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Good Roads Machinery Company | Historical Construction Equipment Association

Name: Good Roads Machinery Company

Historical Note:

The history of the Good Roads organization was rather complicated.

What became Good Roads Machinery was started by the Pennock family in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, under a different name as an agricultural implements manufacturer, and expanded into road construction equipment in 1875. It patented the "American Champion," the first four-wheeled pull grader, in 1877. It was reorganized under the American Road Machine Company (Collection 331) name in 1889 after opening plants in Delphos, Ohio and in Groton, New York and Marathon, New York.

The Good Roads Machinery Company (Collection 736) was organized as the firm's sales branch, and Good Roads became the brand name under which the equipment, which included graders, rollers and rock crushers, was manufactured, although the American Champion name was continued for graders. The Good Roads name was a direct allusion to the Good Roads movement, under which dirt farm roads throughout the United States were being improved for automobile traffic.

The firm expanded into Canada in 1888, and the Copp Brothers firm of Hamilton, Ontario, gained sole licensing rights for American Champion graders in Canada in 1892. John Challen, the manager of Copp Brothers, bought the company out in 1896 and renamed it Good Roads Machinery Company, not to be confused with the sales agents of the same name for American Road Machinery. Challen's firm failed in 1907, and he became a salesman for American Road Machinery, which apparently acquired the firm's assets.

A new group of investors bought the former Challen firm in 1908 and reorganized it as Canadian Road Machine Company Ltd., and this firm also failed and was reacquired by American Road Machinery in 1909 as American Road Machinery of Canada. In 1915, this Canadian operation was reorganized as Dominion Road Machinery Company (DRMCo, Collection 1696), with a separate charter from the firm that owned it. DRMCo, which was not to be confused with Dominion Engineering Works (later Dominion Hoist and Shovel, Collection 588), had an affiliation with the Cleveland Equipment Division of Detroit Engineering & Machine Company (Collection 257) in the mid 1960s. This company, which was not to be confused with Cleveland Trencher Company or Cletrac (Collection 1679), built the distinctive Cleveland formgrader in the 1930s through 1960s, and the Cleveland and DRMCo names appeared jointly on some graders until 1971.

The American Road Machinery Company, still based in Kennett Square, encountered financial difficulties in 1929. It was sold in 1932 to a firm in Detroit, Michigan, and renamed The Good Roads Machinery Company. It continued to produce rock crushers, and manufactured gun parts during World War II. The plant was closed by a labor dispute in 1945. (According to sales literature in the HCEA Archives, a Good Roads Machinery Corporation, tracing its origins to 1878, produced snow plows, truck spreaders, truck vacuums, and other road construction and maintenance equipment in Minerva, Ohio, through at least the late 1960s.)

The Canadian firm was unaffected by this because of its separate charter, and continued to build road graders under the Champion name until it was renamed Champion Road Machinery Company Ltd. (Collection 240) in 1977. It operated under this name until it was acquired by Volvo Construction Products (Collection 5) in 2001. The former Champion plant in Goderich, Ontario is still in operation as Volvo Motor Graders Ltd., a division of Volvo.

In 1980, Gary Abernathy and Bryan Abernathy, contractors in Charlotte, North Carolina, needed a compact hydrostatic drive motor grader. As no suitable designs were available on the market, they built their own, and ended up producing additional graders for other contractors. The brand name for the graders is unknown.

Champion Road Machinery acquired the line in 1993, continuing to produce them at the Charlotte plant. Volvo Construction Products acquired Champion Road Machinery in 1997. On July 1, 2004 Volvo spun off the compact grader line back to the Abernathys, who also acquired the rights to the Champion motor grader name and logo and began operations as Champion Industries LLC (Collection 2848).

Sources: Condensed from Everything for the Roadmaker, with additional information from the HCEA Archives and Champion Industries LLC

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