Automobiles and Social Caste


Jun 11, 2000
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Can't think why you're surprised there, Bob. Clarkson and the Royal Marines: a meeting of hearts and minds. Am now trying to fight off urge to upgrade to the 2-litre Fiesta which, I understand, is the joyrider's car of choice. Which may be a good reason not to buy one....

I can't help it, though. I just fancy being a little old lady zooming around in a shiny black car with wide alloy wheels, spoiler, paparazzi-proof windows, and truly terrifying alarm. Not to mention an industrial sound system bawling Puccini all over the neighbourhood. Fancy a spin?
 

Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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I'm sorry I showed up too late to this party to be any help to Ben. But here's a range of advertised 1912 Cadillac prices:
a hard-topped Coupe - $2255
a limousine - $3200
phaeton (4- or 5-seater) - $1800
roadster (two-seater) - $1800
torpedo (another 4- or 5-seater)- $1900
touring car - $1800

These prices are not low, but it's true that there were plenty of more expensive cars on the market. The now little-known Garford went from $3750 for both the four- and seven-passenger tourers to $6000 for the limousine.

Here are some Peerless prices advertised for 1912:
38-Six Torpedo - $4000
24-Four Town Car (a smaller limousine) - $4200
60-Six Berline Limousine - $7200
48-Six Phaeton - $5000
40-Four Touring Car - $4300

Interestingly, for many companies, passenger capacity did not seem to impact price. The 1912 Corbin 30 Roadster (two-seater) and Corbin 30 Touring Car were both advertised for $2000. The Corbin 40 Torpedo (4-seater) went for $3100 while the Corbin 40 Touring Car (7-seater) went for $3050.

Model T's were not as affordable in 1912 as they would be by the 1920s. I believe they cost between $6- and $700. The Model T Town Car, the limousine version, went for $900.

The cheapest car was probably the Brush Runabout, which went for about $350. These were very basic two-seaters that I think were kept for recreation more than utility. An article of the day reported that the Brush was favored by young debutantes not only in American cities, but in London and Paris as well.

I don't think there really was a car for the middle class in the way that we think of now. Even the Model T would have beyond the reach of the average commuter. Second-class passenger Benjamin Hart owned a car (I don't know what kind), but he was the exception.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Americans could buy the mail order Sears Autobuggy (complete with instruction book) for half the price of a Model T - around $325. And in Europe we had baby cars at around Ford T prices plus much cheaper but very flimsy 'cyclecars', often with fore & aft seating for two to keep the width narrow enough to do away with the need for differential gearing. All aimed very much at the middle class buyer. Ford sold a quarter of a million Model T's in 1912, and that's a clear indication that he was selling downmarket, and succeeding.
 
May 27, 2007
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Hey Michael,

President Obama is being driven around. I think the Secret Service protection detail would have a stroke if the POTUS got behind the wheel of his own vehicle for a spin.
Yeah their heads would be spinning! There would be two operatives on the hood and one on the trunk and 4 in the actual car it self.
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All,

The latest Fiesta should be on sale in the US late this year, assembled in the Mexico plant. But they won't be getting the diesel-powered ECOnetic model which does 65mpg.
Shoot the way folks drive over here especially where I live it's just as well. Bunch of maniacs.

Hi Brian,
No wonder some middle class folks with Cars were offering rides for $$$.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Sure I'll go for a spin in your 2-litre Fiesta, Mon. But first you'll need to assure me that you've actually bought one this time. I won't fall for that "only hot-wiring coz I forgot my keys" routine again.
 
Jun 11, 2000
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George,
you don't have to worry about the diesel-powered Fiesta ECOnetic model where you live. It's s-loo-o-o-o-w. You need to worry about me!
 
May 27, 2007
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Hello Monica,

you don't have to worry about the diesel-powered Fiesta ECOnetic model where you live.
True, the only real diesel power engine we have is our Public Transport or rigs

You need to worry about me!
At least you probably know what a turn signal is and how to use it. We're short 29 Cops and we're missing them too. Traffic is insane here.
 
May 27, 2007
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Springfield Mo is where! Famous for Brad Pitt and Pearl White. Love the Bonnie and Clyde Photo. They were here back in '34 at Joplin. Crazy Texans!
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Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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>Americans could buy the mail order Sears Autobuggy (complete with instruction book) for half the price of a Model T - around $325.

A little remembered automotive footnote here in the US is that Sears tried again in the 1950s.

