TOLEDO, Ohio—Clarence Spicer, whose development of a universal joint helped revolutionize the automotive industry, became interested in things mechanical while growing up on a dairy farm. Fascinated by the farm's machinery, he decided to pursue an engineering degree. In 1902 while at Cornell University's Sibley College, Mr. Spicer was assigned to design a self-propelled automobile—a task he relished, according to Toledo-based Dana Corp.
With the introduction of the internal combustion engine, power transmission was a complex engineering problem. In most designs, a propeller shaft was fixed in place with crude joints that were easily shattered. Mr. Spicer decided to attach the shaft to the engine and the rear axle with a specially designed universal joint, which was considered an engineering breakthrough.
After receiving a patent, his invention caught the attention of several automobile makers. In 1904, he began his manufacturing operation and, a year later, formed Spicer Universal Joint Manufacturing Co.
The business grew rapidly, and by 1914—faced with the dilemma of a product that was so popular he could barely keep up with demand—Mr. Spicer sought financial assistance from lawyer Charles Dana, who was considered a shrewd bussinessman.
Together, they built a multi-billion-dollar corporation, acquiring a number of other automotive parts suppliers along the way.
Mr. Spicer, the company's chief engineer and inventor of various other machines and products, died in 1939 in Miami. In 1946 his company was renamed Dana Corp.
According to the company, Spicer products, manufactured in 20 countries, include axles, transaxles, wheel end assemblies, driveshafts, universal joints, torque converters, modules and electronic controls that are used in automotive, heavy truck and off-highway applications.