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Horseless Carriages: Four Person Cole – Mercer Wire Wheels – Norwalk Underslung – National at Indy

Updated: The “Horseless Carriages” feature this week includes three photos and an advertisement all found in “Motor Age” magazines published in the first half of 1912.

The lead photo from the publications January 16, 1912 issue shows a new take on the use of running board seats on automobiles at the time. One of two roadster bodies offered on the Cole 40 h.p. chassis in 1912 was this “Torpedo” roadster fitted with a pair of individual bucket seats and footrests for the outside passengers.

It is not known at this time if this arrangement was an option or if it was made up in an effort to gain free publicity. However, the outboard seat on the left-hand side of the car appears to have been constructed at the Cole factory in Indianapolis as it has the automaker’s signature lead-filled brass trim around the outside edge of the upholstery.

View earlier posts covering the Cole automobile here.

Update: Due to the three-day holiday weekend The Old Motor will return again on Tuesday morning.

This advertisement was placed by the McCue Company of Buffalo, New York, the builder of the wire wheels on “Hughie” Hughes’ Mercer racing car, and found in the June 13, 1912 issue of the “Motor Age.” This ad was placed at about the time when some of the first American-made wire wheels became available.

One is left to wonder where Hughes may have placed his Mercer in the race without the tire trouble and if he could have challenged Dawson, the winner of the race. View earlier posts about the Mercer automobile here.

Also in the June 13, 1912 issue of the “Motor Age” was this view of the race winning car built by National Motor Vehicle Company located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Joe Dawson, the driver, probably received only percentage of the twenty-thousand dollars, a common arrangement between drivers and manufacturers or racing teams both back then and today.

View earlier posts about the National automobile here. Learn all about and view Ralph Depalma’s “1912 Gallant Defeat” suffered on the last lap of the race shown in a painting by artist Peter Helck.

And finally, learn more about the Norwalk “underslung” that was pictured in the June 6, 1912 issue of the “Motor Age.”


15 responses to “Horseless Carriages: Four Person Cole – Mercer Wire Wheels – Norwalk Underslung – National at Indy

  1. I wonder how popular the third and fourth seat were for riders. They are completely exposed to the elements, imagine the mud bath. The sensation of speed must have been terrific. Not for me.

  2. With a long-time interest in the Paige line of automobiles, I have long been aware of the “seat-in-a-drawer” used by Paige on their Daytona series sports cars, as well as Kissel’s competing “Gold Bug” models.
    Years ago, I knew a fellow that restored a Paige Daytona that had originally belonged to his aunt. He was not one to drive his cars much. I think that is sad, but there are a lot of people in this hobby like that. One major Concourse de Elegance he showed the car in, he won a major award (I am not certain of the exact show or award, so I won’t say). So he had a friend drive his Daytona up to the reviewing stand to receive his trophy, he comfortably riding in the running board seat. The photos of him receiving his trophy were published in some hobby magazines.

    Personally, I would welcome an opportunity to ride in such a seat, even “at speed”. But then, I have driven several open wheel (a few nearly body-less) model T speedsters and racing cars at about 70 mph. One of them, I ran nearly 80 mph once.
    Just another fun aspect of antique and historic vehicles.

  3. Not for me either. I worked with a guy that would grab you by the ankles if you were under a car on the creeper. A big laugh would come from him and shouting and name calling from the victim! He would give a big roundhouse swing around and I would be furious and fearful. That’s what those seats remind me of.

    • Yes, and the National Park Service has a good description of the history in its Registry of Historic Places for the Houk Manufacturing Company factory at Grote and Elmwood in Buffalo. According to the history, it started as Superior Motor Vehicle Company in 1910, became Superior Axle & Forge Company in 1911 and McCue Company in 1912. Houk Manufacturing bought McCue in 1915 and became Wire Wheel Corporation of America in 1917; Buffalo Wire Wheels were made by Wire Wheel Corporation.

  4. While I’m very much partial to Brit cars with as little weather protection as possible, I did happen into Mark Goyette’s shop in Bennington one day when he had a Cole Speedster in there in the last stages of restoration. It was a pretty blue roadster with a running board seat on the passenger’s side, just the ticket, I suppose for a mom & pop rural mail route.

  5. Interesting to consider the links between Roebling, which made cables (including those for the Brooklyn Bridge) and Mercer’s wire wheels. Of course there was a family link.

    • John A. Roebling designed the Brooklyn bridge, the wire was contracted out – there were issues with QC. There’s a fascinating story there covering caisson disease, tensile strength, etc.
      And Mr Greenlees, The Old Motor helps keep my synapses functional.
      Thank you very very much!

  6. Hello, I run the Cole Motor car registry and can shed some light on your photograph. that car with the two side seats was for a promotional launch of their new roadster built for speed. It ties into Cole’s racing success and the driver and primary passenger are race drivers Barney Oldfield & Bud Burman. I have other angles of this photo and a clipping from a newspaper if you are interested.

    On a side note, Coles were highly customizable and they had a standard base price and options listed in the sales booklet. What you saw in ads was the base price and then you picked your options as well as your color of paint. Premium colors of paint would of course cost more money and a side seat was an option as well. So technically you could configure and purchase this exact car for yourself in 1912, though this picture is from that promotional event.

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