The Fawick Flyer

While visiting Sioux Falls a few weeks ago, I learned about one of that city’s native sons, a mechanical genius by the name of Thomas Fawick.

Fawick was born in 1889 and grew up in Sioux Falls. Bored with books, he quit school when he was 14 years old. By the time he was 18, he had designed and built his own automobile, a 2-cylinder called the “Silent Sioux.” He founded the Silent Sioux Auto Manufacturing Company in 1909, and that business became the Fawick Motor Car Company in 1910. A new automobile called the Fawick Flyer was produced, and Fawick would often boast that it was the first four-door American car.

The Fawick Flyer had a 124-inch wheelbase and was powered by a 40-hp 4-cylinder Waukesha engine.  It had both electric and gas headlights, and the body was made of aluminum sheeting instead of steel. Only a handful of these cars were produced, no two exactly alike, but they do have another historical claim to fame:

This photo depicts former President Theodore Roosevelt enjoying a ride in a Fawick Flyer while visiting Sioux Falls during his “western tour” in 1910. Sitting next to Teddy in the back seat is fellow Rough Rider Seth Bullock of Deadwood, South Dakota, fame.

Fawick went on to big things.  He held hundreds of patents and developed rubber mounts for engines, an idea purchased by Chrysler in the 1920s. His Cleveland-based Fawick Corporation manufactured clutches, brakes, and hydraulic equipment, and he sold that business in 1967 for $42 million.

There is a surviving example of the Fawick Flyer on display at the Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls. It is a beautiful building, so make time to stop and see them if you are in the area!