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Fred Belcher at the Wheel of a Mighty Olds Limited Test Car

  • 1911 Article in “The Automobile” covering the new and larger 707 c.i. engine with a 5 x 6-inch bore and stroke which was also used in the 1912 “Limited” model.

Today’s feature image has a note on the bottom of it, “1912 Fred Belcher Onondaga”, the year was added later by another hand so it may or not be accurate. The automobile appears to be either a 1911 to ’12 Oldsmobile “Limited” test car, and three other test cars are parked behind it. The building apparently was a part of the Olds factory complex in Lansing, Michigan, or in Onondaga, a small town about fifteen miles south of Lansing.

There is a possibility the driver of this enormous car is racing driver Fred Belcher who worked for Knox and piloted the firm’s racing and hill climb cars as late as 1911. Of the thirty or so competitive events he drove in for the automaker including the 1911 Indianapolis 500 he won close to half of them. If Belcher, also a machinist, left Knox in 1911 after Indy he may have gone to work for Oldsmobile testing prototypes of the 1912 “Limited.” There is snow on the ground and on the rear wheels of the “test car” that may date this photo to late 1911 or early 1912.

The 1911 Model “Limited” was based on a 138-inch chassis with gigantic 42 x 4.5-inch tires and sold for as much as $7000 with limousine coachwork. The 1912 car, and the end of production of this model rode on a slightly longer 140-inch chassis and the cost with a formal body had dropped to $6300.

View many other photos and find more information in earlier articles about the large and legendary “Limited” built by Olds.


9 responses to “Fred Belcher at the Wheel of a Mighty Olds Limited Test Car

  1. Belcher was the superintendent and mechanical engineer for Grout Brothers (Orange, Mass.) by the end of March 1912, according to Volume 21 of Motor Age (in Volume 20, he was still racing Knox cars). However, that was also Grout’s last year of existence, and I’m not sure at what point in the year they closed.

  2. There are some differences between the engine in the photo and the engine in the article including the intake manifolds, the carburetors and the fan belt locations.

    • Looking at photographs, I think that does narrow the car down to being a 1912 Limited. The GM Heritage Center has an engine from a 1911 Limited that has a curved manifold, and when the 1912 Limited was auctioned, a photograph of the engine showed a straight manifold. It’s a small sample size, but I haven’t found any pictures other than the 1911 that matches the drawing and the 1912 that matches the photograph.

  3. take note of the wooden spoked wheels: 12 spokes on front , – 14 on the back !, indicating “huge torque handling” for the rear wheels and also higher quality Front wheels. An exceptional amount of spokes for an exceptionally huge car!!! another advantage of the High wheeled earlier road performance vehicles was: Less” bone jarring” on earlier roads! This appears to be a chassis stripped of its Limousine Body or a 7 Passenger Touring Car Body Note the “Kelsey’s Nuts & Wedges, on Removable Rims but no indication of Spares tires, indicating :”closed course” “Endurance Testing on “Factory Grounds”. Note that he is: “Hanging Iron” ( Snow chains for slogging through thick mud). This is not a Sunday drive!, nor is it: A Continental Cross – Country event . He has been Instructed to see how long it takes to break it!

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