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1908 The Pontiac High Wheel Runabout

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The Oldest Pontiac You’ve Never Heard Of

You probably have never heard of “The Pontiac” High Wheel Runabout. I am not surprised. It was built in 1908. “The Pontiac” was built by the Pontiac Spring and Wagon Works of Pontiac Michigan. It marketed the car under the Pontiac Motor Vehicle Company name. Shortly after production began, Pontiac Spring and Wagon Works sold its building and equipment to the Motorcar Company of Detroit (which produced the Cartercar). The Motorcar Company moved from Detroit to Pontiac and renamed the company the Cartercar Company. The Cartercar Company announced it would continue to produce and sell the Pontiac, but it never did. On November 10, 1909, the Cartercar Company was purchased by GM for $350,000.

The Pontiac is truly a horseless carriage. It clearly has all the styling of a horse drawn carriage. The engine is located at the center of the chassis for better performance and weight distribution. The car is powered by a water-cooled 12 HP horizontally opposed twin cylinder engine. The engine has a bore of 4 ¾ inches and a stroke of 4 inches. The transmission is a friction drive (one of the first variable speed transmissions) which has two spinning discs (called the friction disc and friction shaft) at 90 degrees to each other. The friction disc is the flywheel attached the motor. The friction shaft is moved left or right of the friction disc by the driver. On one side of center, the car drives forward and on the other side, it moves in reverse. The closer to the center of the disc, the slower the car goes. Dual chains attached to the friction shaft drives the rear wheels. Ignition and throttle controls were located on the steering wheel. Dry cell batteries and dual coils are used to spend the spark to the cylinders. The carburetor was made by a company named Schebler.

The Pontiac runs on 1 ¼ inch wide, 38 or 40 inch tall solid rubber tires. They are mounted to hickory wood wheels. It has a 70 inch wheelbase. The car weighs 1000 pounds. Its top speed was 30-35 mile per hour. The Pontiac had an 8 ½ gallon gas tank, which gave it a 135-150 mile range. Its advertised mileage was 20 miles per gallon.

The Pontiac came with leather seats. The car was available with limited colors. The chassis and wheels were painted either red or black. The body was painted in black, red, or green. The car cost $600 without the top or $650 with the top.

The Pontiac, along with the Pontiac Spring and Wagon Works, were never part of the Pontiac Buggy Company, the forerunner of the Oakland Motor Car Company that Edward Murphy formed. The Oakland Motor Car Company is the direct descendant of the Pontiac name brand we know and love today. However, the 1908 Pontiac is a cousin or close kin. Both companies produced cars in Pontiac, Michigan. Both the Cartercar Company and the Oakland Motor Car Company were purchased by GM in 1909. Oakland would not produce its first Pontiac until 1926, 18 years after the 1908 Pontiac Runabout was produced. So in a very real sense, the Pontiac name has been orphaned twice, not just once!

Only 30-40 Pontiacs were ever produced. Currently, only 4 are still known to exist. This one is located at the Buick Gallery and Restoration Center, a part of the Alfred P. Sloan Museum in Flint, Michigan. The others were last known to be in Ohio, New York, and Montreal in 1980. Special thanks goes to the Buick Gallery for providing all the research material.

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Chassis & Engine Layout

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From Around the Internet - a Red One:

http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/chassis...mp;iDNumID=3911

For More Information about the Buick Gallery and the Alfred P. Sloan Musuem:

http://www.sloanmuseum.com/buick_gallery.html

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Coming Full Circle



In the previous article, I have written about the 1908 “The Pontiac” High Wheel Runabout. I would like to tell a few more interesting facts that brings this story back to our beloved Pontiac, that I recently discovered.



In 1908, Pontiac Spring & Wagon Works sold itself to Cartercar Company. Cartercar had promised to continue producing “The Pontiac” but they never did. They did, however, continue to build cars with the 2-disc friction drive technology that they acquired from Pontiac Spring and Wagon Works. This was the forerunner over the modern CVT (continuously variable) transmission.



In fact, Cartercar marketed the friction drive quite well. It was advertised as the car with "A thousand speeds---No clutch to slip---No gears to strip---No universal joints to break---No driveshaft to twist---No bevel gears to wind and howl---No noise to annoy" and after 4,000 miles, the friction drive’s paper fiber rims could be replaced for 3 or 4 dollars. Even though there were other friction-drive cars on the market in those days (which were made by Lambert, Metz, and Petrel), none of them lasted as long or were as famous as Cartercar’s.



Byron Carter, the founder of Cartercar felt his friction drive was vastly superior to his competitors. He did this by demonstrating its virtues with great gusto. He made no claims about the speed of his car, he was selling its strength, toughness, and flexibility. He sent his cars to state fairs, ran it up library steps and down cog railway inclines, lashed it to massive traction engines, and had it plow through snowstorms. He had every accomplishment photographed, and then used those photographs in his brochures.



It was the successful marketing of this friction disc technology that lead Billy Durant, founder of GM, to buy Cartercar in 1909. This is the same year Durant purchased Oakland Motor Car Company. He thought that the friction drive had a great future and promise in GM. Sadly, Billy’s and Cartercar’s time at GM were both limited. Billy lost control of GM in 1910. By the time Durant had started Chevrolet and re-gained control of GM, Cartercar was already gone.



