve twice the fuel economy.
As of 2010, Fisher Coachworks, LLC went out of business after two years of spending money but not producing a single bus. On March 3, 2011, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation received a check for $29,000 for all of Fisher CoachWorks’ remaining assets.
- 1930 - Slanted windshields for reduced glare
- 1933 - "No-Draft" ventilation
- 1934 - One-piece steel "turret top" roofs
- 1935 - Former Durant Motors plant in Lansing, Michigan, opens
- 1936 - Dual windshield wipers
- 1969 - Fisher's "Side Guard Beam" is introduced
- 1974 - Invented the ignition interlock system
- 1974 - Produced GM's first airbag
- 1975 - Fisher develops GM's first all-metric vehicle, the Chevrolet Chevette
- 1979 - Fisher Northern Ireland established, opens plant in Dundonald, Northern Ireland
- 1983 - Fisher Body and Buick division's Flint, Michigan, operations are combined as Buick City
- 1984 - The Lansing factory is melded with Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac to become Lansing Car Assembly
- 1988 - Fisher closes Hamilton/Fairfield, Ohio, facility
- 1990 - Fisher closes Elyria, Ohio, facility
- 2008 - Fisher Coachworks, LLC officially launches and begins development of the GTB-40 transit bus
The General Motors "Body by Fisher" advertising campaigns were legendary and brought many artists to the attention of the American public. McClelland Barclay used artwork showing fashionable women to promote the image of comfort and style. Edgar de Evia photographed a large campaign for them through Kudner Advertising in the 1950s using leading name models, haute couture from top fashion designers often with huge location production budgets.
- Boston-Edison Historic District from the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department.
- Fisher Coachworks Launch Rekindles 100-Year History
- "Giant Presses Makes All-Steel Top For Autos" Popular Mechanics, July 1935