1950 - Laurance Rockefeller becomes stockholder
1951 - Air Force awards Bomarc contract
1952 - Van Nuys facility purchased from General Tire
1953 - The Rigel Missile tests Marquardt ramjets
1954 - Bomarc ramjets establish supersonic records
1955 - 100% stock dividend declared
1956 - Prime contractor for Air Force Nuclear Propulsion Program
1957 - Bomarc production begins in Ogden, Utah plant
1958 - New companies acquired and ASTRO formed
1959 - Renamed "The Marquardt Corporation"
The fifties started off with the proverbial bang. General Tire and Rubber Company and Roy Marquardt didn’t agree on Company policy so by mutual agreement a buyer would be found to purchase General’s stock. General Tire and Rubber, having made only 25% profit on its Marquardt holdings in one year, would retain title to the plant in Van Nuys as landlord until 1952, when Marquardt would exercise an option and buy them out for $500,000. The buyer of General Tire’s stock holdings proved to be a Godsend for the Marquardt Company in the name of Laurance S. Rockefeller, a longtime enthusiastic financier of aviation ventures. Rockefeller and associates gave Marquardt an instant $250,000 cash transfusion, and a line of credit was arranged in June 1950 with Chase National Bank for $300,000 more, increased in 1951 to $750,000. Sales for 1950 amounted to $2,482,000, most of which were Government contracts. This influx of money, together with the increasing volume of military contracts, took the Marquardt Aircraft Company from a small venture to one of the big players in American aviation.
In its new quarters at Van Nuys, Marquardt continued expansion of its facilities and personnel to meet the requirements of burgeoning research and development of supersonic ramjet engines as well as missile and aircraft controls and accessories. Cell 1 was built along with the 250# air system to facilitate ramjet testing on site. During this period, production of the 600 KDM-1 target drone engines was completed, the first ever production run of ramjet engines, and the Rigel program was concluded with a series of successful flight tests. The Grumman Rigel was a Navy cruise missile designed to fly 400 to 500 nautical miles at Mach 2. Plans called for a Marquardt ramjet to power the Rigel, whose all-up weight was 19,000 pounds with booster. However, because there were no facilities large enough to test the 48-inch ramjet, the testers used a 28-inch version, a six-tenths scale test model which first flew in March 1950. The Rigel was planned to become operational in 1955, followed by the “ultimate cruise missile”, the Triton in 1960. Rigel, however, encountered problems during flight testing and was canceled in August 1953 but not before setting new records for speed and altitude for ramjet powered vehicles. An early Rigel flight, powered by the Marquardt supersonic ramjet, reached an altitude of 48,000 feet at a speed of Mach 2. The final Rigel flight flew for 31 miles at an altitude of 42,000 feet while reaching a speed of Mach 2.5.
The Air Force contracted with Lockheed Aircraft to construct a recoverable, radio-controlled test missile called the X-7, which was built at Lockheed’s Van Nuys Division, directly across the Van Nuys airport from Marquardt. The X-7’s first flight was April 26,1951, about the same time Marquardt was developing a 20-inch supersonic ramjet engine for the Bomarc anti-aircraft missile. It made sense to Boeing, Lockheed, Marquardt, and the Air Force to flight test Marquardt’s new supersonic ramjet – the one designed to be flown on the Bomarc – on the X-7, and flight testing began at the Air Force Missile Development Center at Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, New Mexico, soon after the first engines moved out of the Marquardt shop. In all instances, the supersonic ramjet performed as anticipated and, in some cases, exceeded performance expectations. The engine’s capability was proven when the X-7 established new records for distance, speed and endurance including one test where the ramjet burned for 193 seconds, at Mach 2.74, at an altitude of 46,280 feet. A new Mach record for the missile was set at 3.95, at 55,000 feet altitude, eventually reaching a record 95,000 feet at Mach 2.54. The X-7 still holds the ultimate speed record for air-breathing aircraft at over 2,000 mph.
