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Overhead Views Of A 1914 Simplex 50 HP Speed Car Chassis

Just a short post here today due to the fact that the last two days have been very busy finishing up the Simplex project chassis before the body is placed back on to it today. After test running the 600-c.i.d. T-head engine, it was then used to check the operation of the clutch, transmission, differential, inboard foot brakes, jack shafts, drive chains and sprockets.

For something, a little bit out of the ordinary, overhead photographs were taken of the chassis. The first image below, right-to-left shows the engine and 30-inch flywheel followed by a wet multiple disc clutch, and u-joint that attach to the front of the four-speed transmission. On the passenger’s side next to the frame is the generator that is belt driven by a pulley on the front of the transmission.


  • Enlargeable view of the front of the 1914 Simplex 50 h.p. Speed Car chassis and power train.

Behind the transmission below are a u-joint, a short torque tube, and differential, followed by the battery box. On either side of the diff are the foot brake drums, external shoes and the jack shafts that transfer the power to the front sprockets and side chains to the rear wheels.

We will return with follow-up photos of the completed car before it it trucked back to its home at the Collier Collection at the Revs Institute in Naples, Florida. You can look back at an eight-part series of articles covering the engine and chassis rebuild.

  • Enlargeable view of the rear of the chassis, transmission, differential, foot brakes and chain drive.


34 responses to “Overhead Views Of A 1914 Simplex 50 HP Speed Car Chassis

  1. Absolutely fascinating. Was the generator a later add-on? And what are the handles just in front of the front chain sprockets? Tensioners? Adjustable friction shock absorbers?

    • David, The earlier generators were located on the side of the engine and in 1914 Simplex moved it to this location with easy access just by removing the floor board.

      You are correct about the “Tensioners,” the units are on the rear trailing arms that are visible just inboard of the drive chains.

  2. Hopefully you will get to take it for a short drive before it goes home, David.

    Wish very much I could be alongside you when and if you do.

  3. So beautiful ! I only have one question…are the plug wires routed that close to the steering column , or is it just the angle that makes it look like they would rub ? This is an astonishing looking work of art David, congratulations !

    • John, Thanks, the wires you see actually go to the Bosch battery coil and magneto ignition switch that normally resides on the inside of the firewall, in that location there is plenty of clearance.

  4. Love the giant inboard external contracting brakes! Are those the main brakes, with the drums in the wheels as parking brakes only? Or do you yank on everything to get her stopped?

  5. Quote;
    “DAVID GREENLEES · November 17, 2016 at 2:45 pm
    Yes, I will and hopefully if the weather cooperates I can put fifty miles or so on it to make sure that everything is working correctly.”

    I had a good chuckle (thank you for that!). Many years ago, a good friend of mine had to sort out an over-heating problem on a Stutz Bearcat. It involved redesigning a water distribution baffle, building and installing it, then driving the car under varying conditions, sometimes for more than an hour. Then stopping, and measuring the thermal variations to make certain that the engine was not heating seriously uneven. This went on for days.
    For years, he loved to tell about it, and then joke ” It was a–terrible job, but, SOMEBODY had to do it!”

    Thanks David G, for the photos, and the chuckle!
    Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2

  6. One question about this great project. How long did chains usually last on this type of vehicle. Riding motorcycles forever, I know a bit about chain maintenance and even with sealed rollers and newer lubricants, chains need constant attention. With the roads in the shape they were back in those days, there would have been loads of grime hitting those chains and most lubricants would just mix with the grime and grind those chains fairly fast. Any idea on how long they lasted. BTW, Soichiro Honda used chain drive on his first sports car, the S500 in 1963 and S600 in 1964! Dyed in the wool biker!

  7. David, all I can say is “WOW” and thank you! Just fabulous stuff! Love it! I’m a little jealous that I cannot be there with you, working on it.

  8. I have been fascinated by brass era cars since adolescence; the earlier the better. I am always at a loss to understand why large and expensive chain drive cars, such as this wonderful Simplex, have exposed chains while my humble, and comparatively inexpensive, 1914 Metz Model 22 has chain guards which completely enclose the drive chains. That Simplex is a joy to behold.

