Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

1902 American Light Cars

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American cars not known in England

The customary American distinctive features of outline are noticeable in the Studebaker electric carriage. It has the well known advantages of electric cars, such as cleanliness, freedom from smell, noise, etc., but its weight is considerable, on account of the storage batteries employed for propulsion, and its sphere of action is limited to the capacity of these batteries (40 miles). The Studebaker vehicle is, however, less cumbersome than many of the electric carriages that we are used to in London. It is made by Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Co, New York.


The Century is an American steam car, which embodies some novel features. Instead of the usual chain drive, the Century Motor Vehicle Co, of Syracuse, employ a bevel gear drive. The frame, as will be seed from the illustration, is well stayed. A single steering rod is fitted, terminating in a spade handle. The Century strikes us as being somewhat more substantial than the average American steam car.


Another Yankee product is the Crestmobile made by the Crest Manufacturing Co, of Cambridge Port, Mass. The body is built on the lines which American steam cars have accustomed us to. The motive power, however, is a 3.5 h.p. air-cooled engine fitted to the tubular frame, in front of the car, and driving the back axle by means of two lengths of chain. The upright steering pillar has two handles at the top, that on the right being the switch and exhaust valve lift; the left-hand lever changes the speeds of which there are two. The engine is suit from the seat by means of a strap. The Crest mobile seats two people, and is said to weigh only 4.5 cwt.


The H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Co, of Syracuse, N.Y., are turning out cars somewhat on European lines. They fit a 7 h.p. air-cooled engine under a bonnet in front of the car, and drive by a single chain from countershaft to rear live axle. Inclined wheel steering is used, the steering pillar carrying the sparking advance and mixture levers, Two forward speeds and a reverse are fitted, the change speed lever being on the driver's right hand side, a la Panhard. Brakes are provided on the differential and on the counter-shaft. The speed of the engine can be varied from 300 to 1,200 revolutions per minute. The total weight of the two-seated car is about 9 cwt. The makers are also turning out a four seated cat, with a 7 h.p. water-cooled engine.


The Century Motor Vehicle Co of Syracuse as well as making steam cars are now turning their attention to petrol-propelled carriages, and have just produced their first 8 h.p. touring car, which, as will be seen from our sketch is of a distinctly American design. The engine is placed under the front seat, and part of the large flywheel is visible. The wheels are 28 inch and the tyres (detachable) 3 inch. The change-speed lever is handily placed near the driver's right hand; the top speed giving 22 miles an hour; a lower speed and a reverse being also fitted. Tiller steering is in evidence.


A smart car is the product of the American Motor Carriage Co, of Cleveland, Ohio. It has a 5 h.p. petrol engine situated under the driver’s seat, and driving the rear live axle by a chain. This car only weighs 10.75 cwt., and sells for £200, with wood wheels and large diameter tyres. The makers have, very sensibly, adopted wheel steering.


The Orient Runabout is it light, high-built vehicle somewhat resembling a steam car in appearance, but propelled by an 8 h.p. petrol engine situated under the driver’s seat. Side lever steering is adopted, which is arranged to that the passenger on the near side of the car drives and has control of the change speed lever. The weight is 9 cwt. And the price is £175. The top speed of the Orient is said to ne 30 miles per hour, and it is claimed to be capable of ascending a gradient of 1 in 5. The manufacturers are the Waltham Manufacturing Co, Waltham, Mass., whose Orient motor-bicycles are fairly well known in the country.


For £170 one can now purchase in America a light neat-looking electric runabout, somewhat resembling a steam car in appearance; the Ajax Co of New York having recently introduced the vehicle illustrated. Three speeds forward or backward are fitted; two brakes and a very simple method of control, it being claimed that a child can handle the car.


The General is a little 8 h.p. double cylinder petrol car for two people, steering by a tiller and looking exactly like a steamer.


The Columbia automobiles, made at the celebrated Hartford works are of two types, electric and petrol driven. They have wood wheels and seem to be very shapely.


"Built on honour" is the boast of the Warwick Cycle and Automobile Co, Springfield, Mass. They build a small petrol motorcar, with engine behind, three speeds and reverse, tubular frame, cycle type wheels, engine started from driver's seat. The front seat easily detachable.


A steam car of rather novel matures is being introduced by the Cotta Automobile Co, Rockford, Illinois. The special feature of the Cotta is the four-wheel drive, both front and back wheels being driven by light central chains from the engine, which is situated in the middle of the car, just under the footboard. The boiler is placed under a bonnet in front. Steering is by side lever. As the back of the carriage body is occupied by the water tank, weight seems to be particularly evenly distributed in the Cotta.


