Originally based in Cleveland, Ohio, Rauch & Lang began much like many contemporary early automobile manufacturers – in the carriage business. Founded in 1884 as a partnership between wagon builder Jacob Rauch and a real estate magnate Charles Lang, their business was quite successful from the start. Rauch & Lang was not simply a producer of ordinary wagons, rather, they were known throughout the region for building luxurious, high quality and prestigious carriages for wealthy clientele. And that clientele remained loyal when Rauch & Lang began the switchover to horseless carriages in 1903 following the purchase of a Buffalo Electric dealership. By 1905, Rauch & Lang began offering electric vehicles under their own name and they proved to be a moderate success.
By the time our featured example was built in 1916, the company had a diverse range of seven body styles in their catalog. At this early point in the 20th century, the horseless carriage was still very much a novelty and essentially a plaything for the wealthy. With prices ranging from $2600 to $4500, the Rauch & Lang electric was far from affordable, finding favor with well-off ladies in urban settings as they head ready access to electricity and the city environment suited the moderate range and flexibility of the electric motors. The R&L electric’s distinct advantage was that it did not need a starter, negating the need for a lady to perform the undignified act of hand-cranking a petrol engine. It also operated in near silence with no uncouth smoke and delivered copious torque to allow for easy, carefree motoring within city limits. However, in around 1912, the electric starter was beginning to be adopted on greater numbers of petrol-powered cars, causing sales of pure electrics to begin to slip. Sensing trouble, R&L merged with fellow electric car maker Baker Motor Vehicle Company which allowed Rauch & Lang to carry on for a few more years, but by the mid-1920s the writing was on the wall. After moving production to a new facility in Massachusetts where they built both gasoline and electric powered taxicabs and even began experimenting on a petrol/electric hybrid, the great stock market crash sounded the final death knell for Rauch & Lang in 1929.
This attractive 1916 Rauch & Lang J6 Coupe is a very fine example of this brass-era alternative-fuel vehicle. It presents very nicely with the main body in green with contrasting black fenders, black accents on the body, green wire wheels and polished brass lamps. The body is in very good order with new paintwork, good fit and good quality fittings and details. The 5-passenger cabin appears to have original upholstery which is in excellent condition considering it is a century old. The unique “salon style” seating makes it easy to see why this was a popular car with aristocratic ladies of the time. The cabin is light and airy thanks to the large, all-around opening windows.
Motivation comes courtesy of 7 twelve-volt batteries, driving an electric motor and putting power to the rear wheels via a manual transmission with a total of nine gears (six forward, three reverse). The Rauch & Lang is sprightly and entertaining to drive thanks in part to the unusual seating arrangement and tiller steering. Top speed is a thundering 26 miles per hour, with brisk acceleration courtesy of 100 percent of the torque being delivered at zero RPM. This is a very usable, very attractive and fun example of this rare pioneering electric vehicle and is well-suited for casual show or other special events.
The quickly growing market for modern alternative fuel and electric vehicles owes much of its existence to pioneers like Rauch & Lang, who blazed a trail that is finally being recognized by mainstream manufacturers.