  9. Most of you have done an excellent job of identifying the parts that others have asked questions about . Thank you . Of Particular interest to me — is how Well this vehicle is built : (ONLY this kind of TOP- view of the Whole Chassis and drive line reveal SO MUCH of its clever engineering and designs!!! Examples: 1 ) The (same) Inspection and Fill plate , (Trans & Diff), 2 ) The very RARE view of the Gearshift, Gate, and HOW it couples to the Gearbox. YOU NEVER SEE THIS!!! The clutch release cross-shaft. 3 )The top-quality (right angle drive) Klaxon Horn (invented by Charles Kettering) One wrench adjusts it, the top-oiler, — one or two drops —oils: The upper bearing, the pawl & ratchet /sounding diaphragm, the upper motor bearing and the lower motor bearing, ALL via a hollow shaft! an “Instrument”(!) worthy of the car!!! I have the highest respect for all early Klaxon products!

  10. Hi David,
    Great photos!
    I have been reading about the Simplex and many say it was the finest built American car. Of that period and possibly, ever. Your thoughts?


    • Great to hear from you, hope the vintage racing season went well for you.

      Yes, the Simplex is one of several early American cars that were built to very high standards with some the best quality materials available at the time including alloy Krupp steel imported from Germany. The design is very similar to that of the 1906-’07 Mercedes and remained that way until the re-designed “Long Stroke” model was introduced in 1914. In use the weak point in a Simplex is the aluminum alloy chosen for its castings that is prone to crack in time.

      As to “the finest built American car” others will dispute this, but between the 1907-’25 period the Locomobile Type “I” and Model 48 should receive that honor.

      Having been fortunate to be able to work on and examine at least one of all the “Great” cars of the era, the Loco is clearly constructed of the best materials available to build a car from during the period and to the highest standards possible.

      Instead of using aluminum (called the “trouble metal” by repair men at the time due to it cracking) for crank and transmission cases and a number of other components the Locomobile used manganese bronze. That alloy is actually stronger than cast steel and in use stood up to all demands, including racing. In that arena the “Type I” 40 hp four won more important races than the Simplex 50, 75 and 90 h.p. models did at the time.

      “The Best Built Car In America” was a Locomobile slogan and in this case it truly was.

  11. Back in the 1960’s I was advised by an “olde tyme” biker guy to melt bearing grease in a saucepan and soak my motorcycle’s drive chain in it then let the whole thing slowly cool so the grease would seep into every part of the chain. It was only my mother’s vigilance that saved one of her good pans from that fate and I had to resort to a Triumph lube that used a solvent carrier to infiltrate the nooks and crannies. So much for traditions!

  12. Regarding David’s comments on the Locomobile. For those who would like to learn more about this significant marque, I highly recommend the fascinating article written by Jeffrey Godshall, Locomobile: Bridgeport’s Beautiful Beast, found in the 4th Quarter, 1984 Automobile Quarterly (Vol. 22, No. 4) . On page 382 is a detailed description of the engine. Locomobile’s rich history included such automobile greats as the Stanley Brothers, Frank de Causse and even William C. Durant. It is very well written and an outstanding color portfolio is included.
    The Simplex looks awesome, David, and I thank you for including us during its restoration.

  13. There are wax base lubes out there for motorcycle chains, designed to prevent throw-off I think. One of the great things Honda did with his early development efforts was let his wife ride his creations. With that input, he came up with the Cub, the little bike that stormed the world. As his wife was concerned about getting her skirts dirty and oily (yes, most women wore skirts back then), he designed the step in protective fairing and made the Cub with enclosed chains. Voila, no skirt problems.

  14. My mother’s step-father Frank Mead (1880 – 1970 ) was a chauffeur for a wealthy family in NYC and at their summer home in the Adirondacks in the first couple of decades of the 20th century. He kept a diary every day from about age 20 until a few months before he passed. The entries relating to his mechanic’s duties c. 1915 or so are fascinating. Miles driven, gas and oil used, repairs made ( “ground Mercer’s valves”, “greased Packard’s wheel bearings”, etc. ) Tires were always a problem, they didn’t last long on a heavy car on rutted country roads. Incidentally, newspaper ads for used cars in those days often referred to tires as “shoes”.

  15. David , can’t find or afford a chain drive Simplex Speed Car but about a decade ago I did find a chain drive American La France 4 cylinder pumper which weighed about 8,000 lbs. I shortened it, put it on a diet , had Bill Calmers build me some new narrow period wheels and got the weight down to 3800 lbs. Took the car to Miller meet at Milwaukee and it preformed very well , kind of like riding a farm wagon at 60+mph . Photos of car are on Harry Miller Club web site . Its now a machine I enjoy owning , looks very similar to your Simplex .

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