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Automotive Hall of Fame to induct tractor-trailer pioneer Fruehauf

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Image courtesy Fruehauf Trailer Historical Society.

The man who lent his name to the General Motors of the trailer industry will also take a place among the automobile industry’s pioneers later this year as the Automotive Hall of Fame inducts its 2017 class of honorees.

August Fruehauf, as Jim Donnelly wrote in the March 2015 issue of Hemmings Classic Car, “pioneered, in great measure, the modern long-haul truck” by inventing the tag-along semi-trailer and, in the process, triggered the wide-scale distribution of modern consumer goods. A successful blacksmith and wagonbuilder in Detroit and the surrounding area around the turn of the century, Fruehauf built his first trailer in 1914 at the request of a boat owner who wished to transport his craft on dry land behind a Ford Model T.

Fruehauf’s true invention was not the trailer itself, but the location of the hitch above the rear axle rather than behind it. It worked so well, Fruehauf went into business building semi-trailers and would later advertise that his trailers tripled loads over a traditional straight-frame truck, then the dominant form of cargo transportation. Over the next several decades, thanks to refinements on the idea and further innovations, Fruehauf, who died in 1930, essentially cornered the tractor-trailer market, until internal strife and bankruptcy at the company led to its purchase in 1997.

Other 2017 inductees to the Automotive Hall of Fame include motorsports team owner and aftermarket innovator Jack Roush, Brembo Chairman and President Alberto Bombassei, and former GM Vice President of Global Design Ed Welburn.

The 2017 Automotive Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place July 20 at Cobo Hall in Detroit. For more information, visit