History of K.R. Wilson Tools

Flat broke $3000.00 in debt but not discouraged, on Sept. 15th 1916, in an old barn at 1016 Main Street, Buffalo, New York, K. R. Wilson opened an exclusive Ford (commercial car) repair shop.

With no modern equipment and only a few small tools, he had to bring the bigger jobs out to other shops. That was how he came to realize how crude even their tools & equipment were. In trying to ream bushings in transmission drums they used expansion reamers, which were held in a vise. The transmission drums were turned around the reamer with a big monkey wrench. This method resulted in cracking or breaking approximately half the drums they worked on. The cost of these broken parts significantly increased the service bill. Mr. Wilson could not in good conscience, put in new parts and charge the customer for them. (Don’t we wish that all repair shops had those ethics?)

Discovering this inadequate equipment prompted him to develop a jig that would hold the transmission drums as well as support & centrally locate the reamers in perfect alignment in the drum. This way the reaming operation could be accomplished with accurate & uniform results, thereby eliminating breaking so many of these parts.

Wilson had to save up money to have a pattern made and then a set of reamers. After successfully testing this fixture, he sent out 100 post cards to Ford agents in Western New York, asking them to bring in their work, allowing him to demonstrate the new machines. The response was instantaneous! More than 50 dealers brought in jobs within the next two weeks. These dealers had been experiencing the same problems when working with expansion reamers or trying to fit them by various other methods. They were very surprised at the ease of operation, as well as the accuracy & how quickly the job was done. Most of them wanted to buy a machine right away, some pleading for immediate delivery. Without the capital to go ahead and make them in quantities, Wilson had to stall the customers by saying that he had more orders lined up than he could fill in two months, which was true! Some eager clients even suggested paying him for their order in advance, hoping that would provide them preferred delivery. He accepted the orrs and the advance payment, and they received delivery of their reaming machines within thirty days as Wilson had promised.

The prudent entrepreneur allowed his customers to actually finance the first K. R. Wilson tool, from that time on the business was self-supporting. During the next three years of wartime conditions, it was almost impossible to get steel; therefore the production of the reamers was limited. And yet, the demand was still greater than what he could manufacture.

In 1919 jobbers began to buy these tools and business picked up so fast that he sold out his Ford Service Station and contracted to have these tools made in quantities. Wilson opened an office where he could handle correspondence and fill orders efficiently. By Jan 1, 1920, after expenses, he had accumulated a total capital of about $8200.00. On Jan 3, 1920, while at the New York Automobile show he negotiated a very favorable contract with the Fairbanks Company. For the next six months there were two machine shops and a foundry running both day and night making K. R. Wilson Tools to be shipped throughout that organization to all parts of the world.

Wilson laid the cornerstone for a factory of his own, on April 10th 1920 in his home town of Arcade New York. Here he included a foundry and machine shop so that he could manufacture K. R. Wilson Tools complete from the raw material to the finished product, thereby increasing his own profit margin.

By Aug 3rd 1920, the new plant was officially opened, but that was about the time that the business depression of 1920 set in. Orders were scarce and consequently business went flat until May, 1921.

Since he had plenty of personal contact with Ford dealers and repair shops he heard a great number of complaints about the high-priced yet unsatisfactory & crude equipment which they were forced to purchase from high pressure salesmen. Wilson was convinced that the lack of experience of repair work on the part of the designers and manufacturers was a key element responsible for the inadequacy of repair equipment.

Wilson had been working on cars ever since they first were built, so he had plenty of experience and self-confidence. He decided to get the facts, his mission was to find out exactly what the Ford dealer or repair shop needed in order to turn out satisfactory repair work. He made up his mind to start at the bottom, to try and learn more than any other man had ever learned about re-manufacturing Fords. To delve into the ‘mysteries’ which had gone unsolved and were costing the dealers real money in the way of come backs and dissatisfied customers. With that target in mind, he continued to shoot straight toward it from that moment on.

As a result of his research, he proceeded to produce the ‘K. R. Wilson Combination Machine’ which incorporated all the necessary equipment to duplicate the same process of fitting bearings as used by manufacturers of high grade cars like Pierce Arrow, Lincoln, Packard and hundreds of others. At the same time it was a machine so simple that any handy man could operate it, and at a price so low that every Ford agent and service station could afford to own one.

On May 2 1921, a large crowd of Ford Dealers traveled hundreds of miles to Scranton Pa. To observe as Wilson demonstrated his new K R W Combination Machine. Twenty-two machines were sold in the first 2 days. Another demonstration in New York City two day later sold nearly as many more. He got a flying start and orders came in so fast that he was absolutely swamped.

That’s when trouble was set in motion. Competitors, upset by the competition and the startling claims made by Wilson about his combination machine in advertising, started all kinds of stories and rumors that the machine was no good, that it was to light, that it would not do what it was claimed to do.

Some of the Ford engineers and service men who had sponsored the sale of burning-in-&-out machines for ‘certain’ friendly manufacturers took exception to some of the statements Wilson made. The process differed slightly from their own method, and therefore, these same engineers and service men could not very well come out and admit that the K R Wilson combination machine was as good as, or better, than the other machines and equipment which they had strong-armed their dealers into buying. These dealers had spent about 9 times as much for the same combination of equipment as was built into K.R. Wilson’s Combination machine.

Fortunately, very shortly afterwards the Ford motor company acquired the Lincoln automobile, in which the bearings are so carefully align reamed by a process identical to the K R Wilson process, they then adopted a neutral policy. By January 1st, 1923, the Ford motor company of Canada adopted the K R Wilson Combination machine in preference to any other equipment and had recommended it to their dealers ever since.

During May 1923, Wilson found it necessary to further increase his manufacturing facilities and built a fire-proof assembly plant & warehouse. In June, 1924, further expansion was required and he constructed two more buildings, one of which he used for a training school for Ford Mechanics. Two years later, in 1925, another two building were added to provide several thousand square feet of floor space.

Safely out of the woods with more than 2,700 Combination Machines in the hands of Ford dealers & service stations, including some of the largest dealerships in the country, was ample proof that K.R. Wilson’s Combination Machine was all that he said it would be. It gave Wilson great satisfaction to prove that all of the competitors’ propaganda had only been lies intended to discredit his machine.

His low priced saved Ford dealers thousands of dollars for equipment required in each and every service station. Wilson’s Combination Machine had not been equaled for accuracy, speed, and quality workmanship, during his lifetime.

As the Ford Motor Company began making improvements such as reinforced crankcase, transmission cover bolted to cylinder block, and a heavier crankshaft, indicates that K. R. Wilson was years ahead of his competition and completely correct in every claim & statement he had ever made for his K.R.W. machine.