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“Gasoline Jack” Driving a Stage Filled with Nine People and a Rabbit

Having the nickname “Gasoline Jack” would lead one to believe that the driver of this Chico to Westwood Stage might have been quite a character.

Chico, California, is located about 87-miles north of Sacramento, the State Capitol in the northeastern section of the state. The driving distance from the city of Chico to the town of Westwood on Route 32 today is 80-miles. Assuming that Jack could keep up an average driving speed of a little over 25-mph on the roads of the day without stopping, the run would take about three hours. The overloaded touring car contains eight adult passengers plus a young boy, a caged rabbit, and luggage.

The automobile is a 1916 or ’17 Studebaker Model ED-6 seven-passenger touring car on a 122-inch w.b. chassis powered by a 353 c.i. six-cylinder engine which sold for $1085. A Studebaker promotional photo below at the end of the post from The Old Motor archives contains either a new 1916 or ’17 ED-6 fitted with rear shock absorbers and a spotlight.

Tell us what you find of interest in the photo courtesy of the CSU Digital Collections.

18 responses to ““Gasoline Jack” Driving a Stage Filled with Nine People and a Rabbit

  1. First, thanks for producing the great site. The bad news, it takes up my first hour of every Saturday morning. My lawyer will be sending a bill for my time you have wasted.

    An interesting picture, the same people are in both pics but the car has been repositioned between shots. Is that a cop or a forest service employee standing on the far side in the first pic? From Chico to Westwood would not be an easy trip any time of year.

    Thanks for the most interesting pictures, I hope you get through all the snow storms you are getting this year.


      • OK, I just called off my attorney. Free is a very good price and worth every cent of it.
        David, I really do appreciate the time and effort you put into producing it. My dad went into the auto repair trade at 15 in 1915. If he ware alive he would love it. I have a few pics of his I can send you?


  2. Don’t know what became of Gasoline Jack, but around this time, up in Hibbing, Minnesota, a failed Hupmobile salesman set up a similar service, using his unsold demonstrator to haul miners between Hibbing and a neighboring town that apparently had better bars and brothels. He signed on some partners, added cars, and eventually renamed the business the Greyhound Bus Company. Talk about humble beginnings.

  3. Great picture! I used to have one of those cars. An incredible car for Horseless Carriage Club use. Very powerful and fast. It appears to be the 1915 build “series 16” car that Studebaker at first called the “1916 model”. But Studebaker at that time was more concerned by improving their cars quickly, rather than following a “year model” plan. In January of 1916, Studebaker sent letters out to dealers stating that these cars were no longer to be called “1916 models”, but as “series 16” cars, a plan the company continued until about 1920. Not counting the four or six cylinder and/or different body types (including pickups), Studebaker made three distinctly different series of cars during calendar 1915. The so-called “true ’15” was manufactured basically from about September 1914 until May of 1915. The so-called “1916 model” (later referred to by the factory as a “series 16”) was then manufactured until December of 1915. Production of the series 17 then began, with the official unveiling on December 28 of 1915. The earliest surviving series 17 cars are actually accepted by the HCCA (although there are some people that believe they should not be). And the series 16s were involved in a major club dispute over forty years ago. When researches showed that ALL series 16s were in fact manufactured well before the end of the year, the dispute for Studebaker at least subsided. Other early 1916 cars still have some issues. (Not wanting to stir anything up here, just pointing out some significant details and history of the car pictured.)
    Differences between the series 16 and series 17 cars include the lack of a splash panel below the radiator. The series 17 and beyond had one until the splash panel went out of style in the mid ’30s with the more full streamlined body styles. The wheels on the series 16 have six lugs, while they went to seven lugs on the later series car. However, that change was not cleanly made, and in and of itself cannot mean the car can or cannot be one or the other. There are actually several original factory photos (some published in books about Studebaker history), that show cars with both six and seven lug wheels on the same car (Ford wasn’t the only one to make such running changes!).
    The gasoline tank on the series 16 is in the cowl, as was in the ’13s, ’14s and “true” ’15s. The filler neck was located to one side in the top of the cowl for the ’13s and ’14s. The ’15s and series 16 cars had the filler neck located in the dash panel. This made it easy to sit in comfort while pouring gasoline into the tank from a can or bucket in the days before filler stations with curbside hoses became common (bet you didn’t know that was one of the reasons for that!?), rather than leaning over the fender and straining to hold the gasoline can. The series 17 (for calendar 1916) had the gasoline tank relocated to the rear of the car, and used a newfangled vacuum tank to draw the gasoline up to the motor. (Personally, I love a car with a properly working vacuum tank, and have had a few over the years)
    The front seat changed drastically through the various model changes. Earlier model touring cars had a typical straight bench seat. The series 16s built in the latter half of 1915 had a nicely contoured front bench seat with two semi-buckets. The series 17 in 1916 had a divided front seat that had a very narrow path between them that in theory would allow a front passenger to move to the rear seat while traveling (yeah, try that in one!). The series 18s built mostly in 1917 had a front passenger seat that would turn to face the rear so that the front seat passenger could face the rear seat passengers and carry on conversations. In many ways, the series 16, 17, and series 18 cars were very much alike. But the front seat was obviously unique to each. Other body styles such as the roadster and coupe, had totally different seat designs, where the driver and passengers sat offset slightly.
    Many other details of the cars changed through those series changes, including the jump seats for the seven passenger touring cars. Also minor changes in the fenders, radiator shell, headlamp placement and mountings, as well as the windshield. And I don’t know all the specifics of all those changes.

