Even as early as the late 19th century, the city of Cleveland and the surrounding area had enough well-established manufacturing and tooling capability to take on the building of complex machines, such as the auto voiture, made famous in Europe, and now spreading to the U.S.
While many automotive manufacturers built custom vehicles for wealthy and upscale clientele, it was Alexander Winton, who founded the Winton Motor Carriage Co. and started production of a standard model. Indeed, Winton is credited with selling the first standard model, ready-made car to Robert Allison from Pennsylvania in 1898, ending the era of automotive experimentation, novelty and custom-building. It gave birth to the automotive industry as it is known today.
Between 1896 and 1932, more than 110 brands of automobiles were produced in the Greater Cleveland area, with over 80 produced within the city limits or nearby suburbs. While names Winton, White (the forerunner of White Motors) and Baker (electric) all come to top of mind, other brands, such as Jordan, Peerless, Templar and Chandler and, farther east, Packard and Oldsmobile, all grew in Northeast Ohio.
Certainly, Cleveland proved itself to be the ideal location for automotive manufacturing in the early days. It had ready access to steel, glass and rubber. It also had companies with experience using the machine tools necessary to make components and parts for automotive components.
While everyone knows the backstory of the city of Akron’s production of rubber and the pneumatic tire, the Gabriel horn and shock absorber were built in Cleveland. Charles E. Thompson began making valves for Winton in 1904, giving rise to Thompson Products, which would eventually become TRW. The Torbensen Gear & Axle Co. moved to Cleveland in 1915 and would go on to become Eaton Corp. Lubrizol was yet another company dedicated to the automotive market, making motor oil additives and a variety of other lubricants.