An Entertaining & Informative Vintage Automobile Internet Magazine

Eight Cold Miles in a Simplex – Dirt Roads, Sixty MPH, Thirty-Six Degrees, and Snow Flurries

Last Thursday morning with the help of three friends, the 1914 Simplex 50 h.p. “Speed Car” body was installed on the chassis. After working four long days and nights the coachwork has been bolted down, the steering gear, shifter, and braking systems are all connected, and the majority of the wiring, plumbing and linkages were attached, so yesterday afternoon it was ready for its first test drive.

All of this effort was to beat “Old Man Winter” and the snow that is forecast for later in the week, and to put some test miles on the rebuilt engine and other systems before it arrives. After filling up a small one-gallon temporary gas tank, starting it up and checking that the shifter and brakes were working correctly in the yard we were off.


  • The 600 c.i.d. 5 3/8 x 6 1/2-inch bore and stroke engine running at idle speed. The 35-pound bronze Newcomb carburetor mixture is adjustable on the fly by a controlled vacuum leak that changes the mixture. The temporary plastic container below it catches a teaspoon of gas that normally drips out the throat and air passages of these updraft units on shutdown.        

The first test from a standing start is to climb the rest of our hill and a short section of a 60% grade up at the top which the powerful Simplex took in stride. After turning around at the end of the road, this set of photos were taken with Lilac Ridge Farm’s pastures and Round Mountain in the background, which is behind The Old Motor workshop.

The next test is to descend the steep quarter mile long hill and verify that both the hand and foot brakes are performing correctly, followed by a three-mile long loop of the areas gravel roadways twice, at speeds as high as sixty mph on one long straight section. Out on an open road is where a Simplex performs the best – the lightweight and powerful Speed Car accelerates quickly and effortlessly up through the four speeds, and in no time you are traveling at a high rate of speed.


After the car had accomplished this run in no time, it was time to travel back to the shop due the cold weather. Motoring along briskly on a gray, damp, and windy day through snow flurries with the temperature at thirty-six degrees wasn’t affecting the Simplex at all – it was time to return because the Editor, who was behind the wheel, and chilled to the bone after enduring the eighteen degree wind chill factor on the run, and the one gallon gas tank was close to being empty.

Today the car will be back out on the road one more time, followed by installation of the gas tank, more wiring and plumbing, and the rest of the bodywork. You can look back at a nine-part series of articles covering the rebuild of the Collier Collection Simplex engine and chassis here. Look for a follow-up article as soon as the job is completed.


  • The exhaust side of the engine shows the belt-driven fan powered by an accessory shaft that also drives the water pump that sends the coolant to and out of the cylinder blocks to the radiator via rubber hoses and copper tubing.



33 responses to “Eight Cold Miles in a Simplex – Dirt Roads, Sixty MPH, Thirty-Six Degrees, and Snow Flurries

  1. I just changed my backdrop on the computer to that profile…gone are the guys from that boardtrack photo with the Indian …one of my favorite on your drive today

  2. All I can say is wow.

    I wish I had been there to watch.

    Is there a link to a video where we can hear it run up and through the gears under load?

    • It would be great to have a video for all of the readers who are interested in it. If the snow holds off, a friend might be able to shoot some footage early next week that can be used in the future.

  3. A 60% grade? Really? Really? This road rises 6 feet vertically for every 10 feet horizontally? Rarely are roads designed with more than a 16-18% grade. Private driveways of more 25% are usually not allowed. You would not even be able to stand up on a 60% grade.

    • The road grade was calculated by using a grade-angle cart at https colon //en.wikipedia dot org/wiki/Grade_(slope)

      For a given angle – in this case 31 degrees, the angle of the road at its steepest part is listed at being a 60% grade. If this chart is incorrect, lead us to an online source that spells it out to us.

      This road, when laid out circa 1850 was a very steep primitive trail with a dairy farm at the top. It is even challenging to some modern cars and most old cars and a number of humans today.

      • I read the Wikipedia article, then did some googling on my own….wow. I have spent my life with a huge misconception about what a road grade percentage means. Now I learn that the angle in degrees is nowhere near the percentage.

        So a 45 degree angle is 100%, not 50% as I have always thought…..this is blowing my mind!

        Thanks for the education, as always!

