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Vincint Bendix and Bendix Corporation

Vincent Bendix 1882-1945

Vincent Bendix was born in Moline, Illinois on August 12, 1882. In 1901, Vincent Bendix was hired by Glenn Curtiss to work on the Torpedo motorcycle, and later in 1904, Bendix worked as general sales manager for Holsman Automobile Company. As a consequence, Vincent Bendix learned all about the internal combustion engine and decided make a career in automobile design.

Between 1907 and 1909, Vincent Bendix designed the Bendix Motor Buggy and started an automobile firm. Seven thousand Bendix buggies were sold, however, Bendix had to declare bankruptcy and went back to work selling Cadillacs. In 1910, Vincent Bendix patented the Bendix drive for electric starters, an improvement to the hand cranked starters of the time. The first automobile to use the Bendix starter drive was the 1914 Chevrolet "Baby Grand". The Bendix starter became a standard in all cars produced in the United States.

Fortunes improved for the inventor and in 1923, Vincent Bendix bought the patent rights to Perrot brakes and controls and started the Bendix Brake Company. Bendix turned his research towards creating a more efficient braking system for automobiles and created the first four wheel automotive brake system

In 1929, Vincent Bendix started the Bendix Aviation Corporation and later invented the pressure carburetor for aircraft engines. By 1938, Bendix's pressure carburetor was installed on almost every American aircraft.

In 1931, Bendix established the Transcontinental Bendix Air Race. In 1942, Vincent Bendix started his last enterprise, Bendix Helicopters, Inc. (1942). 

Bendix Stratford’s Other Helicopter Company

Bendix Helicopters occupied a building on East Main Street in Stratford from 1945 to 1949. A part of the town’s history that is unknown to most of the area’s population.
Vincent Bendix became famous in automotive fields for inventing an automobile starter motor drive and after that, the four wheel automotive brake system. From there he went to manufacturing aircraft instruments and by 1936, he had become very rich and was sponsoring air races and competitions. Originated in 1931,the Bendix Trophy became a highly honored award for aviation excellence. Jimmie Doolittle won the first Bendix race and trophy for his transcontinental flight from California to the Cleveland Air Races at a speed of 223 miles per hour. Other winners for the cross-country flight were such famous aviation figures as Louise Thaden and Jacqueline Cochran.

After Mr. Bendix’s retirement, the Bendix Corporation founded the Bendix Aviation Division in 1944. This small organization in Detroit developed several aircraft, including a 2 place all metal light plane and an amphibian. For a variety of reasons, none of these aircraft obtained certification by the government or went into production

Helicopters, mc, was founded in 1943, encouraged by the growing success of helicopters manufactured by Sikorsky. The name was changed to Bendix Helicopter, Inc. in 1944. After Mr. Bendix died in March, 1945, the company was reorganized and moved the operations to Stratford, where a labor force with aircraft, especially helicopter, experience was more available now that the war had ended

Initially occupying a small building just north of the railroad, they subsequently built a 10,000 square foot factory for helicopter production. The first Bendix helicopter design proposed was the two place Model G. It was to have a coaxial main rotor system, eliminating the need for a tail rotor, and be powered by a single 165 horsepower engine. While this proposed design was never built, the Model K (NX41817) was their demonstrator/prototype that first flew in 1946. This 2,000 pound gross weight helicopter with a 25 foot coaxial rotor system was powered by a single 100 horsepower engine.

Their test pilot was Les Morris who had helped pioneer the Sikorsky helicopters as an early test pilot. The next year a larger Model L with four seats was constructed. By early 1948 100 hours of flight testing had been accumulated on the Model J.

Due to lack of sales and capital, in January 1947 the large factory building was sold to Manning, Maxwell and Moore, who were taken over by Dresser Industries in 1964.

By September, 1949, Bendix Helicopter was forced to close. In an auction the assets of the company were sold for $4,100 to Gyrodyne, lnc, St. James, Long Island, New York. Gyrodyne continued development of the Helicopters, Inc, Model J as the G.C.A. Model 2. It was flight tested by the US Navy but no manned Gyrodyne aircraft were ever produced

Bendix Helicopter, Inc. 1947

Click to enlarge

Beautifully engraved certificate from the Bendix Helicopter, Inc. issued in 1947. This historic document has an ornate border around it with a vignette of the company logo. This item has the printed signatures of the Company’s President and Secretary and is over 56 years old. is a name you can TRUST!

