Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Small Town Museum – Rare Automobiles

If you’re not into automobiles and their history, this posting may not be of much interest to you.  On the other hand, if you appreciate automobile design and the early history of the auto industry, you may learn something from this blog site posting.   Four of the autos shown below were built in Jackson Michigan and all of them are on display at the Ye Ole Carriage Shop in Spring Arbor Michigan.

This is a 1909 4-cylinder Jackson.  It is all original and it is in amazingly pristine condition.  How many 113 year olds can claim to be pristine and fully equipped with original parts!?  The original price tag was $950.00.

The Jackson was produced by the Jackson Motor Car/Automotive Company in Jackson Michigan.  As I mentioned in my previous post, the first automobile produced by this company was the steam powered Jaxon.  When the company switched from Steam to internal combustion engines, the name of the cars being produced were changed to “Jackson”.

This was a dependable automobile and the Company had dealers across the USA.  The promotional motto for the Jackson was “No Hill Too Steep, No Sand too Deep.”  The Jackson Motor Car Company produced 10,000 vehicles before it closed in 1922.  The company’s failure was at least partially blamed on its inability to efficiently change back to auto manufacturing after building airplane and shells during World War I.

I love this red 1912 Oakland Roadster with its brass accents/accessories and the black leather seats!  Beginning 1910, Oakland was exclusively offering 4-cylinder flathead engines with 5 different wheelbases.  Their big advertising slogan was “The Car with a Conscience”.  This particular model was powered with a 30 HP motor. 

Oakland automobiles were not built in Jackson Michigan.  The company was founded in Pontiac Michigan in 1907 by the owner of the Pontiac Buggy Company and a former executive of the Cadillac Motor Company.  It was named after for Oakland County Michigan where it was based. 

The Oakland Motor Car Company was purchased by General Motors in 1909.  As an operating manufacturing division of General Motors, Oakland continued to build modestly priced automobiles until 1931.  At that point, the brand was dropped in favor of the division’s Pontiac brand.  It was quite a popular brand of automobile in the late 1920s with 60,121 cars produced in 1928.

This is a 1913 Carter-Car.  Byron Carter built several cars in Jackson beginning in 1903.  He was instrumental in the formation of the Jackson Automobile Company…and after a disagreement with his partners, he formed the Motorcar Company of Jackson.  As his financing came from Detroit, the company relocated there and, just a year later it moved to Pontiac.  The Company was purchased by General Motors in 1916. 

Mostly due to its friction drive transmission, the Cartercar was warmly received by the press as it offered an infinite number of engine speeds.  At 4,000 miles, the paper fiber rim that were part of this system, could be replaced for about $5.00…less than half the price that it would cost to repack the grease in a regular geared transmission.  However sales of the Cartercar never approached its goals at GM and their production never approached the 1,000 – 2,000 that had been projected.  So the Cartercar factory was converted to produce Oakland autos…

Note: Carter-Car founder Bryon Carter died in 1908 when he was trying to start a stalled car.  The crank kicked back and hit him in the jaw.  The resulting infection led to his death.  However, Carter was a personal friend of Cadillac founder Henry Leland.  Carter’s death led to Leland pressuring Charles Kettering to develop a motor vehicle electric starting system…aka a self-starter, something that we take for granted today.

This is a 1914 Imperial.  Only 2 of these cars exist today.  Although the Imperial name was later usurped by the Chrysler Corporation, the first Imperial was produced by the Imperial Motor Car Company in Jackson Michigan.  The company was formed by T.A. and George N. Campbell who also ran the Jackson Carriage Company.  The Imperial Motor Car Company had a 350,000 square foot factory where it made both a touring car and a roadster.  Only 1,062 of these cars were built.

Imperial’s mid-size cars had 4-cylinder engines.  Their bodywork and mechanical parts were primarily off-the-shelf rather than made by the company.  For example, coachwork was done by the Beaudette Company, which also did work for Buick and Ford.

In 1915, Imperial merged with Marion from Indianapolis Indiana, thereby forming Mutual Motors Company.  The following year, the new company stopped making Imperials, instead producing Marion-Handley cars.  In 1916, the company was again renamed… The ‘new’Marion-Handley Company went out of business in 1918.

This is a rare 1914 Twombley.  This cyclecar was manufactured in the New York by Driggs-Seabury between 1913 and 1915.  These small 2-seater cars had water-cooled, 4-cylinder engines and an underslung body.  The designer was Willard Irving Twombley (1873 – 1953), an inventor, entrepreneur and aviator.

Other than the Twombley cyclecar, a lawsuit for loans and interest owed and a nasty divorce case…with accusations of bigamy and misconduct, I couldn’t find any information pertaining to William Twombley.  I did note that he’d convinced a company named Driggs-Seabury to build the autos for him.  Driggs-Seabury originally produced ordinance/weapons for the US Army and Navy.