The X-7 test rocket with Marquardt 20" ramjet
Authorized by the Air Force in 1949, the Bomarc program was the result of coordinated research between Boeing (BO) and the University of Michigan Aeronautical Research Center (MARC) on long range interceptor missiles. In 1951, a Marquardt subsonic ramjet powered the KDM-1 Plover missile on a 125 mile flight to set the world’s longest ramjet powered flight record. That same year, in April 1951, the Air Force contracted with Marquardt to develop the Bomarc’s supersonic engine. Things began to happen rapidly at the Van Nuys plant. The influx of money made possible by Laurance Rockefeller’s buy-out of General Tire and Rubber Company’s stock holdings in the company started a major building boom at the facility. The clean air heater, using two J-33 engines to preheat the air going into the cell, was added to the test facility. The Van Nuys facility was also the site of evaluation and laboratory testing of an afterburner for a Westinghouse turbojet engine in 1951. As early as 1946 the Company had developed an afterburner for the Douglas Aircraft Company, which is basically a ramjet engine using the exhaust gases of the turbojet, adding additional fuel in the tailpipe, which burns and creates expansion and thrust, thereby increasing power for take-offs and ultimate speed.
The Company’s financial report at the end of 1951 showed sales of $3.9 million, of which 73% were Government “Cost Plus” contracts, an increase of 55% over 1950 sales. Sales backlog at the end of the year amounted to $6.9 million. The annual rent on the leased facility was $53,000. The Company adopted an employee’s retirement plan, effective on November 1, 1951 for the benefit of all members with two years or more of service. The Board of Directors consisted of:
Roy Marquardt President
George P. Tidmarsh Vice President
W. H. Schwebel Secretary & Treasurer
Don D. Walter Manager – Manufacturing & Engineering
Harper Woodward Aviation Advisor to Laurance S. Rockefeller
B. Allison Gillies Aviation Consultant
Sidney F. Brody Vice President, Summers Gyroscope Co.
Under the impetus of the financial boost given the company by Laurance Rockefeller, Marquardt’s development shot forward at a terrific pace. In 1952, Marquardt borrowed $765,000 from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to purchase, for $500,000, the Van Nuys property previously leased from General Tire & Rubber Company, and assumed the rank of third largest employer in the west San Fernando Valley. In that same year, the Company made its first public offering of common stock, 20,000 shares at $13.50. The preferred shares were retired and $200,000 worth of 3% convertible notes were turned into 25,000 shares of common stock. Employment leaped from a little over 500 to the 1,007 mark by the end of 1952.
Employee benefits included:
1. A group insurance plan paid by the Company
2. Six paid holidays
3. An insured pension plan
4. A sick leave plan with hourly employees paid for unused sick time
5. Two weeks paid vacation after one year of service
6. Stock purchase options
In November 1952 the Company’s employees voted down a chance to unionize. 22 employees received their 5 year pins, bringing the total to 52. Cell 2, a free jet test cell, was added to the test facility along with the first stage of the exhauster system. Backlog orders and contracts amounted to $6.7 million at the end of 1952.
In 1953, the Marquardt Aircraft Company reported sales of nearly $9 million worth of ramjet engines, afterburners, variable exit nozzles and controls for turbojet engines and air power turbines for missiles and aircraft. From this healthy variety of related activities, the company realized substantial earnings, which were plowed back into the business in the interest of continuing expansion.
With the Bomarc development going smoothly, due mostly to the testing with the X-7 missile, the Company turned to diversification to achieve a broader product mix. The objective was to balance off the single large ramjet program, using production know-how gained in ramjet technology development, with related products. A small line of auxiliary power units for turbojet aircraft was added and some marketing for control systems for turbojet engines. Research and development efforts focused on an afterburner that incorporated a reverse thrust nozzle, which increased range, safety and operating efficiency of turbojet powered aircraft.
In March of 1953 a new Accessories Engineering Division was created to give a more independent status to airborne accessories for piloted aircraft and guided missiles. In July, Marquardt opened its doors to the public for the very first time with an Open House. It was Van Nuy’s first look behind the big fence and surely the first introduction to a ramjet for most of the non-employees. Direct connect test cells 5 & 7 were added to the growing arsenal in the test facility. The plant area increased approximately 30,000 square feet during 1953, bringing the total area in use to 149,000 square feet. The principal addition was Bldg. 21 at 22,000 square feet constructed to house the engineering and research staffs.
