Fisher Body was an automobile coachbuilder founded by the Fisher brothers in 1908 in Detroit, Michigan; it had been a division of General Motors for many years, but in 1984 was dissolved to form other General Motors divisions. Fisher & Company (originally Alloy Metal Products) continues to use the name. The name and its iconic "Body by Fisher" logo were 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 (1852 Peru, Ohio – 1921, Norwalk, Ohio) and his wife Margaret Theisen (1857 Baden, Germany – 1936 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, in 1876. Margaret Theisen Fisher lived in Detroit after her husband died.
The Fisher brothers were:
- Frederick John Fisher (1878–1941)
- Charles Thomas Fisher (1880–1963)
- William Andrew Fisher (1886–1969)
- Lawrence P. Fisher (1888–1961)
- Edward F. Fisher (1891–1972)
- Alfred J. Fisher (1892–1963)
- Howard A. Fisher (1902–1942)
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, Church-Field, Elmore, EMF, Ford, Herreshoff, Hudson, Krit, Oldsmobile, Packard, Regal, and Studebaker.
The company constructed the now-abandoned Albert Kahn-designed Fisher Body Plant 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.
- Fisher Body – West Fort & Livernois
- Fisher Body Plant 2 (wood kiln) – St. Antoine
- Fisher Body Plant 4 – Oakland Ave.
- Fisher Body Plant 12 – 1961 E. Milwaukee
- Fisher Body Plant 18 (aka Cadillac Fleetwood Plant) – West End Ave
- Fisher Plant 21 – 700 Piquette
- Fisher Plant 23 – 601 Piquette
- Fisher Plant 37 – 950 E. Milwaukee at Hastings
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 Division was dissolved in 1984, with some of its plants taken over by the newly created Fisher Guide Division (later Inland Fisher Guide), and the remaining facilities absorbed by other GM operations.
Founded in 1947 by members of the Fisher family, Fisher & Company continues to use the name, with such divisions as Fisher Dynamics.
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), in the U.S., Mexico, China and India.
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 developed by Autokinetics of Rochester Hills, Michigan, that uses Nitronic, a stainless steel alloy developed by AK Steel 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, producing only a single prototype bus. On March 3, 2011, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation received a check for $29,000 for all of Fisher CoachWorks’ remaining assets.
Alfred J. Fisher Jr., an automotive safety pioneer and son of Fisher Body's Alfred J. Fisher Sr., died June 19, 2012.
Mansions of Detroit
|Frederick J.||54 Arden Park Boulevard||Arden Park-East Boston||George D. Mason||1918||10,800 sq. ft.||Private Residence|
|Charles T.||670 West Boston Boulevard||Boston-Edison||George D. Mason||1915||18,000 sq. ft.||Private Residence|
|William A.||1791 Wellesley Drive||Palmer Woods||Richard H. Marr||1925||35,000 sq. ft.||Fire in 1994; Demolished|
|Lawrence P.||383 Lenox Avenue||Jefferson–Chalmers||C. Howard Crane||1928||22,000 sq. ft.||Bhaktivedanta Cultural Center|
|Edward F.||892 West Boston Boulevard||Boston-Edison||Richard H. Marr||1923||10,000 sq. ft.||Private Residence|
|Alfred J.||1771 Balmoral Drive||Palmer Woods||Richard H. Marr||1926||35,000 sq. ft.||Private Residence|
- 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
- 1959 – Developed and produced GM's first unibody car – The 1960 Chevrolet Corvair
- 1969 – Fisher's "Side Guard Beam" is introduced. Ternstedt Division merged into Fisher Body.
- 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
- 1984 – Fisher Body Division dissolves, with its operations transferred to other GM divisions. These include newly created Fisher Guide Division, Chevrolet-Pontiac-Canada Group, and Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac Group.
- 1988 – Fisher Guide closes Hamilton/Fairfield, Ohio, facility
- 1989 – Fisher Guide merges with Inland Division to become Inland Fisher Guide
- 1990 – Inland Fisher Guide closes Elyria, Ohio, facility
- 1995 – Inland Fisher Guide absorbed into Delphi Automotive Systems
- 2008 – Fisher Coachworks, LLC, officially launches and begins development of the GTB-40 transit bus
- 2010 – Fisher Coachworks, LLC, folds and is liquidated the following year.
- Boston-Edison Historic District Archived July 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine 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
- Fisher Corporation
- Fisher Body Company Plant No. 21 at Abandoned
- Fisher Body at Car of the Century
- Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. OH-11-H, "Fisher Body Ohio Company, East 140th Street & Coit Road, Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, OH", 9 photos, 14 data pages, 2 photo caption pages