Don’t be silly. Yes there were cars in 1899. In fact they’ve been around for quite a bit longer than that. While many would say that they came into being in 1886 when Mercedes-Benz patented their effort, the first patent in the US was in 1789 by a man named Oliver Evans. He went on to build it in 1805. Oh, and it was amphibious too. Now there’s forward thinking. Take that, Tesla.
Others would say that the Duryea Motor Wagon Company is the responsible party implicated in the first American car. The company name was very descriptive of the car itself. It looked like a wagon. It was motorized. ‘Nuff said. Instead of a steering wheel it had a tiller. Like a wagon would be expected to have, if one were expecting to steer a wagon, or a sailboat for that matter. The Duryea brothers produced a one-cylinder open air vehicle in 1893, and another in 1894.
On Thanksgiving day in 1895, a Duryea, piloted by a Duryea (Frank), was raced 54 miles at a bladder busting 7.5 mph. He won the race, bladder presumably intact, and it was good advertising for his wagonny-looking thing with the sailboat tiller which went on sale that year. He and his brother Charles who founded the company publicly discredited each other saying that the other brother was a fraud. Someone had to be the founder what of could be called the “first American car”, and clearly it wasn’t the other brother. That guy was a liar and a cheat. (It just depended on which one you asked.)
Then again, nobody cares about Duryea. Wait who was that again?
Packard came along very shortly after, after, well whatever their name was…Diarrhea was it?…and began to make their own vehicles in 1899; which is, if you recall, where I started this post. As an aside, it’s interesting to note that the early car manufacturing world was filled with brothers. In this case, it was the Brothers Packard (William and James), with their partner George Weiss thrown in as a third wheel, even though their cars had four. There’s math again. Sorry. Anyway, they stuck their flag in the ground of Warren, Ohio and popped out their first motor carriage in November of that year.
Big money, seizing the opportunity to cash in on what was sure to be a hit, showered the trio with enough moola to take their pail and shovel and go home. Well, their new home anyway, to Detroit, Michigan. They brought their flag with them too or so I’m told. You can’t have a car company without a flag. Or can you? No idea.
So looking at the situation, someone at Packard thought: “Tillers are for wagons and sailboats. We need a better tiller.” So what did the Packard’s come up with to replace that silly tiller? Handlebars? A joystick? A very dry salami? No, none of those things, although they found the salami delightfully tasty.
What they did was to reinvent the wheel. In this incarnation they put it inside the car instead of underneath it. They also made the leap from one cylinder to a dozen, and was the first production car to feature one, starting in 1915. It was overheard that they got the idea from a local baker who suggested they take a dozen donuts on the way to work every day. After months of getting to work late and eating 6 donuts apiece, one of the brothers said, “what if donuts were cylinders?”
The other brother said, “That would be stupid, then they wouldn’t be donuts anymore, they’d be dough cylinders. Nobody eats dough cylinders.” After the ensuing fight was over, Weiss, having not hopped himself up on sugary dough toroids is reported to have said, “What if the ENGINE had 12 cylinders?” And the rest is history. Despite the fact that history is full of fibs and fabrications, such as this one.
Truth be told however, Packard can be thanked for adding air conditioning to automobiles. You don’t want to hear as to how that came about. Or maybe you do, but either way you’ll have to wait to find out. Regardless, our modern cars all enjoy cool interiors because of Packard. Can I hear an amen?
In the event you aren’t of (or beyond) “a certain age” and/or don’t really know much about Packard, think of a Rolls-Royce with an upper midwest accent. What I’m trying to say is that it was a top shelf luxury brand, and they really did a very nice job of making luxury automobiles all the way into the early 1940’s.
In 1942 Packard went into wartime production mode and stopped making cars for a few years. They made engines for use in naval PT boats. Speaking of Rolls-Royce, double-R licensed their Merlin engine to Packard which they manufactured for use in the P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft.
Feeling the good times of steady government contract work would never end (which it did after the war), once Packard resumed production in 1945, they found themselves in a bit of a bind and started making lower priced cars. This turned out to be not the greatest of decisions and found themselves on harder times for various reasons before long. By the mid-1950’s, Packard, still perfectly solvent, bought out the failing Studebaker and pretty much sunk themselves in the process.
Sad, but oh well that’s the way the cookie crumbles. They had a good run, and the world got steering wheels, production 12-cylinder engines, and air conditioning out of the deal.
Fortunately there are some classic “Studs” around. Such as the one I’m pointing your eyes at in this very moment. This Model 1900 comes with a flat-6 engine, and is said to drive well. It has suicide doors, and a gorgeous interior that would make most living rooms embarrassed to call themselves as such. This 1941 creamy yellow over brown and tan interior is in excellent condition and just oooozes luxury. Asking price for this luxurious cruiser is $18,000.
You can find out more about this luxury tiller-less horseless wagon by clicking HERE for the craigslist listing.