c.1913 Woods Mobilette Tandem Roadster
Chassis no. 404
Promoted as "America's First Cycle-Car," the Woods Mobilette was produced by the innovative Francis A. Woods from late 1913 to 1917. In 1905, Woods had built an experimental car that was switchable from electric to gas power. By 1910, he was developing a new, very small and lightweight, experimental car designed to combine the most practical attributes of a motorcycle and automobile. That same year, the first production "cycle-cars," which aimed to achieve the same goals Woods was pursuing, appeared in Europe. The European cycle-car craze that followed would spread to the U.S. three years later.
During 1912, Francis Woods built an 89-inch wheelbase cycle-car prototype that brought a production version a step closer to reality. By the end of 1913, the 102-inch wheelbase Woods Mobilette Model 3 was set for production at Woods' Harvey, Illinois factory. Initially, the Tandem Roadster, with its passenger seat placed directly behind the driver, was the only model offered.
Weighing less than 500 lbs., the Woods Mobilette promised speeds up to 40 mph, and 35-40 miles on a gallon of gas. The car's four-cylinder Sterling L-head engine was large for a cycle car and produced 12 horsepower from its 69-cubic-inch (1.1L) displacement. A two-speed sliding-gear transmission with reverse was standard.
List price for the attractively styled Woods Mobilette was $380. Adding a windshield and top required an additional $15. The Mobilette here offered is further equipped with full gas lighting, which includes the central single headlamp typical of early Mobilettes, plus a horn and motormeter.
More than 200 American firms attempted to introduce a cycle-car between 1913 and 1920. Among them, the Woods Mobilette stands out, not only as a pioneer, but also as an especially well-conceived example of the type. By 1917, Henry Ford's sturdy and more powerful Model T runabout provided two-abreast seating for $345$35 less than the lowest-priced Woods Mobilette. The cycle-car "boom" was going bust, and soon the Woods Mobilette was history.
This charming near-centenarian cycle-car is one of the few remaining examples of the Woods Mobilette, a vehicle that was in many ways a forerunner of today's 'micro-cars.' Titled as a 1913 model, the single-headlamp Mobilette is a fine example of the Model 3 in its earliest configuration. Here is an extremely rare, important, and very attractive automotive artifact of the all-too-brief cycle-car era.