Located at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, St. Louis has been a transportation center since its founding at the beginning of the eighteenth century by French explorers and missionaries. Its waterway location in the center of North America placed it squarely in the path of America's expansion into the west in the nineteenth century. Growth, commerce and industry followed and not surprisingly so did a number of entrepreneur’s intent on exploiting the next great wave of transportation, the automobile. Over a hundred of them planned, plotted and prototyped at the turn of the century and later. A few managed to get into production, including one named St. Louis. It was started in 1899 by two childhood friends from Nashville, Tennessee, John L. French and George Dorris. French contributed resources from his family's successful piano and Organ Company. Dorris contributed his first automobile, but more importantly an inquisitive, inventive mind academically and practically trained at Vanderbilt Engineering School's Manual Training Program. Starting with single and two cylinder runabouts, the St. Louis Motor Carriage Company adopted George Dorris's float feed carburetor, in 1902 abandoned tiller steering for a right-hand drive steering wheel, one of the first American manufacturers to do so, and pioneered in 1900 with a sliding gear transmission assembled inside the crankcase with constant engine oil lubrication and precise shaft alignment. Also in 1902 St. Louis recognized that power was essential outside urban areas and added an inline four cylinder engine to the company's offering. In 1905 the French family re-incorporated as the St. Louis Motor Car Company and moved 150 miles north to Peoria, Illinois. George Dorris stayed in St. Louis and founded his eponymous Dorris Motor Car Company. Today only about ten St. Louis automobiles are known to survive, including this beautifully restored four-cylinder Side Entrance Tonneau, the only four-cylinder St. Louis known to survive thanks to preservation for many years in the legendary collection of Barney Pollard. It is known as a 1904 model, although it might be a Peoria-built 1905. In either case, it is a sterling example of the quality, craftsmanship and advanced design of the George Dorris-designed St. Louis automobiles. Finished in black with maroon leather button tufted upholstery and a black folding top, it is an AACA National First Prize winning restoration and is lavishly equipped with accessories and brass fittings including a fabulous Gabriel single trumpet exhaust whistle and an unusual, intricate Neverout Type 8 acetylene generation that supplies the Neverout acetylene headlights and Neverout kerosene sidelights and taillight. The bulb horn, flying raptor hood ornament, radiator, front chassis crossmember, Autometer drum-style speedometer, body moldings, steering column and steering wheel spokes all are bright brass, adding to the St. Louis's brilliant appearance. The restoration is over a decade old, but this car still sparkles. It comes with a very complete dossier of information on the St. Louis marque. As the only example of its kind known to survive it has great appeal and interest in shows and displays of all kinds, not only due to its rarity but also as example of George Dorris's original thinking and the unique position of St. Louis in American history and the history of the American automobile.
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