Luxury Motor-Cars and their Appointments: 1905

1905 Pierce Arrow

1905 Pierce Arrow

A rather lengthy excursis today on the

THE CAR AS A DISTRIBUTOR OF DOLLARS —THE UP-TO-DATE RACING STABLE

By RENE BACHE

To maintain a private locomotive is an expensive affair, and a first-class touring automobile costs as much as a handsome city residence. But a man who goes into motoring seriously requires quite a bunch of motor-cars, and, to be comfortable, he can hardly get along with fewer than half-a-dozen. Furthermore, he will need to buy at least one or two new ones each year—W. K. Vanderbilt, Jr. never keeps a car more than six months—in order that those in stock may always be spick and span, of the highest obtainable horse-power, and unstrained by racing. 1t would never do for the owner to find himself obliged to apologize for the performance of one of his vehicles by saying that “when she came from the factory she could go three miles an hour faster.”

That well-known young millionaire of sporting proclivities, Mr. G. Astor Midas, considers that he is rather economical when he keeps only seven automobiles. Indeed, with a less number, he would find himself somewhat at a loss to meet every-day requirements of transportation and amusement. With seven cars—the term “automobile” is used only by ignorant outsiders —he can go in for racing in a moderate way and is provided with such vehicular conveyances as are absolutely requisite for the establishment of a gentleman who spends half the year out of town, and who, disliking the railroad, prefers to travel by gasoline between his country place and the city.

Two of the cars are racing machines, purchased for $13,000 and $16,000 respectively, the latter having greater horse-power. Of the others, one is a light vehicle, with seats for the owner and his chauffeur, and is used for short trips to town and back. It cost $8,000. There is an omnibus car (price $12,000), seating seven or eight persons, and employed for carrying parties to and from the country place. To these are added a large touring car, for seven people, worth $15,000; alight touring car (value$12,000,) for use at odd times, and an opera car, holding four, to convey members of the family to the theatre and to entertainments. This last is covered, being intended particularly for cold weather. 1t was bought for $8,000, making a total of $84,000 for the seven machines.

This, of course, represents only the first outlay. Expenses of maintenance run up to about $20,000 a year, the chief item being for wages of a number of indispensable employees. Mr. Midas keeps a racing chauffeur, who is the head man, at $3,000 a year. Under him is a touring chauffeur, at $2,000 per annum, and there are two assistant chauffeurs, who are skilled mechanics, at $1,800 and $1,500, respectively. To these are added two expert cleaners and polishers, who see that the machines are always spick and span, and who receive $80 apiece a month, running the pay-roll up to a total of somewhat over $10,000 a year.

There are a great many incidental expenses. For example, when a single set of four tires with inner tubes costs from $240 to $400, this item alone may amount to $2,000 or $3,000 in a twelvemonth. Parts that have to be supplied are far from cheap, notwithstanding the fact that many of them, such as shafts and gears, can be made at home. In his auto-stable in the country Mr. Midas, for the sake of economy and convenience, has established a small but fully-equipped machine shop, with lathes and other apparatus, by the aid of which the mechanics in his employ are able to turn out pretty nearly anything that may be requisite. There is $2,000 or $3,000 worth of machinery, perhaps, and all of the ordinary repair work is done on the premises.

Now, in the list of motor vehicles above given no mention whatever was made of those which Mrs. Midas requires for her own personal use. These are three in number— a brougham, a coupe, and a victoria—and all of them are run by electricity. For use in town, and especially for a lady, they are much more convenient than the gasoline propelled conveyances, and they have the great advantage of being noiseless. Their finish is much finer than that of the gasoline cars, and in all respects they are made to imitate as closely as possible the horse-drawn carriages of corresponding types. So  gracefully are they constructed that one would not imagine how heavy they are, though, as a matter of fact, an electric brougham, owing mainly to the storage battery so artfully concealed, weighs something like two and a-half tons, or twice as much as an ordinary touring car.

Mr. Midas does not use electric automobiles outside of the city, because they are not well adapted for long journeys. If a gasoline car gets stranded anywhere, it is usually possible to find the means requisite for going ahead. Gasoline, at all events, is a staple article and easily purchased; but to obtain a fresh supply of electricity is impossible beyond the limits of a good-sized town. The storage battery some day may be reduced in bulk and greatly improved, but, for the reason mentioned, the electric motor car for touring has no future. At present the practical radius of travel for such machines is hardly more than twenty-five miles, and on this account their employment is restricted to large centers of population.

The larger of the two touring cars owned by Mr. Midas is a wonder in its way. 1t has what is technically known as an “enclosed body,” and is, to all intents and purposes, a room on wheels. One might almost call it a suite, inasmuch as it includes a completely-equipped lavatory, with washstand and running water (supplied from a tank overhead), and has sleeping quarters for one or two persons, the seats being convertible into beds. Mirrors are inserted in the walls, which have shallow cupboards to contain such necessaries as brushes, combs and towels. There is even a cigar-case, with a cigar-lighter, set into a recess, and one of the wall-panels folds down to form an escritoire. Blankets and linen are hidden under the seats, beneath which there is plenty of storage room.

