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Craig-Hunt Co.
Craig-Hunt Company, 1916-1920; Craig-Hunt Motor Co., 1920; Speedway Engineering Co., 1920-1923, Indianapolis, Indiana
Associated Firms
Morton & Brett, Frontenac, Chevrolet Bros.

With help from depressed used Model-T prices, dirt track racing, which had become dormant during the First World War, experienced a revival in 1919, and by 1920 thousands of amateur racers were competing in short track races across the country. Indianapolis was at the center of this renewed activity and a number of small manufacturers were poised to take advantage. 

The best-known of them was the Chevrolet Brothers Manufacturing Company, manufacturers of Frontenac race equipment. Located at 410 W. Tenth St, Indianapolis, the small firm introduced an OHV head for the Model T that became popular with the Model T racers. The Chevrolet Brothers, Louis, Gaston and Arthur, soon developed a whole line of speed equipment for the Model T, and included in their mail-order catalogs were one-man speedster bodies built by Morton & Brett. 

The Chevrolet Brothers had used Morton & Brett-built bodies on their early Frontenac and Monroe Indy racers and close examination of Louis and Arthur’s 1916 Indianapolis entries reveals that their Speedster bodies were identical to those built and patented by Morton & Brett at the end of the war.

There was no 1917 or 1918 race, but the 1919 Frontenacs and 1920 Monroes of Louis and Gaston Chevrolet wore the same bodies, albeit with different radiator shrouds, with Gaston winning the event in 1920. The Indy winning 1921 Frontenac piloted by Tommy Milton also wore a Morton & Brett-style body.

Elvin D. Morton is credited with the design of those early speedster bodies and applied for a U.S. patent on September 20, 1919, for his “Speedway Body for Motor Vehicles of the Ford Type” which was awarded design patent # D54668 on March 9, 1920.

By 1919 Morton & Brett’s Speedway bodies were being marketed through their own catalogs and advertisements. A number of other Indiana-based Model T speed equipment retailers - Chevrolet Brothers (Frontenac), Craig-Hunt, Faultless, Laurel, and Green Engineering - marketed their own Speedway bodies many of which were identical to those first introduced by Morton & Brett in the late teens.

Although I can’t state conclusively that Morton& Brett built any of them, many Model T Speedster owners and historians believe that Morton & Brett built most of them. One exception were the bodies produced by the Mercury Body Co. of Louisville, Kentucky, whose speedsters bore little to no resemblance to those produced by any of the Indiana manufacturers. 

The Craig-Hunt Company was formed in 1915-1916 when Wilbert L. (Bill) Hunt, a well known mid-west dirt track racer, teamed up with businessman John P. Craig in order to supply their own16-valve Peugeot-type racing heads and underslung chassis kits for the Ford Model T, the vehicle of choice for the region’s burgeoning grass roots racers. 

The firm rented an eighth floor office (suite 835) in the Lemcke Building at 235 N. Pennsylvania and E. Market Sts. in downtown Indianapolis and operated a small factory at 1500 Madison Ave. In 1917 Craig-Hunt added a bobtailed Model T speedster body to their Model T Ford speed catalog.

Bill Hunt was an early airplane enthusiast/pilot and placed the following classified ad in the Dec 1913 issue of AERO magazine:

“Aviator - W. L. Hunt is now open for position, building or flying. Curtiss preferred. Want party to furnish motor for Curtiss-type. 2926 Kenwood Ave., Indianapolis, Ind.”

By 1918 they had relocated to larger quarters at 910 N. Illinois St. Craig-Hunt’s 1918 Ford Speed Specialties catalog offered their own Peugeot-type 16-valve Speedway Head and the complimentary torpedo-tailed “Speedway” body which was inspired by the Peugeot’s famous Indianapolis racers. The Speedster bodies were supplied by another Indianpolis manufacturer, Morton & Brett.

A transcription of a 1919 advertisement for the Craig-Hunt Speedway Body follows:

“The CRAIG-HUNT Speedway Body has proved itself the most popular special body ever marketed. The metal work is of 21 gauge Auto Steel, and all important seams are welded and finished. The flared cowl, a feature found only on the highest priced custom built racing bodies has a tendency to direct air currents up and over the driver's head.

“The body is heavily bound with round metal which makes it rigid and free from vibration. All wood work is of oak, gained together with glue and screws. The seating space is exceptionally comfortable for two people, having ample leg room, and the cushions, which are 34 inches wide, are upholstered with a good grade of manufactured leather over curled hair and long coil springs.

“The hood is hinged top and sides louvers on each side panel. Tail is of the famous French Peugeot Torpedo design. It is formed over a canoe type light wood frame. The tail is exceptionally rigid, all seams welded. The radiator shell fur­nished with the body is provided with a filler cap which screws into place in the stock Ford radiator, making it unnecessary to use another radiator. It entirely eliminates the Ford appearance.

“The apron or drop is a permanent part of the body and is designed to give the car a lower appearance, covers the frame and assists in forming a stream line effect.

