Some of the automobile industry’s most important historical documents have been donated to Kettering University by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).
The university, in Flint, Michigan, is the former General Motors Institute (GMI).

The university’s Scharchburg Archives have been named the repository for the SAE Archives and Patent Collection – the only comprehensive collection of exclusively automotive patents in existence.

The patent collection was formerly owned by the American Automobile Manufacturers Association (AAMA) library in Detroit and includes automotive patents from 1790 to 1999 as well as a comprehensive index.

The acquisition also includes the SAE archives, which is comprised primarily of the personal papers of Andrew A. Kucher, a distinguished engineer and past president of the SAE.

The collection is valued at $US5 million.

“We have been entrusted to collect and preserve materials that have created and shaped the automobile industry,” said Kettering president James E.A. John.

Daniel M. Hancock, chairman of the SAE Foundation, said Kettering was selected as the repository because it is internationally recognised for its preparation of engineers.

“By establishing a home at Kettering University, SAE is also providing an opportunity for its members and others to add significant contributions that will further enrich the SAE Archives,” Hancock said.

The collection contains an estimated 1,500 boxes including the expansive 396,000 patents formerly owned by AAMA.

Patents awarded to inventors like Charles Kettering (who founded R&D at General Motors and for whom the University is named) are on file – items including Kettering’s 1909 mechanical clutch and 1924 spark plug.

Past GM chief Elliott “Pete” Estes has patents for a 1957 brake control and a 1960 wheel cover.

“Patents represent an evolution of a product – the beginning of a product to the present,” said William Holleran, curator of Scharchburg Archives. “It’s all here – transmission development, heaters in automobiles, suspensions, steering, brakes, engine lubrication. The history of the automobile has virtually been delivered to Kettering University.”