A Short History of Carpenter
The Ralph H. Carpenter Body Company was founded in Mitchell, Indiana in 1919. Ralph Carpenter was a
blacksmith- wagon maker from Bloomington, Indiana when he built the first wooden, horsedrawn wagons
used for carrying school children. In 1923, he built the first wood-framed bus body mounted on a motor
truck chassis. In 1935, Carpenter had 35 employees and produced their first all-steel school bus body.
By the end of 1935, only all-steel bodies were being produced.
Carpenter has been known as the Ralph H. Carpenter Body Company, Carpenter Body Works, Inc., Carpenter
Manufacturing Company, and finally Carpenter Industries, Inc. After Crown Coach of California went out
of business, Carpenter bought at least some of their engineering and designs as well as the rights to
the Crown name. They primarily used this knowledge to help them build their own chassis for transit
style buses. This was short-lived as they instead began using the Spartan Motors chassis. In the mid-1990s,
Carpenter bought the old (mid-1960s vintage) Wayne factory in Richmond, Indiana and moved all of their
manufacturing to that facility from Mitchell. Shortly after that, they changed the name on their bus
(badge) to Crown by Carpenter. Spartan Motors Chassis, Inc. of Charlotte, Michigan bought a stake in
Carpenter also in this time period. In 1998, Carpenter suffered some severe financial problems. During
this time, they temporarily ceased production and lost many of their dealers. Spartan Motors increased
their stake in Carpenter so that they held a controlling interest. They began to aggresively address
the quality problems that Carpenter had. In 1999, the buses were completely redesigned and again began
to display the Carpenter name. Despite an innovative new design and much improved quality, Carpenter
Industries ceased operations at the end of 2000.