The history of many companies in the trucking business is often colorful. I had no idea Horton's history went back so far, but it turns out the company is celebrating Its 60th anniversary this month.
Hugh K. Schilling founded Horton in 1951.
Hugh K. Schilling founded Horton in 1951.

The original company, which got its start making wagon bodies in 1902, was liquidated before its rebirth in 1951. Then Hugh K. Schilling and some investor associates purchased the seemingly minor remnants of the dismantled company -- two unexpired patents on variable-speed clutch pulleys, and a list of unfilled orders for customers who hadn't heard from Horton in months.

After struggling to market the existing products and develop new ones, Schilling and his associates hit pay dirt in 1960 with Air Champ, the first air-engaged clutch and brake on the market. The Air Champ product line is still used today in a variety of industrial applications. This product line and other motion control, power transmission and web tension control components and products are now manufactured and marketed by Nexen Group, which is owned and operated by Hugh's son, Hugh Schilling Jr.

"We overcame inherited problems, and worked to develop progressive products for the industrial drive and brake business," says Schilling. "We increased the company's product line and customer base, which was key to our renaissance and success."

Horton continued its pioneering role with the development of a fan drive for the heavy-duty truck market in 1964, a product that the market did not fully embrace until 1972.

"The fan drive was a product before its time," says Schilling. "It was environmentally friendly, it reduced engine noise, and saved fuel and money. Those issues weren't really a concern to the market until environmentalism grew and fuel prices began to rise in the early 1970s. The fan drive turned out to be the right product at the right time."

Today, as a result of changing emissions regulations, engines run hotter than ever, and Horton keeps coming up with new airflow management solutions. Last year, HDT honored Horton's Arctis Two-Speed Fan Drives with a Top 20 Products award.

The Horton of today has an international presence and state-of-the-art technical centers for development and testing that include specialized test cells, a dynamometer with ram air provisions, a wind tunnel and a cooling system simulator.