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 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, prestigious carriages for wealthy buyers. Those customers stayed with Rauch & Lang when they began dabbling in horseless carriages from 1903, having added a Buffalo Electric agency. In 1905, the Rauch & Lang name first appeared on an electric automobile, and sales soon grew steadily. By 1907, R&L bought the Hertner Electric Company, which had previously supplied motors and controllers, allowing them to build the cars almost entirely under one roof.
By the time our featured example was built, Rauch & Lang offered a range of seven body styles and three different wheelbase configurations. Mass production was in its relative infancy, and horseless carriages were generally the reserve of the wealthy. With prices ranging from $2600 to $4500 (a contemporary Model T was just $390), the Rauch & Lang electric found favor among well-off city dwellers, where the moderate range and its silent, smoke-free operation fit well with urban life. R&L had already merged with fellow electric car maker Baker Motor Vehicle Company, allowing them to carry on for a few more years, but by the mid-1920s, the popularity of electrics waned thanks to the proliferation of self-starting petrol cars. The President of Stevens-Duryea acquired Baker-R&L in 1920 and moved operations to Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts. Production of petrol and electric-powered taxicabs trickled out, and three gasoline-electric hybrids were built, but the great stock market crash of 1929 ended all automobile production for Rauch & Lang.
Offered here is an attractive 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 BX7. At $2,800 new, it was the second-least expensive model in the range, yet 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 a good-quality restoration with authentic, period-correct details. Finish quality is to an overall 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 period correct white 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. It drives very well, operating in near silence that seems at odds with it being more than a century old.
As today’s major manufacturers increasingly commit to pure EVs, the electric cars of a century ago warrant a fresh look from collectors and enthusiasts. This beautiful and rare Rauch & Lang 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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