Students of trucking history are well aware of Fruehauf trailers, as that Detroit-based company once dominated the industry. They know the story of its origin by August Fruehauf, as recalled last year by his granddaughter, Ruth:

“It has been 101 years since Frederick M. Sibley, a Michigan lumber tycoon, walked into August Fruehauf’s blacksmith shop in Detroit with a problem. Sibley had an 18-foot boat he needed to haul to his summer cottage. He’d put the boat on a wagon, and he wanted to use his Model T Ford instead of a horse team to pull it. Could that be done?

“Fruehauf talked it over with his partner, Otto Neumann, and they came up with a solution: Remove the back-seat portion of the T’s body and install a swivel-type hitch that would support the nose of the trailer. That, according to industrial history, was the world’s first semitrailer (and probably the first truck-tractor).”

By the early 1980s, Fruehauf was the biggest trailer builder, with plants around the country making many different type of vehicles. Within a few years it failed, the victim of  friction among top managers and a financial attack by an outside investor. Ruth Fruehauf tells that story and many others in her book, “Singing Wheels,” a history of the company. That’s also the title of a website she set up,

She’s further maintaining interest in the company with special events, starting with a photo display at a Detroit museum last year. Next month, she's organized a reunion, also in the Motor City. She just sent a notice about it:

“Please join us for a weekend series of events commemorating the Fruehauf Trailer Company. We have over 75 out of towners who have already registered to return to Detroit.

“A homecoming reunion has been planned marked by a private lunch and tour of the former headquarters on Harper Avenue in Detroit followed by a group dinner at Sindbads Seafood Restaurant on the Detroit River.  

“Saturday's events are open to anyone who is a Fruehauf Trailer history enthusiast.  Please see the attached information for more details. We are hoping to confirm some additional exciting events, like a tour of Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers along with special guest speakers, restored Fruehauf trailers and other excitement."

You can register online at

I told Ruth that I will try to be there. You might want to also. 

About the author
Tom Berg

Tom Berg

Former Senior Contributing Editor

Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978.

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