In 1915 Hertz had broken the code of producing “assembled cars”. Having research various parts catalogs of many third party independent manufacturers, Hertz had done the math and figured out that he could produce taxicabs cheaper than buying new units. By purchasing Continental engines, Brown-lipe transmissions, Timpken axles, bodies by Racine Boat and other various parts Hertz was able to assemble 150 Taxicabs in the Walden Shaw shop in Chicago.
By 1916 Hertz was manufacturing over a 1000 Yellow Taxicabs a year and was now selling Yellows to the various cab operators nationally as part of the Yellow Cab franchise. Years later Markin would use a similar strategy selling Checker cabs and like the Hertz model, Marking would sell Checkers nationally to taxicab operators using the Checker Cab name.
Like Markin, Hertz would expand outside of manufacturing taxicabs. In 1920 a new vehicle was introduced at the Chicago Hotel Congress, the Shaw automobile, the new corporate namesake. Equipped with a Rochester-Duesneberg engine expectations were high. Hertz wanted to create a high end luxury car but there would be changes.
Later in 1920 the same car was introduced at the Chicago auto show it was now named the Colonial. Apparently the name Shaw from a PR standpoint in Chicago was deemed to be too closely associated with used cars and taxicabs not luxury cars, a name changed was required. The Colonial was now equipped with a Weidely 12 cylinder engine.
In one last act of uncertainty, there was again another name change. Introduced in 1921 at the Chicago Drake hotel, the Colonial was now named the Ambassador. Power plants were changed again and the automobile was now equipped with a Continental six cylinder engine. Apparently the name Colonial was being used by several other regional car manufacturers and confusion existed in the marketplace
Public Relations were consistent with the Shaw and Colonial, it was announced that the “new Ambassador stands out prominently in a field of the world’s finest cars”. It was also claimed that the car was produced and backed by a “mighty American institution” although it did not specifically link the car to Yellow Cab.
The Ambassador Model R was produced from 1921 through 1923. A big car it rode on a 132 inch wheelbase. Five body styles were available: sedans, limo, four passenger sport tourer, seven passenger tourer and a two passenger roadster. In keeping with the luxury status promoted, the Ambassadors were equipped a full complement of leather trim. The car was even equipped with leather trunks and cases lined with silk.
In 1923 sales of Ambassadors was lacking. Meanwhile at the same time Chicago businessman Walter Jacobs was having troubling funding his rental car business and was seeking a partner. At the suggestion of Alfred Foreman of the Foreman Bank and Trust Company, Hertz would buy Jacob’s business and source rental units via Yellow Cab Manufacturing. Mr. Jacobs was retained in the business to assist in expansion of both the rental business and Ambassadors sales.
By 1924 and after all inventory was used, Hertz decided to leave the luxury car market and execute a new strategy. A new Ambassador was developed, the Model D-1 offered in two models, the Drive-Ur-Self Sedan and Tourer. These two vehicles were introduced for Hertz’s new rental car system Shortly after the change in direction, the Ambassador’s name was dropped and the name was changed to Hertz. Hertz sold the Model D to the general public as well as his rental car concern.
Sales to the general public became problematic. By utilizing the Hertz name potential buyers lost interest in buying the Model D-1. Essentially buyers felt that if they purchased a Hertz car, neighbors and friends would think the car was a rental, clearly that potential misconceptions hindered sales. Perhaps Hertz should have stuck with the Ambassador name.
The Model D-1 ran on a 114 inch wheelbase, it was very similar to the Yellow Cab Model O. The most significant difference was an altered brand engineered radiator design. Again consistent with Morris Markin, Hertz did indeed introduce a consumer product car produced by his taxicab manufacturing empire, but it would not last as long as Markin’s empire.
The taxicab industry was tough business in the roaring twenties. In Chicago what was known as the taxi wars took center stage along with prohibition. Recently described by Chicago Tribune writer Ron Grossman: “Then as now, cab wars were turf battles, struggles over who had the right to pick up fares at choice locations. But at the height of the conflict, during the Jazz Age, they also involved political clout, labor unions, corrupt cops and gangsters. Reams of purple prose were generated, both sides claiming to have the public’s best interest at heart. Officeholders disputed such assertions, saying that honor belonged to them.
In 1923 Cook County State’s Attorney Robert Crowe declared “war against the taxi war.” Two years later, Chicago Mayor William Dever threw down the gauntlet, declaring: “We will see whether the taximen control and own the streets or the people.”
“It has only been comic opera warfare until tonight, but from now on it is going to be a fight to the finish,” John Hertz, president of the Yellow Cab Co., told the Tribune on June 8, 1921. “We feel we might just as well end the whole business right now.”
His no-more-Mr.-Nice-Guy announcement was occasioned by the killing of one of his drivers as the man was shooting the breeze with fellow cabbies at Roosevelt Road and Kedzie Avenue. Witnesses said a large automobile sped by, and three men fired 25 shots, the fatal one striking P.A. Skirven just above the heart. That same night, another Yellow driver was shot in the foot at Logan Square and Milwaukee Avenue, and a Checker taxi driver was arrested during a brawl at a taxi stand in front of the Hotel Sherman.
In 1923 The tribune reported: MAN SHOT TO DEATH IN CHICAGO QUARREL
“Affair Apparently Outcome of Clash Among Taxi Drivers Chicago. June 7, 1923 (UP) – Frank Sexton, declared by police to be connected with a labor union, was shot to death early today by two taxicab drivers in a pool room on West Division street. Authorities said the murder was apparently the outgrowth of a war between independent and union drivers on “Checker” taxis. About a dozen drivers were arrested for questioning.”
The following day Markin’s house was firebombed, at this point Markin packed up shop and moved to Kalamazoo. By 1926, Hertz had had enough, drawn into the taxi wars of Chicago, Hertz private stables were fire bombed and many of his prized race horses were killed. Hertz decided to sell everything.
Hertz sold a majority share in Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company together with its subsidiaries, Yellow Coach Manufacturing Company and the “Hertz Drive-Ur-Self,” system to General Motors. Hertz became a main board director at GM. The transaction allowed Hertz to expand his Omnibus Corporation a national transit company.
In 1927 the Hertz car would be dropped. Between 1927 and 1964 Hertz would solely rent Chevrolets. Yellow cabs continued to be produced by GM until 1929, in 1930 General Motors would rename the Yellow cabs to the new make name General. Generals were produced until 1938.
Hertz would take his money and run, over the next twenty five years Hertz would make a lot of money in many different enterprises including Lehmann Brothers. Hertz’s Omnibus Corporation would buy back his namesake rental car business from General Motors in 1953. Hertz would lead the company until his death in 1961.
In a twist of irony, long time competitors, Markin would theoretically wind up working for Hertz for a short period of time in the thirties. For a several years, Hertz sat on the board of Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg, between 1934 abd 1937 Markin was the head of ACD’s Checker Cab Manufacturing unit. Markin reported to E.L. Cord and the Board of Directors. We can only assume that there may have been a little tension between the two men.
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