Opening the Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile to the “A” section reveals no fewer than six different car companies under the heading “American”. From before the turn of the 20th century, it seems that it was quite a popular name for a car company. From the first Frank Duryea-designed American of 1899 (which may or may not have ever been built) to the American Motors Corporation of the 1960’s, there is a broad spectrum of companies that cropped up with varying success. The American Motors company of Indianapolis, Indiana, is a small firm that arrived with a grand flash, and disappeared in just eight years. Thanks to its most popular model, this iteration of American Motors is most commonly referred to as American Underslung.
American Underslung had a short but interesting history, while they are most well-known today for their grand underslung touring cars, they did build conventional models as well. The first cars had a 45/50hp T-head engine and were designed by none other than Harry C. Stutz. Engines were outsourced from the Teetor brothers, who subsequently supplied the engines for many other small manufacturers of the era. Harry C. Stutz left in 1911 to go on to greater things, and Fred Toonetook over in his place. At that point, the conventional cars were dropped in favor of an all-underslung lineup. The cars were grand, imposing and very expensive – costing as much as $5,250 in 1911, the equivalent to about $130,000 today. It quickly became apparent that a cheaper model was needed to boost sales. So in 1912 the Scout was introduced, using an American built 20HP L-head engine and smaller, lighter bodywork. The Scout still used the signature underslung chassis and shared the rakish, sporty look of its bigger siblings. While it was a less expensive model, it was still very well equipped and extremely well-constructed. Nickel was used on the radiator and trim, a speedometer graced the dash panel, and they came fitted with head lamps, cowl lamps and a rear mounted spare tire. The new Scout cost significantly less than the bigger car, only $1250. But it was all too little too late for American and the doors were closed in 1914. Sadly, the remaining 50 cars in stock were liquidated for parts.
This wonderful 1913 American Underslung Scout is a rare and important piece of early motoring history. It is in very good condition, with an honest charm about it. Believed to have been restored in the 1960’s or 1970’s, it was obviously done to a very high standard as it has held up extremely well. The car has had a recent complete cosmetic and mechanical freshening and appears to be a restoration of only a few years. The top and interior have been redone to a very high standard and the rest of the car looks like it’s a 15 year old restoration. The body is appropriately finished in maroon with black fenders, gold striping and a light gray frame, a stunning color scheme befitting of the style this car exudes. The radiator, cowl lamps, head lamps, and folding windscreen are all beautifully finished in nickel. Delightful details abound, from the fantastic radiator mascot and ornate bulb horn, to the oval gas tank and clever spare-wheel mounted trunk compartment. Firestone Non-Skid tires sit on the signature huge artillery wheels. The canvas top and leather tie down straps give the car a fantastically rakish profile. It drives very well and has been expertly maintained, having most recently been part of a large West Coast collection. It would most certainly be welcome at just about any show or Concours and would make a fairly epic choice for an early touring car. Chances are good that you would be the only one on the block to have one!