The Doble brothers’ dedication to the use of steam power in automobiles bordered on the fanatical. Long after others had abandoned the concept, their continued devotion to the type would eventually result in some of the most remarkable steamers ever produced.
Our article today deals with their earliest efforts. Together, they assembled the little buckboard seen below between 1906 and 1909 while still in high school, using components salvaged from a wrecked White but incorporating an engine of their own design.
With the assistance of his brother John, Abner completed his Model “A” in 1912, seen below, after dropping out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The second prototype, the Model “B”, incorporated many innovative features. The use of a honeycomb radiator to re-condense used steam virtually eliminated water loss, dramatically reducing the need for refills.
A twenty-five horsepower engine enabled it to reach a top speed of 75 miles per hour with a zero to sixty time of 15 seconds, a blistering pace for a road car at the time. The full mechanical details of this car can be found in The Automobile magazine at the bottom of this post.
Abner drove a Model “B” from Boston to Detroit in 1915 with the goal of attracting investors. He was able to raise $200,000 with which he established the General Engineering Company to produce a new car in 1917, the ill-fated Doble-Detroit. The design incorporated still more advanced features including simplified controls, electric firing, and a very rapid start up.
It was initially well received but issues with quality control and production are said to have kept it from living up to its potential. It was Doble’s contention that war time material shortages contributed to these failings. You can find more steam related information and photos on The Old Motor. Photos courtesy of The Bancroft Library.