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Autocar, an American Survivor

Dozens of manufacturers surrounded the booming steel town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at beginning of the last century. The age of modern marvels had already lasted half a century by then, and the strained beginnings of a mechanized transportation system had begun. The recent bicycle craze was beginning to ebb, and a sudden interest in motorized vehicles began cropping up in the larger metropolitan cities.

A small industrial firm formed by the Clarke brothers opened its doors in the above sprawling metropolis in 1897 under the original banner of The Pittsburgh Motor Vehicle Company. Its primary product, like many others, was a mechanized platform now being widely dubbed the motorcar or automobile depending on where you were located on the American landscape. Their original product offerings were a three-wheeled motorized tricycle and a light four-wheeled motorized carriage dubbed the “The Pittsburger.”

Within a short 24 months, the firm outgrew its cramped original quarters and moved to the new suburb of Ardmore. In 1900, for the 1901 model year, the company’s first runabout was launched—the Autocar. This single-cylinder, chain-driven platform was produced a mere 27 times. During this time period, other family members were brought into the young organization. Brother John became corporate secretary and another brother, James, found himself a board member. In keeping with rapid industry model improvement, 1904 Autocar models featured new four-passenger seating and offered an optional snap-down tonneau cover arrangement for in-climate weather. These carriages continued to utilize “tiller” steering and were marketed with a factory retail of $1,700. Original Autocar platforms were powered by a horizontally front-mounted two-cylinder unit producing 11 horsepower. A standard “three by the knee” manual transferred power to the rear wheels… read more >

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