Certificate Vignette

In 1944, Vincent Bendix established Bendix Helicopters (later renamed Bendix Helicopters Inc.). The Bendix designer, Martin Jensen, devised the Bendix Model J single-seater which used a system of coaxial rotors and was driven by a 450hp Pratt & Whitney R-985 piston engine. This was followed by the Model K - with an enclosed tube and fabric fuselage but with a much smaller 100hp Continental C-100 engine. The Model K (NX41817) made its maiden flight in June 1945, but Bendix eventually ceased operations in 1949 without achieving certification.

Bendix Helicopter


Born in Moline, Illinois, August 12, 1882, and christened Vincent Hugo Bendix. He never used his middle initial or name during his entire career. He was the son of a Methodist Clergyman, Jann Bengtson, a native of Amaland, Sweden, who was married to a Swedish farm girl whose maiden name was Anna Danielson. While in Moline the family name was changed to "Bendix". They later moved to Chicago, Illinois, then called the Swedish capitol.

1895 - At age 13 he worked for the Postal Telegraph Company in Chicago, Illinois as a messenger during school vacation.

1898 - He went to New York ,on his own at the age of 16, working as an elevator operator in a hospital. He later worked in their maintenance department, during which time he was taught practical electricity. From there, he took up typing and stenography, after which he worked in the accounting department of a brewery, and from there he obtained a position at the Lackawanna Railroad Co. After this he went to work for a New York law firm, at the same time acquiring his education in law. Even though his varied aforementioned undertakings were of short duration, due to his indomitable perseverance and ability, he decided to diverge to mechanical engineering, specializing in automobile and automobile engine design. It was in this profession he started his business career and laid an early foundation for his later phenomenal success.

1901 - In 1901 Bendix was hired by Glenn Curtiss (later a famous builder of airplanes) who was then building the Torpedo motorcycle.. During this period he gleaned extensive knowledge about the internal-combustion engine and the power-propelled vehicle. W hen he felt he had sufficient insight in this field he struck out for something better.

1902 - Married

1904 - He saw the auto buggy and decided to make this his Alma Mater in the automobile business. At this time Holsman of Chicago was one of the leaders in the auto buggy field and Bendix became his general sales manager and was instrumental in the successful marketing of the new and interesting Holsman high-wheel automobile.

1907-09 - With his background and experience he decided to become a buggy manufacturer himself. He designed the Bendix Motor Buggy, sold stock and organized an automobile firm. He subcontracted the building of this vehicle to the Triumph Motor Company of Cragin, Illinois. Two Sales and Service locations were established, one in Logansport, Indiana and another in Chicago, Illinois. Even though the venture started during the depression of 1907, some 7,000 of these motor buggies were built and sold before the Bendix firm went into bankruptcy. Debts resulting from this venture plagued Bendix for several years.

1910 - After Bendix's Auto Buggy failure he sold Cadillacs in Chicago at retail and later was Southern sales manager for the Haynes Motor Car. While engaged in those activities he had, in the back of his mind, the idea for the Bendix drive for electric starters and applied for patents on the idea. While marking time and waiting for the starter drive to develop into something tangible he attended the 1910 Chicago Automobile Show. Here he saw on display the newborn Ames Automobile, manufactured by the F. A. Ames Company of Owensboro, Kentucky which had been building some 20, 000 horse buggies a year, but decided to try the automobile business. Bendix saw its possibilities and propositioned Ames for a chance to develop the new car and Ames, admiring his push and energy, turned over to him the job of handling the automobile end of his buggy business. The advanced lines of the car made a big hit and the way orders piled up alarmed Ames as he was still horse-and-carriage minded and pined to go back and push his "Buggies Bred in Old Kentucky", which he did, cutting himself out of what promised to become an important automobile manufacturing business. It was while at Ames that Bendix met up with Herbert Sharlock, then manager of sales for the Ames horse buggy. As a result of this decision by Ames, Bendix seriously started developing the Bendix Starter Drive and Sharlock left his position with Ames and joined up with Bendix. They became inseparable life long friends and business associates.

1911-12 - The birth of the Bendix organization.... the idea and invention of an automatic starter drive, eliminating hand cranking of an automobile engine. Bendix spent two unsuccessful years peddling the idea and trying to find someone to make it for him. He finally submitted his invention to the Eclipse Machine Company of Elmira, New York to develop, produce and sell his starter drive under a license agreement in exchange for royalties during the life of the original patent.

1913 - Successfully marketed his starter drive through the Eclipse Machine Company of Elmira, New York.

1914 - First automobile to use the Bendix starter drive was the 1914 Chevrolet "Baby Grand". Over 5500 drive units were produced that year. The Baby Grand was also the first Chevrolet to use an overhead valve engine and first to bear the Chevrolet trademark. The Willys Overland was also among the first to use the Bendix starter drive.