Kaiser, a casualty of the 1953 price war between Ford and Chevrolet, had brought out a stripped down but sort-of-cute compact in 1951, by the name of Henry J. About 80,000 of them sold, despite the bare-bones nature of the car.

Sears, for whatever reason, decided to get back into the car business, and so in 1952 mass-purchased Henry Js from the Kaiser Corporation, and dressed them up with considerable improvements that one could not get on the original car. So, with the new name of Allstate, lots of desirable features, and a low price, the car made its bow.

However, the 80,000 Henry Js sold in 1951 seem to have saturated the market. People who wanted a small economy car purchased the Rambler, by Nash, which was a considerably more "fun" car than the Henry J, and gave better value for the money.

Henry J. did poorly that year, but Allstate was a complete disaster. It seemerd taht A) the public did not WANT a Deluxe Henry J at any price, and B) the public did not want to order a car out of the Sears catalogue, or at a Sears department store. About 1400 sold, making it about the least successful marque of the 1952 selling season. In 1953, only about 790 sold, after which the plug was pulled.

Hnery Js have all the collectors appeal as....well...Ford Pintos. In a way, Sears got the last laugh, since the Allstate was incredibly uncommon when brand new and is now the only collectable Henry J. But, porices are low, and GOOD LUCK finding replacements for all the items added by Sears if the originals happen to be broken.
 
May 27, 2007
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A little remembered automotive footnote here in the US is that Sears tried again in the 1950s.
That's why my family shopped at JC Penny's. They didn't try to sell cars via the catalog. I sell Allstate Supplemental- "Mental" being the operative word here folks- Insurance at work so I'm gonna zip out before the tales of Allstate the car's woes jinx my performance. Time to bow and exit, Geo. So take your bow, make it now! *Bow*
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Ben Lemmon

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Feb 6, 2008
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I have a question, if anyone could spare the time. It concerns the British automobile class of Wolseley (not sure if I spelled that correctly). In the story I am writing, there are six main characters. At one point in the story, all six of them have to be in the car at once. Would that be possible? If so, would there be lap-sitters, or would there have been a car that all six characters could fit in? Any comments or ideas would be appreciated. Thanks.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Wolseley, like most other makers of the period, made their cars in chassis form and a range of standard body types and sizes could be bought from the company or you could buy one separately from a specialist coachbuilder. So you could have anything from a sporty 2-seater to a limo. The typical mid-sized touring car body would seat two adults up front and, in the wider back seat, three more adults or four children.
 
Jun 11, 2000
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Ah, nostalgia! The first car I ever had was an ancient (1950-something) Wolseley 1500, bought for me by my father for £50 when I was 18 (he didn't pay my insurance until my mother threatened to go on strike ... whatever that meant). It had drum brakes, a hole in the floor underneath my seat so that water, oil etc. sprayed up onto me, and its cornering and vast steering wheel were simply terrible. But I had good times in it. My own son, of course, is complaining that the car I gave him 18 months ago doesn't have automatic air-con .... he has to actually touch a button to get it going. Hmmm.
 
Jun 11, 2000
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But to reply to your question, Ben. Well, before seat belt legislation and so forth, you could cram as many people as you liked into a car. That is certainly the case for the 1910s onwards, until the late 1960s in the UK. Life on the roads seems to have been much more lethal during the first half of the 20th Century than it is now, despite the fact that there was far less traffic. Possibly, we've now reached the point of diminishing returns, where no matter what you do in terms of motoring safety, you can't reduce the number of injuries / fatalities. But in 1910 - 1920, I think your imagination is the limit.
 
Jun 11, 2000
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Noblesse oblige, Bob, noblesse oblige. If you were the one with the wheels, then you packed them in and took them home. I think I managed about eight in the Wolseley once, apart from me. But you had to be sober, of course.

I remember an epic occasion in London where I put them in the car, and they just opened the doors and ran out again. The police turned up, asked what was going on, and helped me pack the car again, threatening the runners that they'd be arrested if they didn't quieten down. They then let me proceed on my way. That certainly wouldn't happen how.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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That's true, Mon. And I've heard that back in the days when you first started driving the cops themselves weren't averse to a bit of overloading.


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Jun 11, 2000
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And here it is - though mine wasn't two-tone, it was just a dingy green all over. And I just love the top speed - 150 mph? Ha ha! The same friends, even now, remember it with fondness and relief. No wonder I drink way beyond the Government recommended limits at home now - I'm just making up for all those years when I was the stone-cold sober driver getting them all home somehow.
http://images.google.co.uk/etc
 

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