Bendix, Vincent Hugo
EntrepreneurEnshrined 1991 1882-1945
Bendix made a point of knowing the people who worked for him, often stopping to ask how their families were. And when a family had a medical emergency or a financial problem he was known to reach in his pocket and give them $100 or even $1,000 to assist. He was a businessman at heart, but his business was also his home, and his family.
- 1930 invented the pressure carburetor for aircraft engines and during World War II every Allied aircraft engine used the carburetor.
- In the 1930s Bendix established the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race to encourage experimental developments by airplane designers and to improve the skills of aviators in cross-country flying. Jimmy Doolittle flying at an average speed of 223 mph from Los Angeles to Cleveland in nine hours and 10 minutes won the first race in 1931.
- He formed Bendix Helicopter, Inc. in 1944 to develop a four-passenger helicopter.
Vincent Bendix was a pioneer and leader in both the automotive and aviation industries during the 1920s and 1930s. His innate business aptitude and work ethic allowed him to forge a company that would become one of the world’s leading multi-industry manufacturers.
The Bendix starter device, first installed in the 1914 Chevrolet Baby Grand, soon became a standard in all cars produced in the United States. By 1919, production had soared to 1.5 million and nearly every vehicle produced in America was equipped with the Bendix drive.
His next major breakthrough was the development of a more efficient braking system for automobiles. To finance the new brake system, Bendix offered stock to the public for the first time in 1924, marking the official beginning of The Bendix Corporation. Production climbed from 650,000 brakes in 1926 to 3.6 million in 1928. The success of The Bendix Corporation in the booming auto industry seemed assured.
With his automotive operations in robust health, Bendix turned his attention to the field of aviation. Even though he was personally uneasy about flying–he probably never flew more than a half dozen times–Bendix recognized the tremendous potential of the aviation industry. In 1929, he changed the name of his company to the Bendix Aviation Corporation, even though only eight percent of the company’s sales were in aviation products. Bendix embarked upon a whirlwind acquisition program intended to increase the company’s participation in the aviation industry. The acquisitions quickly increased sales and profits and by the end of the year of the first full year of operation, net profits for the new company totaled $1.2 million. An investment of $26 in Bendix stock in 1924 was worth $420 by 1929, an increase of 1600 percent. Although the Depression years were rough ones for the company, the 1930s still stand out as a decade of research and development at Bendix marked by sparkling inventions and improvements in the company’s aviation and automotive products.
One of the most important Bendix inventions in the 1930s was the pressure carburetor for aircraft engines. By 1938 this device evolved to the stage of successful performance. In the war years that followed the engines of virtually every Allied aircraft would use the Bendix carburetor. The 1930s were also a time of daring and glamour in aviation. Bendix’s interest in aviation led him to establish the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race to encourage experimental developments by airplane designers and to improve the skills of aviators in cross-country flying techniques. The first race, in 1931, was won by Major James Doolittle with his average speed of 223 miles per hour. Doolittle flew from Los Angeles to Cleveland in nine hours and ten minutes. By contrast, the winners of the last Bendix race, Captains Robert Sowers, Robert MacDonald, and John Walton, flew their B-58 at an average speed of 1,215 miles per hour in 1962. They completed the trip between Los Angeles and New York in two hours. Fittingly, the original Bendix Trophy now resides at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
In 1939, production orders for military material were coming in from the British and the French and sales had reached a record level. Over the next two years, there was a huge expansion of Bendix facilities to meet the needs of the U.S. war preparedness program. In the spring of 1942, Vincent Bendix resigned as chairman of the board of Bendix Aviation Corporation. He formed Bendix Helicopter, Inc., to develop a four-passenger helicopter sedan, and announced that it would be ready for mass production after the war. The company reportedly made Bendix more than $1 million before his death on March 27th, 1945.