Employment held steady in 1953 and at year’s end there were 1,029 employees, an increase over 1952 of only 22 people. A general wage and salary increase was made effective in December in line with the trend established by the aircraft industry in the Los Angeles area. The replacement value of the test facility was estimated at $4.5 million.
Marquardt continued to register steady gains into 1954 and at the year’s first board of directors meeting, William H. Schwebel was named vice president – finance, and Don L. Walter was elected vice president – engineering. Roy Marquardt remained Chairman of the Board and driving force for the company as it expanded in its new facility.
More Air Force and Navy sponsored test cells were added to the Marquardt Jet Laboratory bringing the total number of cells up to seven. The cells, sponsored by the Air Force, provided for more controlled and versatile use of air used in testing ramjets and related components. The Navy’s facility, recently turned over to the Air Force, was built to test afterburners and gas turbines and featured complete instrumentation and thorough silencing of exhaust gases and intake air.
In the latter part of October 1954, Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation bought 25% of Rockefeller’s holdings and with them an interest in Marquardt Aircraft. Olin Mathieson was active in the development and production of high-energy fuels and also retained substantial interests in Reaction Motors, Inc., a company engaged in the production of rocket engines for guided missiles. The Navy awarded Marquardt a contract during this period for modification work on the Ford Motor built Loon missile, which was a copy of the German V-1. This work was done at a Marquardt shop established near the Pt. Mugu Naval Facility in Oxnard, California.
By year’s end, the company’s engineering, manufacturing and office operations were occupying 151,000 square feet of space; and net earnings, after taxes, were up 65 percent over those of 1953. Some 73 percent of the company’s business came from ramjet development. Sales for the year were $9.9 million, up 12% from 1953, with a backlog of orders and contracts amounting to $9.7 million. Employment held steady at 1,035, an increase of only six people over 1953.
The new Research Division, created the year before, moved into larger quarters anticipating an increase of its scope of activities. A new metallurgical laboratory was established to support Marquardt’s increasing interest in ceramics and cermet research, as well as its development program in search of materials capable of withstanding the high temperatures of sustained supersonic flight. On its tenth anniversary, the Marquardt Aircraft Company was healthy and ready to spring into the big time.
In spite of this trend toward diversification, Marquart’s principal concern remained the development of ramjet engines. Research and development work went forward on supersonic ramjets of higher performance and larger size, ramjets of increased ranges of operation and rotor-mounted ramjet powerplants for helicopters. The company paid a 10% stock dividend in 1954 and split the stock 2-for-1 for shareholders of record as of February 25, 1955.
Employment rose in 1955 to the 1,235 mark and the year went into the financial records as the best in the company’s history – sales exceeded $11 million, up 10 percent over 1954, with a backlog of firm contracts at $27.5 million by years end. The year 1955 heralded the beginning of a new five-year cycle in which the Company was to establish a reputation as an aerospace manufacturer. Its position as a research and development organization in advanced airbreathing propulsion was by now well recognized. The seeds of diversification would also bear fruit during this period. By 1955 Marquardt was satisfied with ramjet development, and sales were booming. But even in 1954, 90% of the sales were in development programs, not production, and at the outset, there was no guarantee that the company would be permitted to produce the engine it had spent 10 years grooming. In fact, the Air Force was under considerable pressure to give ramjet production contracts to bigger, more experienced companies. Thanks to Marquardt’s performance in the initial production phase, though, the Air Force stuck with the company.
Development of the Bomarc ramjets had proceeded to such a point that production of the engines had to begin in earnest. The Van Nuys plant was already crowded with engineering, research, administration, test, etc. so new quarters had to be found for the manufacturing of the nearly 1,500 of the RJ-43-MA ramjets. The Air Force’s dispersal policy in effect in 1955 said that the Bomarc engine production facility must be located outside the Southern California area. After an exhaustive search of available land, Marquardt selected Ogden, Utah, as the site for its new plant. A 67-acre parcel was leased adjoining the Ogden Municipal Airport and plans for an ultra modern production facility were drawn up and approved. The new structure and its supporting buildings would eventually provide Marquardt with nearly a quarter of a million square feet of additional floor space.
