The Four Wheel Drive Auto Company, more often known as Four Wheel Drive or just FWD, was founded in 1909 in Clintonville, Wisconsin as the Badger Four-Wheel Drive Auto Company by Otto Zachow and William Besserdich.
Zachow and Besserdich developed and built the first successful four-wheel drive (4x4) car, the "Battleship", in 1908. Its success led to the founding of the company. "Badger" was dropped from the name in 1910, and the name was changed to FWD Corporation in 1958.
The success of the four-wheel drive in early military tests prompted the company to switch from cars to trucks. In two world wars, U.S. and Allied armies depended on such four-wheel drive vehicles.
FWD vehicles were made with a track width of 4ft 8½in so they could quickly be used on a standard gauge railway line merely by changing the wheels.
A British subsidiary was set up at Slough in 1921. In 1926, the British FWD, also known as the Quad, was produced with a larger 70bhp engine.
In 1932, AEC took a controlling interest in the British company and began to use more standard AEC components in the Slough-built vehicles. To distinguish these from imported U.S. FWD vehicles, they were marketed under the name Hardy. Production ceased about 1936, but AEC exploited its experience with all-wheel drive in its Second World War Matador (4x4) and Marshall (6x6) vehicles.
In 1963, FWD acquired Seagrave Fire Apparatus who then moved from their old location in Columbus, Ohio to their current location at FWD in Clintonville, Wisconsin. Many tower ladders in the 1990's using Seagrave chassis were branded as FWD. They used Baker Aerialscopes for the boom which FWD had also acquired over the years along with Almonte Fire Trucks.
Randolph Lenz, Chair of FWD's parent company, Corsta Corp., became embroiled in a FDIC suit and in 2003 all assets of FWD: FWD Corporation, Seagrave, Baker Aerialscope and Almonte Fire Trucks were sold to an investment group headed by former American LaFrance executive James Hebe. Today, the Seagrave group is a flagship company of ELB Capital Management.