When people think of historic four-wheel drive vehicles, the first name to come to mind is usually Jeep. While Jeep may have been the first four-wheel drive vehicle to make it into the general market, the history of four-wheel drive can be traced back far earlier.

Four-wheel drive enthusiasts often think of their 4x4 as their ticket to go places only a horse can go in weather conditions no self respecting horse owner would take his animal. Believe it or not, those are just the conditions early four-wheel drive trucks were designed to tackle.

Picture some of the horseless carriages of the early 1900s. They looked pretty frail. And the roads, when they existed at all, were far from great, even in good weather. For work vehicles to make the transition from horse drawn wagons to work trucks, the ability to navigate muddy quagmires and rough terrain referred to as roads was a must.

During the first ten years of the twentieth century there was no shortage of ideas to solve the work truck dilemma. Surprisingly, four-wheel drive was at the top of the list for how to replace the workhorse with horsepower. As early as 1903, two Dutch brothers matched a four-wheel drive chassis with a 60 horsepower internal combustion engine for a hill-climbing race car they called the Spyker. It didn’t take long for the idea to catch on in the United States.

By 1908, the Four Wheel Drive (FWD) Auto Company of Wisconsin began to produce four-wheel drive work trucks. By World War I, FWD produced over 15,000 four-wheel drive trucks for the American and British armies. FWD went on to design and build a full line of heavy-duty four-wheel drive trucks. Their products were a staple for transporting everything from cargo to troops for the U.S. military during both the European and Pacific campaigns of World War II. The company is still in business today as FWD Seagrave, specializing in the manufacture of fire trucks of all types.

However, the 4x4 that started it all for modern day off-road and go-anywhere work vehicles was Jeep. After World War II, many of these nimble little army vehicles were put to civilian use for everything from farm work to forestry to fun. Out of that market evolved all sorts of four-wheel drive vehicles; from mud and snow busting work trucks to all-wheel drive luxury SUVs. When you have somewhere to go or a job to get done, no matter what the weather, America has been relying on the traction and torque of four-wheel drive for more than a century.

You may not need four-wheel drive for the average commute, but when you do need it, whether for work, recreation or during bad weather, you need it to work. That’s why you can always depend on Zumbrota Bearing and Gear to keep your 4x4 running both on and off-road. We’re experts in rebuilt and new four-wheel drive transfer cases and differentials. Like our name Zumbrota Bearing and Gear says, we know bearings and gears. Our team of experienced technicians work to guarantee your satisfaction for thousands of miles of trouble free driving on and off the road. Trust us for the best and most reliable in rebuilt manual transmissions, differentials and transfer cases. Contact us today!