The amount of space available for the concealment of things in such an automobile is really astonishing. Whatever cannot be stored conveniently beneath the seats is stowed away in the ingeniously-contrived lockers in the walls. Neatly-made hatboxes occupy some of the room under the seats, against the back of which there folds down when not in use, a mahogany tabletop. This may be employed either as a card-table or for eating purposes, finally, beneath the vehicle there is built, so as to form part of the car, a commodious ice chest, in which eatables and drinkables may be put while touring. Under such circumstances it is not always easy to purchase even the every-day necessaries of life, and it is an immense convenience to be able to carry on a journey a supply of perishable food luxuries. The wooden box is lined with zinc, and between metal and wood there is a layer of felt and another of sawdust, so that a few pounds of ice will keep the contents of the receptacle cold for many hours.

If Mr. Midas is out merely for a day’s excursion with four or five guests, he can carry along adequate refreshments for the party in an “outing basket,” which is slung outside of the motor-car. The basket has a refrigerator compartment for cracked ice, which lasts five or six hours—a very ingenious contrivance consisting of a zinc-box covered with felt and with an air-tight top. It also contains a box of porcelain-coated aluminum, made in two halves, one of which is big enough to hold a chicken, while the other will accommodate enough bread to make fifty sandwiches. There are also a tea and coffee kettle, an alcohol lamp, a porcelain jar for butter, two cylindrical bottles for pepper and salt, egg-cups, and half-a-dozen of everything in the way of plates, cups, saucers, knives, forks and spoons.

The most wonderful thing about these outing baskets, which are constructed especially for use by automobilists, is the condensation of their contents. Knives, forks, and spoons are packed in such a way as to occupy practically no room, one method adopted being to attach them inside of what might be called the covers of a folding leather book. Tumblers and bottles are encased in a delicate mesh of wicker, so as not to be easily broken; napkins are neatly strapped in the top of the receptacle, and, for the sake of fit, the plates are sometimes made rectangular instead of round. Sandwich boxes and salad boxes, for the keeping of such edibles in the freshest possible condition, are usually of the metal known commercially as nickel, but which is in reality galvanized tin. Everything about these baskets is expressive of the luxury of daintiness, and one pattern opens up like a little girl’s doll-house to reveal its closely-packed inside-works.

The millionaire of to-day, who is looking for something new and expensive in the way of a motor wagon, may purchase a touring car which, being provided with three bodies for different purposes, is in reality rather an economical vehicle. In winter it is a closed cab of landaulet pattern, opening at both sides. When spring arrives, the owner substitutes for this a touring body with canopy top, on which luggage and other odds and ends may be carried inside of a railing. There is glass in the rear, and in front the chauffeur is protected by a sheet of glass which, when not in use, is swung up beneath the top of the vehicle. Thus there is plenty of light, and, curtains being provided at the sides, the occupants are absolutely protected in case of rain. Finally, there is a light, low body for fast riding, which may be used in such non-public races among gentlemen as are popular at Newport and elsewhere. Rivalries and disputes regarding the relative speed of cars are always liable to occur, and it is customary to settle them by the arbitrament of actual contest, with perhaps a few bets to lend additional interest to the sport.

It is a growing habit among very rich men to spend the winter, or part of it, in Florida, and to take both touring and racing cars along with them. Sometimes they travel a large part of the way in their own motor vehicles, carrying plenty to eat, because there are long stretches of the route through Dixie Land where anything in the way of food, beyond simple hog and hominy, is practically unobtainable. The racing machines are forwarded by rail or steamship, and the wealthy owner, if he makes the journey, will surely take with him three or four of his hired men. He cannot get along without two chauffeurs in a race, the second man being needed to give help in emergencies. For example, if a tire comes off (a not-infrequent accident) No. 2 jumps off and fixes it.

Motor racing is a favorite winter amusement in Florida, and affords the chief attraction to many of our sporting millionaires who at this season visit that part of the country. Young Waldorf Croesus, who is so famous for the reckless risks he takes in his efforts to make speed records, will enter his cars perhaps in a dozen contests in the course of three or four months, paying in each case an entrance-fee of $100 to $500. Such fees run up to quite a pretty figure in a year, but they have the good effect of barring out the common people. If auto racing is to continue to be worth while for our millionaires, it must be exclusive—a form of entertainment in which only the very rich can afford to indulge.

