At the dawn of the automobile age, electric power vied closely with steam and internal-combustion engines. Although they were reliable and offered seamless power delivery, the “golden age” of the electric car did not begin until 1910, when electricity had finally reached a significant portion of the U.S. population.
In contrast to Baker and Detroit Electric who began making electric automobiles since 1900 and 1907, the Milburn Wagon Company of Toledo, Ohio did not enter the business until 1914. Prior to launching their electric automobiles, the Milburn company had enjoyed a successful tenure as one of America’s premier builders of horse-drawn wagons and passenger carriages. The Milburn electrics were a light weight vehicle and had an advertised top speed of 19 miles per hour. An advantage of the Milburn was a battery pack on rollers, allowing fresh batteries to be quickly installed, eliminating the downtime for charging. Most Milburns were of the high-roof “phone booth” coupe bodies, but a roadster, a delivery van and a town car were also available. Sales were brisk at first with 1,000 cars in 1915 and 1,500 the next year, but by 1923, production ceased and the factory was sold to General Motors.
This 1916 Milburn Electric Light Coupe is powered by a 76 volt General Electric DC electric motor with four speeds forward and two reverse. The 100” wheelbase chassis has a live rear axle, semi-elliptical springs and two wheel mechanical brakes. This example was just removed from a long term museum-collection and is mostly original and well preserved.
The plush interior is original throughout and features bolstered cloth upholstery and ornately-patterned fabric. The driving position is at the rear, with tiller controls on the left side. In front are two rear-facing, fold-down seats. The high roof permits an abundance of glass and excellent visibility all around. The interior shows the obvious expected wear of being nearly 100 years old but is extremely well preserved and far to nice to restore.
The body is extremely tight and solid. The doors open and close with a solid click. The exterior blue and black paint was refinished some time ago and today exhibits and charming and original-appearing glow that complements the vehicle nicely. This vehicle has been recently recommissioned with a fully serviced electric motor and new batteries. The original wood artillery wheels are in very good original condition and the newer replacement tires are usable for many more miles. In recent years, early electric automobiles have become quite desirable and clubs such as the Horseless Carriage Club of America have sponsored electric-car tours which have become quite popular with today’s collectors. This early and highly original Milburn Electric Coupe will become a welcomed addition to any major collection that appreciates ingenuity and preservation alike.
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