A natty-looking little car is the St. Louis (St. Louis Motor Carriage Co, St. Louis). It is driven by a single cylinder petrol engine, has inclined wheel steering, and the change speed levers are conveniently placed. Unlike most makers, the St. Louis people supply a spare set of ignition batteries.


A somewhat European car is the Autocar, made by the Autocar Co, Ardmore, Pa. It has a petrol engine under the front bonnet, and is intended to be steered by the passenger on the near side. It sells at £340.


Under the name of the Long Distance, a petrol-propelled car has been introduced by the Long Distance Automobile Co, New York. The engine is 7 h.p., and is situated under the driver's seat. The price is £240. A four-seated car, with a double cylinder engine is priced at £500. Wheel steering is fitted.


The Spaulding is a car that closely resembles the Oldsmobile, which we already know in this country. The petrol motor is under the seat. Large "Leaf" springs run the whole length of the car, connecting the front and back axles, and taking the place of the usual frame members. The drive is by central chain. The car has a very neat appearance, and in a future issue we shall illustrate it.


Haynes, Apperson Co, Kohomo, Indiana, are one of the oldest motor making firms in America. They fit a two-cylinder engine, which runs at a low speed; efficient mudguards, wood wheels, and some other English ideas are adopted, but tiller steering is retained. The four-seated Haynes-Apperson has a 10 h.p. engine, and is priced at £360, but the two-seated Runabout is of 6 h.p., and can be bought for £240. Earl Russell has been running one of these cars in England, till recently.


Besides the American cars already described on these pages, cars which have yet to make their debut in this country, there are a number to which some reference is due.

The Searchmont is made by the Fournier-Searchmont Automobile Co, of Philadelphia, and is a petrol driven car of 8 h.p., on European lines. It has performed exceedingly well in recent contests in America.


The Elmore, made by the company of that name, of Clyde, Ohio, is a steamer on the usual American lines and sells at 800 dollars.


The Torbensen Gear Light Runabout is also a petrol car, the engine being placed in front and developing 5 h.p.


The Fredori is a 9 h.p. petrol car with a general appearance and arrangement of mechanism not unlike the Rambler, but it is fitted with wooden wheels.


The Winton motors have earned a wonderful reputation over in America, but they are of fairly high horse-power, the 15 h.p. being the smallest, we believe.


The Foster is a 4 h.p. steamer, and has done well in the tests which have been promoted this year.


The Stearns Steam Carriage Co are placing an 8 h.p. two-seated car on the market, and in the New York to Boston reliability run it scored splendidly from start to finish. It looks a particularly well-made car, the framework being more substantial than in the general run of American steam vehicles.


The Centaur Motor is a two-seated steam car, shaped like the English two-seated petrol cars, which are illustrated on another page. The engine and boiler are placed under the bonnet and the water and petrol tanks are placed either under the seat or behind on the footboard. Inclined pillar steering and wood wheels are adopted, and altogether the car looks as little like a steamer as could be imagined. It is rather a curious commentary that on the other hand, makers of some American petrol-driven cars have sought to make them resemble the steam cars.

It is apparent from this description that America has already appreciated the scope and gauged the popularity of the light car to an extent unequalled on this side of the Atlantic.

American cars known in England

Americans have paid greater attention to steam and electrically propelled carriages than to cars driven by petrol motors, and — in America — the light steam car has been advancing by leaps and bounds (figuratively speaking, of course). The names "voiturette" and "light car," by which we know the lighter class of automobiles on this side of the Atlantic, are not used in America, where the expressive term "Runabout" applies to all small cars.

The Oldsmobile is original from start to finish. At the first blush, one might mistake it for a steam car, it looks so light and airy; but it has a powerful little water-cooled petrol engine of 4 h.p. deftly hidden away under the seat. The engine is a single cylinder, which is placed horizontally, and the piston travels the same way as the car is going. This fact, together with the extra large (24 in. diameter) and heavy fly wheel, accounts for the almost entire absence of vibration, which is a feature of the Oldsmobile. The engine runs at 700 revolutions pet minute. The drive is through either of two crypto gears, when the low speed or the reverse is in action; when, however, the high gear - or "running gear," as the makers prefer to call it — is in operation the drive is absolutely direct from the engine to the back axle, by means of a Baldwin block chain of large size and ample strength. Accumulators and trembling coil provide the current for ignition; and a spare accumulator is fitted, already wired up to the switch, so that it can be switched on immediately in the event of the first accumulator giving out. Strictly speaking, the Oldsmobile has no frame! The axles are connected by long springs, which take the place of the usual frame members, and to which the body is bolted, rubber cushions being interposed to absorb any vibration which the springs do not intercept. Two double-acting brakes are fitted. The car will be noticed as being considerably wider than most petrol cars, though it only weighs 7 cwt. Its top speed is just over 20 miles an hour. The price is £185, and there are said to be over 150 Oldsmobiles in England, though the first one was only introduced about six months ago. It seems to have taken the fancy of doctors, to whom a large number have been sold.


