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An Impressive American Underslung Touring Car

The American “Underslung” was a popular automobile when it was new and still is today with collectors because of its unusual chassis design, large wheels, and attractive styling. The frame of this unique machine was mounted below the axles for a lower center of gravity that resulted in better handling than conventional cars of the time. Large forty and forty-one inch tires and wheels allow for adequate ground clearance. The chassis layout was the work of Harry Stutz and American designed Fred Tone.

This circa 1910 to ’12 “Tourist” model seven-passenger touring car is powered by a large 50 h.p. four-cylinder T-head engine and was manufactured by the American Motor Car Company in Indianapolis between the years of 1905 to ’14.

View earlier articles covering the American and share with us was you find of interest in this set of photos courtesy of the Vintage Photo Junkie.

30 responses to “An Impressive American Underslung Touring Car

  1. Your article states the chassis was designed by ….”Harry Stutz and American designer Fred Tone. ”

    Harry Stutz was American too, born in western Ohio. And despite his German sounding name he came from Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry.

    His automotive career reached its peak with the Indianapolis-based Stutz Motor Car Company and the later HCS firm.
    BTW: Both factories still exist.

      • My point was he’s not German…you’d be surprised how many people ask me when I’m out in my car whether Stutz (the man or the car) was German.
        Also, the RHD steering position confuses them.

      • That’s interesting David. I used to have an old beer can from the 1950’s that was called “Pennsylvania Dutch Old German Beer” and I always thought that it meant it was brewed by Dutch people from Pennsylvania who made German beer. But I guess not. The same goes I guess for “Old Dutch Beer”, but not that of “Dutch Lunch Beer”. It just goes to show that you can learn something new almost every day when reading Old Motor News and sometimes it isn’t even auto related. Additionally, I had never even heard of an Underslung car before. It looks like it was a mighty big automobile for its time and quite rare and no doubt quite expensive too.

      • I remember having that disagreement with my parents when I was about five. “If he’s called a Dutchman that means he’s from Holland,” I insisted. While never entirely convinced, since my dad was German I pretty much had to take his word for it.

    • A so very small point: When I read the article I interpreted the reference to Tone only as to say that he worked directly for the American Motor Car co. “ and American (Motor Car) designer…”, not that either were or weren’t ‘Americans.’ Again small, don’t know if I’m correct as to intent
      Thanks David, love Underslungs.

    • The Traveler Special was priced at $4500 in 1912, which would be roughly $118,000 in 2019 dollars. Their lower-priced vehicles were the Traveler Type 54 (4-passenger Touring) at $4250 (~$111,000), the Tourist Type 34 (4-passenger Touring) at $2250 (~$59,000) and the Scout Type 22 (2-person Roadster) at $1250 (~$33,000).

      From looking at info from American Automobiles of the Brass Age, it appears that the first digit in a model number is the tens of horsepower (so 50 for the Traveler, 30 for Tourist, 20 for Scout) and the second digit is the number of passengers.

  2. To the best of my knowledge, the underslung design was all Tone; Stutz designed the over-axle suspension used on early Americans that remained available until 1912. The underslung design came about in 1907, after Stutz went from American to Marion and Tone went from Marion to American.

  3. I love American Underslungs. I think they are as exotic as a car could be in their day. It would be like a Lamborghini or Bugatti Viron today.

    • The asymmetric pattern would ensure remounting in the same index as when manufactured, possibly to ensure concentricity.

  4. There is a funny crease just forward of the horn bulb, but no door for the driver on that side of the car. The speedometer and cable is outside the bodywork of the car. It looks like there is some electrical wire leading from the box to the bottom of the unique horn. Could the horn be electrical and bulb type? The gear shift lever is missing from the usual place outside the car next to the brake lever. Is it inside or is this car some sort of early automatic? The body extends down to the running boards without the usual splash shield between the body and running board.

      • Also notice the exterior speedometer and cable running to the right fender.

        The horn is what is often called a “Rubes horn”…named after the designer or manufacturer, I don’t know. They came in various modes with different number of twists.
        They were being remanufactured in the not terribly distant past (I assume for the Model T restoration market), but I understand the gentleman making them passed away and they are no longer available new. I found an original unit and put it on my car…for a surprisingly affordable price.

        • Inventor. Louis and Ernest Rubes were inventors (who also bought up patents by other inventors), and they manufactured car horns out of the Automobile Supply Manufacturing Company in Brooklyn to the extent that in 1915 they controlled 85% of the US market. They went out of business in 1917 after losing lawsuits against other manufacturers they claimed were infringing on their patents.

          • Thank you Steve.
            There’s an old saying “if you’re the smartest man in the room, you’re in bad company”.
            When I open this website, I’m in good company.

  5. Years ago I remember reading that when George Mason the president of the Nash Kelvinator Corporation announced that he would be merging his company with that of Hudson and calling it American Motors, someone replied by stating that there already had been another car company called American Motors and that George Mason responded by saying, “yes, but they were no longer in business”. The company that had been referred to must have been the long defunct American Motors Company who made the heralded but short lived ‘American Underslung’ passenger tourist car. I knew nothing about them before but now I know what their main marque had been.

  6. The American Underslung is my all-time, I mean ALL-TIME favorite antique automobile. The saga of Walter Seeley (Jamestown NY) and his restoration of four of these magnificent automobiles appeared in at least two issues of “Antique Automobile”. The two issues I have are July/August 1972 and Sept./Oct. 1980 .

  7. I wonder how many of these cars still exist? I was fortunate to have a friendship in the early 1980’s with a person in Pontiac, Michigan that owned, among other one off cars and collectibles, an American Underslung. I have not been in touch with him for years. I never saw the Underslung driven during the time I knew him.

    • Walter Seeley’s list in 1972 had 27 known to exist – 2 in parts, 2 unrestored, 2 in the process of restoration, 20 restored, and 1 in running condition. A few more have been found in the intervening decades, so somewhere in the low 30s. Most are underslung. The only known conventional chassis survivor is the 1906 Roi-des-Belges Touring car, which wasn’t on Seeley’s list (probably because it wasn’t an underslung).

    • One that does not exist is my grandfather’s first car, a 1910. I’ve never understood how a farmer could afford such a magnificent machine. In 1922 he purchased a Buick, which was later converted to a farm truck. I had the pleasure of riding on the back of this as a very young child which probably sparked my interest in old cars.

    • Wayne Carini featured one of these cars on a recent episode of Chasing Classic Cars here in UK. I believe it won Best on Show at Amelia Island or Pebble Beach Concours.
      Beautiful car.

  8. Steve,
    A great job putting together an answer to my question. You should be on TV showing off those sleuthing skills!

    Thanks for the info.

    Lew

  9. Any indication as to who is pictured with the car? A local businessman (F. C. Deemer, Brookville, PA) owned four of those cars which, after his death in 1960, were acquired by Walter Seeley for restoration.

  10. Always such interesting commentary… thank you!
    Regarding the wheels of the Underslung, I notice the front wheel has 10 spokes and the rear 12. I have never noticed early autos with a difference such as this- although, I can’t say I’ve spent any time counting spokes.
    Thank you.

  11. Now that I’m counting spokes, I notice the back wheel of the car behind the Underslung has 14 spokes. Does anyone know the make of that car?

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