Marquardt’s growth over the previous ten years had been nothing but remarkable; in 1956 it became spectacular. Sales for that year amounted to a phenomenal 104% increase over those in 1955. During the year, employee number 2,000 was hired and by year’s end there were 2,445 employees (2217 at Van Nuys & 228 at Ogden) – an increase of 98% over 1955. There were 313 employees with more than five years of continuous service at Marquardt. The engineering staff alone increased from 510 to 900, a truly significant achievement in view of the highly competitive conditions existing in the aircraft industry at that time. It became an important part of every young engineer’s resume to list experience at the Marquardt Aircraft Company, due to the cutting edge technology and freedom to experiment that guided the engineering department. Roy’s belief was that the company should maintain a ratio of at least 30% of engineers versus the rest of the production and administration facility. It was this collection of old and young, experienced and new engineers that brought forth the ideas for products that added variety to the Marquardt ramjet line, and in reality kept the company alive when the Bomarc contract faded.
Construction and expansion at the Van Nuys facility continued at a rapid pace. The back half of Bldg. 21 (Engineering & Research) was completed, along with Bldg. 26, the west addition to Bldg. 3, Bldg. 23 & stores, as well as numerous projects funded by the Air Force in the Test area. The big news was, however, that on July 11, 1956, Roy Marquardt and various dignitaries from the Air Force, local government, and the Marquardt Company gathered in Ogden to break ground for the new facility, the first of its kind to be specifically designed for ramjet manufacture. It promised to benefit, not only the Marquardt Company, but also the Ogden community with thousands of new jobs, a welcome thought in the small Utah city with very little commerce outside of servicing Hill Air Force Base.
breaking at the Ogden plant
Ground breaking at the Ogden plant
At about this same time, the company received a facilities contract from the government providing certain manufacturing equipment and the design and construction of a ramjet acceptance test facility to be situated on 2,150 acres of land at Little Mountain, about 15 miles west of Ogden on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. This Air Force-Marquardt Jet Laboratory, representing an Air Force investment of $14 million, was dedicated in October of 1956. Sales in 1956 more than doubled from 1955 to $23 million. The line of credit with Chase Manhattan Bank was increased to $1.2 million. The company issued, through a rights offering, 42,442 additional shares of stock at $36 each and $2 million worth of 5 ¼%, 10 year mortgage bonds. The holdings were broken down this way: Olin Mathieson, 25.8%, Rockefeller, 19.7%, and company officers and directors, 11.8%.
Sometime in 1956 the company became actively engaged in the study of nucleonics. It was in that year that Marquardt Aircraft was designated as prime contractor in the Air Force Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion program, although any specific references to this assignment were shrouded in secrecy. Work in this program was later concentrated in ASTRO (Air-Space Technology Research Office) where efforts were conducted to develop a nuclear ramjet engine. The program was eventually called Project Pluto. In the meantime, research on the application of new chemical fuels for supersonic propulsion continued under the aegis of the OMAR program, which had been established jointly by Marquardt, the Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation and Reaction Motors, Inc. Reaction Motors would make the rocket engines for the initial boost, Marquardt the ramjets for long-range cruising, and Olin Mathieson the high energy fuels.
The company’s growth continued apace during 1957 in spite of the fact that several adjustments had to be made because of fiscal problems encountered by the government. The world of aerospace was kicked into hyperdrive when the Russians successfully placed a satellite into orbit for everyone to see. Sputnik wasn’t very large by today’s standards but its impact on the US space program was huge. A race to the moon became the face saving program at any cost and Marquardt was right in the middle of it.
On June 3, 1957 Marquardt’s new Bomarc ramjet engine production plant was dedicated in Ogden, Utah. With the addition of another $12 million contract from the Air Force, the Ogden plant now had over $30 million in ramjet engine contracts for the new facility. The first of these production engines was completed and delivered to Boeing a month ahead of schedule which allowed the Boeing assembly line in Seattle to complete its first Bomarc missile for delivery to the Air Force on December 30, 1957. This delivery of the Bomarc IM-99 to the Air Force marked the inauguration of a production program conceived to supply these missiles and associated weapon system equipment to bases around the country.
