1903 Knox Model C Single Cylinder 8hp Runabout
Car No. 177
Knox automobiles were built in Springfield, Massachusetts from 1900 to 1914. Founder Harry A. Knox was inspired to seek an automotive career by his next-door neighbor, the great automotive pioneer J. Frank Duryeawho, with brother Charles, began producing and selling Duryea automobiles in 1895. Knox, a graduate of the Springfield Technical Institute, built several experimental gasoline powered automobiles in the mid-1890s, while employed by the Overman Wheel Company in Chickopee Falls.
In 1898, Harry Knox left Overman Wheel, as that company's management has chosen steam over gasoline to power a planned entry into the horseless carriage market. Returning to Springfield, Knox partnered with E.H. Cutler to manufacture a light three-wheeled car, with single-cylinder engine, based on the Knox-designed Overman gas-powered prototypes. The earliest production Knox three-wheelers were built in the Waltham Watch Company's Springfield factory.
For 1902, four-wheel models were added and both one- and two-cylinder engines were offered. In this period Knox engines were air cooled, causing them to be known as the Waterless Know, while the fact that their cylinder barrels were studded with 2-inch pins, gave them a prickly appearance causing some Knox owners to favor the nickname, "Old Porcupine," for their cars. The engine was mounted midships in the chassis and was connected to a 2-speed manual planetary transmission, driving the rear wheels through chains. A tiller provided steering from the car's left-side driving position.
For 1903, just one model was cataloged, the Model C, built on a slightly extended wheelbase over its predecessor of 72 inches. The clever, compact, runabout bodywork was retained, a design that provided the option of an additional two seats which folded out in front of the driver, a style frequently referred to as a 'Stanhope' on other contemporary cars of this era, and could arguably be the original '2+2'. A particularly appealing aspect to Knox coachwork is a molding which follows the contour of the body sides.
Knox identified their cars very simply by numbering the base of the 'porcupine' cylinder head, and on this car the number is found to be '177'. Of surviving examples, this places the car comfortably into the production sequence for 1903.
Accompanying the Knox are some fascinating photographs and press clippings dating from the late 1920s which clearly confirm that by this time it was the property of Albert Sommers of the Nash Four Corners Garage on Victory Boulevard in West Brighton, Staten Island. One photo appears to show the car in somewhat tired order, while others portray and recount it in tidier order suggesting that Sommers may have been responsible for an early restoration of the car. Most intriguingly, the clippings confirm its appearance at a Parade of cars in March 1928 connected with the Daily Mirror and the New York Auto Show that year. In the presence of Barney Oldfield, himself a former Knox driver, it seems that old cars were paraded by City Hall, and that this car won the Daily Mirror 'First Prize for the Oldest Car'. It subsequently passed into long term Pennsylvania ownership from which it has recently emerged.
Today, the car has been carefully gone through, cleaned and detailed. After some tinkering, it was possible to put the car back into running order. Aesthetically it seems unlikely that the exposed wood finish is how it would have been when new, but it is unquestionably a pleasing effect, which has the added benefit of showing its self evident originality. The vintage images of the Knox also confirm that the attractive canopy it wears, is also an original period feature, a plaque on it confirms that it is described as 'The Ray Canopy' by its manufacturers C. Thomas & Co. who, being based in Boston were logical suppliers to the nearby Knox company.
An undeniably handsome Veteran automobile, the Knox will provide a potential four seater entry for Horseless Carriage Club events, or indeed the world famous London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in the UK.