1919 - Purchased the Winkler-Grimm Wagon Company's plant in South Bend, Indiana for the purpose of carrying on experimental work on various projects.

1920 - Divorced

1922 - Married to Elizabeth Channon of Chicago, Illinois.

1923 - Built first South Bend plant. Acquired American patent right covering Perrot brakes and controls. The new plant 1001 x 2001 housed the Bendix-Perrot Brake Company and the Gernandt Motor Corporation. It was built on the same location that the four story section of the administration building now stands.

1924 - Perrot Brake Company changed to the Bendix Brake Company. Bendix Corporation formed, including the Bendix Brake Company, Gernandt Motor Corporation, International Gernandt Motors, Ltd. and royalties from the Eclipse Bendix Starter Drive.

1925 - First production orders for Four-Wheel Brakes received.

1926 - First production shipments of Four-Wheel Brakes made.

1928 - Honored at a dinner given by seventy-five leading citizens of South Bend and Northern Indiana in recognition of his contribution to industry in the area.

1928 - Purchased the Potter Palmer mansion on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago for $3,000,000. He announced that the mansion would be razed to permit the erection of the world's largest hotel at a cost of approximately $25,000,000. The project never materialized and the property passed from Mr. Bendix's possession in 1935.

1928 - Purchased the Clem Studebaker Estate, East Jefferson Boulevard, South Bend, Indiana. The mansion was built for Mr. Studebaker around 1910. It was elaborately remodeled and a spacious brick clubhouse built on the grounds, also a nine hole golf course and a magnificent tiled and electrically lighted swimming pool. He completely enclosed the estate with an expensive high iron fence. The massive gates at the Jefferson entrance were hand-made and imported from France, the cost reported to be in excess of $30,000. The estate was known as "Chateau Bendix". The home was the scene of many a gay party and social events which included some of the most prominent people from all walks of life.

1929 - Stromberg Carburetor interests were acquired by Bendix.

1929 - Formed "The Bendix Aviation Corporation."

1929 - Went to Sweden to receive the title of "Knight of the Order of the North Star" from King Gustav V.

1929 - Purchased the Ocean Front Estate in Palm Beach, Florida of Thomas A. Clark, reportedly paying about $250,000.

1930 - In April, complete manufacturing operations of Stromberg Carburetor was moved to South Bend, Indiana as a part of Bendix Products Corporation.

1930 Commissioned and paid Dr. Sven Hedin of Sweden $65,000 to buy a complete Buddhist Temple and bring it to the United States for reconstruction. This proved impractical, and Chinese architects of Peking produced a dazzling copy of the Golden Pavilion of Jehol which was erected at the Chicago World's Fair, and later at the New York World's Fair. The total cost was $250,000. In 1943 the pavilion, together with its furnishings and other art objects. was given to Oberlin College by Mr. Bendix and Associate Trustees of the Archeological Trust of Chicago,

1930 - Founded the Bendix Airport on July 11, 1930. It was incorporated and capitalized for $500,000 and officially opened June 21, 1931. In October 1936 the City of South Bond purchased the port for $193,000 and renamed it "Bendix Field - St. Joseph County Municipal Airport."

1931 - Elected 26th President of the Society of Automotive Engineers.

1931 - "Bendix Products Corporation" organized to consolidate the manufacturing operations of Bendix Brake Company, Bendix Cowdrey Brake Tester, Inc. , Bendix Stromberg Carburetor Company, and the B-K Corporation.

1931 - Founder and sponsor of the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race and donor of the Bendix Trophy. First won by Major James H. Doolittle at a record speed of 223 miles per hour.

1932 - Divorced. Settlement reported to be approximately $2,000,000.

1936 - First "sit-down" strike in industry at Bendix Plant in South Bend.

1936 - Made a "Knight of the French Legion of Honor."

1939 - "Bendix Products Corporation" changed to "Bendix Products Division."

1939 - In contrast to the success and influence of his company, he encountered personal financial difficulties and admitted personal bankruptcy, listing liabilities at $14,000,000 and assets a little more than $1,000,000.

1939 - Was named defendant in Federal Court in South Bend by holders of bond on the Michigan Chestnut Building Corporation of Chicago, and later a petition of involuntary bankruptcy was filed. The Bendix Aviation Corporation was in no way involved.

1942 - Named Chairman of the Board February, 1942 and Ernest R. Breech was elected President. Bendix headquarters moved from South Bend to Detroit.

1942 - Resigned as Chairman of the Board of the Bendix Aviation Corporation, March 1942, and later severed all official connections with the Corporation.

