kfle

A Family’s fascination revives story of the Cole Motor cars

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8 hours ago, A. Ballard 35R said:

 

Bob, once again you come up with the good questions. Your mention of Coles racing jarred my memory about the Fairmount Park races in Philadelphia. There were two Coles entered in the 1910 race driven by the Endicott brothers referred to in a previous post. Both cars had 201 cubic inch engines, were in the 161 to 230 cubic inch class, and neither finished. In the 1911 race there was one 286 cubic inch Cole driven by Basle and it was also a DNF in the 231 to 300 cubic inch class.

 

Several years ago I was fortunate enough to visit the late Dick Ringfelt and his charming wife and had a great ride in his wonderful 1913 Cole 6-60 roadster. These are fine cars and I am very impressed with Kevin Fleck for all the work he has done to preserve the cars along with his outstanding research. 

For races in 1910 and 1911, Cole always just used stock Cole 30 speedsters and maybe just removed a bit more of the body and did some tuning.  Here are a few pictures of Endicott and the typical cars that would have been in the two races that you mentioned.  

004-Bill Endicott.jpg

#1866 in Cole Speedster.jpg

003- Endicott LA 4-9-10.jpg

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9 hours ago, 58L-Y8 said:

From what body companies did Cole source their bodies? 

Was the Springfield Body Company cited above as the source of TourSedan bodies the same one that became the in-house coachbuilder for Rolls-Royce of America?

Your insights as to why Cole expired as an automaker by 1926.  Its been attributed to being financially wounded by the postwar recession and J.J. Cole's decision to wind down operations before his personal fortune was depleted.  Were any efforts made to sell the company to or merge with another automaker?

 

Some great questions and I will answer this a bit later when I have some more time.  The fortune and money was the smallest factor and Billy Durant tried to buy Cole 3 times!  Ill explain more today.

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On 10/6/2019 at 9:38 PM, 58L-Y8 said:

From what body companies did Cole source their bodies? 

Was the Springfield Body Company cited above as the source of TourSedan bodies the same one that became the in-house coachbuilder for Rolls-Royce of America?

Your insights as to why Cole expired as an automaker by 1926.  Its been attributed to being financially wounded by the postwar recession and J.J. Cole's decision to wind down operations before his personal fortune was depleted.  Were any efforts made to sell the company to or merge with another automaker?

 

Cole used several different body makers over the years but hardly ever publicized who the maker was.  Some bodies were general makers, some were small contract runs, and some were completely custom.  Confirmed body makers for Cole were Springfield, Fisher, Rubay, Willoughby, Racine, Robbins, Rex, and a few others.  Springfield did make bodies for Rolls Royce, however it is not the in house builder by the same name.  

 

 Now, on to the demise of Cole.  The Cole Motor Car Company actually ceased operations in the Fall of 1924.  The board voted to liquidate in April of 1924 and then Cole was invited to pace the Indy 500 with their new balloon tires.  The race created demand, so Cole did one more run of about 700 cars in the late summer of 1924 that many people call the 1925 Coles.  After that run was done, they liquidated and paid off all shareholders and a small profit for the year.  Jj Cole passed away of heart disease about five months later.

 

in 1921/1922, the post war depression did impact Coles profit and sales, however that is not the reason Cole decided to liquidate.  The primary reason was that Cole’s suppliers would not let him engineer the components to Coles specifications and design.  Cole was big on innovation and this would not allow him to innovate any longer.  The trend in the industry was towards high volume and low cost and JJ Cole had no interest in that.  Based on that trend and due to the change in suppliers approaches, JJ Cole was not having fun any longer didn’t want to waste resources or his family fortune and decided to liquidate the company.

 

Billy Durant tried to buy Cole three times, including towards the end of the company, however JJ Cole refused him every time.  Cole thought that Durant sucked the soul out of the companies he purchased and didn’t want his name associated with that.  He was a man of principle and didn’t think Durant would manufacture up to Coles standards and engineering.  Also, in 1922 Cole had worked out an agreement and plan for ten Indiana automakers to merge and form a competitor to Durant’s GM.  They had all agreements in place and a good plan forward, however when it went to the Wall Street banks to finalize the deal, they slow walked it and never finalized it,  There was speculation that the big Detroit automakers had a hand in getting the bankers to kill the deal.  

