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Detroit Electric identification help

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At work, Ive been tasked with reviving a Detroit Electric car. I need some help with identifying perhaps the Model and voltage specifics. It has high crown fenders but not the later style large hub wheels, so Im guessing it is a 1929. It has mostly straight framerails that directly taper from back to front and a flywheel brake on the back of the motor The only tag or marking Ive found is the tag on the motor. Is there any hidden tag to identify the year and model of this car? The wheelbase is about 99".


Engine tag says:

Anderson Electric Car   (which was the company name prior to 1919) - this throws me off

Class G-size 2217

Motor No. 18171       Volts - blank  (I also need an idea on voltage or how to figure it)


The chassis layout matches this with the straight frame rails and flywheel brake but the latest date I see on the blueprint is 1921



Ive found the Electric Vehicle Museum's website and it is a wealth of info but Id like to know of any more resources, websites, or people who could help with info and pictures to restore this car. It seems this database only has blueprints for the early to mid 1910's.



I really need some pictures of the battery compartments sans batteries, front and rear, to rebuild the wood flooring. The rotten wood that is there is a prior patch and it seems none of the original battery flooring is there except wooden frame cross members. Ive found blueprints of "battery compartment flooring - front" on the Electric Vehicle Museum website, but the "battery tray" seems to be smaller than the opening it would attach to.


This is the blueprint that matches what I have with the semi-circular cross brace on the bottom but the overall dimensions are smaller than the opening in the frame and it doesnt show how the floor "hangs" in there




Pictures of car




Motor tag



Front battery tray





James C




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1929 would be very late for an electric car. Was the company still in business? 


Some old electrics were rebuilt or modernized in the twenties. There was very little to wear out, and new ones were not available. An owner might have his or her old electric fitted with new, smaller diameter balloon tires and possibly even new fenders. I have heard of roofs being cut down and lowered. The whole car repainted, fitted with new upholstery, tires, batteries and starting  a new life.


When I look at the pictures I get a strong feeling of a car that has been modernized. The fenders, bumpers, tail light and head lights do not fit in with the body. Even the roof looks low. See if you can match up the body with a Detroit Electric from the teens.


It may be a pre 1919 model that was rebuilt in the twenties and put back into service. The serial numbers should tell the tale if anyone has the old records.

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Did a quick web search and the body appears typical of a Detroit Electric of the teens, but the cowl and front hood looks like the 1919 model in particular.




I grow more convinced that you have a 1919 model that was modernized in the late twenties or early thirties. If you can date the fenders, bumpers, tail light and headlights it would give a clue. The bumpers appear to be borrowed from an early thirties car, with hand made overriders added.


To have such a job done by a body shop or garage would not have been cheap, and they most likely used new parts. Sourced from local car dealers, parts that were meant for other makes of cars.

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Here is an account of similar Detroit Electrics in service in Australia




Note the specifications (this is a 1917 model)


Specifications of featured model
Motor: 80 volt, 10 hp (7.5 kW)
Motor No: 16770, Class G, Size 80
Steering: lever
Battery: 42 cells, 15 plates
Speed: 30 mph (48 kph)
Gears: 5 forward, 5 reverse,
Final drive: shaft and bevel gears
Brakes: internal expanding on both rear wheels plus magnetic controller
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Old electrics with DC motors are forgiving of excess voltage and can be over powered for short periods without harm.


The spec sheet above says '80 volts'. But, a lead-acid wet cell, fully charged, produces 2.2 volts. That means a 42 cell battery will give you 92.4 volts when fully charged, possibly a bit more if the batteries are new.


42 cells = 14 6 volt batteries or 7 12 volt batteries. Golf cart batteries will work but if your customer can afford it there are much better batteries available for today's electric cars. You could go up to 100 volts, or even more without harm.


The best electric car experts today, will be found in the shops where they service electric fork lift trucks.

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It is likely the battery compartment floors were made of wood, and may have simply been laid in place and not fastened. But there must have been some sort of clamps or fasteners to hold the batteries in place.


