Loco for the Locomobile

 

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, T. M. Cleland Archive, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

On this day in 1902, the Locomobile Company—named from a combination of “locomotive” and “automobile”—delivered its first gasoline-powered vehicle to a customer in New York City. Founded in 1899, the Locomobile Company of America had made its reputation building steam-boiler powered vehicles. Recognizing that the future lay in the internal-combustion engine, in 1902 the company hired the young engineer and racecar driver Andrew Riker with the aim of creating a new line of gasoline-driven vehicles.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

Thus was the Locomobile’s Model C born—a steel and bronze framed, four cylinder, 12-horsepower, gasoline-fueled vehicle. Priced at $4,000, the Locomobile was designed for wealthy customers.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, T. M. Cleland Archive, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Unlike Henry Ford’s standardized “Model T” for the masses (which he famously boasted could be had in any color, as long as that color was black), the gas-powered Locomobiles built in the 1910s and 1920s were crafted in a wide variety of styles and colors.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, T. M. Cleland Archive, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Acquired by Durant Motors in 1922, the Locomobile brand continued to capture the high-end automobile market and was advertised as the “Best Built Car in America.” The luxurious Locomobile touring cars, limousines, sedans, roadsters, coupes, and convertibles were very popular with and lauded by their wealthy clientele.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, T. M. Cleland Archive, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

While Ford’s assembly-production churned out cars at one-thirtieth of the price of the Locomobile Model 48, the company prospered building vehicles for an elite niche market—that is, until the Stock Market Crash of 1929, which bankrupted the business.

~ by "The Chief" on November 2, 2017.

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