        • As a former road surveyor, percent of grade is, to put it simply, for every 100 feet horizontally, the grade rises or falls so many feet. For example, a 6% grade rises or falls 6 feet in 100. That works out to 316.8 feet per mile. As a long haul trucker, it makes for slow going up, & sometimes too fast coming down. Fun fun fun.

    • Brian, Both the flywheel and engine fans are original to this engine have been covered earlier in a comment:

      The 1913 Simplex was the first of its kind to have a chain and belt-driven fan added to the front cylinder, because the flywheel spoke fan w/a belly pan did not move enough air in traffic or while idling. I have gotten stuck in slow moving traffic on tours with Simplex cars and if it is a hot day overheating with a Simplex, is common at slower speeds.

      The 1914 the 50 and 75 h.p. long stroke engines were completely redesigned and used a less complex belt driven fan – what you see on this car is the original adjustable bracket and fan. Yesterday it ran at idle and slightly higher speeds for and hour, with a 5-minute break in between to add more fuel and a quick check over – the coolant (water) temperature never raised over 180 degrees and it was 60 degrees in the shop during the run without the belly pan on.

  4. So what was the plan if the steep descent proved the brakes were NOT working correctly? Congratulations on getting 8 miles out of a gallon of gas. Magnificent car.

    • The brakes were not a concern because as mentioned in the text both systems were tested in the driveway and are capable of locking up the rear wheels. First gear is also used on most of these early cars to hold them back when coming down the steepest part of the hill that is up at the top.

  5. You have constructed quite a nice life for yourself; I admire your appreciation of the engineering and technical skills of the workmen of the day, and am thankful for your sympathetic handling of these masterpieces. Imgine being able to purchase one of these beauts in the ‘teens. What training would a buyer of the Speed Car have had? HIs experience with engines and complex systems was possibly zero and likely only had passing understanding of things mechanical and electric.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and thank you for all you do.

  6. As usual,you have done a magnificent job on a very singular car.Two questions, What is
    the box attached by a cable leading under the frame and tied to the seat bracket? Secondly, Does the gas supply
    eminate from a can on the seat beside you? With the tank properly in place, gravity would provide enough pressure
    but I would suspect that this car had an exhaust pump for fuel pressure. Did the car ever have a gas tank under the rear
    frame horns as many cars of this era had? Happy thanksgiving and do stay warm without a Cambridge windshoeld.

    • Binney, Thanks, for the kind words.

      The aluminum box and cable are an extension of the electrical wiring from the chassis junction box to the bottom of the instrument panel and will be installed shortly. Both need to be held out out of the way of the flywheel until then.

      The temporary gas tank is a one gallon plastic gas can with a fitting installed in the bottom, it feeds by gravity to a rubber hose w/a shutoff valve and inline filter. The tank is strapped to the top of the passenger seat and the old leather upholstery is protected by a soft and thick moving quilt lined with a plastic sheet.

      For the benefit of other readers the late “long-stroke” Simplex engine was originally fitted w/a plunger air pump w/a regulator driven off of the center of the intake camshaft that pressurizes the gas tank to deliver fuel to the carb. It replaced the old fashioned and at times troublesome and dangerous (when the flame arrester is not on place or malfunctions) exhaust back pressure device.

      Most all of the other body styles used a gas tank under the rear frame horns.

  7. That’s a beautiful job David. It must be gratifying to have it performing so well. I know in my own case, even if I’m certain something will work properly, it’s always a relief when it does. You’ve also reminded me of a long-ago December road test in a 1906 Delaunay-Bellville. It was a four-passenger car and we had a friend in the back seat. When we returned to the garage I turned to say something as he’d been unnaturally silent . It’s the only time I’ve ever seen someone with blue lips.

    Happy Thanksgiving


  8. Wow. I’ve been looking through some of the articles pertaining to this Simplex, and your ingenuity and craftsmanship floor me. Although I consider myself a pretty decent mechanic, work like this is on a whole different level; I’m in awe. There can’t be many people capable of such work.

    • Aron, Thanks for the complements. I can only do what gets done here because of the experience gained during lifetime of repairing and restoring 1932 and earlier road and racing cars. That and the many others that have helped out along the way and shared their knowledge.

  9. David, thanks for your wonderful site, and for sharing with us details about vehicles that few of us will ever see in real life !

    How similar is this Simplex to the one that is (used to be?) in the Smithsonian collection ?

    Best regards,

    Frank McMullen
    Scranton, PA

Leave a Reply to David Greenlees Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *