Here’s yet another assortment of long-forgotten automotive makes that originated in the Motor City, but with a twist: This time, we’ll let the artists tell the story.
In the early days of the Detroit auto industry, manufacturers made extensive use of both photographers and illustrators to present their products. As a result, we have some charming materials to enjoy all these years later.
For this edition of our series on forgotten Detroit makes, we’re relying more than usual on the artists, the masters of pen and paper, to provide the visuals. The makes featured here may be obscure today, but they all played key roles in shaping the Motor City.
Robert C. Hupp produced a major hit in 1909 with the original Hupmobile Model 20, but he and his investors quickly grew at odds and he departed from the company. Among his next efforts were the 1911-1912 RCH gasoline auto and the 1912-1918 Hupp-Yeats Electric (1912 Electric Coach rendering shown here). Hupp then designed the Monarch automobile and served as an engineering and executive consultant to other Detroit automakers, including Chrysler.
Charles B. King was the original Motor City pioneer: In March of 1896, he was the first to build and operate an automobile on the streets of Detroit. He worked for and with a number of early Detroit automakers, including his own company from 1910 to 1924. Among the King’s advanced features were left-hand steering and in 1915, a V8 engine. The holder of scores of patents, including one for the pneumatic hammer that made him independently wealthy, King also wrote music and poetry. Shown here is a 1916 Model C.
The Northern Manufacturing Co. was founded in 1902 by William E. Metzger, the first auto dealer in the city of Detroit and the sales manager for the Cadillac Automobile Co. Technical minds behind the Northern (1905 Limousine shown here) included the aforementioned Charles B. King and Jonathan Maxwell. In 1908, Northern was absorbed into another Metzger enterprise, the E-M-F Co., where Metzger was partnered with Walter Flanders and Barney Everitt. These three men were players in countless Motor City automotive startups.
Here’s a view of a 1904 Northern chassis illustrating some interesting mechanical features, including the opposed two-cylinder engine, a Maxwell trademark, and the elaborate two-chamber exhaust muffler. One of the car’s marketing taglines was “the silent Northern.”
Though he was famous across the country as the winner of the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, Ray Harroun always regarded himself an engineer more than a racing driver. After serving as lead engineer at Marmon, Marion, and Maxwell, he lent his name to the Harroun Motor Sales Company, where he was vice president and product chief. Of the several thousand units produced between 1917 and 1922, only one example is thought to exist today. The former Harroun plant was later occupied by the Graham Bros. and Gar Wood Industries.