Just Imagine

Just Imagine

And this actually seemed like a good idea at the time. Camera

Just imagine. It’s 1899. Automobiles on the streets of Grand Rapids, Michigan are still a bit of a novelty. Still, a common topic of discussion is what to do about the way they frighten horses and often cause them to break into a panicked run. After a great deal of contemplation, Uriah Smith had what he believed to be a eureka moment; place a horses head on the front of a horseless carriage. “This would provide the appearance of a horse and carriage and hence raise no fears in any skittish animal; for the live horse would be thinking of another horse, and before he could discover his error and see that he had been fooled, the strange carriage would be passed, and then it would be too late to grow frantic and fractious.” He also recommended that if the head were hollow, it could house the gas tank. His idea was actually published in an edition of The Horseless Age. 

Just imagine. It’s 1905, your car has stalled, it’s pouring rain, and it won’t start. That was the catalyst for what Howard O. Carter thought was a brilliant idea, the ultimate fail safe mechanism for the motorist. His idea was made manifest in a car with two four cylinder engines, each with its own radiator, ignition, and exhaust. And, if you needed a bit of extra oomph, you could operate the car using both engines! Needless to say the idea never made it beyond the prototype model.

Not all ideas were hair brained during the infancy of the auto industry. J Walter Christie pioneered front-wheel drive.

Just imagine. You are frustrated by the increasing cost of new car ownership. A new Ford is now selling for $465, a Buick cost twice as much. Sheldon F. Reese of Huron, South Dakota decided to address the issue, tap into the vast market of potential new car owners and make a tidy profit. He traveled throughout the west with his Reese Aero Car prototype seeking investors and potential customers. Needless to say, there was little market for a car that weighed 150-pounds, had a wheelbase of sixty inches, and was powered by a 6-horsepower two-cylinder engine that turned a propeller at the rear even if it sold for $160! It should be noted that the little car did deliver sixty miles to the gallon.

There is an old adage that history is written by the winners. This applies to the infancy of the auto industry as well. For every David Buick, Henry Ford, Walter Chrysler, and Louis Chevrolet, there were dozens of men like Charles O. Mueller, George B. Weidely, Homer T. Severin and D.J. Ames. In the new Jim Hinckley’s America presentation series, In The Beginning, I share a few of these fascinating stories as though it were a bit of fasct paced time travel.

The series kicks off on the evening of October 12 at the Hackett Auto Museum in Jackson, Michigan. I hope that you can join me. And if you would like to schedule a presentation, please contact me.

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