Robert E. Twyford designed and built the first four-wheel drive car ever made. Twyford, who was a mechanical engineer, had the idea to build a car that could handle snow, mud, and hills better than traditional cars of the day.
His idea received backing from two investors in Brookville, PA. So the Twyford Motor Company was formed and a factory was built in the town. In 1904, the first Twyford car was assembled and ready for the road.
The first Twyford was a one-seated roadster. It was presented at shows in Buffalo, NY, and New York City, where it was very well received. The Twyford roadster cost about $1,000 compared to Henry Ford’s Model T, which was selling for just $250.
Though Twyford had plans for other models, including a four passenger Stanhope and a delivery truck, they were never manufactured. Only five or six roadsters were built because there weren’t any buyers for the pricey car. As a result, Twyford went out of business.
The Twyford Motor Company may be gone, but it is not forgotten by the people of Brookville, especially William L. (Bill) McCracken, who lives just north of town.
Mr. McCracken, who is 91, says a family connection to the original investors in the company piqued his interest in the car and he has been researching it ever since he was 12 years old.
In his research and travels, Mr. McCracken has not come across an actual Twyford car. But through photos and rough drawings he built a complete, life-sized replica of the car, which is on display at the Jefferson County History Center in Brookville.
Before donating the car to the history center, Mr. McCracken often drove his Twyford in Brookville’s Laurel Festival and Clarion’s Autumn Leaf Festival parades. You can see the Twyford at the Jefferson County History Center, Wednesday through Saturday, from noon to 5 p.m. The center is located at 172-176 Main Street in Brookville. For more interesting facts about the region, upcoming events, and information go to VisitPAGO.com or call (814) 849-5197.