By Jodee Scott
Between 1902 and 1988, Kenosha produced millions of automobiles and trucks under marques such as Jeffery, Rambler, Nash, Hudson, LaFayette, and American Motors Corporation (AMC). A prototype steam car was built in Kenosha by the Sullivan-Becker engineering firm in 1900. Two years later the Thomas B. Jeffery Company, builders of the Sterling bicycle, began production of the Rambler runabout. In 1902 Rambler and Oldsmobile were the first cars to employ mass-production techniques. The 1902 Rambler was also the first automobile to incorporate a steering wheel, rather than use the then-common tiller-controlled steering. In 1916 Jeffery was purchased by auto executive Charles W. Nash and became Nash Motors. In May 1954, Nash acquired Detroit-based Hudson and the new firm was named American Motors Corporation. A 47-acre (190,000 m2) west side park and an elementary school are named for Charles W. Nash.
In partnership with French automaker Renault, AMC manufactured several models in Kenosha in the early 1980s, including the Alliance, which won the 1983 “Car of The Year” award from Motor Trend magazine. Two decades earlier, AMC's 1963 Rambler Classic had also received the award. In 1987 Renault sold its controlling interest in AMC to Chrysler Corporation, which had already contracted with AMC for the production of its M-body mid-sized cars at the Kenosha plant. The AMC Lakefront plant (1960–88), a smaller facility, was demolished in 1990 (a chimney-demolition ceremony that June drew 10,000 spectators) and was redeveloped into upscale HarborPark, with its rambling lakeside condominiums, large recreational marina, water park and promenades, artworks, sculptures, fountains (including the 2007 Christopher Columbus fountain), the Kenosha Public Museum, which opened in 2000, and the Civil War Museum, which opened in 2008, all connected by the Kenosha Electric Railway streetcar system.