 

Cole really was a great American success story and is quite fascinating,  the issue is that the real information about Cole is not easily accessible.  Most of the auto history books have some inaccuracies about the Company and it is not surprising.  We have and have access to a collection of all of the ads, manuals, dealer books, documents, original news articles, and a very rare copy of a book that was written in 1954 about Cole.    The book was written by a doctoral student at Indiana University and a very small run was produced as it was really a doctoral dissertation.  The author had access to the complete company archives, former surviving Cole employees, and the Cole family.  The company archives were destroyed in the 60’s in a flood and the family did not share them to many prior to that.

 

Hopefully this his answers your question. 

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29 minutes ago, kfle said:

 Now, on to the demise of Cole.  The Cole Motor Car Company actually ceased operations in the Fall of 1924.  The board voted to liquidate in April of 1924 and then Cole was invited to pace the Indy 500 with their new balloon tires.  The race created demand, so Cole did one more run of about 700 cars in the late summer of 1924 that many people call the 1925 Coles.  After that run was done, they liquidated and paid off all shareholders and a small profit for the year.  Jj Cole passed away of heart disease about five months later.

 

in 1921/1922, the post war depression did impact Coles profit and sales, however that is not the reason Cole decided to liquidate.  The primary reason was that Cole’s suppliers would not let him engineer the components to Coles specifications and design.  Cole was big on innovation and this would not allow him to innovate any longer.  The trend in the industry was towards high volume and low cost and JJ Cole had no interest in that.  Based on that trend and due to the change in suppliers approaches, JJ Cole was not having fun any longer didn’t want to waste resources or his family fortune and decided to liquidate the company.

 

Cole really was a great American success story and is quite fascinating,  the issue is that the real information about Cole is not easily accessible.  Most of the auto history books have some inaccuracies about the Company and it is not surprising.  We have and have access to a collection of all of the ads, manuals, dealer books, documents, original news articles, and a very rare copy of a book that was written in 1954 about Cole.    The book was written by a doctoral student at Indiana University and a very small run was produced as it was really a doctoral dissertation.  The author had access to the complete company archives, former surviving Cole employees, and the Cole family.  The company archives were destroyed in the 60’s in a flood and the family did not share them to many prior to that.

Thanks for your brief history lesson on Cole.  

 

In hindsight, with the Great Depression looming just four years later, he liquidated at almost the right time.

 

Would any of those 'archives' that were destroyed in the 1960's flood include all the build sheets for the Cole cars?  Or were they hopefully saved? 

 

Craig

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I watched the video of the blue Cole and was surprised to see the exterior door handles look the same as on my 1925 McLaughlin Buick,  haven't seen them before on any other car.  Old Sam must have got a buy on them from the same supplier as Cole!!  Couldn't figure out how to crop and enlarge the handle on the screen shot Cole.  Leon

IMG_0044.jpg

Screen Shot 2019-10-07 at 8.14.39 PM.png

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kfle, i love what you're doing to help teach us about the Cole car.  I also noted these Cole photos in the latest CCCA magazine.   All neat to see.

 

1693694675_IMG_2420(1).jpg.64e669b3cd64a7c016f1b83def72f1ba.jpg

 

 

IMG_2419 (1).jpg

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14 hours ago, kfle said:

Cole used several different body makers over the years but hardly ever publicized who the maker was.  Some bodies were general makers, some were small contract runs, and some were completely custom.  Confirmed body makers for Cole were Springfield, Fisher, Rubay, Willoughby, Racine, Robbins, Rex, and a few others.  Springfield did make bodies for Rolls Royce, however it is not the in house builder by the same name.  

 

 Now, on to the demise of Cole.  The Cole Motor Car Company actually ceased operations in the Fall of 1924.  The board voted to liquidate in April of 1924 and then Cole was invited to pace the Indy 500 with their new balloon tires.  The race created demand, so Cole did one more run of about 700 cars in the late summer of 1924 that many people call the 1925 Coles.  After that run was done, they liquidated and paid off all shareholders and a small profit for the year.  Jj Cole passed away of heart disease about five months later.

 

in 1921/1922, the post war depression did impact Coles profit and sales, however that is not the reason Cole decided to liquidate.  The primary reason was that Cole’s suppliers would not let him engineer the components to Coles specifications and design.  Cole was big on innovation and this would not allow him to innovate any longer.  The trend in the industry was towards high volume and low cost and JJ Cole had no interest in that.  Based on that trend and due to the change in suppliers approaches, JJ Cole was not having fun any longer didn’t want to waste resources or his family fortune and decided to liquidate the company.

