Locomobile Model M Series I Roadster

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Model M Series I Roadster





Locomobile began by producing steam cars. The steam Locomobiles were unreliable, finicky to operate, prone to Kerosene fires, had small water tanks (getting only 20 mi {32 km} per tank), and took time to raise steam; Rudyard Kipling described one example as a "nickel-plated fraud". Initially, they were offered with a single body style only, an inexpensive Runabout at US$600 Nevertheless, they were a curiosity and middle-class Americans clamoured for the latest technology. Salesmen, doctors and people needing quick mobility found them useful. More than four thousand were built between 1899 and 1902 alone. In 1901, Locomobile offered seven body styles at prices between US$600 and US$1,400. Most Locomobiles had simple twin-cylinder engines (3x4", 76.2x102mm; 57ci, 927cc) and a wire wrapped 500 psi flash boiler burning naphtha. Typical of the product was the 1904 Runabout, which seated two passengers and sold for US$750. The two-cylinder steam engine was situated amidships of the wood-framed car. By now, the car had improved boilers and a new water pump, manufactured by the Overman Wheel Company in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts. This company itself built a steamer, the Victor Steamer.

During the Boer War, Locomobile did establish a new mark of sorts, becoming the first ever automobile to be used in war; it was a generator and searchlight tractor and catering vehicle, with the useful ability (in British eyes, at least) of being able to brew a cup of tea by tapping the boiler.

This was, unfortunately, not a sure way to guarantee commercial success, even in Britain, and Locomobile started experimenting with gasoline internal combustion engines in 1902, starting with a four-cylinder steel-chassis model designed by Andrew L. Riker. This encouraged the firm to drop steam vehicles the following year, selling the Stanley brothers back their rights for US$20,000.

One of the grandest early American automobiles, the 48-horsepower Locomobile, known initially as the “M” and later as the Model 48, was one of the most significant and long-lived Brass Era cars. In fact, its life actually extended into the chrome era, with production beginning in 1911 and continuing for a remarkable 18 years, until 1929.

The most important model for the marque became the impressive Model 48. Introduced in 1919, it had a very conservative, perhaps dated, concept. It had a conventional but huge chassis with a wheelbase of 142 in. Its engine was a straight-six with side valves; cylinders were still cast in pairs and it featured a non-removable cylinder head. Displacement was 525ci, giving it a 48.6 H.P. tax rating by North American Chamber of Commerce (N.A.C.C.).

In 1922 Locomobile was acquired by Durant Motors, which not only continued using the Locomobile brand name for their top-of-the-line autos until 1929, but still produced the Model 48 until the demise in 1929. Until the mid-twenties, this car was Locomobile's only offering.

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