The Saracen. Mr. J. L. Sardy, of 8, Snow Hill, London, E.C., will introduce for 1903 season a new pattern of his Saracen steam car, containing many little refinements which Mr. Sardy's experience has suggested. The engine will develop as much as 12 h.p., and the speed will be — well, right up to the legal limit. Steam can be got up in 15 minutes. The engine is utilised to draw up water, by means of a hose pipe, from any handy source, such as a roadside stream, horse trough, or water butt. Mr. Sardy is evidently not a believer in manual labour (hear, hear!—Ed.), as he makes his engine pump up the tyres! These are single tubes, on wood wheels. Sufficient water for 30, and petrol for 90, miles can be carried, and the car will seat four people. The two band brakes on the rear wheel hubs are worked by Bowden wires from the driver's seat. The drive is by central chain to rear live axle, and an oil guard is fitted at the side of the chain, to prevent oil from the chain getting on the brake drum on the differential. The chain is kept well lubricated. £300 is the price of the new "Saracen."


George W. Houk, of 7, Snow Hill, London, E.C., is the English representative of the Prescott Automobile Manufacturing Co, of New York, whose Prescott light steam car is so well known in the States The engine is of the vertical two cylinder reciprocating type, 2.5 in x 3.5 in. It will be seen from the illustration that the lower part of the engine is covered in by a gear case. The car is primarily seated for two persons, but the front part opens out, and provides an additional seat for two more passengers. The weight of the car is 9 cwt. The petrol tanks hold 10 gallons, and the water capacity is 32 gallons. The boiler is 16 inches in diameter, and contains 367 half-inch copper tubes of 20 gauge. It is claimed that full steam pressure can be raised in six minutes. A steam water lift is provided for filling the tank. The water is forced through a coil in the muffler and heated by the exhaust steam to boiling point before being delivered to the boiler. The price is 250 guineas, including rubber bucket, lamps, and full set of tools.


A car which differs in every possible way from standard ideas, and which simply bristles with novelties, is the Duryea. This is an American car designed by Mr. C. E. Duryea, the earliest motor experimenter in America. Mr. Duryea started on motor work in 1886, and ten yes later, in 1896, one of his cars took part in the run to Brighton, organised to celebrate the passing of the new Light Locomotives Act, and reached London-by-the-Sea first. The Duryea is handled in England by the Duryea Co, Coventry, and it will shortly be manufactured throughout in that city.

Instead of the usual single or double cylinders, the Duryea engine has three cylinders which are horizontally placed, under the seat, the working stroke of the pistons being in the direction in which the car is running. The cylinders are water-cooled, the water tank forming the back of the body, outside of which it projects for a few inches on each side, in a sort of scoop, which catches the cold air and conveys it through small pipes running through the water tank. This draught of air cools the water. The drive is conveyed from the engine to the road wheels by a single chain, the blocks of chain being provided with felt pads, which are soaked in oil, and so lubricate the pins of the chain. The chain is protected by a gear-case. Perhaps the most unique feature of the Duryea car is the one-hand control. The steering lever is upright and projects above the seat, just between the two passengers. A side movement of this lever steers the car; twisting the handle on the lever opens or closes the throttle, thus advancing or retarding the speed of the car; whilst sliding the handle a few inches down on the lever puts the engine out of gear, and a further depression of the handle on the lever brings in the low gear. The whole control of the car is thus effected by one lever. The is fitted with 30 inch steering and 36 inch driving wheels of artillery type, and with pneumatic tyres

Mr Duryea’s own fancy is for a three-wheeled vehicle, but most of the cars sent to England are provided with four wheels in accordance with our insular prejudice, as Mr. Duryea puts it, but more probably because the English motorist realises that it is easier to find two good tracks on the road than to run a vehicle wanting three tracks. The Duryea engine gives 10 h.p. at 750 revolutions per minute, but the speed is variable from 75 to 1,500 revolutions by means of the throttle. The price of the three-wheeled car is £250, and of the four-wheeler, £275, the latter including a hood; the respective weights being 7.5 and 8 cwt.


