An Entertaining & Informative Vintage Automobile Internet Magazine

Ferdinand Ellerman in the Grease Pit

There was a time before car lifts were invented when just about every garage that did service work and grease jobs had what was called a grease pit. Ferdinand Ellerman, seen here in a garage in the greater Los Angeles area during 1915, smiled for the camera while standing in one. With him is an assortment of lubrication equipment including a cast iron frying pan and spoon.

Grease pumps and guns can be seen below along with a page from the Automobile Trade Journal showing the high quality Lukenheimer grease cups that were offered in the same year as our featured photo. Can any of our readers positively identify the automobile with the distinctive platform rear spring? Well over one hundred and fifty photos of other garages and agencies can be seen here on The Old Motor.


14 responses to “Ferdinand Ellerman in the Grease Pit

  1. One summer years ago I was a grease monkey working in a grease pit. I remember I was paid about a buck eighty an hour. Fleet of trucks were to large for a lift.

      • The 1915 California license plate 16691 was registered to Ferdinand Ellerman. In the list of California Registered Automobiles for 1915 the Cadillac is not identified by year, but the factory number is 67792. The horse power rating is shown as 36.3.

        Looking up the factory number the car would be a 1912 model. Photos of the rear of other 1912 Cadillacs are below. Note the different positions of the license plates and taillights.

        www dot wallpaperup dot com/249408/1912_Cadillac_Model-30_Phaeton_luxury_retro_g.html

        www dot conceptcarz dot com/view/photo/272044,13393,0,0/photo.aspx

        www dot villageautobody dot org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/1912-cadillac-aaca-senior-duryea-winner-village-auto-body.jpg

  2. The back of a car is not its best documented part, so it’s not easy to do ‘research’ in this area! However, it could very well be a Cadillac, but not as ‘young’ as its license plate number. I would guess a 1909 or 1910 model 30 touring car. On a photograph of a 1910 model 30 demi-tonneau I observed a comparable mounting of the transverse spring to the chassis including the three spring clips. The shackles are slightly different in shape, but the arrangement is the same. Also the rear axle is similar in shape and arrangement. Unfortunately I have no Cadillac ’30’ around, but I guess there are enough examples left in the States to check?

  3. Nearly 100 years later and I have to ask – in my case – what’s changed?! This is basically how I, an enthusiast without deep pockets to buy the “toys” I dream of, work on my car at home today. And, like Ferdinand in this wonderful photo, still have a grin from ear to ear.

  4. Definitely Cadillac, given the unique grease cups and pointed nut on the tail light/license plate mount. Looks like a 1912 based on the electric Gray and Davis tail light.

  5. These photos are always the best, but raise continuously new questions because of its beautiful detailing. So my new question is: who was the producer of the right tire? The left tire is obviously a Diamond with Sqeegee tread (whatever that means), but the right one is a mystery. It does not fit any of the tread patterns of the larger tire producers at the time.

    • The tire on the right is Racine Multi-Mile Cord Tire which was produced by the Racine Rubber Company of Racine, Wisconsin. Founded on March 12, 1910, by the owners of the Mitchell Automobile Company, in 1917 it was sold and merged into the Ajax Rubber Company. The Racine Rubber brand continued to be made after the merger.

      There is a Racine Rubber Company Homes Historic District which has 102 duplex houses on 60 acres of land that Racine Rubber built at a cost of $1.2 million in 1920 for the company workers. The homes were originally built because of a housing shortage after World War I.

      One ad for Racine Tires with this same tread pattern can be seen here:

      www dot atticpaper dot com/proddetail.php?prod=1921-racine-cord-tires-ad

      • I believe the tire I listed above is incorrect. Although similar to the tire on the Cadillac, the Racine tire at the link has an additional incised tread line inside each of the large triangles.

        A better identification is the Savage non-skid tire shown previously on The Old Motor here.

        Although Arthur Savage is better known for his armament company (Savage Arms), he was the original inventor of the radial tire in 1915 (not Michelin in 1946).

  6. Stop in any truck stop repair shop today and you will still find mechanics working in a grease pit under the semis.

  7. I can all most positively say that this is a 1912 Cadillac Model 30. The general shap lines up as well as the bolt placement for the rear end and the way the spring is attached. Even seen some with the tail light in the same spot with the license plate.

  8. The gentleman photographed here, Ferdinand Ellerman (1869 – 1940) was a world renowned astronomer. Ellerman is well known for his many photographs and observations of the sun and stars. A short biography of his life’s work, includes the sentence, “”He early developed an interest in photography and in the use of machine tools, in both of which fields he became exceptionally skillful and proficient.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *