Look Ma, No Gears – The Gearless Greyhound

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  • The Gearless Greyhound advertised in “The Automobile”, August 22, 1907

Much like today’s abandonment of the manual transmission by most modern motorists, in the first decade of the last century there was a need for a semi-automatic transmission that did not require the shifting of gears. Only the mechanically-inclined and patient driver could master the art of double-clutching, which would allow gears to be shifted with the primitive clutches and transmissions of the day.

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  • Three versions of the four Gearless units seen in patent drawings

Henry Ford capitalized on this by offering his version of the planetary transmission in his early models and on through to the end of the production of the Model “T” Ford. The Gearless Transmission Co. of Rochester, New York, subscribed to the semi-automatic transmission idea, but took it a step further and offered its designs in a series of upscale and powerful machines.

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  • The version chosen for the 1908 Gearless 60 h.p. four and the 75 h.p. six

The Gearless was only in production between the years of 1907 and the fall of 1909. During the first two years of production, the company focused on large high-horsepower four and six-cylinder models that ranged between fifty and seventy-five h.p., and the use of its unique transmission.

Four patented transmission designs were developed for the car and the version shown above was the one to be chosen for production in 1908. In low gear or reverse, six cone-shaped rolling fiber rollers (no. 40 in the drawing above) were pressed against one or the other of the two large cones (no. 33 and no. 18). Full details of its construction and operation can be found just below in The Automobile magazine.

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  • Full details of the Gearless in the February 6, 1908 “The Automobile” and coverage of the Gearless Pilot Car for the New York to Paris Race 

Despite the high-quality construction and the exposure resulting in the Gearless being chosen by the Chicago Auto Club as a Pilot Car for the New York to Paris Race, the company found it was unable to turn a profit. After a reorganization in the spring of 1908, and the addition of a lower-priced four-cylinder car with a conventional transmission, the company carried on through to 1909. The changes made to help save the automaker did not work, and it went bankrupt that fall. More information can be found here covering the 1908 Gearless Cars.

Posted in Auto photos 1885 - 1920 | Tagged , , , , |

An Auburn and A Ford Tri-Motor Help to Promote India Tires in Los Angeles

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  • An Auburn Sedan and a Ford Tri-Motor at the Burbank, California Airport

In promotional photos, the surroundings or things that a product is associated with have a large impact on the public’s perception of that object. In this case a set of photos was taken in 1928 for the India Tire & Rubber Co. of Akron, Ohio to promote its tires and a Auburn Sedan and a Ford Tri-Motor airplane were used for effect. India had a long history of building quality tires that were sold across the country.

The Auburn is dated 1927 or earlier and is one of several six and eight-cylinder models that the company was building at the time; if you can identify its exact year and model, please send us a comment. You can learn quite a bit here on The Old Motor about the automakers offerings in this period, and also see an informative video of a 1927 film by the Auburn Automobile Co. here.

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According to the Maddox Family website: “In the spring of 1927, John Luther Maddux took delivery of his first Ford “Tri-Motor” airplane. Maddux Airlines was formed September 2, 1927 and its first flight was on November 1, 1928 from Burbank Airport to San Diego’s Lindbergh Field.”

“By mid-1929, Maddox had 16 Tri-Motors and two smaller planes which he used for private charter. Business was booming, but the risks were great and he was unable to obtain an airmail contract. To get the government’s support, Jack merged the airline with Transcontinental Air Transport on November 16, 1929.” You can learn the rest of the interesting Maddux Airlines story here.


The excellent video below is from the Tri-Motor Heritage Foundation in Port Clinton, Ohio. The production gives a very interesting account of the Tri-Motor history, and also the organization that is in the process of building an authentic replica so it can have a flying version of the craft; the airplane was an important part of travel in that area in the period. You can also strap in and go for a ride in a restored Tri-Motor at a recent fly-in at Trimotor Heritage Foundation. All photos are courtesy of the USC Libraries.

Posted in Auto photos 1921 - 1942 | Tagged , , , , , , , , |

A Tatra Traveling from the Czech Republic to Pebble Beach

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  • Pavel Kasik out in his first test drive this spring in the Tatra T77

A few days ago we covered a Toledo Steam Car that was on its way to the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and today we feature a car that is coming from even farther away to attend. Pavel Kasik of the Czech Republic just completed a 20-year long restoration of his Tatra T77, and then sent it along on an overseas journey of over four-thousand miles. Seven other Tatra’s will also be attending this year, and more are coming from the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Canada and the United States.

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  • The Tatra T77 before restoration in the mid-1990s

Kasik’s family briefly owned a Tatra in the late 1970s and from that time on he was determined to find an early one to restore. In 1991, he came across this car but then had to endure nearly three years of negotiations while the owner constantly changed the conditions and increased the price. After persevering and competing with other would be buyers he was finally able to take ownership.

His determination to perform a first-class restoration using only original parts lengthened the restoration time to 20 years. You can learn much more about the cars and also see a great video about the Tatra here on The Old Motor and the Pebble Beach Concours here.

Posted in Auto photos 1921 - 1942 | Tagged , , |