 

Billy Durant tried to buy Cole three times, including towards the end of the company, however JJ Cole refused him every time.  Cole thought that Durant sucked the soul out of the companies he purchased and didn’t want his name associated with that.  He was a man of principle and didn’t think Durant would manufacture up to Coles standards and engineering.  Also, in 1922 Cole had worked out an agreement and plan for ten Indiana automakers to merge and form a competitor to Durant’s GM.  They had all agreements in place and a good plan forward, however when it went to the Wall Street banks to finalize the deal, they slow walked it and never finalized it,  There was speculation that the big Detroit automakers had a hand in getting the bankers to kill the deal.  

 

Cole really was a great American success story and is quite fascinating,  the issue is that the real information about Cole is not easily accessible.  Most of the auto history books have some inaccuracies about the Company and it is not surprising.  We have and have access to a collection of all of the ads, manuals, dealer books, documents, original news articles, and a very rare copy of a book that was written in 1954 about Cole.    The book was written by a doctoral student at Indiana University and a very small run was produced as it was really a doctoral dissertation.  The author had access to the complete company archives, former surviving Cole employees, and the Cole family.  The company archives were destroyed in the 60’s in a flood and the family did not share them to many prior to that.

 

Hopefully this his answers your question. 

kfle

 

Thank you for your in depth answers to my questions, it greatly appreciated that you're sharing your knowledge of this obscure marque.  The body makers cited were some I surmised might have been sources.   Willoughby histories have mentioned the company built series-custom bodies for Cole.

 

Not surprising that suppliers began to balk since larger, high volume runs were becoming the norm, low volume builders were just a nuisances for them, sadly enough.

 

Mr. Cole was prescient when it came to Billy Gurant, look what he did to Locomobile...

 

I hope you will consider writing an updated Cole history since you likely have the greatest amount of knowledge on them.   Others beside myself would welcome such a history.

 

Steve 

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24 minutes ago, 58L-Y8 said:

I hope you will consider writing an updated Cole history since you likely have the greatest amount of knowledge on them.   Others beside myself would welcome such a history.

That would be nice to see, especially with all the information on Cole you have in your possession.

 

I have a few marque histories/founder biographies which are all interesting reads during winter:

 

https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/michigans-c-harold-wills-the/9781625859877-item.html?ikwid=ch+wills+wills+st+claire&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=4

 

https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/tatra-the-legacy-of-hans/9781845847999-item.html?ikwid=tatra&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=1

 

https://www.amazon.ca/Made-Standard-Alexander-Petryshyn-2000-12-04/dp/B01FEOYGGU

 

https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/alvis-the-complete-story/9781785005879-item.html?ref=recently_viewed%3A home%3Asearch%3Asearch results

 

Craig

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19 hours ago, 1935Packard said:

kfle, i love what you're doing to help teach us about the Cole car.  I also noted these Cole photos in the latest CCCA magazine.   All neat to see.

 

1693694675_IMG_2420(1).jpg.64e669b3cd64a7c016f1b83def72f1ba.jpg

 

 

IMG_2419 (1).jpg

Thanks for sharing.  The top picture is me and the 1925 Cole and the bottom is my son and his 1923 Cole 2person Coupe.  Both pictures were taken at the CCCA Michigan Grand Classic.  It was a fun event and I doubt that many Coles have shown in the CCCA even though they are Full Classics.  

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20 hours ago, garnetkid said:

I watched the video of the blue Cole and was surprised to see the exterior door handles look the same as on my 1925 McLaughlin Buick,  haven't seen them before on any other car.  Old Sam must have got a buy on them from the same supplier as Cole!!  Couldn't figure out how to crop and enlarge the handle on the screen shot Cole.  Leon

 

Thank you for sharing this.  There are several Coles that used these, though it was not consistent for all body styles during a given model or Series.  I wonder who the supplier was for the handles.  

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6 hours ago, 58L-Y8 said:

kfle

 

Thank you for your in depth answers to my questions, it greatly appreciated that you're sharing your knowledge of this obscure marque.  The body makers cited were some I surmised might have been sources.   Willoughby histories have mentioned the company built series-custom bodies for Cole.

 

Not surprising that suppliers began to balk since larger, high volume runs were becoming the norm, low volume builders were just a nuisances for them, sadly enough.

 

Mr. Cole was prescient when it came to Billy Gurant, look what he did to Locomobile...

 

I hope you will consider writing an updated Cole history since you likely have the greatest amount of knowledge on them.   Others beside myself would welcome such a history.