    Thank you David G for a wonderful look at some excellent era photos of an incredible car. I wish I still had mine.
    (Although a good friend of mine now has it and has taken much better care of it than I ever could have!)

    • Wayne has obviously done considerable research on this era. A few other interesting observations I would add: The last photo of the new ’16 series 17 does show six lug wheels on the front and seven on the back. The bodies on the Six and Four were identical so the difference in wheelbase 122 for the Six and 112″ for the Four are ahead of the cowl. As I look at the first image of Gasoline Jack and his passengers and compare it with the last image of the new series 17 car it almost seems as though the hood on the last car (definitely a Six) is longer than that shown on Jack’s car. Could that mean his was a Four? Would not seem logical for an over the road livery vehicle but that hood just looks too short for a Six? Also would point out that the Six and Four were pretty much identical cars in other ways. Same wheels, and even the same engine bore and stroke 3 7/8 X 5.” I have just about every factory issued document on the 1915-16-17 cars including dozens of 8 X 10 glossy images, showroom catalogs, parts books and service info as well as copies of the Studebaker News dealer magazines. However I did not have a photo of Gasoline Jack so thanks for that!

  4. That’s Gasoline Jack Houk. There are two images of Jack Houk with an apparently earlier RHD stage (or two diffferent RHD stages) with the identification lettering on the auto showing ” Chico – Willows Stage” (internet search “Gasoline Jack Houk Chico – Willows Stage”) and the second image shows the license plate (internet search ” Chico – Willows Stage”).

    Another later business Jack Houk was apparently involved in: “Lassen Transit Company” circa 1924. There is an image of 5 of the stages (internet search “Lassen Transit Company Butte Meadows – Jonesville area”).

  5. Gasoline Jack selected a tough, rugged, powerful, easy-to-service Studebaker for what was no doubt generally rough duty as were most stage-line livery operations. When this Studebaker was just a big, cheap used car, it ended up being used the way so many must have been, for heavy-duty work. By the looks of it, this must have been in the early 1920’s.

  6. Highway 32 did not exist at the time of these photos. He most likely drove the Humbolt Wagon Road between Chico and Westwood.

  7. Ugh, crammed in like that on the roads of the day compounded by the fact that there was no movement left in the rear suspension! Something must have broke, either mechanical or physical! And that poor rabbit. Wonder if she held on to it for the whole trip.

  8. No one will convince me that this picture is anything more than “Staged”. The rope “lash-down job”, — looks like it was done by the Photographer ! The lady with the Bird or Cat cage — will not be able to endure 80 miles of dirt roads attempting to hang onto it ! 3 to 5 people too many. I can understand a “Jitney” in town, — being over – crowded, but an 80 Mile dirt road trip might make it with two or three cars, supplies and spare tires, tubes, tools, etc.. I do not doubt that Gasoline Jack provided an important service! Perhaps Most of them were Only going 5 miles out of town ? Huh?

  9. I’ve lived in Westwood for 48 years(there are two Westwoods in California) and managed to live in Chico for 3 years. I
    just happen to have a 1922 Studebaker Big Six Four Passenger Speedster. Westwood had the world’s largest pine mill
    at the time of the picture and Chico had the second largest municipal park after New York City’s. The question is, should
    I follow in Gasoline Jack’s path and start up the Westwood Stage again? I think I’m allergic to rabbits though.

  10. Mounted on the glossy/new Studebaker are early true whitewall tires. Ford issued all whites up to 1919 and Studebaker last used them in 1923. I often wonder when the first whitewall arrived. I obtained a petrified whitewall
    sized 36 x 4 1/2. This size was not on new cars after 1915. Whitewalls didn’t get popular until roads began to get paved
    as they would be as hard to keep up as all-whites.

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