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1902, Thomas, Model 17

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Hi all

For Sale my 1902 Thomas, model 17, detachable rear entrance tourer, with runabout back.

This is the oldest Thomas know to exist, 8hp, 2 speed planetary trans, will sit at 30mph comfortably. Rally proven, we travelled 1100 km (700miles) in 8 days last month, without a break down.

This is a driver (as they should be) it is not a 100pt show car! It is complete with correct working Solar self generating headlight, Solar side lights Thomas drip oiler etc. This car has been in Australia for the last 35 years and has undergone a full re-restoration in the last 5 years ago.

I have heaps of photos, details and all of the avaliable litreture including a copy of a factory photo and 1902 advertsments for the E R Thomas Motor Co & and the model 17. VCC of Australia dated.

Enquires via email or telephone.

Thanks Russell


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Guest Silverghost


What a fantastic, special, and very rare auto indeed !

Do you have any engine & driveline photos you could post here also !

What is your asking price ? In US Dollars ...

I love your great early Thomas !

I never knew there were so many great Brass-era cars in Australia !

Edited by Silverghost (see edit history)
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E R Thomas was a rail road man who ventured into bicycles during the craze and then invested in the production of internal combustion motors. He was the major shareholder in the Buffalo Motor Co which produced several cars during 1901 & 1902 (none known to still exist). As I understand it these cars used Thomas motors. The Buffalo concern fell into difficulty and in July 1902, E R Thomas announced he would be taking over the running of the organisation, in September 1902 he announce a re-capitalisation of the company and a re-naming to the E R Thomas Motor Co. He set about up grading the Buffalo Senior (6hp tiller steer) to the new Model 17 Thomas, from what I can gather he produced about 50 cars from September through December 1902 though, I have 1902 articles on the Model 17 and the Model 18 was introduced in late January 1903. The balance of the Model 17’s were sold into March/April 1903, along side the Model 18 (based on ads in trade journals). Production figures are estimated at 250 for the total 1902/03. There are 6 Model 18’s known to still exist.

There are 2 “supposed” stories about this car, the most likely is that this car was on display (with the Model 18) at the New York Motor Show in January 1903 and sold to a couple from Virginia. Both Model 17’s & 18’s were listed as painted as London Smoke (a grey brownish colour) however the original restorer believed that the green was the original colour (I have no idea if this is true or how he concluded this?) The car evidently did not have excessive use and was parked in a barn, probably superseded by a bigger car as they progressed. The story then jumps to the late 50’s early 60’s when a solider found the car in the barn and organised for someone to retrieve the car for him. The soldier died before the car was delivered and it was sold to a Cherry Valley Ca restorer Chris Reimuller, Chris was, according to a 1969 article on the car, sick and the doctor recommended he take up a hobby and the Thomas was that hobby. Chris reportedly spent $17,000 on the restoration which was a huge amount in the 60’s. He displayed the car only the once and received a AACA first place Junior. The car was feature in the AACA magazine and American Classic cars and other newspapers during this period. Chris passed away some time later and the car was sold to a Pa private collection.

Sometime in the 70’s a fellow here purchased the car from the Pa collector and as he put it to me he purchased it “because it had his name on the hubcaps”. He was a wheeler & dealer in old cars and organised to have the car dismantled and sent to Australia in separate containers to avoid the heavy duty that excised on importing cars into Australia at the time. This sort of manoeuvre was his eventual un-doing as the Australian Taxation department ended up charging him after he falsely declared a Mercedes 540K.

The Thomas was roughly re-assembled after it arrived and sat in his open shed for over 25 years slowly deteriorating. I was told of the car and purchased it about 8 years ago. I contacted Chris Reimuller’s relatives and Jim from the Buffalo transportation museum in NY State, the HCCF and Harold Coker to piece together most of this information. It was featured in Restored Cars here in Australia a few years ago and a fellow here rang me to ask if the car was dismantled to import it, after discussing it with him he confessed that he was paid to dismantle the car and was pleased that it had finally been re-restored.

This is one of 2 Model 17’s known to exist and is regarded the oldest, and referred to in articles in the 70’s in the USA as the most important Thomas, next to the 1907 Great race winning Thomas (take that for what it is worth?). It has since been re-featured in the AACA Magazine and also in many publications here in Australia.

To answer the question (part already has been) yes the car was found in Va and yes, the car had a fiberglass hood, I've re-made a correct wooded hood, though I'm not 100% happy with it, I had not decided as to either continuing with the "first" attempt or re-doing it, either way it comes with the car.


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Russell, thanks for story, great information. I ask the question because I know the person who got it out of the barn, and there I think your story may be a little skewed, but I'll do some further checking. In fact he was a soldier at that time, but the reports of his death, with apologies to Mr. Twain, are greatly exaggerated. I'll let you know more if I find out..thanks dc

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Hi David

The story of the "death" was written up in an article I founjd on the car in the late 60's. I always thought that the fiberglass hood was Chris Reinmulller's work as he wrote about replacing rotten wood etc.

I've tried to peice as much of the history togeather as I could (because I think it is an important part of all cars) it suprised me that there was so much imformation out there. If you know anything diffrent please let me know so I can ad to it, thanks.


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