Young Mr. Croesus owns a touring car that cost him, so he says, $28,000. The vehicle may be said to touch the top notch of luxury, with its silver trimmings and other expensive incidentals; but then, you see, it was made to order. There is a popular notion to the effect that automobiles run up in price to $50,000 and $60,000, but, as a matter of fact, the finest sort of a motor wagon may be purchased for $15,000. This signifies a reduction of about $3,000 within the last two or three years, the tendency being in the direction of lower prices for all kinds of cars. Already there is on the market, at only $700, a strong and efficient two-cylinder machine, noiseless, and in all respects satisfactory for every-day locomotion. There are not a few rich men to-day who, like John Jacob Astor, prefer to use such light and easily-managed vehicles, which they can handle without help, dispensing with the chauffeur.

It has come to be realized that the chauffeur is the greatest drawback to the sport of motoring. He is a first-class nuisance from beginning to end. Standing in not infrequently with the garage, he steals his employer’s gasoline, and the latter is helpless to stop it. Of course, he gets a commission on everything that is bought; but the coachman does the same, and that is only a minor grievance. At night, and at other odd times, he takes out the machine on his own hook, filling it perhaps with women of dubious character, and it happens quite often that all hands get drunk and wind up. in the police court next morning. The man is discharged, but his successor is likely to follow the same practices. A more irresponsible person than the average chauffeur is hardly to be imagined, and he is more than apt to be disreputable. His history is usually a mystery. When he is arrested for running over people, his master has to pay damages, and by careless abuse of the car he rapidly wears it out. If you will run your machine for yourself for a while, dispensing with the man, you will find that your bills for repairs diminish amazingly….

One may say that the family car for traveling is already in sight. It will be a little house on wheels, of light construction, and with the kitchen in front. Part of the machinery will be under the floor of the kitchen (a tiny compartment only big enough to contain the cooking apparatus), the driving power being forward, of course. A small alcohol stove will serve all necessary purposes, and whatever else is requisite in the way of utensils, etc., will easily find storage room; the crockery and other tableware being slung behind in a leather box. Food supplies may be carried on top of the vehicle, the main portion of which will afford accommodations for living, dining and sleeping, two divans being readily converted into beds. Among other conveniences will be a seat that folds up and discloses a washbasin. In such a car a long journey may be accomplished comfortably at an average speed of fifteen miles an hour…

The brains of thousands of clever inventors have been concentrated for some years past on the problem of improving the automobile in the direction of luxury, convenience and adaptation to the greatest possible variety of purposes. One desideratum being to make the vehicle lighter, the aluminum body, which is said to save 600 pounds in the weight of a touring car, has been put on the market. In the direction of cheapness the tendency is steady, and it is only a question of a short time when the $500 machine, strong and capable of doing satisfactory work, will invite purchase by people of moderate means who are unable to afford the more expensive motor wagons.

All of the new cars open at the sides, and qot at the back, for the sake of greater convenience. The electric brougham in which Mrs. Croesus makes calls is heated by electricity, and four incandescent lights illuminate the interior of the vehicle at night. Her husband, who is an all-round sportsman, owns a hunting automobile, which was made to order, with a gun-rack and other appropriate conveniences, including even a compartment suitable for stowing two or three dogs. Some day, doubtless, motor cars will be fitted up as traveling studios for artists who are able to afford such a luxury, and the painter’s outdoor work will thus be accomplished under the most delightful and inspiring conditions….

Mr. Croesus, at his place in the country, has a stable—if such it may be called—especially constructed for the housing of his machines. It has a stand for cleaning the cars —a small platform, above which a hose is so arranged that a stream from overhead can easily be turned upon any part of the automobile that is being washed. In one corner is a tank for gasoline, under ground for the sake of safety, and a small pump provides ready means for obtaining the liquid fuel when it is wanted. Along the walls are lockers for furs and convenient receptacles for the storage of paraphernalia of all kinds, even to sweaters and goggles for the dogs. The auto-dog, by the way, promises to develop before long into a specialized breed, and he requires goggles and a sweater to protect his eyes from the dust and his body from the cold.

The speed record for automobiles stands to-day at a little less than forty seconds for one mile, or about ninety-three miles an hour. Some day, undoubtedly, this will be badly beaten; but larger machines with greater horse power will be required, and the roads must be better. Fifty years from now there are likely to be magnificent boulevards extending from city to city—even perhaps for such distances as from New York to Chicago. They will be double, to provide a road for coming and a road for going, and at night they will be illuminated brilliantly by electricity. Over these smooth paths, broad and straight, motor cars will be able to run at a gait of one hundred miles an hour or more, outstripping the fastest electric locomotives of that day.

Possibly it is just a dream, but it should be remembered that as yet the automobile is only in its infancy. One must acknowledge that its development has been well-nigh miraculous, and, in speculating as to what it may become within the next half century, a moderate exercise of the imagination is surely both discreet and reasonable. Like the railroad, the motorcar, by bringing places and people closer together, has made the world smaller, and, if only for the reason that it fetches human beings nearer to each other, it may be confidently expected to remain in the future a conspicuous and useful feature of civilization.

Outing, Volume 42; Volume 45, 1905

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One scarcely feels the need to add to such an exhaustive report except to second the author’s doubts about chauffeurs.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

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