Buckle up, as you’re in for a rather peculiar trip down GM memory lane. As head of General Motors, William C. Durant was determined to match and surpass Henry Ford in the transportation business. This mentality also applied to the Ford Motor Company’s highly-successful Fordson tractor, which Ford launched in 1918.
That prompted Durant to create a new vision for The General: his firm would create a tractor of his own, in addition to everything else a farm family could need in terms of transportation, including tractors, trucks, and passenger cars. Durant started realizing his vision by buying the Samson Tractor Works of Stockton, California, which advertised itself as the most popular tractor on the West Coast.
Shortly after, GM shut down Samson’s operations in Stockton and folded the acquired organization into General Motors proper. The new operation would be renamed to the Samson Tractor Company Division of General Motors in Janesville.
Samson then introduced the Model M to directly compete with FoMoCo’s Fordson. It then introduced the Samson Model D Iron Horse just a year later. In addition to building tractors, Samson also produced ¾ ton and a 1¼ ton trucks from 1920 to 1923. These were powered by a Chevrolet 26 horsepower engine adopted from the Chevrolet Series 490 passenger car. It was around that time that Samson began developing a passenger car.
The Samson car was marketed as “the first and only farm-designed car”, meaning it would meet farmers’ requirements better than the competition. From a business standpoint, the Samson Car was another attempt by William C. Durant to emulate the success of Henry Ford in farm mechanization.
It was revealed in 1919 and was labeled as the “Whole Family Car”, delivering seating for up to nine passengers. The rear seat and jumpseat of the Samson Car could be removed to allow for quick conversion for pickup truck use. The vehicle sat on a 118-inch wheelbase, rode on a steel ladder frame, and was powered by the Chevrolet FB four-cylinder engine rated at 37 horsepower.
General Motors announced the new automobile in 1919 and planned to build 2,250 units in its first year and 5,000 for 1920. But only one prototype was ever built, and no serial production units came thereafter.
Despite never coming to market, the Samson remains a significant piece of General Motors history as the only GM automobile that was publicly announced and advertised but never produced.