From the beginning, the stars born of the Hollywood movie industry have wanted to be seen in the best cars available. Richard Dix, seen here posing with a 1928 Packard 443 custom eight roadster, was just such a leading man.
Wearing a set of Goodrich Silvertown whitewall tires – distinguished by the double diamonds on the sidewall – the shortened chassis of the 1932 Stutz Super Bearcat is clearly apparent. At only 116 inches, the wheelbase was a full foot and a half shorter than the standard offering. In comparison, today’s Ferrari FF rides on a 117.7 inch wheelbase. Continue reading
Illustrating the pride of Dayton, Ohio, this picture shows a Stoddard-Dayton Model 9K posed in London. The building in the background appears to be Britain’s House of Commons or Parliament Building, and the picture might have been taken from the embankment across the Thames River.
The Stoddard name was already well-established and respected within Dayton. It was John Stoddard’s farm-implements business that put Dayton on the map as a center for industrial production. Together with his son Charles, the two would turn to automobile manufacturing with the Dayton Motor Car Company in 1905. Continue reading
I came across this postcard in Monterey last year and couldn’t resist. As it states, the card illustrates the Richard-Basier stand at the Paris Salon in 1905. The star-car of the French show, the 1905 Gordon-Bennett winning racer is seen front and center.
The French firm of Richard-Brasier has a confusing history with many name changes, but the story starts with brothers Georges and Maxine Richards. They entered the bicycle business in 1893 and a few years later started manufacturing vehicles resembling the Benz Velo. In 1901, they enticed Henri Brasier, the chief designer for Mors, to join the team. His impact was immediate and by 1902, Brasier’s name was added to the marque. Continue reading
In 1938, Ernesto Maserati developed the Maserati 8CTF to compete with the likes of Mercedes and Auto Union on the European GP circuit. Although not particularly successful on the Continent, the car gained fame stateside with a historic victory at the Indianapolis 500. Continue reading
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars famously started after an introduction in 1904 between Charles Rolls, a young automobile enthusiast and dealer of French automobiles, and Henry Royce, a middle-aged manufacturer of electrical components. Continue reading
The Derham Company of Rosemont, Pennsylvania extended far past the life of most other American coachworks companies, surviving two world wars and the Great Depression. Continue reading
The Automobile Trade Journal of July 1, 1920, wrote, “The Duesenberg Automobile & Motors Corp. has bought a factory site in Indianapolis and plans 2,400 cars the first year of operation. In addition to a special Duesenberg engine, the car will be equipped with four-wheel brakes and an axle designed by Fred S. Duesenberg. The new car is stated to be 400 lbs lighter than those of similar power and will obtain from 18 to 22 miles on a gallon of gasoline.”
And so it was that the Duesenberg brothers of motor racing notoriety would introduce the first production car of their own design. Fred and August were German immigrants whose family had settled in Iowa. From an early age, the brother’s were involved with racing and engine building.
After an earlier failed attempt to produce an automobile called the Mason, they moved to Minnesota and opened Duesenberg Automobile and Motors Company in 1913. In 1919, they sold their existing facilities to John Willys and move to Indianapolis, where they would produce their most notable achievements.
The Duesenberg Straight Eight (later termed the Model A) would be shown in November 1920 at the New York Automobile Salon and would be the first American production car to employ a straight-eight-cylinder engine and four-wheel brakes.
The car pictured here wears coachwork by Charles Schutte, a somewhat obscure body company from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Charles Schutte Body Company was primarily a commercial coachbuilder (buses) until they had the opportunity to build bodies for the short-lived Argonne car. This provided them the exposure needed to sign an agreement with Duesenberg to build a small run of production bodies for the Straight Eight (closed cars only).
The Straight Eight would be sold between 1921 and 1926 with roughly 650 produced – well short of original estimates. In this same time span, the brothers would win the French Grand Prix (the first American car to do so) and two Indianapolis 500s (in 1927 they would be the first to win three Indy 500s). Regardless of their racing success and the quality of their production cars, sales were slim and the company was losing money.
However, they did inspire one individual with the resources to save the company. E. L. Cord would purchase the Duesenberg Company out of receivership in 1926 and re-organized it as part of his growing empire of automobile companies, where the brother’s were put to work creating one of the greatest cars of the classic era – the Model J Duesenberg.
Tragically, Fred would die as a result of injuries after crashing a Model J at high speed in 1932. August would see E. L. Cord go bankrupt and the Duesenberg Company come to an end. He passed away in 1955.
In the early years of the 20th Century, few new cars included a top – or a windshield for that matter. Typically, a top would have been an extra cost and we can tell from the picture that this Locomobile was sold without a top. The give-away is the lack of “irons” – the metal brackets that attach the top to the car.
What I love about this period photo is that the two gentlemen have fashioned an umbrella to provide relief from the sun.
Locomobile Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut, introduced a new line of four-cylinder cars in 1905; the Model E shown here was the smallest of the lineup. With a 15/20 horsepower engine, this five-passenger side-entrance tonneau was offered at $2,800. Locomobile produced 199 of the Model E in 1905, in addition to the Model D (20/25 hp priced at $3,700), the Model H (30/35 hp priced at $5,000), and the Model F (40/45 hp priced at $7,500). Locomobiles were expensive and well-engineered cars – one of the finest American-made cars of the day.
The company’s reputation was due to Andrew Lawrence Riker (1868-1930), a pioneer of the automotive age who became vice president at Locomobile in 1902. The driving force behind the design of their cars for the next decade, it was Riker who would introduce the firm to racing and ultimately write its place in history.
The story goes that Dr. H. E. Thomas of Chicago made a request of Locomobile for a race car suitable for running the 1905 Gordon Bennett race. The company wasn’t really interested and sent word back to Dr. Thomas that he’d have to pay $18,000. An astronomical sum of money at the time, it was thought this would discourage him. But to everyone’s surprise, Thomas said yes.
Unfortunately, driver Joe Tracy (1873-1959) stripped two of the four forward gears and the car was retired from the Gordon Bennett Cup with only a couple laps under its belt. But Riker was inspired by the racing experience and went back to the drawing board to create a masterpiece for 1906 – two Locomobile team cars to be campaigned in the Vanderbilt Cup.
One of these cars, wearing No. 16, would win the Vanderbilt Cup in 1908. The car lives on in its current home – the Henry Ford collection – as one of the most important American-built racecars ever produced. A very fitting tribute to Riker and the Locomobile Company.
Locomobile would run into financial troubles and go into bankruptcy in 1921. Purchased by William C. Durant as his luxury brand for Durant Motors, the company would struggle until it closed for good in 1929.