Early American Automobiles
Bailey Electric Vehicles and Literature
Copied from the January 1910 Automotive Industries agazine
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN AUTO SHOW.
The 1910 automobile show under the direction of the American Licensed Automobile Manufacturers was a very fine effort. The spacious Garden was utilized in every part, adding much to the exhibition space over former shows. The decorative scheme was new and pleasing. The idea of uniformity of display as regarded signs, and such notice-attracting details, was well thought out, and as well carried out. The attractions demonstrated their popularity by the very large crowds that filled the spaces. The visitors seemed to well understand, in a majority of instances, what they were looking at, and the demonstrations employed to point out the merits of the exhibits found they were up against intelligent questioners. Even the ladies could discuss sparking in aspects other than the parlor kind, and their ideas of the "intake," the exhaust and the fan, were such as to show they were in no wise mixed in their notions of the functions of the parts mentioned. As to the exhibits. There was a very large collecton. The accessories outnumbered the cars and trucks, which is most natural, but the total was a very representative display of the scope of the car-making industry.
The electric propelled vehicles had their own section, and the representation was comprehensive. It is curious to note how very popular the game of "follow your leader" is in all the efforts at car building. This year some one has lead off with an "electric" having the conformation and appearance of a gasoline car, placing the batteries where the engine would be looked for in front of the dash. Why an electric should be thus constructed it is difficult to guess, unless it is a bid by the maker to fill the eye of the man who is used to the looks of the gas car. Even such carriage builders who should have more taste, have fallen into the style, with an exception which we note, and have examples of this kind of job.
To instance what may be done with the electric proposition when a carriage builder of ideas faces the problem, it is but necessary to consider the exhibit of the S.R. Bailey & Co.,Inc., whose electric Victoria, regarded from every point of view, is a real pleasure carriage of quality. The idea, design, construction and finish put it in quite a class by itself, so we have no reasons for comparison. It stood alone as an exhibit and must have made the few real carriage builders who had exhibits on the floor, stop, study and think.
In the larger aspects of the display, while there were a great number of gas-propelled cars on the premises, it was enough to arrest the attention of even the inexpert to note what a deadly sameness of design was manifest. Had the bodies of the touring car been built by the linear foot and cut off in lengths of eighty inches, there could not have been less of a sameness than was actually in evidence. This ought to mean, we suppose, that a working draft of body had been found that was so ideally suited to the conditions to be met, that all originality was superfluous. If this is a fact, then we have arrived at a standardization of car body as surely as we have at the right shape for a dump cart.
Carriage body builders who are responsible for some of the work that was exhibited are not putting their own ideas into concrete form, it would seem, but are building the work that is called for by the auto maker, and not tagging it with any comment or criticism of their own. An enlightening illustration would have been the comparison of the Brewster touring body shown in the Grand Central Palace exhibit, and the type so universally shown in the Garden.
The automobile maker, we should judge, is still very much a worker in metal. His efforts are being most successfully directed towards the simplification and standardization of the power a problem worthy of his best thought. As he has a long distance to travel on this road before he reaches the crown of his ambition, perhaps he has not the time to devote to the art side of the problem. The evolution of the carriage builder from the maker of a mere something in which to transport passengers to the finished product of the most refined art that the carriage has become, was a matter of years. How then can the autosmith, or worker in metal, surround the problem to advantage with a world of experience yet to acquire. As a copyist he is so far deserving of approbation. In time the building of motor cars so that they will represent, or stand for "class" and individual distinction, will come about, but the work will have passed into more experienced hands, and the industry will have evolved from the evcry-year-a-new-model factory to a real and stable industry.
We saw nothing in touring car bodies that offered any opportunity for comment on meritorious, novel, or elegant construction. The auto-smith, as well as the auto engineer, was well to the front. There were many and well thought out methods of engine construction, body suspension and frame, or what we think might be termed running gear, building. The efforts at simplicity of design, with as few working parts as possible, arc making notable progress. A composite engine and frame might be built, selecting from the many good points shown that would be ver near the last word in engine and frame bidding. By degrees the engineer is learning the value of the full elliptic spring, and there is not the Chinese regularity of three-quarter suspension so universally the practice until better ideas began to prevail.
The parts manufacturer is the real improver. He is always a man of ideas, and being a specialist, it is quite to be expected that he will have novelties of worthy, as well as noteworthy, excellence. There is a tendency to look upon the accessory man as not in the class of the builder, and the latter does not like to be regarded as a mere assembler, trimmer and painter, but the good features presented by the specialist are bound to be considered in their season, even if it is only to attempt to plagiarize the idea, euphemistically called adapting.
We should not care to characterize the "torpedo" style of construction that is more or less in evidence. It is, it must be, a purely ephemeral or sporadic fancy that will die of its own inertia. It is, however, symptomatic of what we said, the trade is yet in the Chinese stage of its evolution, running along imitative lines, and prone to fall down before very strange idols, indeed. When builders of them will be glad to hide the catalogues in which they were pictured forth to possible customers. These, in brief, are the impressions we have received from an inspection of what the manufacturers had to offer. The details of construction we shall take up in succeeding issues, in their departments, in order to go into technical details witli the proper particularity.