 

Steve 

Steve,

 

The real killer for Cole was Northway.  Northway made engines for both Cole and Cadillac going back to 1910, though typically the engines were completely different.  For example Cadillac released their V8 in October of 1914 and it was a 60 degree solid head design with 270 or so cubic inches.  Cole released their V8 in January of 1915 and it was the first 90 degree flathead V8's with detachable cylinder heads and was a larger 346 cubic inches.  Both engines were made by Northway, though Cole's Chief Engineer spent 6 months at Northway in Detroit during 1914 working on Cole's specific design.  Cadillac ended up adopting Coles V8 design in 17/18 due to it running much better and Cole standardized on the v8 for all engines in 1916 going forward.  Northway stopped letting Cole change engine designs in 1922/23 due to competitive issues and Durant.  

 

On the topic of an updated history, the head of the Gilmore Car Museum research library and myself were just talking a week ago about authoring a book.  He has also been talking to the Society of Automotive Historians about publishing it.  We have an interesting angle and just may do it.  The Gilmore library had over 70,000 Cole documents and information donated to them a year ago by an avid collector and historian who created the original registry and ran a Cole club for three decades.  A great deal of history sites and books have wrong info on Cole.  For example if you go to the Cole Motor Car Company page on Wikipedia, it states that JJ Cole tried to build a car with his son in 1903 as a first attempt and that never happened!  The thing is that his son was 4 years old in 1903 🙂 When I have some time i will update Wikipedia and put some cited information on the site.  Time to do the work is the limiting factor now, but we will see what happens.

 

Here is a great Cole family photo of JJ Cole pulling his only son, JJ Cole Jr. on a sled in a 1910 Cole 30 Flyer.  

 

Kevin

Pulling son edited #1.jpg

Edited by kfle (see edit history)
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21 hours ago, 8E45E said:

Thanks for your brief history lesson on Cole.  

 

In hindsight, with the Great Depression looming just four years later, he liquidated at almost the right time.

 

Would any of those 'archives' that were destroyed in the 1960's flood include all the build sheets for the Cole cars?  Or were they hopefully saved? 

 

Craig

Unfortunately all build sheets were destroyed.  

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Great article Kevin, you and Ben should be proud if all you have uncovered for all us us to enjoy.

First exposure to the Cole was about 40 years ago when a friend (Bud Stanley, DDS)  restored a 1914 Cole Touring Car for Millard Newman's

"Trans Am Tours".  They were transcontinental tours for 1915 and older cars.  Bud restored the big touring car in white with red leather upholstery. 

It looked like the Great Leslie from the movie the Great Race.  Bud an Gyneth took many of those tours before switching to a American Fiat. I've

heard that the Cole is still around and being enjoyed.

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19 minutes ago, Paul Dobbin said:

Great article Kevin, you and Ben should be proud if all you have uncovered for all us us to enjoy.

First exposure to the Cole was about 40 years ago when a friend (Bud Stanley, DDS)  restored a 1914 Cole Touring Car for Millard Newman's

"Trans Am Tours".  They were transcontinental tours for 1915 and older cars.  Bud restored the big touring car in white with red leather upholstery. 

It looked like the Great Leslie from the movie the Great Race.  Bud an Gyneth took many of those tours before switching to a American Fiat. I've

heard that the Cole is still around and being enjoyed.

Thanks!  I have never seen that car in person though I am familiar with it from the files.  It is a great looking one!  Here is a picture of it.  

 

7982500762_fc106ecf35_z.jpg

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12 hours ago, kfle said:

Unfortunately all build sheets were destroyed.  

That is too bad, actually.  The Build Sheet confirms your car's "DNA".

 

Fortunately, most of the Production Orders for Studebaker have survived: https://forum.studebakerdriversclub.com/forum/your-studebaker-forum/general-studebaker-specific-discussion/57197-more-production-order-fun-post-yours-here?55844-more-production-order-fun-(post-yours-here-)=&highlight=betsy

 

Craig

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Kevin,  Thanks for the picture of Stanley's Cole.  It still looks awesome, like a brass car should.

 

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2019-05-TA.thumb.jpg.cd12a8b59f4f6982f3cf07cb32a4cf5c.jpg

After re-reading an article on John North Willys in the May, 2019 publication of 'The Automobile', it appears Springfield Body Co. also supplied bodies to Willys Overland, where they also offered that same 'hardtop touring' body style in 1917. 

 

I wonder if any Overlands in this interesting body style also still exist.

