Monday, May 9

1910 Locomobile "Old 16" Model 30 Racer Runabout

'Few would argue the greatest pre-World War I automobile in existence is the 1907 Locomobile "Old Sixteen." This 120hp Loco was the first American car to be victorious in the Vanderbilt Cup race in Long Island, besting a field of the finest factory cars from around the globe. Old Sixteen survives to this day in its original condition and is the rolling epitome of the heroic era of motor racing.
Even without this racing success, Locomobile would still have been regarded as one of the finest cars of the period, made to uncompromising standards of quality and without concern for cost. Locomobile's most famous feature that exemplified the quality of its construction was its solid bronze crankcase.
Locomobile originally rose to prominence producing steam cars to the Stanley brothers' design. These small carriages were the best selling American automobiles of the time. Recognizing that the future would not be paved with steam, Locomobile hired the brilliant designer Andrew Riker to design a new line of gasoline automobiles. A new factory was established in Bridgeport, Connecticut and 1905 saw the first Gasolene (Locomobile's literature used this spelling) range introduced.
Riker's designs were heavily influenced by the European manufacturers of the day. These new gas Locomobiles were designed with performance and speed in mind, taking from Europe the Panhard system of the engine up front, transmission in the middle, and the drive at the rear wheels. Powering these cars was a lovely T-head four-cylinder motor. The T-head engine offered excellent flow characteristics and allowed the builder to use very large valves. All of these early models drove the power through dual chain drive rear ends. By 1908, a new, more advanced mid size offering was needed to fill out the line. This need was answered with the Model 30.
The Model 30 had all the quality and design innovation of the big models but in a lighter, easier to manage size. The idea was to produce a car with a similar power to weight ratio of the large Locomobiles. The 4.5 inch x 4.5 inch, 286 cubic inch T-head engine put out 38.5hp. The square dimensions of the motor, combined with the four-cylinder configuration, made for a smooth free revving engine. New in this model was the driving of the power through a shaft drive rear end. The system was now perfected and suitable for high-powered sporting cars.
Auto Trade Journal reported on the road characteristics of the Model 30 in 1909 with such favorable remarks as "The Locomobile Model 30 Runabout handles to perfection" and "the car can do 55mph with ease." Apparently the Model 30's power was too much for the rainy conditions that day, as Hugh Dolnar reported that "the hind wheels tried to pass the front ones as soon as even half power was applied."
This Locomobile Model 30 is a rare early example of a speedster.
The heavy coachwork has been replaced by the bare essentials: two bucket seats, a large fuel tank, light fenders, and a couple of spare tires strapped to the back. This machine has been adapted to squeeze out as much speed and performance as possible. Obviously the Mercer race-about served as a model for this speedster. The mechanical systems of the two cars are very similar: 4.5 inch x 4.5 inch T-head four cylinder motor, four-speed transmission, bevel shaft drive rear end, oversized brakes, multiple disk clutch, right hand drive with outboard shift and brake.
One big difference between the Mercer and Loco was that the Loco cost almost a third more when new! The small bucket seats and large fuel tank and carefully shaped fender come together in a handsome and well-proportioned car. The admiration of the Mercer is evident even in the artillery wheels' having been changed to the Mercer size – lowering the chassis and improving road handling. The fuel tank, spare tire brackets, and bucket seats are quite obviously very old pieces. These items are high quality pre-war components and potentially indicate that this car had been converted very early in its existence.
This Locomobile has been a known participant in the antique hobby for over 60 years. The car was invited to participate in the 50th anniversary of the running of the Vanderbilt Cup race in Long Island. It was awarded a beautiful engraved and cloisonné plaque for second prize -- the plaque still adorns the car's dashboard. Peter Helck with his Old Sixteen, Henry Austin Clarke, Al Poole, and Joe Tracy attended this high-profile event. The car was listed for sale in the 1960s, with its $7500 asking price nearly triple the price of the Mercedes S listed on the same page!
The chassis is remarkably original and highly correct; even the original muffler is in place and in nice order. The brass work is very fine and fitting of such a quality car. The removable leather upholstery is in excellent order. The car is finished off with fine brass lighting, including a monocle windshield and Rushmore spot lamp.

It is very unusual to find a speedster on such a high quality chassis and one with such long established history. This car is certain to be great fun and a real attention getter at any HCCA touring event. With Mercer race-abouts and Stutz Bearcats trading in the million dollars plus range, this pedigreed speedster represents a great opportunity to acquire a sporting pre WWI example of one of America's greatest cars.'

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