1906 Autocar type X roadster

1906 Autocar type X roadster when owned by John Hebden

The Autocar company was the second automotive manufacturing enterprise of Louis (1866-1957) and John Clarke. With financial backing from William Morgan, the Clarke brothers established the Pittsburg Motor Vehicle Company in 1897. The Horseless Age of September, 1897 states, "Under this title a company was incorporated, Oct 2, under the laws of Pennsylvania, to manufacture motor vehicles of all kinds. At first, however, the company's attention will be entirely given to a tandem tricycle of moderate price and light construction, propelled by a gasoline motor..." With great foresight, Louis Clarke donated one of their motorized tricycles to the Smithsonian - the only known surviving example of this pioneering effort.

Clarke gasoline tricycle (photo credit: Smithsonian Collection)

In 1901, the brothers had moved operations to Ardmore, PA (just outside Philadelphia) and founded the Autocar Company. The Henry Ford Museum has an early example - a four-wheel gasoline car dated 1900. By September of 1902, the Horseless Age reported that the company had orders for 500 cars on hand and were looking for "fifty suitable mechanics." In November of the same year it was reported the William Morgan had left the company, retiring to CA, and John Clarke was assuming his position. The car seen at the top of the post, in a photo taken by Dad, looks to be a 1906 type X roadster - owned at the time by John Hebden. It is said the that the company produced 1000 type X roadsters in 1906. Priced at $1000.00, these cars featured a 12hp, 2 cylinder engine. This vehicle is much the same as the roadster the company had been building since 1902. One of the key differences is the that Autocar was late to adopt the steering wheel - adding a steering wheel to the type x roadster in 1905/1906.

As with many early manufacturers, Autocar produced commercial vehicles as well. It was soon apparent that the commercial vehicle business was more profitable and by 1912 they ceased making automobiles. The Clarke brothers sold their interest in the business in 1929 - Louis retired to Florida. The company continued on and was eventually sold to White in 1953. Volvo absorbed the assets of White in 1980.

Few Autocar's (cars) survive today , but there are at least 5 remaining type X roadsters (possibly more). This car's fenders are unique and maybe a product of its 1950s restoration.

I believe this to be a photo of the John Hebden car today - I'm not aware of who owns it.

1 comment:

  1. Here's a picture of another Autocar that's still around today - http://www.pbase.com/image/128307300, the site also has a picture of it in a race back in 1907.