Lot 614: Detroiter 6-45 Touring Car
There was a time when it was possible to make lots of money building cars in America and many people thought it would be their ticket to success. Claude Briggs and John Boyle threw their hats into the ring that was the auto industry in 1912 when they decided to build the Detroiter car designed by chief engineer W.S. Lee.
The Detroiter consisted of many existing components bought in and assembled by the company. Chassis, engine, transmission, among other components came from outside suppliers and were assembled in the company’s plant.
For the first Detroiters—offered as a five-passenger 'Tourist' and a two-passenger roadster - the 25 horsepower four-cylinder engine came from Continental and was mated to a three-speed manual transmission. Although very much an 'assembled' car, the Detroiter was certainly well built and nicely finished. First year projections of 500 cars were more than doubled, while the 1913 sales figure was just short of 2,500 units thanks to an aggressive advertising program.
Several significant changes for 1914 included the option of a self-starter and a speedster model dubbed the 'Kangaroo.' Yet as the reliability problems became known even these improvements couldn’t stave off falling sales, which dropped all the way down to 1,600 for the year.
For 1915, a water pump arrived and a new V-8 engine joined the line up in January. Like all Detroiter engines, it came from an outside supplier - Massick Phipps Manufacturing Company of Detroit. Despite the new model Detroiter sales plummeted to 800. By mid-June, work was halted as the company yielded to the receivers.
In stepped auto parts supplier Alfred O. Dunk, who acquired the assets for $70,000 and by November 1915 Detroiter was back in business - for a while. With the services of engineer Walter Bamford, the revived firm introduced the Detroiter 6-45 at the Chicago Auto show in 1916. It was powered by a Continental straight six, used an Auto-Lite starting and lighting system and a three-speed transmission from the Mechanics Machine Company. Reviews were good and ads touted the strong 'Detroiter-Continental' engine in a reversal of the original management’s moves to hide the fact that so many parts were bought in. The car was a good one, but it just couldn’t compete with the many quality automobiles available to consumers. By 1917 there were five versions of the 6-45, but still total sales for 1916 and 1917 couldn’t top 778 cars. Despite corporate reorganization and publicity efforts, by October 1917 it was all over for Detroiter.
Although only a dozen or so of the four cylinder cars are known world wide, only one 1915 V-8 model exists, and the offered car is the only know six cylinder example. This vehicle was featured in Automobile Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 4, and Car Collector in November 1996.
This meticulously restored model 6-45 dual coil tourister is finished in eggshell with beige fenders and chassis. The wheels and leather interior are red and the leather equipment is tan. Noted Detroit area restorer Brian Joseph recently rebuilt the 45HP continental six cylinder engine.
Included with the car is 220 pages of documentation, research, vintage advertising, company records, original parts prices list, as well as restoration photographs.
Although the Detroiter is titled as 1916, the seller notes that the research indicates it is probably a 1917 model.
This highly unusual and very attractive car is well suited to touring or for show.
Collectors' Motor Cars|
Bonhams & Butterfields, Larz Anderson Auto Museum, Brookline
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