Monday, July 31, 2017

The Gilmore Car Museum, Hickory Corners, Michigan, July 31, 2017--Part 9: Brass Era Cars

Upon leaving the section of the Gilmore Car Museum devoted to Lincolns, we came upon a bright and airy barn-like annex where there were some very fine cars representing the Brass Era primarily. As is typical of the Gilmore, it is possible to get up close to all the cars and we were fortunate to have most of the place to ourselves on this Monday afternoon.

1905 Cadillac Model F Touring Car
Cadillac introduced its Model F in 1905 as either a two-seater delivery vehicle or, as this example, a four seater with side entrance to the fixed tonneau body.  The car retailed for $950 and was powered by a 9 hp single cylinder engine.  This vehicle has been in the same family's ownership since new and was restored from 2003 to 20014 by students of the noted auto restoration program at McPherson College in Kansas.  In 1905 Cadillacs only offered headlights as an option and this vehicle never had them!

1909 Brush  Model E Gentleman's Roadster
The Brush, manufacturered in Dearborn, Michigan, from 1907 to 1913, was distinguished by its wooden frame and axles, whose flexibility was meant to enhance riding comfort.  Powered by a 7 hp single cylinder engine that ran counter-clockwise to make crank starting easier for right-handed people, a novely before electric starting.  The car sold for $500 and some 13,000 were built during Brush's rather short existence, which had the misfortune to coincide with the emergence of the competitive Ford Model T.  This particular car was in the collection of Dr. Richard Upjohn Light, a neurosurgeon, aviator, cinematographer, and one-time President of the American Geographical Society.  Dr. Light (1902-1994) led a very adventurous life and was also a Member of the Board of the Upjohn pharmaceutical company, which had been founded by his grandfather.

1906 Cadillac Model M Two Door Touring Car
Basically an updated version of the previous year's Model F, this car was the longer wheelbase Cadillac offered in 1906 and 1907.  Its shorter wheelbase sister, the Model K, gained fame by winning the Dewar Trophy in England in 1908.  Three of the cars were disassembled, the parts mixed up, and then reassembled, after which the cars were driven 500 miles with no issues.  This was one of the most celebrated examples of precision engineering in the auto industry, with complete parts interchangeability. 

1912 Cadillac 30 Touring Car
In 1912 Cadillac made history with this milestone car, the first ever to offer electric starting and offered an integrated electrical system of battery, lights and generator.  This particular car was owned by the Fisher family, noted for producing car bodies for many manufacturers until taken over by General Motors in 1926.  This expensive 40 hp car ($1800 when new) has not been restored and has only 1,380 miles on it.

1910 Ford Model T Racer
Henry Ford had made his early reputation with racing cars, notably his "Sweepstakes" and "999" speedsters and the Model T had been successful in endurance touring events.  This car is a replica of a racing T that had been driven to record-breaking victories driven by Frank Kulick, and that currently is in storage at the Henry Ford Museum.  Henry Ford wanted to enter it in the 1913 Indianapolis 500 but was rebuffed by officials who demanded that the car meet a minimum weight of 2,200 lbs.  Ford apparently said: "We're building race cars, not trucks" and went off in a huff.  The T Racer, powered by its 22 hp four cylinder engine, was only 1,200 lbs.  Kulick actually reached a speed of 107 mph in 1912 driving on frozen Lake St. Clair.  There was no serious attempt to return to racing until Ford participated in NASCAR racing in the 1950s.

1906 Columbia Mark XLVII 5 Passenger Touring Car
A pioneer in the car business, Columbia, once the world's largest manufacturer of bicycles, began producing electric vehicles in 1897.  Columbia was the tradename of Col. Albert Pope's Pope Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, and in a complicated transaction the Columbia manufacturing operations were merged with the Electric Vehicle Company in 1899, which company had been purchased the same year by William Collins Whitney, to produce electric cabs.  Some 2,000 Columbia electric cabs were built but they were very expensive and not particularly profitable.  Whitney and his partners realized that their ownership of the Selden Patent could be more lucrative.  Thereafter followed the infamous battle with Henry Ford.  The Electric Vehicle Company went into receivership in 1907 but continued operations.  It was later renamed the Columbia Motor Company in 1909 but was gone by 1913.  The awkward use of Roman numerals to designate its models had been discontinued in 1909.

