It's common knowledge that the first cars during the late 1890's and the first years on the nineteenth century looked a lot like horse drawn carriages without the horse. It's somewhat understandable since many of the very first automakers had been in the horse drawn carriage business. Then came Locomobile. The Locomobile had the distinction of being the first car not designed to look like a "horse and buggy."
Some referred to Locomobile, which first came out in 1899 with a steam powered vehicle, as being the best built car in America. Much of this fame came from the racing successes the company enjoyed during the first decade of the 1900's. Locomobile won the Vanderbilt Cup in 1908.
Locomobile was founded by Amzi Barber and John Walker and as mentioned above the company originally made steam cars under license from Stanley Steamer.
Featured in this article is a 1919 Locomobile Sportif which was their Model 48 Series 5 which was manufactured by the Locomobile Company of America.The Model 48 signified the company's six cylinder engine. The Model 48 came out in 1911 and continued being produced until 1924. This was a 525 cubic inch engine delivering 85 horsepower.
The company was located in Bridgeport Connecticut and built Locomobiles from 1899 to 1929. The Locomobile was the best selling automobile in America by 1902. Four thousand vehicles had been manufactured by that time.
In many ways the Locomobile was the opposite of the Model T that would debut some years later. The Locomobile Company of America wanted to produce fewer cars for fewer people but at higher prices. The company said that it was building "uncommon cars" whereas Henry Ford started to built cars for the common man. Ford's Universal Car was one name for the Model T.
By the year 1919 the Locomobile was the most powerful luxury automobile available.
The Locomobile Sportif
The Locomobile Sportif is arguably the most noted car of the line. The Sportif model came out in 1916 and was built specifically for department store owner Rodman Wannamaker. The Sportif is considered to be the first dual cowl phaeton.
The Coach Builders for Locomobile
Locomobile coach bodies were built to customers specifications.
The Locomobile Company of America utilized two coach builders who were also located in Bridgeport Connecticut. They were the Bridgeport Body Company who also built for a few other manufacturers but Locomobile was their primary client and the Blue Ribbon Body Company which had Locomobile as a client from the teens to the mid 1920's. Blue Ribbon had been a horse drawn hearse manufacturer and they continued with hearse bodies into the automotive age.
Locomobile's Financial Problems
By 1921 the company was experiencing serious financial difficulties. By 1922 the company was acquired by Durant Motors. Durant Motors was operated by William Durant who previously had been CEO of General Motors. When Durant was ousted from GM he started his own automobile company with a group of investors.
Durant placed the Locomobile at the top of their car line and continued to produce a new Locomobile Model 48 until the Locomobile went out out of business in 1929 and Durant Motors itself in 1931. Under Durant's ownership Locomobile developed a few eight cylinder models. Certainly the onset of the Great Depression spelled doom for Durant Motors.
Locomobiles have been seen in several motion pictures from the 40's to the 60's as well as noted in a few novels. While some today may have never heard of the Locomobile brand, the name was quite big during the mid teens through the twenties.
Many Locomobiles were scrapped during the World War Two scrap drives. The Locomobiles that escaped that event and are around today will no doubt be preserved. All of these automobiles are now recognized as historic examples of a by-gone era.
1919 Locomobile Sportif Specifications
As mentioned above the 1919 Locomobile Model 48 Sportif came with a 525 cubic inch T-Head six cylinder engine delivering 85 horsepower. The transmission was sliding selective.
The 1919 Model 48 Sportif as a large automobile. It's wheelbase was 142.0 inches.
The car had an emergency hand brake and a four wheel foot brake.
Wheels were wood with either cord or balloon tires with the balloons costing more.
New car prices for the 1919 Locomobile ranged anywhere from about $6,500 to a over $10,000. The custom made $10,000 1919 Model 48 Sportif was in sharp contrast to the $300 Ford Model T selling that year.
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Two books of note regarding the Locomobile include...The Locomobile Book: The Car of 1911 by the Locomobile Company of America and The Car of 1912 -The Locomobile by the Locomobile Company of America.
The Rare Locomobile Sportif Collector Car
The Locomobile Sportif is a rare collector automobile by any measure. The Sportif Model 48 was discontinued in 1924 with a new Model produced by Durant until 1929.
The Locomobile Sportif was not a mass production automobile. The company was originally set up to build four cars per day. A lot of information about the Locomobile can be found from the Locomobile Society. The Locomobile Society of America was established as a non-profit organization by a group of serious automobile enthusiasts who appreciate and value the Locomobile as one of the finest motor cars built in the last century. See website www.locomobilesociety.com
As of this writing, asking prices for surviving Locomobile Model 48's from the late 1910's are over $100,000 and approaching $200,000.
(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)