1917 Locomobile 48 Gunboat Speedster

When Locomobile began production in 1899, its sole model was the “Steam Runabout,” which had been designed by the Stanley brothers of Watertown, Massachusetts. The Stanley twins had sold their initial steam car company to the partnership of John Brisben Walker of Cosmopolitan magazine and asphalt millionaire Amzi Lorenzo Barber. The newly formed Locomobile company continued to build steam cars until early 1904, by which time Locomobile had a new gasoline-powered model that had been designed in total secrecy by engineer Andrew L. Riker. The resulting two- and four-cylinder cars were well-designed and beautifully constructed vehicles.

Locomobile’s move upmarket was fully cemented with the six-cylinder T-head Model 48, which was introduced in 1911 with prices ranging from $4,800 to $6,150. The Model 48 was a large and powerful car, with a 429cid T-head, inline six-cylinder engine. Power reached the live rear axle which was suspended by three-quarter elliptical leaf springs. Mechanical rear drum brakes handled the stopping, while the solid front axle where three-quarter elliptical leaf springs were fitted.

By the time that this Model 48 Gunboat Speedster was built in 1917 the big T-head six had grown to 525 cid and was advertised as producing 95 horsepower. The two-seat body with mother-in-law seat on the running board was unusual in the Locomobile catalog, which was dominated by six and seven passenger touring and limousine body styles costing as much as $6,800.

Styled by J. Frank de Causse and bodied by Healey. the car’s most interesting feature may be the tapered rear styling of the tail, which is bobbed and stops well short of the more common boat tail. Capped with a pair of spares, the look is particularly rakish, especially with the top up.

Restored some years ago, the Model 48 Gunboat Speedster is finished in light gray with royal blue fenders and gold coachlines. Interior trim is in gray leather, while the top and top boot are navy blue.  The whitewall shod artillery wheels are also finished in gray with blue accents. Although the restoration may be older, the car presents well and has been shown at a number of concours, including the Meadow Brook Hall Concours.

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