1907 Locomobile Model E Five Passenger Tourer
Chassis no. 1402
Engine no. 1664
Few American car manufacturers maintain as mythical a reputation as Locomobile. Not only did Locomobile build the greatest American racing car of the heroic era with "Old Sixteen" but it also built extremely high quality cars for the road. The Locomobile Company's rise to automotive royalty was not the path one would expect.
Locomobile began with two brothers from Maine and their cleverly designed steamer. The Stanley Steam Carriage design was acquired by Locomobile and along with it the talents of the Stanley Brothers for a few years. The brilliant little steam carriage was just the thing for the emerging American market and Locomobile rapidly became the largest builder of automobiles in the US. Sales were strong for a few years but after 1901 it was clear that the steam carriage was not going to be the direction of the industry. After a few bumps in the road and the departure of the Stanley brothers the pieces were put into place to begin the design of a gasoline automobile.
Locomobile hired the brilliant Andrew Riker as their chief designer and moved to the coastal Connecticut city of Bridgeport and began work on their new machine. Riker had shown his genius mainly through some very clever electric vehicles but he too saw the future of gasoline cars. For his design he turned to Europe for inspiration. France and Germany had a huge head start on America in developing automobiles. France had been producing cars since the 1880s and by 1900 was turning out thousands per year. The Daimler Company, now named Mercedes, was producing wildly advanced machines in 1903 right when Locomobile was working on their car design. Locomobile settled on a design that was heavily based on the Mercedes but also with influence from the French Panhard. The first gasoline Locos were multi-cylinder inline engines in a T-head configuration. The engine drove through a rear-mounted transmission that in turn powered the back wheels through dual chain drive. This was the most advanced configuration known and, though costly to build and develop, created a very good car. The first model was a two-cylinder Model C followed by a four-cylinder D both with automatic intake valves. Locomobile didn't get everything truly sorted out until the introduction of the Model E.
The Model E was a breakthrough. Certainly one of the most advanced cars made in America when introduced in 1905, it was a delight to drive as a result of its chain drive and perky four cylinder engine. The car was fairly light and the power was ample, a combination that added up to a car that felt sporty but also much more refined and sophisticated than the normal American offering of the time which consisted of mid-ship mounted one- or two-cylinder engines and planetary transmissions. Those engines were not smooth and had huge flywheels that necessitated high bodies and frames, the two-speed planetary transmissions limited performance, and the big displacement twins were a bear to crank. The Loco Model E with its slick four speed transmission and easy to crank four-cylinder motor felt light years ahead.
All this refinement came at a price: nearly $3000 in 1905! But for all that money you did get quality. Loco's most famous feature was its cast bronze crankcase, true quality construction. The Loco Model E launched the company's reputation as the country's premier builder of gasoline automobiles. The patter of the Loco E would be scaled up and evolve into the legendary Model I and its racing variant "Old Sixteen". This fabled racing car would be the first American car to be victorious in the Vanderbilt Cup.
This charming Model E was part of the famed Harrah's Auto Collection. Said to be a personal favorite of Bill Harrah's, it was kept at his ranch. The high quality restoration has all the signs of an HAC restoration and it still looks great 30 or more years later. Restored from a very good car as Bill Harrah did not usually bother with lesser examples, it has been updated a bit to improve its touring reliability. The make and brake ignition has been replaced with standard spark plugs and magneto and the carburetor is a newer type for easier starting. Obviously well sorted out with some of those small modifications and has been tested by the Shorts in HCCA tours over the years. The car has a beautiful complement of brass work all in fine condition.
This special car is the quintessential "antique car". With dual chain-drive, a T-head motor, unbeatable provenance and a legendary name, what more could anyone want of a brass touring car!