Tag Archives: Fiat
This is the forth post in a series covering the automobiles that Peter Christian Wick operated during his career as a professional chauffeur; he drove in the New York City and Ridgefield, Connecticut areas in the early 1900s. This set of photos show two different Delaunay-Belleville cars, and he drove at least one of them for Mr. Albert H. Wiggin, who was the chairman of the Chase Bank.
The Delaunay-Belleville in the photo above and the three images below was an impressive and large French car that was most likely powered by a six-cylinder engine and may have been chain-driven. The coachwork the chassis is wearing is what we would refer to as a collapsible town car. It offered the comfort of being enclosed, but with the top down and the side and division windows removed it offered the benefits of an open car during pleasant weather.
The left-hand photo above shows Wick’s wife posing in the car with what appears to be the Sleeping Giant, which is located in central Connecticut, behind her. The center photo shows the car along with the Wiggin’s Fiat in front of the carriage house, which may have also served as living quarters for Wick and the other domestic help. The right-hand image shows a group of chauffeur’s posing with the car. Note the car being washed in the background and the man sitting just behind the front fender with what appears to be a broken arm.
The car Wick is posing in below may not have been owned by Mr. Wiggin as it has been identified as wearing a manufacturer’s license plate from New York. This car is likely to be the smaller four-cylinder model; note the low windshield, the continental-style mounting of the headlamps and the patent leather fenders.
The Wick family has discovered that in 1908 Peter was in Cupid’s Pranks, a 1908 Thomas Edison silent film, in it he can be seen between the 6:40-minute mark and 8:15 operating a limousine. If you can identify the maker of the car in the film, please let us know. You can look back here and see the White Steam cars, a Fiat and a Rainier he also drove in earlier posts here on The Old Motor.
Earlier in the year we did a feature article titled: Art Smith - The Life and Times of The Comet. That post tells the story of Smith building his first airplane at the age of fifteen, his career as a stunt pilot, and a trip to Japan in 1916 with his plane, crew and drivers of his baby racing cars to entertain Japanese officials.
Since that time, Marc Tudeau of France has found an album with some of the best photos to be found yet showing the Baby Cars in Japan. The photo above shows one of the two Fiat look-a-likes. This car was driven by Vic Bertrandias and was later wrecked in Nagoya, Japan.
Above left is the other Fiat that was driven by Kaiser Bill. The center photo shows the cars in front of the Crown Price’s stand in Tokyo before the first exposition race run there. It appears that there were at least two races run in the city at the time, and in at one of them Art Smith can be seen flying his Curtis Bi-Plane above the racers. The car on right above is wearing Peugeot style body work.
The cars were built with the help of Dudley Perkins of the Dudley Perkins Company, a San Francisco Harley-Davidson dealership. The left and center photos above show the workshop where the racers were assembled by Smith and his crew in a shop located at 220 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. The left photo is dated as being taken during February of 1916 and the center photo is captioned as showing the assembly of the first car in March of 1916. The right-hand photo with Smith in the car is captioned: First car runs! -Tokyo- April 1916.
The photo above gives us the most-detailed view of the type of construction used to build the cars yet. The frames were constructed of wood with steel fittings, and the front frame horns appear to be steel forgings. The cars were powered by Harley-Davidson V-twin engines, but it is not known what was used for a clutch and transmission. This may have been an earlier car, as some of them used larger-sized wheels and tires.
The photos are courtesy of the San Diego Air & Space museum where you can see more photos of the trip to Japan. There are also more photos and Smiths life’s story at: Art Smith - The Life and Times of The Comet. The short film clip below courtesy of British Pathe apparently shows the cars at a later date after returning to the U.S.
The British have long had a history of building “specials” which chances are, the first one may have been built well over 100 years ago. A special is just that, a car which is sometimes custom built with the use of components taken from many different makes.
Many of the specials built back in the period were constructed for racing originally and some of them are still used in vintage racing today. Others are still being constructed and what we have here is one that took many years to reach fruition, but finally did earlier this month. Graham Rankin who initially started the project and Mike Vardy who finished it up, took the 1014 cubic inch, Isotta-Fraschini-Fiat Special for its first ride ever and our friend Stefan Marjoram was there to film the occasion.
Fiat thought of building such a car and a drawing from 1905 by the company can be seen below. They had intended to use two four-cylinder engines joined together, with the same final drive arrangement but for some reason the car was never constructed.
