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Towing Cars with a Boat and other Images from the Lone Star State

We have looked into the two-way causeway to South Padre Island, Texas, previously and efforts to promote tourism beginning in the late-1920s. The two endeavors were stalled by the Great Depression and a hurricane in 1933 that wiped out the raised wooden road.

Today’s lead image shows another method used to transport automobiles out to the Island. A car secured by chain tie downs to a rack supported by pontoons was pulled by a tour boat filled with visitors. In this case, the vehicle is a 1929 or later Chevrolet two-door sedan.

Tell us what you find of interest in this set of images via contributor Benjamin Ames.

  • Three low-radiator black Model “T” Ford cars in front of a garage in Dickinson, Texas. Note the Hassler shocks on the closed car on the far-left, and the visible gas pump mounted on a wooden platform.

  • An early International “High Wheeler” pickup truck stacked with produce in south central Texas. Who can date this machine with a front mounted radiator?

15 responses to “Towing Cars with a Boat and other Images from the Lone Star State

    • It appears to me the cars rear wheels are on rollers and the front wheels can steer the pontoon craft. Self propelled.
      No tow line is visible. A wake at the rear of the craft is visible. Notice the gap in the tire ramps for all 4 wheels to function.

  1. Chevrolet moved the gas gauge to the dash in 1930 from the tank. The car with the windows down (just in case) is a 1930. In the second photo the middle car has the one man top and the other has the two man top. Nice way to compare.

    • Agreed, it looks like a late 1908 Auto Wagon. They had a detachable second bench seat, which is removed from the one in the picture. There’s a possibility it’s a 1909 – I don’t think the shadow at the front is the short hood the ’09s had, but I’m not 100% certain.

      • Auto Wagon production did not start until 1909. Prior to that, Auto Buggies with a rear seat but no pickup box like the one at the St Louis Museum were produced.

  2. The St. Louis Car Museum has a 1908 International for sale. Their website has a nice photo of a restored car.

  3. I grew up in La Feria, Texas, near South Padre Island (SPI). In the 1940 and ’50s, before any causeways, we used to take Colley’s ferry across the bay, and a Model A halftrack truck would pick us up and take us over the dunes to the only tourist spot on the island, a wooden “hotel” on tall pilings.

    The hotel stood on the ocean side of the island. It could accommodate maybe 6 families, had a dining room, but was very primitive and absolutely fabulous. We stayed there a number of times and loved it.

    I don’t know why anyone would want a car on SPI back then. There was nowhere to go. You could drive along the beach, I suppose, but there were no roads, no filling stations, no water, no amenities of any kind.

    Oh, I’m forgetting – there was a coastguard station at the southern tip of the island. Maybe one of the fellows there could have used a car to go fishing up the beach. But until the causeways were built and development started on the island, I’d think you’d be a lot better off without a car. For one thing, they rusted very quickly in the humid salt air.

  4. If I could read the painted banner across that floating car’s spare tire cover I bet I would discover that it contains a promotional blurb about the pontoon attachment. I think this is one of those “Popular Science” concept demonstrations, and the press is circling in the cruiser taking all-around photos.

  5. The first photo may be Howard T Powers demonstrating his “Automobile Boat” near Corpus Christi, for which he and fellow Corpus Christ inventor Walter C Lewis received patent 1804262 on May 5, 1931. Apparently depression conditions sank any chance of commercial development for Powers.

  6. Yes, I SEE “Power Rollers” for the rear wheels and Pivots for the front wheels to steer the front rudder of rudders, Chevy, 4- banger, I think. In fairly calm water, this might work! I see a “propulsion wake”, also, and my only concern would be: How the anchoring is done from the car’s Chassis to the Deck!

    • If you look hard you can see crossed chains at the rear. Much like you could hold a car down on dyno rollers. I think it’s a great concept! Certainly no worse than Amphicar! Tow the pontoon on it’s own road wheels to the water, drive on and instant sailor

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