In the early years of the 20th century automobiles were predominantly large, luxurious vehicles built and equipped for wealthy, adventurous early-adopters. A few imaginative souls, however, conceived of the automobile as mobility for the masses. The best known is Henry Ford, but he was challenged for a few years by inventors like Francis A. Woods who appreciated mobility in a more urban setting where roads were better and size was subordinated to efficiency. Woods' Mobilette was one of the more imaginative creations. Powered by a diminutive 4-cylinder inline engine rated 12 ALAM horsepower with advanced features like a 2-speed transaxle, the Woods Mobilette was built in series from 1913 until 1916. In addition to its advanced drivetrain the Woods Mobilette featured a narrow track, modest ground clearance and compact two-seat bodywork, ideal for a couple in congested urban environments. Woods at one time claimed monthly production of 1,000 vehicles, but survival rates fail to substantiate the claim. Charming, tiny and appealing, the Woods Mobilette is a snapshot of a different track that American automobiles might have taken.
This 1913 Woods Mobilette, car #1010, is the oldest example of a probably unparalleled collection from all three years of Woods Mobilette production. It comes from a collection in North Carolina where it was owned for many years and has the staggered two-seat roadster body configuration. Presented in green with a gold coachline and green wire wheels, Firestone Non-Skid tires and a single cowl-mounted brass acetylene lamp with cowl lights, it is upholstered in grey with a tan cloth top and is the earliest of the three examples offered as a collection, essentially the entire history of the Woods Mobilette in one fell swoop. It is an AACA National First Prize winning restoration. Twelve ALAM horsepower may not seem like much, but in a 950 pound vehicle (with occupants) its performance will embarrass 20hp Fords.