Long term readers will remember this 1910 Thomas-Flyer 6-70 that we have covered in a series of posts showing its mechanical restoration in our workshop. The driveline rebuild is finished, and the car has been road tested, so now is a good time to share a series of photos of the results and some information on the Thomas with you.
The 6-70 (six-cylinders producing 70 h.p.) is one of the most impressive early cars built in America and also one of the largest. It has a very smooth ride thanks to its long 140-inch w.b. chassis, with 38 x 4.5-inch tires in the front and 38 x 5.5-inch in the rear. The engine is backed up by an open single-plate bronze and cork dry clutch and a driveshaft back to a combination four-speed transmission and differential. Final drive is through jackshafts out to the sides of the frame and by chain and sprockets to the rear wheels.
The T-head engine is equally large and has a 5.5 x 5.5-inch bore and stroke displacing 784 c.i. The 54-inch long crankshaft is supported by seven main bearings, and the splash oiling system is supplemented with a mechanical oiler with eleven-feeds. Fully assembled with both the flywheel and fan in place it is close to six feet long. The hood covering the engine is four feet long, and the radiator cap is sixty inches above the ground. Learn about its rebuild here.
Driving one of these cars is a thrill, and once you sit down in the seat that is almost five feet above the road surface, you have a commanding view of all that is around you. The engine produces an enormous amount of torque that is very useful on hills. On a climb starting out at a low speed or from a stop, one can accelerate up most hills while running through the four speeds in the transmission. Thomas advertised that high gear was usable between five m.p.h. and seventy, its top speed. The one down side to all this power is an estimated five miles per gallon of gas.
The four speed transmission and differencial can be seen (below) with jackshafts on either side that lead out to the chain-drive sprockets. An interesting feature of this gearbox is that when it is shifted into fourth gear, the forward gear on the countershaft (top right of the photo) slides forward and disengages it and the counter shaft from the input shaft gear and saves on friction, drag, and wear while in high gear. Learn about its rebuild here.
In addition to being impressive to look at and drive, this example is also one of the best 6-70’s to survive in terms of originality and provenance. Art Austria, a well-known early collector who ran the Simplex Garage in Venice, California, had it in his collection up until the mid-fifties. The photo below shows the car when Paramount Pictures used it during the forties and fifties in Southern California.
In the mid-fifties, William Harrah, who formed the Harrah Auto Collection in Reno, Nevada, bought the car from Austria. The National Auto Museum has all of the files of vehicles from the Harrah Collection, and was able to provide us with everything covering the Thomas including the manuals. With all the records and photos are a set of images showing it being driven onto a Harrah’s Club flatbed truck in 1957 for the trip from Austria’s, back to Reno, the home of the Collection.
Since it was such a good original car, the mostly cosmetic restoration was completed quickly, because of its excellent condition. This enabled Harrah to drive it on the Reno Tour in 1958; that was held at Lake Tahoe. An article in the HCCA Gazette covering the tour mentions how it was very powerful and a great performer at the event.
The car then made the rounds of all of the important shows and tours during 1958 and for the next few years; it even came east for the AACA Hershey Meet in 1959. Harrah later went on to add to his collection, some dozen or more Thomas-Flyer cars including the world famous 1907 Thomas that won the 1908 NY to Paris race that remains in The National Auto Museum.
After Harrah passed-away in the early 1980s, this car and its companion, the red Harrah Collection 6-70 Thomas Flyabout, became part of Richie Klein’s collection where they both continued to be show and tour participants for some 15 years. This car has since been a part of the Louwman Museum Collection for at least a dozen years now, and it is used for events and tours by Evert Louwman in this country.
After having performed very well for some fifty years since it was restored, it was decided in the interest of the preservation of the car, to do a full mechanical inspection and rebuild. Some of the highlights of that engine and driveline rebuild can be viewed here.
The mechanical details of this Thomas are very close to those of the famous 1907 NY to Paris Car, with the exception of that car being a four-cylinder. That racer, which has survived was the subject of the earlier eleven-part New York to Paris Race series here on The Old Motor. More photos and full specifications on the 6-70 can be found below.
- The wooden box on the firewall is the Atwater Kent Unisparker battery ignition. A Bosch magneto fires the second set of plugs. The frame-mounted tank supplies the McCord mechanical oiler.