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Pope-Hartford Portola Roadster Before and After Being Customized

This circa 1913 Pope-Hartford “Portola” or “Club Roadster” is reported to have been custom built by the Hartford, Connecticut automaker to order for Thomas C. Perkins. The lead image and the enlargeable version of it above with four spare tires strapped to the rear deck with leather belts appears to be as the car was delivered, Fred Wright, Perkins’ driver is behind the wheel. The high-quality automobile was finished in white and upholstered with green leather – note the “P” monogram for Perkins in the center of the side of the seat.

The roadster is appears to be a Pope-Hartford Model 29 with a six-cylinder o.h.v. 60 h.p. 471 c.i. engine that has a 4-5/8″ bore x 5-3/8″ stroke and the cylinders cast in pairs, the wheelbase is 133-inches. The advertisement below gives more details of its makeup.

  • “The Motor World” June 27, 1912 advertisement introducing the new 1913 models.

The enlargeable version of the car below shows it after apparently being customized at the “Brassill’s Auto Service Station at the Hotel Bond which has survived. The facility first opened in 1913 at 338 Asylum Street in Hartford, the Capitol City of Connecticut.

In this view of the Pope-Hartford, the cowl has been removed, the seats are supported by brackets, and large gasoline and oil tanks have been added to the rear deck. Another change is the removal of the wooden artillery wheels which were replaced with wire wheels, possibly made by Rudge Whitworth. The area between the rear frame horns where the original gas tank was installed is used to contain a spare tire tray upon which three wire wheels and tires were mounted.

Tell us what you find of interest in the images courtesy of the Connecticut History Illustrated Archive.


20 responses to “Pope-Hartford Portola Roadster Before and After Being Customized

  1. In the 1st picture, I don’t think Fred will be smiling for long. He’s about to make use of one of those 4 spare tires. The right front looks a little low.

  2. Pretty advanced for its time I see. OHV, 4-speed, electric starter and dynamo. Wow….how about the brakes? Looks like just the rear. Do any of these survive? Ferrari like price as well.

  3. It looks like he might have raked the steering column a little more when he dropped the seat to the frame. Somehow that seat and steering wheel make him look like a rather small man – hard to believe he could even get the clutch pedal all the way to the floor.

  4. Top of the line Klaxon combination pneumatic/ electric horn and Warner speedometer on the orignal Portola Roadster too. Liberal use of straps featured on the radiator and battery box on the re-style.

  5. When I was young, I scrounged an Oakland Tribune sports page with articles on the Portola Road Race. I managed to get separated from it. That’s the perils of being an unrepentant hoarder. As an adult I managed to tour with Harry Johnson, a talented restorer of a 1911 Pope Hartford Portola. In the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho during a National Tour at Sun Valley with 125 Pre-15 autos, he humiliated a modern car on a long grade. That 50HP car was an animal. It has a burbling sound at idle that no other car can make. During a Yosemite Tour, Harry made a stop at a tavern. Thirty motorcyclists were parked there passing the time. When they heard the exhaust note coming out of that prehistoric car, they couldn’t contain their excitement. Harry passed and its new owner took mercy on me and let me get the air conditioning that a windshieldless Pope can provide at a 65MPH cruising speed. It did it at over 8,000 ft. elevation. I
    cannot say enough great things about this sensation on wheels and I’m deeply indebted to its owner.

  6. A GREAT example of a factory re-body done to the owner’s specifications. I can well imagine that he had lots more fun. A real chick magnet to boot!


  7. The wire wheels do appear to be Rudge-Whitworths, which were made in the U.S. from about 1913-onwards. This modification would have allowed for a much stronger set of wheels, with the addition of a more user-friendly replacement arrangement, in the case of flat tires. Please recall that rubber technology was in its formative years and most of the roads were brutal on the tires of those days. We no longer carry patching kits and take tire life for granted, but flat tires were likely a considerable problem in the early teens. Many of the quality cars in the 1908 to 1914 ear (or thereabouts) utilized a Lunkenheimer exhaust device, which pressurized the fuel tank that usually sat between the rear frame horns. If memory serves me correctly, Pope-Hartfords would have been fitted with this equipment. Whether these were wholly reliable while in use, I cannot say? So, in addition to altering this Pope to resemble a Simplex speed car, the repositioning of the fuel tank would allow for both a predictable fuel flow and a more favorable weight distribution, even if they were only relying upon gravity to get the job done. When the auto makers added engine-driven air pumps to continually pressurize the fuel tanks (about 1914-15), the Lunkenheimer exhaust gas pressure system became obsolete. Thanks for the great pictures.

  8. I agree with the other Edwin ; (H.) : The gas (gobbling)tank is not in sight. My first guess is that: It might be: A Gravity Feed tank , hidden between the cowl and the firewall, as the Steering Column is low. The posed “Driver” might require a thick pillow between himself and the seat back — to operate the Pedals! This car appears to be “race-like” , or: “For races Only”, but I get the impression that : ” It never had to leave town , (much) (No matter how many tires it had as spares ). The (Kettering) 6 Volt Klaxon is intended to be: a “Real Screamer” (It IS!) Perhaps This is why the Bulb horn is added: as it might not be so: frightful, — or cause horses to Panic & Dash! Edwin W.

    • I know the construction of Pope-Hartford’s quite well and have worked on a couple of them in the past, the gas tank was in the back as I described and the fuel feed was by air pressure on the gas tank.

  9. Re the factory ad, just for the heck of it, I went to inflation calculator to see what $4.250 in 1913 would be today – a whopping $106,000!

  10. Wow! Rarely do photos express a sense of the scale of these motors as that first pic. $4,250 in 1913 translates to just a bit over $100,000 today I am informed. Definitely a gentleman’s conveyance as they say across the pond. This one appears to have stayed close to home as the Hotel Bond was located in downtown Hartford. Between its build and modification did tire technology improve enough that now only three spares were deemed necessary versus four? I think I prefer the original configuration.

  11. I had a 1914 Chalmers Model 24 6 cyl. It had a hand pump in the dash for initial pressure which was only 2 lbs. After
    starting, a small one cylinder air pump , which was connected to the cam, took over the chore of pressurizing the gas
    tank. This was common on larger cars, but by 1915, Stewart- Warner was making inroads with its vacuum tank.

    Pressurizing fuel in a confined container makes for an explosion under certain conditions. Vacuum tanks and gravity fed systems had their issues, but they wouldn’t spread your remains over a large area.

  12. Even with the Lunkenheimer exhaust gas pressure device, the initial pressurization of the gasoline tank was via a hand-operated air pump. The interesting feature of this firewall-mounted brass or bronze casting is that it had an internal “filter” or steel wool barrier (can’t remember which) to prevent flames or embers from coming into contact with the pressurized fuel. They also had an adjustment to regulate the amount of pressure that was fed to the fuel tank. As I recall, they were made in nine different configurations!

    • Another important feature of the Lunkenheimer exhaust pressure regulator was that contaminants found in the exhaust gases were not introduced into the gas tank. Soot and carbon particles were filtered out, and the device also served to condense and separate the water prior to pressurizing the fuel tank with the exhaust.

      On the one hand, the fuel tank was pressurized by exhaust gases which were largely non combustible.

      On the other hand, the entire fuel tank was pressurized. Thus increasing the odds that a small leak would be both a pressure stream, and greatly increasing the quantity of vaporized or atomized fuel in the vicinity of the leak.

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