“There is ample room for carrying pump, jack and tools. The tool box is reached by unsnapping the rear seat cushion and removing same. The FORD gasoline tank may be used in the tail, by shortening same. Hole for filling is on right side, immediately aft the mechanic's seat.

“The body is so designed as to make instal1aUon simple, and it may be installed in a very short time. Bodies are primed with a heavy coat of filler. Painting, $25.00 extra. Weight of body, ready for shipment, about 250 pounds.

“Price, complete with radiator shell, $150.00. F. O. B. Indianapolis.


“We also offer this same general design with hood of three pieces, but not hinged, without tool compartment and hole for filling gasoline tank, and with less expensive upholstering, built throughout of lighter wood and metal, complete with the light­weight underslung parts. Price, complete with radiator shell and underslung parts, $125. F. O. B. Indianapolis.”

On March 17, 1920 the Craig-Hunt Motor Company was incorporated in the State of Delaware with a capital stock of $1,000,000 by John P. Craig, Wilbert L. Hunt and Chester L. Zechiel who hoped to built a low-cost 103” wheelbase, 16-valve roadster and touring car of "wonder performance".

John P. Craig and Wilbert L. Hunt, were the very same Craig and Hunt that produced Craig-Hunt Speed Specialties and Chester Leonard Zechiel (1884-1953) was the Indianapolis attorney who financed the capitalization.

A preliminary advertisement stated that the car would use the Craig-Hunt 16-valve overhead cam head and their proprietary underslung spring suspension, but the vehicle never made it to production. In June of 1920 the firm was enjoined against building its new Maple Road Blvd, plant by a new Indianapolis ordi­nance that prohibited erection of a manufacturing plant within 500 feet of a boulevard.

On October 14th, 1920 the Craig-Hunt Motor Company was forced into receivership for an outstanding debt amounting to $125.50. With their hopes of automobile manufacturing squashed, the three partners went their separate ways. Zechiel returned to his successful law practice, Hunt created a new firm, the Speedway Engineering Co., in order to market his 16-valve heads and Craig organized the Race-Way Body Company in order to produce speedster bodies.

Hunt kept the firm’s 910 N. Illinois St. factory and advertised his 16-valve heads which were now available with an optional bevel gear drive for $215, or the original chain & sprocket drive for $165. Also available were complete race or road cars which were competitively priced starting at $1200.

Speedway’s 1921 catalog included all the parts needed to put together your own underslung speedster ranging from Splitdorf magnetos to their own pistons, crankshafts, camshafts and 8-valve heads and continued to offer the Morton & Brett-sourced “Speedway” speedster body.

Hunt was historically more interested in his racing activities than in business and by 1923 he had run Speedway Engineering into the ground and Carl Rogers, another Indianapolis-based racer and parts dealer, purchased his inventory at the receiver’s auction.

Hunt then opened up a small garage called Imperial Motors, where he rebuilt engines and installed aftermarket speed equipment between 1923 and 1925.

For the 1924 Indianapolis 500, the Chevrolet Brothers prepared three Fronty-Fords for Barber-Warnock, an Indianapolis Ford dealer. They hired Hunt to pilot one of the machines, and he qualified 19th in a field of 22 eventually finishing 14th. Now that he had accomplished one of his life-long goals - albeit as a hired gun - Hunt gradually withdrew from racing and returned to his first love, building and flying airplanes.

John P. Craig’s Race-Way Body Corp. was headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, and claimed to have its own body factory in Muncie, Indiana. The Race-Way speedster body was very similar to the Craig-Hunt/Morton & Brett “Speedway” body except the tail was lower and more rounded in order to better conform with the fenders of a stock Model T.

Their bodies were well thought of and following Race-Way’s 1922 bankruptcy, continued to be distributed by Morton & Brett, as the “Roadway” race body, which was available in two models, the 6 and 6F.

Most speedster experts believe its remaining inventory was purchased by Morton & Brett and Race-Way’s owner, John P. Craig, withdrew from the automobile business and became a real estate agent and investor.

A search of newspaper classifieds from papers across the country reveals aftermarket Ford speedster bodies were most popular between 1920 and 1922. The earliest ads date from early 1918 and by 1923 I noticed a sharp drop-off in frequency. By 1925 only used bodies were advertised, typically priced between $20-35, including windshields. I could find no ads for any Ford, Chevy or Dodge-based speedster or generic speedster body dated 1926 or afterwards.

© 2004 Mark Theobald -







Wilbur Shaw - Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

Dan R. Post - Model T Ford in Speed & Sport

Murray Fahnestock - The Model T Ford Owner

Murray Fahnestock - Model T Speed Secrets

Murray Fahnestock - The Fast Ford Handbook

Ford Owner & Ford Owner and Dealer (numerous issues)

Larry Sigworth - Making the Ford Fleet Footed

Wallace Spencer Huffman - Indiana Built Automobiles

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