If you take out the floor boards are there bolt holes or screw holes in the frame?

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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I see now I was wrong, but maybe not completely wrong. Here is a 1929 Detroit Electric, just like yours.



It seems production slowed to a crawl by that time and they were not able to bring out new models. The 29 is really like the 1919 with the modifications described above, but done by the factory when they built the car. They seem to imply that the Detroit factory was rebuilding old cars into new ones. So maybe my conjecture was right but the work was done by the Detroit Electric factory not a garage or body shop.


The narrator says it is a 240 volt but that is a mistake. He means the battery charger plugs into 240 volt house current, like a stove or dryer.


They also say the factory records are still in existence in California.


This account says the company went bankrupt in 1929 but was bought up by Alfred Dunk, who continued to produce cars by buying up used Detroit Electrics, rebuilding them and selling them as new cars.



Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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There are no screw holes for the flooring so Im setting the floor in there free-floating. But I believe your right, there are large holes for what I believe is battery hold-downs that will clamp the whole floor down. 


Yes, from what Ive read, after 1926, there was no production of new cars but rather if you ordered a car they would cobble one together or refurbish an old car. We'll figure this out somehow!



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There are no holes in the flooring but are there holes in the frame under the flooring? If the present floor is not the original, and it probably isn't, maybe whoever replaced it neglected to screw or bolt it down?


Batteries give off flamable hydrogen gas especially when they are being charged and should be in a well ventilated compartment. Perhaps this is why they designed a battery tray with an open space all around it?


It is a good idea to leave the hood open when charging the batteries.


I did some research on electric cars for fun a while back. It seems there are 4 different kinds of batteries. In ascending order of costliness and power, they are the traditional lead/acid cells. The Optima type with cylindrical cells. Then there is the lithium ion battery as used in cell phones, cordless appliances and the latest electric cars. I forget the fourth one. But each step up, doubles your power and range. The reason the latest electrics will go 4 times as far as your Detroit, is mainly in the batteries.


I know they have more efficient control systems and motors, but they are also heavier, and have more power robbing accessories. It would be interesting to see what your 1929 electric would do, on the latest batteries, if the owner will pay the $$$$.


Another thought occurred to me. If you are doing a complete restoration have the owner contact some battery manufacturers and see if they are interested in sponsoring the work, or even donate the batteries.


Imagine the publicity: ' This 90 year old electric car improved its range and  efficiency 300% just by using our batteries. From 100 miles on a charge, it now goes 400 and it charges in less than half the time. When you want the best batteries in the world insist on Volto batteries.'


Comparison tests of the old Detroit electric to the newest models, the new models would win of course but emphasize that the Volto batteries make it nearly as good as the new models.


This is the sort of attention grabber any advertiser should appreciate.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...

The detroit you have is a 1929/30 year car.  The car originally was produced in the teens (I will have to look up the  serial numbers which I have a list of existing cars). The Anderson Motor company was in  financial trouble for several years ---they would take a say 1916 model in on a trade ( in say 1929  and "retrofit " it to a modern  THIRTIES LOOKING VEHICLE ....ie  cut the top down 12 inches and replace the fenders with "rounded" fenders !  Hence you now have a modern car!!  The motor would be serviced as would the rest of the car including new interior.   I own a 1930 Detroit with 3300 miles on it and it was originally a 1930.  I also have 1921 and 1922 Detroits with the different fenders and much taller height.   They are fun cars !!!    Battery compartments are/were typically slatted wood floors.  The electrics should be gone through carefully on your car so you don't have a fire.... Keep in mind wood bodies.    As one closing thought .... Galen Handy in CA has all the records on the Detroit electric cars......his father was the LAST employee of the company!!   Great guy and a wealth of information.  He would be able to tell you when the car was produced and where it went in it's early years.   My email is mpl1736664@aol.com   I am out of town but will be home next week if you want the serial number information. Regards,


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  • 3 weeks later...

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