The Company

One of hundreds of Michigan-based auto manufacturers in the "brass age," The Alter Motor Car Company was located in Detroit, with its factory in nearby Plymouth. Alter produced over 1000 cars from 1914 to 1916. The company went into receivership and closed its doors in January of 1917.

The Car

The Alter was designed by Clarence Alter of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The car was made from component parts shipped to Plymouth by rail for assembly. Two models were produced, a 5-passenger touring car and a roadster. Only one Alter is known to have survived.

The Factory

Built in 1914 for the assembly of the Alter car, the factory stands to this day on Farmer Street in Plymouth, Michigan. It war recently refurbished and is currently the home of the C.D. Sparling Company.

The Factory

In January of 1914 Alter approached officials in Plymouth, Michigan, west of Detroit, about raising $5,000 in local capital to locate the factory there. After sending a committee to Detroit to evaluate a prototype of the car, Plymouth's Village President, Louis Hillmmer, agreed to the deal. Many Plymouth residents invested, and construction of the factory buildings began on Farmer Street. Alter was promised free title to the land if the venture was a success.

The location was adjacent to railroad tracks, critical to Alter's strategy of assembling the car from purchased components. The initial factory was a one story, 200 by 40 foot building. A two story, 192 by 60 foot building was soon added. The smaller building was used for frame assembly. The cars were assembled, painted and upholstery was completed in the larger structure. There was a fire in the upholstery department in 1915, which prompted local officials to run a water pipe to the facility.

The Alter factory has changed hands many times in the years since the Alter Motor Car Company wend out of business. At one point the Plymouth Fire Department sought permission to torch the structure in order to practice firefighting. In 1999 it was purchased in bankruptcy court by the C.D. Sparling Company, a manufacturer of bathroom fixtures. Sparling's Torb Guenther had the building (the second, larger building - the small one no longer exists) completely refurbished, maintaining the building's historic integrity. by John Penrice is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0