So what is defined as a cyclecar?  It was a small, lightweight and inexpensive type of car manufactured in the USA and Europe from 1910 and into the early 1920s.  Their purpose was to fill a gap in the market between the motorcycle and a car.  They could only accommodate 2 passengers…either side by side or with a passenger seated behind the driver.  These cars primarily utilized a single cylinder or V-twin configuration which were often air cooled.  Sometimes even motorcycle were used.

Note: From what I could determine, there were more than 60 companies that built cyclecars here in the USA.

As I’d stated in my previous blog post about Ye Ole Carriage Shop, there are quite a variety of automobiles on display and they weren’t all built in Jackson Michigan.  However, the Buick Model F was built in Jackson for a period before the operation was moved to Flint Michigan.  This 1915 Buick Roadster was built in Flint.

The 1915 Buick Roadster had new rounded front ends that matched the larger Buick models.  The previously exposed door hinges were eliminated and that provided a clean and more appealing look.  The C-36 Roadster was the first Buick to carry a concealed spare tire in the trunk.

While the updates seemed minimal to some, when they were coupled with a new lower price structure in order to compete with Ford Motor Company, sales were spurred to a new Buick record of 43,946 units, of which 2,849 were the 2-passenger roadsters.

This is a 1916 Marion-Handley 6-cylinder automobile that was built in Jackson Michigan… These cars were built in Jackson by the Mutual Motors Company.  Much like the Imperial that had preceded it, they were built primarily from stock parts and ranged in price to about mid-range for standard autos of their time. 

Two models were available, a touring car and a 4-seater roadster.  The roadster “6-40” had a 120” wheelbase and 4” tires.  The touring car “6-60” had a wheelbase that measured 125” and 4.5” wheels and with its Continental 6 cylinder engine, it was advertised at “The-Six Pre-Eminent”.  In 1917 the “6-40”s factory price was $1,575. Mutual Motors ended production in 1918 after 2,081 cars had been built.

The 1923 Dodge Touring automobile is not among the most valuable cars in American motor history.  It was equipped with a 4-cylinder engine which produced just 25 HP.  That canopy top provided some modicum of shelter from the elements and its tires, with their many thin spokes, only measured 32” by 4”.

The Dodge brothers had grown their company into one of the most popular automobile companies in the USA by 1920…but they both passed away that same year.  However, the early history of the Dodge Brothers story is closely entangled with the Ford Motor Company.  Horace and John Dodge owned a big factory in Hamtramck Michigan where they built most of the components for Ford’s early cars.  In return, Henry Ford gave the brothers a 10% stake in his new company.  When the brothers realized that Ford was going to move all production in-house, and they’d be out of a job, they sold their stock back to Ford for $25 million, enough to capitalize their start-up car company.  The first Dodge Brothers automobile was sold in November of 1914 and by 1915, they were the #3 automaker in the USA.  By 1920, they were producing 1,000 cars each day and they employed 20,000 employees.

This is a 1926 Studebaker 4-cylinder.  I was a bit confused as regarded this car.  The Studebaker 4-cylinder is fairly rare… Supposedly, Studebaker stopped making 4-cylinder autos in 1920, coming out with the “Light Six” in 1918.  Later, Studebaker rebranded their cars, adding a “Standard Six” and a “Special Six”.  The Light Six seated 5 and it had a 27 HP engine. 

Note: There will be much more information regarding Studebaker, its history and its vehicles, in an upcoming blog post or two.  Why more about automobiles?  It’s because we shopped to visit the Studebaker Museum in South Bend Indiana on our way home from this particular road trip.

I’ll end this post with this photo of a very eye-catching 1929 Ford Model A Cabriolet.  While there were several old Fords on exhibit at Ye Ole Carriage House, this one really appealed to me.  I like that little bit of ‘dash’ with those landau irons on the sides of its roof and the colors are striking.  The Model A’s engine was rated by the manufacturer at 40 HP.

The 1929 – 1931 Ford Model A Convertible Cabriolets were premium Model A body styles.  These autos had a passenger compartment with a bench seat that oud accommodate 3 adults comfortably and a standard ‘rumble seat’ which could accommodate 2 additional passengers if the weather allowed for it.  The Cabriolet had a folding top and glass side windows which could be rolled up and down as needed.  All Cabriolets were equipped with a single rear-mounted spare wheel, a split rear bumper, a single left-side tail, rumble seat, cowl lamps, black wheels and back wall tires as standard equipment.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. I can't wait to hear about the Studebaker museum. My family (my dad's) all owned Studebakers back in the day. I've written a blog about their history, so I will enjoy seeing what the museum shows.

  2. What is always amazing for me to learn is the number of car manufacturers there were at one time in the US. The Jackson, Oakland Roadster and others were beautifully crafted vehicles far more impressive than what is produced now, when one auto maker's car looks similar to another's.

    BTW Dave, we also visited the Studebaker Museum on our cross country road trip. It was a great stop!