1944 - Formed Bendix Helicopter, Inc., to develop a popular type helicopter four-passenger sedan, and announced it would be ready for mass production after the war.

1945 - Died March 27 at age 63 of a coronary thrombosis at his home, 322 East Fifty-Seventh Street, New York City. Cremated and buried in Grace Memorial Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois. At the time of Mr. Bendix's death he was President of Bendix Helicopters, Inc.

Vincent Bendix's creative mind produced many valuable inventions. As a result, he became a very rich man financially but his extravagant tastes and ideas eventually led him to bankruptcy. In spite of all of his past financial difficulties it was understood he was again on an upward financial trend when death came. Today American travelers, whether they go by land, sea or air, owe a debt of gratitude to this Swedish-American inventor.

Vincent Bendix was a pioneer and leader in both the automotive and aviation industries during the 1920s and 1930s. His innate business aptitude and work ethic allowed him to forge a company that would become one of the world's leading multi-industry manufacturers.

The Bendix starter device, first installed in the 1914 Chevrolet "Baby Grand," soon became a standard in all cars produced in the United States. By 1919, production had soared to 1.5 million and nearly every vehicle produced in America was equipped with the Bendix drive.

His next major breakthrough was the development of a more efficient braking system for automobiles. To finance the new brake system, Bendix offered stock to the public for the first time in 1924, marking the official beginning of The Bendix Corporation. Production climbed from 650,000 brakes in 1926 to 3.6 million in 1928. The success of The Bendix Corporation in the booming auto industry seemed assured.

With his automotive operations in robust health, Bendix turned his attention to the field of aviation. Even though he was personally uneasy about flying--he probably never flew more than a half dozen times--Bendix was convinced of the tremendous potential of the aviation industry. In 1929, he changed the name of the company to the Bendix Aviation Corporation even though only 8 percent of the companys sales were in aviation products. Bendix embarked on a whirlwind acquisition program intended to increase the company's participation in the aviation industry. The acquisitions quickly increased sales and profits and by the end of the year of the first full year of operation, net profits for the new company totaled $1.2 million. An investment of $26 in Bendix stock in 1924 was worth $420 by 1929, an increase of 1600 percent. Although the Depression years were rough ones for the company, the 1930s still stand out as a decade of research and development at Bendix marked by sparkling inventions and improvements in the company's aviation and automotive products.

One of the most important Bendix inventions in the 1930s was the pressure carburetor for aircraft engines. By 1938 this device had been developed to the stage of successful performance, and in the war years just ahead the Bendix carburetor would be used on the engines of virtually every aircraft of the allied arsenal. The 1930s were also a time of daring and glamour in aviation. Bendix's interest in aviation led him to establish the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race to encourage experimental developments by airplane designers and to improve the skills of aviators in cross-country flying techniques. The first race, in 1931, was won by Major James Doolittle--a 1967 National Aviation Hall of Fame enshrinee--at an average speed of 223 miles per hour. Doolittle flew from Los Angeles to Cleveland in nine hours and ten minutes. By contrast, the winners of the last Bendix race, Captains Robert Sowers, Robert MacDonald, and John Walton, flew their B-58 at an average speed of 1,215 miles per hour in 1962. They completed the trip between Los Angeles and New York in two hours. Fittingly, the original Bendix Trophy now resides at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

In 1939, production orders for military material were coming in from the British and the French and sales had reached a record level. Over the next two years, there was a huge expansion of Bendix facilities to meet the needs of the U.S. war preparedness program. In the spring of 1942, Vincent Bendix resigned as chairman of the board of Bendix Aviation Corporation. He formed Bendix Helicopter, Inc., to develop a four-passenger helicopter sedan, and announced that it would be ready for mass production after the war. The company reportedly made Bendix more than $1 million before his death on March 27, 1945.

The above information was obatined from the National Aviation Hall of Fame website.

Bendix Model K 1945

Bendix Model K

In 1944, Vincent Bendix (of washing machine fame) established Bendix Helicopters (later renamed Helicopters Inc.). The Bendix designer, Martin Jensen, devised the Bendix Model J single-seater which used a system of coaxial rotors and was driven by a 450hp Pratt & Whitney R-985 piston engine. This was followed by the Model K - with an enclosed tube and fabric fuselage but with a much smaller 100hp Continental C-100 engine. The Model K (NX41817) made its maiden flight in June 1945, but Bendix eventually ceased operations in 1949 without achieving certification.

Bendix Model K

R.Simpson "Airlife's Helicopter and Rotorcraft", 1998