 

Craig

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On 10/8/2019 at 8:14 PM, kfle said:

Steve,

 

The real killer for Cole was Northway.  Northway made engines for both Cole and Cadillac going back to 1910, though typically the engines were completely different.  For example Cadillac released their V8 in October of 1914 and it was a 60 degree solid head design with 270 or so cubic inches.  Cole released their V8 in January of 1915 and it was the first 90 degree flathead V8's with detachable cylinder heads and was a larger 346 cubic inches.  Both engines were made by Northway, though Cole's Chief Engineer spent 6 months at Northway in Detroit during 1914 working on Cole's specific design.  Cadillac ended up adopting Coles V8 design in 17/18 due to it running much better and Cole standardized on the v8 for all engines in 1916 going forward.  Northway stopped letting Cole change engine designs in 1922/23 due to competitive issues and Durant.  

 

On the topic of an updated history, the head of the Gilmore Car Museum research library and myself were just talking a week ago about authoring a book.  He has also been talking to the Society of Automotive Historians about publishing it.  We have an interesting angle and just may do it.  The Gilmore library had over 70,000 Cole documents and information donated to them a year ago by an avid collector and historian who created the original registry and ran a Cole club for three decades.  A great deal of history sites and books have wrong info on Cole.  For example if you go to the Cole Motor Car Company page on Wikipedia, it states that JJ Cole tried to build a car with his son in 1903 as a first attempt and that never happened!  The thing is that his son was 4 years old in 1903 🙂 When I have some time i will update Wikipedia and put some cited information on the site.  Time to do the work is the limiting factor now, but we will see what happens.

 

Here is a great Cole family photo of JJ Cole pulling his only son, JJ Cole Jr. on a sled in a 1910 Cole 30 Flyer.  

 

Kevin

Pulling son edited #1.jpg

Kevin

Thanks for the deeper context on the relationship between Northway, Cole and Cadillac.  I recall reading that Northway was engine builder for both.  One assumes as Cadillac volume grew, patience with special specifications for the low-volume Cole engine would diminish.  If rumors that Durant was pursuing Cole got back to GM, who had had enough of his shenanigans, it was just one more reason to end the business relationship.  

 

I hope you will seriously consider writing a Cole history, to correct so much of the incorrect that's available.  If not a book, perhaps an on-line site that you can add to and enlarge when further insights and solid information come to light.

 

Steve 

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4 hours ago, 58L-Y8 said:

Kevin

Thanks for the deeper context on the relationship between Northway, Cole and Cadillac.  I recall reading that Northway was engine builder for both.  One assumes as Cadillac volume grew, patience with special specifications for the low-volume Cole engine would diminish.  If rumors that Durant was pursuing Cole got back to GM, who had had enough of his shenanigans, it was just one more reason to end the business relationship.  

 

I hope you will seriously consider writing a Cole history, to correct so much of the incorrect that's available.  If not a book, perhaps an on-line site that you can add to and enlarge when further insights and solid information come to light.

 

Steve 

Steve,

 

I will continue to document the history.  Currently, the best place to get information is at the registry website  www.colemotorcarregistry.com.   I update that, have a blog with posts, and also we publish a periodic electronic newsletter.  I post those to the site as well.  I also make some videos here and there on youtube.  Here is another Cole car walkthrough of a 1911 Cole Roadster.  

 

 

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Photo of another Cole at the Gilmore Collection my wife and I took 2-weeks ago on our visit. What an amazing collection!

DSCN2159.JPG

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On 10/7/2019 at 12:18 AM, kfle said:

 

Craig,

 

Thanks and the Tourscoupe is a nice car.  I have not had a chance to get out there to see it myself yet, but will someday.  There is another car of that model that exists that is down in Australia now, but I have not been able to track down the current owner.

 

Kevin

 

Kevin,

 

Is the one down in Australia the one I took the photo of in June 2014? If it is, I can point you in the direction of the guy who was used to get it transported to Australia. He would know who the owner was then.

Cole @ Rouse Hill.JPG

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10 hours ago, Ozstatman said:

 

Kevin,

 

Is the one down in Australia the one I took the photo of in June 2014? If it is, I can point you in the direction of the guy who was used to get it transported to Australia. He would know who the owner was then.

Cole @ Rouse Hill.JPG

Yes that is the one.  Any help would be appreciated.

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11 hours ago, Va-67Skylark said:

Photo of another Cole at the Gilmore Collection my wife and I took 2-weeks ago on our visit. What an amazing collection!

DSCN2159.JPG

I am glad you enjoyed it.  That 1913 Cole is mine as well and is my favorite of our Coles.   It looks even better in the sunlight!  

ED7D6F23-DECF-49E7-BF97-1A4F5AE2F9EE.jpeg

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