Roll out of first production Bomarc at the Boeing Plant in Seattle, Washington, 1957
The company continued to expand its plant and test facilities in Van Nuys during 1956 and 1957, adding nearly 150,000 square feet of floor space, including leased property. During 1957 the Company leased 38 acres of land in a nearby area known as Bouquet Canyon. At this site the Company has commenced the construction of a Research Test Laboratory where the conditions and problems of hypersonic speeds will be explored. It became known as the Saugus Facility. With the opening of the Ogden plant the number of Marquardt employees jumped to 3,611, with 1,200 in engineering, and Roy Marquardt’s plan was to keep that ratio of one third engineers to maintain Marquardt’s place on the cutting edge of technology. Some of the spin-offs that were a result of work on the ramjet development were:
- Inlet controls for jet and nuclear engines produced by other companies.
-A ram-air turbine, with a generator activated by air rushing through the turbine to operate a plane’s hydraulic and electric power in an emergency. This is standard equipment on Lockheed's F-104 and Chance Vought’s F8U supersonic fighters.
-Afterburners for jet engines
-Reverse thrust devices for Douglas Aircraft’s A3D Skywarrior to act as a brake when landing.
Any one of these might have been a bigger factor in Marquardt sales if the company hadn’t been too busy with ramjets to exploit them fully. As it was sales rose to a record $39.8 million and stockholders were given another 2-for-1 stock split in June of 1957.
The spring formal dance was held at the Ambassador Hotel, where Robert Kennedy would later be shot by Sirhan Sirhan, and the summer picnic was attended by 6,000 people, both employees and guests, at Kennedy's Sunland Park. The large round swimming pool, iced kegs of refreshment, more food than even 6,000 could eat (all provided by the Marquardt Company), and the amusement park with lots of kiddy rides just outside the gate, made it a sure bet that everyone had a great time. With the Halloween party at the world famous Palladium Ballroom in Hollywood still fresh in their minds, and the mellow sounds of Jerry Gray’s orchestra still ringing in their ears, the Marquardt employees geared up for the Christmas bash. The Palladium was again rented and Sammy Weiss’s orchestra tuned up and ready for the December 27th get together. Meals went for $2.75-$4.50 and drinks were 75 cents each. Wages for unskilled workers were less than $2 an hour, engineers made perhaps double that. The Marquardt Aircraft Company sponsored a daily “Engineering Report” over ABC radio station KABC, Los Angeles, from 7:25am to 7:30am, Monday through Friday.
While all this was going on in Van Nuys, the same was happening in Ogden except that the picnic was held at Lagoon, a well known Utah amusement park north of Ogden. The Company’s backlog of orders at the end of 1957 amounted to almost $47 million, with additional Government Facilities Contracts of $16 million. 95% of sales were Government “Cost Plus a Fixed Fee” contracts which carried no probability of failure for the Company. Uncle Sugar was dishing it out and Marquardt was eating it up.
1958 continued the expansion and growth of the company. In January, the Long Range Planning and Research Division was redesignated ASTRO, a contrived name for Air-Space Travel Research Organization which Roy Marquardt described as “more adequately reflects the company’s interests and objectives in its long-range research programs.” ASTRO took over the front building facing Saticoy Street and included the administrative offices. Roy was looking into the future and could see space travel using the Marquardt Company’s products.
The Power Systems Group, with Vice President Don L. Walter as its head, was created the first week of 1958. The new group was just part of an overall organizational realignment designed to obtain optimum benefits from the company’s diversified operations which, would in time, include ASTRO, the Ogden Division, the Pomona Division, and Cooper Development. The Power Systems Group was located in Van Nuys and comprised of three separate divisions – Propulsion, Controls & Accessories, and Test – all of which were supported by several centralized service and control departments.
Development flights on Bomarc missiles were stepped up in 1958. One of the highlights of the year was the launching of two Bomarc missiles within seconds of each other on a push-button signal given 1,500 miles away, resulting in the intercept of two bombers used as targets. The reliability of Marquardt’s ramjet propulsion system in the Bomarc was proved in many flights in which the engines showed a reliability greater than 98 percent, with 95 percent confidence. There was not one aborted Bomarc flight due to ramjet failure during 1958 at Cape Canaveral.
