Rauch & Lang of Cleveland, Ohio, started in the carriage industry, much like many of its early contemporaries in the automobile business. Beginning in 1884 as a partnership between wagon builder Jacob Rauch and a real estate magnate Charles Lang, the company was quite successful from the start. Rauch & Lang set their sights much higher than ordinary wagons, focusing on luxurious and prestigious carriages for wealthy buyers. That clientele remained loyal when Rauch & Lang switched over to horseless carriages in 1903 following the purchase of a Buffalo Electric dealership. In 1905, the Rauch & Lang name first appeared on an electric automobile, and sales soon grew steadily.
When Rauch & Lang constructed our featured example in 1916, the company offered a diverse range of seven body styles with three different wheelbases. Mass production was in its infancy, and the horseless carriage was still considered a novelty for the wealthy. With prices ranging from $2600 to $4500 (for reference, a Model T was just $345), the Rauch & Lang electric found favor among well-off city dwellers, where its moderate range and its silent smoke-free operation fit well with urban life. Around 1912, Cadillac’s electric self-starter appeared for the first time on a petrol engine, and R&L reacted by merging with fellow electric car maker Baker Motor Vehicle Company. The merger allowed Rauch & Lang to carry on for a few more years, but by the mid-1920s, the popularity of electrics waned. 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.
Offered here is an attractive 1916 Rauch & Lang Electric Brougham, one of fewer than 1,000 built during the company’s later years. This car’s 92-inch wheelbase and handsome fully-enclosed Brougham coachwork denote it as a Model BX6. At $2,800 new, it was more than eight times the cost of a Model T runabout. Finished in an attractive two-tone blue color scheme, this R&L benefits from an outstanding restoration with authentic, period-correct details. Finish quality is to an very high standard, with smooth glossy surfaces and only a few minor imperfections noted on close inspection. Fittings include nickel-rimmed headlights, twin cowl lamps, and artillery wheels with black tires, providing a charming overall aesthetic.
The cabin is trimmed in complementary blue fabric and features “parlor style” seating for four, made possible by the electric’s lack of a traditional dash panel. The driver sits on the rear bench and steers via the folding tiller, facing two swiveling individual rear-facing chairs. Additional controls for throttle, brake, and reverse selection are within easy reach of the driver. The soft trim is excellent, with taut fabric displaying minimal indications of use. Additional features include a Waltham clock and a delightful instrument cluster with Rauch & Lang-branded Warner gauges to monitor speed, mileage, DC volts, amps, and amp-hours. Like most early electric cars, this Rauch & Lang is delightfully simple to run and drive. The front and rear compartments house an array of batteries, which feed a single motor driving the rear wheels. This example drives very well, operating in near silence that seems at odds with it being more than a century old.
As today’s manufacturers increasingly commit to pure electric power, the electric cars of 100-plus years ago warrant a fresh look from collectors and enthusiasts. This lovely and rare Rauch & Lang Electric is no exception. With appealing looks and ease of ownership, it is sure to charm the dedicated electric car enthusiast and the newcomer alike.
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