The car in the museum was market to the wealthy, costing $4,700, equivalent to a house at the time.  It had a 112 inch wheelbase, was powered by a four cylinder 45 hp engine, a featured double chain drive and an I-beam front suspension.

At the same time, Col. Pope was manufacturing a confusing range of eponymous cars in a number of US cities--Pope-Hartford, Pope-Toledo, Pope-Robinson, Pope-Waverly, Pope-Tribune--as he attempted to consolidate the auto industry in the way he had done the bicycle one but his empire did not long outlive his passing in 1909, with the last Pope car (the ones built in Hartford) rolling out of the factory in 1913.

1915 Woods Mobilette Model 5 Roadster
Produced by the Woods Mobilette Company in Harvey, Illinois, the Model 5 was an example of the short-lived cyclecar moment.  With staggered seating for two, the car sold for $380 and was powered by a 12 hp four cylinder engine.  It was only 36 inches wide and brakes were optional for $10.  Electric starting was even available.

1904 Waltham Orient Buckboard
Another company with a convoluted corporate history, the Waltham Manufacturing Company of Waltham, Massachusetts, had been organized in 1893 to produce Orient bicycles and the Orient name would be attached to the company's cars when it got into that business at the turn of the century.  All the Orients were small single cylinder cars, with the most famous being the Orient Buckboard, which came onto the scene in 1903.  Billed as "the cheapest automobile in the world," the Buckboard weighed 400 lbs and had a 4 hp engine that allowed it to reach speeds as high as 30 mph.  Priced at $425 in 1904, the Buckboard was gone by 1908.

1911 Stanley Steamer Model 70 Touring Car
Built by the Stanley Motor Carriage Company of Newton, Massachusetts, this car was powered by a 2 cylinder 20 hp steam engine that only had 13 moving parts.  Claiming to have the power of an eight cylinder gasoline engine, the Stanley's drawbacks included a 30 minute time to warm up and impressive water consumption.  While the Stanley Brothers were very conservative in their technology, their cars set a number of eye-opening records before the company left motor sports in 1909.  Improvements came late as the cars became more modern, with the introduction of the electric starter by Cadillac in 1912 being the death knell for steam cars.  The company struggled on, going into receivership in 1923, and a liquidation sale was held in 1929.  This well-equipped Stanley would have cost $1,400 in 1911. It included a long rubber siphon hose allowing the driver to draw water from a creek or horse trough.

1917 Locomobile 48 Sportif Dual Cowl Phaeton
It is believed that the "Sportif" design, originated by J. Frank DeCausse of the Kellner Studio in Paris, was the first dual cowl phaeton arrangement.  It was taken up by Locomobile as the style looks best with a long wheelbase and the Model 48, with its 132 inch wheelbase, certainly fit the bill.  The Model 48 was introduced in 1911 with 48 hp, gradually rising (90 hp in this car) and continued in production until 1928.  It was very expensive, costing as much as five Cadillacs, and only 167 Model 48s are known today, with just three of them in the Sportif configuration.

1925 Locomobile Model 48 Sportif Dual Cowl Phaeton
It was amazing to see two of these dual cowl Locomobiles in one place!  Still powered by its 525 cu. in. engine, although now producing 103 hp, this car weighed 5,700 pounds and cost $7,400.  Locomobile, which became part of Billy Durant's final auto empire in 1922, was gone by 1929.

1916 Winton Hearse
One of the key figures that started the US auto industry in motion, Scottish immigrant Alexander Winton began building cars in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1896 after, as so many others, a successful run at bicycle manufacture.  The name is more famous today as being the loser against Henry Ford in a match race but Winton introduced a number of technical innovations to early cars.  In 1903 a Winton was the first car to be driven across the United States from San Francisco to New York.  Wintons were never cheap and the company, which retained its management team since 1898, closed its doors in 1924.  The hearse on display uses a Winton Special Six chassis and was bodied by Crane & Breed of Cincinnati, which manufactured and distributed a full line of funerary materials.

Continue to Part 10 of the Gilmore Car Museum visit here.

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