The Rambler is an American-made petrol car, with a 6 h.p. horizontal engine under the seat. The engine runs at 800 revolutions per minute, and a very large and heavy fly wheel is fitted. Electric ignition by means of trembling (Fulminator) coil and P. and R. accumulators, of which a spare one is provided, with a two-way switch. The cooling water circulates naturally, and 300 small tubes run through the tank, so that the cold air, passing through these tubes, keeps the water at a low temperature. The silencer (which is of ample dimensions) will be noticed as having a flat side. This deflects the draught of air passing under the car and guides it on to the water tank. The engine is automatically governed on the ignition. The car has two forward speeds and a reverse, the speeds being 8 and 25 miles an hour. Both valves are mechanically operated, and the steering tiller is situated in the centre of the car and hinged, so that either passenger can drive. The box in front of the dashboard can be used for carrying tools, spare parts, extra petrol, etc. A drip lubricator oils the engine. The number of drops can be regulated, and the drip can be turned off from the seat when the car stops. The frame is of channel steel, to which the body is bolted by three bolts, and from which it can be readily removed.

Mudguards are fitted for the English market, though not generally used in America, and wood wheels can be had at a slight extra charge. The same applies to detachable tyres. The Rambler people have adopted the Longuemare carburetter. The tools, spanners, oilcans, etc., lie snugly in pockets in the inside of the body, ready to the driver's hand, in the event of adjustments, etc., being required. The weight is 10 cwt. the price £185, including lamps, tools, etc., and 3 inch tyres. The English agents are Messrs. Davis, Allen and Co, Singer Street, Tabernacle Street, London, E.C.


The White Steam carriage is very popular in America, where it scored highest marks for reliability in the recent trial run from New York to Boston and back. It is a lightly built car on accepted Amierican lines, with wire sheets, single tube tyres and single lever steering. The tubular boiler is of novel design, having a method of superheating the steam, en route to the engine, this, together with the water supply, being automatically regulated. The White is manufactured by the White Sewing Machine Co, Cleveland, Ohio, whose English agent is Mr. W. C. White, 19, Princes Street, Westminster.


The Weston Steamer. Weston Motors, Mortimer Street, London ,have a speciality in their light steam car, known as the Stanhope Model A, at £195. It is a handsome little vehicle, to seat two passengers, and has characteristic features in freedom from vibration and ease of manipulation. The engine is a 6.5 h.p. two-cylinder. The boiler is of copper, tested to 700 lbs. hydraulic pressure, and is fitted with automatic safety valve, to blow off at 250 lbs. The body of the car is slung on a tubular steel frame of heavy gauge, and is insulated from shock and vibration by three special springs. Adjustable lever steering is used.

An important attachment to the Weston cars is the syphon water lift, which enables the tank to be refilled with nearly boiling water on the road in five minutes without leaving the seat. The water gauge is visible in small mirror from seat. The brake gear consists of a powerful double acting band brake, acting on a rear axle drum, pedal-operated. The fuel tank has a capacity for petrol for a run of 55 miles to 70 miles, according to model. In addition to the Stanhope, the company also make a Model de Luxe victoria, at £255, and a Model G dog-cart phaeton to seat four passengers, at £250.


The Locomobile. Foremost amongst American light "steamers" comes the Locomobile, marketed in this country by the Locomobile Co., of Great Britain, Ltd., 39.43, Sussex Place, South Kensington (Station) London, S.W. The illustration gives a good idea of the general outlines of this car, which are airy and graceful in the extreme. In the standard type seats are provided for two people, but the Surrey has four seats. The boiler is of the multi-tubular variety, and steam can be got up eight minutes after the burner has been lighted. The petrol tank, which is situated under the footboard, has a capacity of four gallons, sufficient for a journey of 33 miles. The square rear part of the carriage body forms the water tank, holding 20 gallons which will provide steam for 25 miles. Four 28 in. wheels, of cycle type, are used, and these are fitted with 2.5 in. single tube tyres.

A feature of the Locomobile is the neat way in which a place has been found for everything, and if the purchaser keeps everything in its place, odd tools, petrol cans, and such like eyesores will not lie around and detract from the smart appearance of the car. For instance, the hanging flap, which finishes off the front of the seat, is provided with loops and pockets which fit all necessary tools, funnels, etc., including the torch which is used for lighting the burner. The back road wheels are fitted on a live axle, which is driven by a single central chain. The car is built rather high, and all machinery, etc., stands well clear of the ground. The weight of the two-seater is 9 cwt., and the four-seated model weighs 15 cwt., the respective prices being £190 and £300.


See Also

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Sources of Information

Motor Cycling magazine of 3rd December 1902