A major ramjet milestone was witnessed in 1958 with successful completion of a qualification test program of the Bomarc ramjet engine for high rate production. Advanced research and development programs related to the Bomarc engine assumed major importance. The Air Force, pleased with ramjet progress, contracted for an advanced engine for the Super Bomarc. This meant a whole new development and production cycle and an expansion of the Ogden plant to double its original size. The production facility at Ogden was cited by Factory Management and Maintenance magazine as one of the top 10 plants in the country in 1958 before the production building was doubled in size.
An advanced Bomarc ramjet engine eventually powered the X-7 test vehicle to Mach 4, far beyond its design specifications and a new record for airbreathing engines. A larger ramjet showed its mettle in spectacular fashion, driving the winged missile to a speed of Mach 4.31 – nearly 3,000 miles per hour. Continuous ground test runs demonstrated the engine’s long endurance capabilities by running the equivalent of a flight three times around the world at high supersonic speeds.
X-7 perfect one-point landing
The X-7 perfect one-point landing
On September 29, 1958, the Marquardt Aircraft Company acquired the business and certain assets of Associated Missile Products Company, a division of American Machine & Foundry Company. Redesignated the Pomona Division, it was some 50 miles east of the corporate offices and occupied approximately 65,000 square feet of a leased plant situated on 30 acres of land.
Less than two months later, Marquardt acquired the Cooper Development Corporation of Monrovia, California, as a subsidiary when all of Cooper’s outstanding capital stock was acquired in exchange for 60,000 shares of Marquardt’s capital stock. As in the case of the Pomona Division, Cooper’s facilities were leased and incorporated some 37,000 square feet of floor space. The Cooper Development Corporation was engaged in research and manufacturing of specialized equipment for air and space projects, including research rockets and metal parts for solid propellant rockets. Its rocket systems and instrumented payload have been prominently featured in many International Geophysical year projects as well as several high altitude and meteorological research programs. Clifford D. Cooper, one of the founders and president of CDC, was retained in that capacity and was elected a vice president of Marquardt.
With its diversified activities, Marquardt decided that the word “aircraft” was no longer appropriate as a part of the Company name. At the annual stockholders meeting in May, management proposed a change to “The Marquardt Corporation” which more accurately described the Company’s activities. The stockholders approved the change and Roy Marquardt’s little aircraft company ceased to exist. Marquardt was now in the corporate big leagues. A year later the Company’s common stock was admitted to trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Sales at the end of 1959 were nearly $70 million – an increase of 40 percent of the previous year and an all-time high for the Company. In that year a 100% stock dividend was declared. This was the third such stock split, with the previous full price dividends having been paid in 1955 and 1957. Keep in mind that a new Chevrolet or Ford sedan could be bought for less than $3,000 in 1959, and gasoline was around 20 cents a gallon, with new houses selling for under $15,000. Sales of $70 million was a huge amount and would grow even more as the Company entered the 1960’s and the space race.
On August 5, 1959 the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce sponsored a luncheon to honor Roy as a “Salute to Marquardt”. More than 350 community and business leaders gathered to listen to Roy review the history and vision of the company, which had become one of the largest employer’s in the San Fernando Valley. It was at this luncheon that Roy disclosed the creation of a new Nuclear Systems Division to be established at Van Nuys. It was subsequently announced that the new division, whose function was aimed at the development and manufacture of nuclear propulsion systems and other nuclear products, would become a line organization within the Power Systems Group, Alan R. Gruber was named director of the new division.
A list of corporate officers at the end of 1959 included:
Roy Marquardt Chairman of the Board of Directors
Robert L. Earle Executive Vice President – Administration
John W. Walbert Secretary of the Board of Directors
William H. Schwebel Vice President – Legal and Finance
J. Louis Reynolds Vice President – Assistant to the President
Don L. Walter Vice President – Power Systems Group
Donald K. Tasker Vice President, General Manager – Ogden Division
Dr. Wendell B. Sell Vice President, General Manager – Pomona Division
Clifford D. Cooper Vice President, General Manager –Cooper Development