As automobile design and manufacturing transformed into a veritable technological and industrial revolution during the early 1900s, Indiana-based marques numbered several dozen and their collective innovation and output rivalled that of their competitors in Detroit, Michigan. Among those Indiana-based automakers was the American Motors Company, which first offered a 35/40-horsepower Touring car by 1906. However, the fledgling company’s signature product, the distinctive Underslung, first appeared in 1907. Designed by chief engineer Frank Tone, the Underslung featured a decidedly low and sporting presence, thanks to its unique chassis design which placed the springs atop the frame rails.
Although collectively known as the Underslung, these cars were separated into three different model lines by body styles, comprising the Tourist, Traveler and Scout. With their low, road-hugging appearance, huge 38-inch diameter tires and distinctive radiator and body styling, American motor cars were readily identified with their front-fender peaks nearly parallel to their hoods. Robust and large-displacement four- and six-cylinder engines were utilized, ranging from 20 to 60 advertised horsepower according to the automotive industry’s rating practices of the era.
The cars looked fast and spirited and they were prodigious performers for the era. While American had no formal racing program, local agents demonstrated their swiftness, including a 45-second run over the mile at Lowell, Massachusetts by American’s Boston dealer in 1907. While American remains best-known for its Underslung lines, the company still produced conventional-chassis models that were designed by eventual industry legend Harry C. Stutz before he moved on to the competing Indianapolis carmaker Marion and then his own company. American’s motor cars were quite expensive and even with the addition of a relatively low-priced and modestly powered Scout model in 1912, sales dwindled until the company finally ceased operations by the spring of 1914.
While reputable published sources report that American Motors Company production was quite respectable with 45,000 automobiles built over its relatively brief existence from 1906 to 1914, few survivors remain today, with fewer still in the wonderful condition of this 1913 American Underslung Tourist. Excellent provenance includes past ownership in the renowned collection of casino magnate, prolific classic-car collector, and onetime Ferrari dealer, William F. “Bill” Harrah in Reno, Nevada. Subsequently, the Tourist was owned by William K. Haines, Sr., a WWII bomber pilot and American Underslung historian/collector based in Canton, Ohio.
Continuing to benefit from a quality older restoration, the Tourist is positively captivating with its distinctive paint finish and black leather upholstery both remaining in very good condition. Dark blue body and chassis accents, matching wheels, and pin stripes heighten the Tourist’s considerable appeal, along with correct and freshly polished Nickel-plated bright trim, crowned by a beautifully preserved American Motors cloisonné radiator badge. Other features and accessories include large headlights, dual cowl lamps, a large bulb-type horn, twin rear-mounted spare tires, and a storage case affixed to the driver’s side running board, complete with a large nickel American Motors badge. The driver is greeted by a wood-rimmed steering wheel to the right side, plus a Stewart magnetic-type combination speedometer/odometer/trip odometer. A black canvas folding top completes this impressive, rare, and rather unique vintage touring car.
This 1913 American Underslung Tourist is a rare touchstone to America’s automobile-industry roots. Wonderfully presented and ready for continued enjoyment, it marks an exciting chapter in America’s fledgling automobile industry and carries outstanding collector provenance.
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Stock number 7585
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