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A Mystery Car Identified – A 1909 Ricketts Model F

Recently the photo above was posted here on The Old Motor as a mystery car with the only known information about it being a caption on the back of the photo stating the following: Great Uncle Joe Ricketts in derby. The man in the back seat of the car is David Milne. Joe Ricketts went to Coral Gables with the builder and became a millionaire. Until a reader put two and two together and found information about the Ricketts car, it remained unidentified. You can learn what was uncovered about the car below.

Reader Graham Clayton commented on what he discovered: The Ricketts Automobile Company built cars in South Bend, Indiana, between the years of 1909 and 1911. One of their 1909 cars was the Model D, which had a wheelbase of 121 inches and a six-cylinder engine. Thomas Ricketts founded the company, but he passed away in 1909, and Joseph W. Ricketts took over.


Based on what Graham found, and additional research conducted here revealed that in Lou Phillips’ book, Cars 1895 – 1965, the Ricketts cars produced in 1908 and 1908 are listed as using Brownell engines. The photo and specifications (above) in the Motor Magazine, February 1909 issue, states that the Model F 30-h.p. engine had a 3.5-inch x 4-inch bore and stroke that seems to fit in well with the size of the engine observed in the photo of the car. The small image above also shows a car that shares many of the same features as seen on the mystery car including the distinct shape of the rear fender.

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  • Joe Ricketts wearing his derby hat standing behind the overhead valve six cylinder engine.

Taking it one step further and knowing that Brownell manufactured a line of different sizes and types of engines, a search was conducted to find a photo that matched the engine in the mystery car. After viewing many of the Company’s advertisements in period magazines, a perfect match was found (below) in the December 1909 Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal. Based on reader Bill Petticrew’s photo, the information Graham Clayton uncovered and the two magazine illustrations that were found, it appears that the car may in fact be a Ricketts.


7 responses to “A Mystery Car Identified – A 1909 Ricketts Model F

  1. Very nice and thorough research indeed, congratulations! Now I also understand the straight dash, which was more a touring car feature: it was a combined tourer/roadster/business wagon. This combination with removable elements was offered more often in these days, cf. the 1908 Studebaker Suburban.
    Also congrats by the way with the new look of this site, it is really very stylish

  2. Another great challenge and article, Dave. Quite crafty analytical work and research by Mr. Clayton! Keep ’em coming, your readers love it. Though, some of us may be a little miffed that we didn’t come up with the correct answer. Great to see that vehicle’s provenance established, restored and/or preserved.
    BRAVO Dave! And, indeed the revamped site is very tidy and direct, while retaining its comprehensiveness and interest.

  3. Mr Clayton is this the only know photograph of the Ricketts ? If so then I am one “LUCKY MAN” . By the way this car also had kerosene headlamps.

    • I remember this photo from back in the early 80’s when my brother Don had it. I think that our Uncle Jim showed it to us first when we were 15 or 16 years old.Uncle Jim was the son of David Milne who is pictured sitting in the back seat of the car.By the way Uncle Jim converted a 58’or 59’Ford stationwagon from gas to electric that we rode in!He had 12 car batteries in the back hooked up in series..I assume he used a battery charger to charge when needed.

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