Public demand for Cartercars never met Durant’s expectations of 1000-2000 cars a year. In 1915, the GM Board of Directors decided to shut down Cartercar at the end of the model year. Thus ended the Cartercar name permanently, eight years after Cartercar had acquired “The Pontiac” and Pontiac Spring and Wagon Works. However, GM converted the production facilities of Cartercar to produce Oaklands! So our circle is now complete. The plant that built “The Pontiac” eventually went on to produce Oaklands, the forbearer of our beloved marquee, Pontiac.


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Pontiac was also the 1st nameplate to sell a hardtop vehicle.

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As an added footnote to the whereabouts of the remaining cars: One was sold as lot #449 at the Bonhams auction at the Beaulieu National Motor Museum in the U.K. on September 11, 2011 for just over $42,000. It is engine #22 and it is black and red just like the Buick Gallery’s car. This car has been thoroughly restored. The destination and new owner of this car was not disclosed. I have also heard rumor that the Montreal car may now also reside here in Michigan with a private collector, but I have not been able to confirm that.



http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/19288/lot/449/

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Awesome read.


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Interesting but that article has got it wrong. Pontiac Spring and Wagon Works sold out to Cartercar. Cartercar and Oakland were both purchased by GM in 1909. Both Cartercars and Oaklands were produced by GM though 1915, at which time GM discontinued Cartercar. GM turned over the former Cartercar facilities to Oakland once Cartercar production was discontinued.



There was never a conscious decision for Pontiac Spring and Wagon Works/Cartercar and Oakland to merge. This was done well after both companies were bought by GM. Further, Edward Murphy started Pontiac Buggy Company, which would became Oakland Motorcar Company. Albert North and Harry Hamilton started Pontiac Spring and Wagon Works. While I am sure they were aware of each other's company and perhaps knew each other, I am certain there was no intention to merge the two companies at their level prior to being purchased by GM.

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LOL don't feel like it right now, but even I wasn't there to confirm/deny. Gettin old sucks...Don't do it!

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LOL don't feel like it right now, but even I wasn't there to confirm/deny. Gettin old sucks...Don't do it!

Sounds good to me!

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I547 using Tapatalk 2

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Havoc - you have it all wrong.



Growing old is mandatory - growing up is optional.


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LOL don't feel like it right now, but even I wasn't there to confirm/deny. Gettin old sucks...Don't do it!

You might be old enough to confirm or deny it, you were just in the wrong factory at the wrong time huh? :lol2:

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Refuse to confirm or deny my age! LMAO But from the contest pic from last years DC. I look pretty damn good for @ or near the century mark!


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The Michigan Widetrackers are going back to visit the Sloan Museum next week, which includes the Buick Gallery, which houses the 1908 The Pontiac High Wheel Runabout.



There is also a truck display at the Sloan since the Flint area has built pick-ups and vans for close to 60 years. GM Futureliner # 10, which you see pictured with my Lemans in my garage picture, is also on display at the Sloan this winter. There were 12 such vehicles built by GM. This is the only one fully restored. It belongs to the National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States (NATMUS) in Auburn Indiana, which is located behind the old Auburn-Cord-Dusenburg Museum and HQ.



Its tie to Flint is that is powered by a Flint-built Buick straight-eight engine coupled to a Korean-war era tank transmission.


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Thanks for posting this; Good read!


Our local Pontiac Club was started in 1986 and I joined in 1997 and help maintain it until our last gathering in 2006.


Our sponsor was Roughton Pontiac one of the areas oldest dealerships.


Bob Roughton was a fellow Pontiacer not just selling but collecting Pontiacs and one of the Rare ones is his 1909 Oakland.


Pictured below in 2008 he has since found another.


IMG_0939.jpg


Sadly with each passing year we see less and less of the old iron at our shows.


Even the Local AACA club/meet has opened up to newer models due to the increasing loss of members.


Everytime I'm at an event I will always migrate immediately to the oldest Iron on site to examine it thoroughly. These cars are rolling art and I want to see as much as I can. So as Dennis Gage always says HONOR THOSE TIMELESS CLASSICS as you may never get to see something like this again.



Cheers


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Don't complain about the heater in your car.


ModelTinthesnow_zps2af87318.jpg


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Thanks for posting this; Good read!

Our local Pontiac Club was started in 1986 and I joined in 1997 and help maintain it until our last gathering in 2006.

Our sponsor was Roughton Pontiac one of the areas oldest dealerships.

Bob Roughton was a fellow Pontiacer not just selling but collecting Pontiacs and one of the Rare ones is his 1909 Oakland.

Pictured below in 2008 he has since found another.

IMG_0939.jpg

Sadly with each passing year we see less and less of the old iron at our shows.

Even the Local AACA club/meet has opened up to newer models due to the increasing loss of members.

Everytime I'm at an event I will always migrate immediately to the oldest Iron on site to examine it thoroughly. These cars are rolling art and I want to see as much as I can. So as Dennis Gage always says HONOR THOSE TIMELESS CLASSICS as you may never get to see something like this again.

Cheers

Sprint6 - that is a great sentiment. I am lucky enough to know two fellow Widetrackers that own Oaklands. One is a 1917 and the other is a 1928 or 1929. The 1917 is mostly together except for an engine rebuild. However, that is waiting on the completion of an entire new set of pole barns, which has taken over 2 years already to construct.

The other Oakland is completely disassembled and is waiting for the owner to find time to put it back together (along with the interior re-do for the wife's '67 Bonneville convertible that was started over 4 years ago too).

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