Stefan Marjoram had the following to say about the Isotta-Fraschini-Fiat Special :
The car was never built by FIAT so there’s nothing left from any one original car. There’s a lot of discussion about whether a reverse chain is a good idea or not – perhaps FIAT decided it wasn’t. It was originally begun by Graham Rankin 20 years ago. He sourced the motor and worked on it for 13 years before selling it to Mike Vardy – who spent another 7 years to get it to where it is now.
Graham Rankin sent the following info along about the reverse chain drive and the IF engine in the following paragraph:
The reverse chain drive is “unusual”—in fact it is unique and has never been successfully employed on a semi-elliptical spring axle set-up before. The geometry and physics surrounding chain drive is complex and little understood by most people. In this instance where the chains drive forwards to the rear wheels there are some issues in relation to torque reaction under braking which we hope to have resolved by the use of very strong dampers keeping radius arms firmly parallel to the road.
Raymond Mays attempted something similar with the ERA Special in May 1950, borrowing parts from the BRM project and using the chain-cases as torque reaction arms. The suspension was olio-pneumatic but, because the mechanical moments were incorrectly calculated, the car actually proceeded like a kangaroo jumping into the air one moment when the loud pedal was clamped open, only to revert to earth another moment later ! There was much politics involved I gather and the BRM parts had to be quickly returned (before they were missed !) and further development never took place.
The Isotta-Fraschini (Model V6—V for Vollo i.e. “flight” in Italian) aero-engine is 16 ½ litres, rated at 250 HP @1,650 rpm. Bore is 140 mm and stroke 180 mm—6 cylinders. Compression ratio is 5.1:1. Single overhead camshaft operating two valves per cylinder. Torque is approximately 820 lbs/ft ! There is a gun synchronizer take-off at the front of the engine to avoid shooting off the propeller !
The engine came from the collection of Mr Gar Wood who bought up many surplus engines in the USA at the end of WW1 and used most in speed boats for Water Speed Record attempts. He was the American equivalent of Malcolm Campbell. When he died, the remnants of his collection were sold off and I was lucky enough to buy this one which had not run since (we think) 1921. The reason it was not used in a boat (mercifully—salt water is a killer !) was because of its long vertical stroke making visibility difficult, whereas vee engines (Hispano- Suiza etc) did not produce this problem and were consequently more popular.
Study the excellent photos that Stefan Marjoram has taken of the event and the car, he is also busy producing a film of the ocassion and we will be back with it soon along with many more black & white photos. Take a moment to visit Marjoram’s site and also look at his other work here on The Old Motor (scroll down).
And a big congratulations to all from us on the successful first fire-up and rides and also for having the foresight to construct this machine. Without it we might never have known how Fiat’s idea would work or be able to enjoy it. Stay tuned for more.
Auto shows in the N.Y.C. area back in this period (circa 1910), must have been quite exciting to take in. Being an area of financial means meant that the best American, British and European offerings would be on the show floor in the hands of area dealers and distributors. In just this one row we can see two of the very best available at the time, Lozier and Fiat.
One dealer we have been following recently, A.W. Blanchard had a stand at this show (very likely in Brooklyn) and we can see three of the brands that the firm was handling at the time, Fiat, Oldsmobile and the Herreshoff. The first two we have covered here before but the latter, the Herreshoff (1909-1914), was a small car company run by a member of the Herreshoff Mfg. Co. family in Detroit, Mich. The cars they built may not be all that well known, but the boats that they crafted in Bristol, Rhode Island are world famous. The company built the five racing sloops that defended The America’s Cup race between 1893 and 1914 and all five times the boats were victorious.
Charles Fredrick Herreshoff first started the automobile building venture in Detroit, Mich., in the old Thomas-Detroit factory. The first cars were small 24 h.p. models that used an automotive version of the marine engine that Charles designed. In 1910 a striped roadster won a five-mile stock chassis race at the Indianapolis Speedway. More powerful versions were soon available, including both a 30 h.p. four, along with a 40 h.p. t-head six, both of which may have been Lycoming engines. Like many early makers, the firm was soon in financial trouble and when Herreshoff left the company in 1914, he stated that the makers troubles were caused by faulty Lycoming engines.
The company was then dissolved and Charles Herreshoff tried a new car venture in Troy, NY., called the Herreshoff Light Car Company. Other family members, later designed the interesting Novara in Rhode Island at the factory and another designed the Hermes in 1920. Photo courtesy of Steve Blanchard.