Initially founded with the intent to produce steam powered motorcars, Locomobile would eventually find its niche as a purveyor of fine quality, large scale luxury automobiles. The company started life in Massachusetts but quickly moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut where it truly established itself. After giving up on steam cars in 1905 and focusing solely on petrol-power, Locomobile soon became one of the greatest names in American motoring. Their cars grew ever larger, more prestigious and more expensive by the year. One of the company’s greatest achievements came in 1908, when “Old 16”, a specially built Locomobile racer with a massive 16.9 liter OHV engine won the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup; the first such win for an American car in the face of fierce competition from the likes of Isotta, Daimler-Benz and Fiat. Locomobile’s primary competition on the sales floor came from Packard, Peerless and Pierce. In order to ensure its exclusivity in the face of the other manufacturers, Locomobile made the brash decision to limit production to just four cars per day.
For 1908 the smaller, lighter Model 30-L joined the lineup (named for its 30 h.p. output). It was powered by a four-cylinder T-head engine but used all of the same high quality materials and construction techniques of its larger brethren, and thereby did not compromise on quality. In 1911, the Model 30 was joined by the six-cylinder Model 48 which came to be the mainstay of Locomobile production through the rest of the company’s life. William C. “Billy” Durant had purchased Locomobile in the early 1920s (following his second ouster from General Motors) and dreamed of putting the marque at the pinnacle of his next great automotive empire. Sadly, that did not come to be and Locomobile suffered the same fate as many of the great early luxury car makers, closing its doors in 1929 thanks to a critical lack of capital. Thankfully, the quality of Locomobile cars ensured a respectable survival rate and they remain highly sought after by collectors and driving enthusiasts alike.
Evocative and sporty, this 1911 Locomobile Model 30-L wears a sparse speedster-style body and presents in truly wonderful condition. The lightweight and purposeful body is finished in a handsome shade of dark green, offset by black fenders and a black chassis. It is detailed with gold and light green coach stripes on the hood, fenders and fuel tank with beautiful effect. The paint quality is excellent and the car is very well turned out with excellent brass headlamps, dual coach lamps and a large spot lamp mounted to the center of the cowl. A brass monocle windscreen adds to the racy looks as does the large brass quick-release fuel filler. This is a wonderfully detailed motorcar with lots of detailing to enjoy. It rides on a set of excellent wood-spoke artillery wheels, painted black to match the chassis and hand striped. Firestone Non-Skid tires give a period appropriate and sporty look.
The minimalist cockpit consists of little more than a pair of seats and the primary controls, but the execution of the restoration is outstanding. Black leather upholstery on the seats is beautifully finished in the correct button pattern. Bare linoleum floor boards are trimmed in brass and the instruments consist of a lovely Jones speedometer and a Dewrance & Co pressure gauge. The dash is fitted with controls for the Bosch coil/magneto and a period switch block. Brass tags adorn the left of the cockpit, including the Locomobile type and patent tags and a pair of Horseless Carriage Club brass plates celebrating this car’s participation in the Denver – Brighton run.
The big T-head four cylinder engine displaces 286 cubic inches and the square dimensions make for smooth and linear power delivery and a free-revving nature. While it was named for its output, the actual power was closer to 40 horsepower, an excellent figure for a four-cylinder model of the time. While larger model Locomobiles relied on chain drive to put the power down, the smaller L-series utilized a shaft driven rear axle that afforded smooth and quiet operation with less maintenance. Inspired by the contemporary Panhard, Locomobile fitted the gearbox in the center of the car, which gave better weight distribution and positive action from the gear lever. On our example, the engine is very nicely detailed with painted cylinders atop a cast bronze alloy crankcase. Brass and copper detailing is in very good order, as is the wood bonnet trim. Hoses and fittings are largely period correct and the engine appears tidy and clean.
This exciting and beautiful Locomobile would make a thrilling entrant in any number of brass-era tours or rallies. While rallying an open speedster may not be for the faint of heart, it would no doubt provide a tremendous thrill. The light weight body in combination with the powerful T-head engine should return outstanding performance, yet the quality of the presentation is such that it would be a most welcome sight on a show field.