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hidden_hunter

Owen Magnetic

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Curious if anyone has any experience driving the “first hybrid” the Owen Magnetic? Does it just drive like a normal car from the period or is it a different beast all together. I’m imagining some what of a cross between a steam and normal petrol engine for the driving experience.

 

I know Jay Leno has one but I don’t think he’s done a video on it.

 

there is also one list for sale in Hemmings which looks interesting (bit out of my league!)

 

https://www.hemmings.com/classifieds/dealer/owen-magnetic/unspecified/2335978.html
 

 

 

Edited by hidden_hunter (see edit history)

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Actually, the name is Owen, not Owens.

I mention this only because having the correct

name will help someone find the topic more 

easily in a future search.

 

As others have pointed out, the car did not involve steam.

It certainly is interesting, though.  I await more

information from our knowledgeable forum-goers!

 

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)
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In an Owen Magnetic, the engine and rear end are not mechanically linked. The engine drives a generator which in turn powers an electric motor that turns the driveshaft. The speed of the gasoline engine was proportional to the generator's output and therefore the amount of current powering the electric motor (or maybe two motors, I don't remember). In that way, using the accelerator normally would make the car behave more or less like a regular car, just without a clutch or transmission. Kind of a clever work-around for the period that simplified operation. It was not, however, a hybrid in the traditional sense where battery power drove the electric motors when the gas motor wasn't running. The system was designed primarily to eliminate the clutch and transmission and related frustrations.


The Crawford Museum here in Cleveland has (had?) one and I worked there in high school and found that particular car interesting even though it was kind of homely. I spent a few hours one afternoon crawling all around it and found that kind of steam-age electrical technology especially fascinating. 

 

8569988671_c2be1e394f_b.jpg

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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1 hour ago, John_S_in_Penna said:

Actually, the name is Owen, not Owens.

I mention this only because having the correct

name will help someone find the topic more 

easily in a future search.

 

As others have pointed out, the car did not involve steam.

It certainly is interesting, though.  I await more

information from our knowledgeable forum-goers!

 


when I meant steam what I was talking about was in terms of driving experience not that it used steam :o

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The two in Richmond have not run in probably over 70 years, so, no, I have not heard one run. They have been NFS since I learned about their existence almost 50 years ago. 

 

In the engineering library at UVa there was a book on automobile power systems, and it had a chapter on the Owen Magnetic system. Got my attention!😊

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While not exactly what we think of today, gasoline-electric hybrid technology has been around almost as long as the automobile! Many years back, I read a short mention in a hobby magazine (I think it was the HCCA Gazette from the early '60s?) about one of the first patents for a gasoline engine driven generator driving the wheels on a high-wheel sort of contraption. That particular patent was issued in 1899.

There were a few cars that attempted such things, most based upon patents by Justus P Entz. One series of cars was even marketed for the disabled driver market.

Most of those cars are long forgotten now. Something even more remarkable, and also sadly not well enough remembered, is the commercial lines of gasoline electrics. As motor vehicles replaced the horse, one of the most difficult areas of service was local delivery routes. The ice man, the milkman, the bakery, etc etc etc. These delivery routes often went nearly door to door. Early commercial vehicles were not well suited to that task. Non syncro transmissions with heavy clutches were at best difficult to put into gear at each AND EVERY stop! It didn't take long to discover that the all electric's shortfall was that by the end of the day, it was done! Carrying enough batteries simply made the vehicle too heavy and unwieldy.

Before 1920, the perfect solution was found. Initially sold for their convenience. gas electric delivery trucks used a small engine idling at preset speeds running a generator to keep a few batteries fully charged. The electric driven truck had simple controls, went instantly into "drive", instantly off and brake locked by a single lever. It practically jumped from one house to the next, but could be driven at city speeds nearly all day if needed. Finally, something that was actually faster than a horse, and much cheaper to upkeep. Yet could be used easily by the average deliveryman.

One of the largest builders of these delivery trucks would demonstrate their vehicles by betting on a tug-o-war between their gas electric and the delivery truck of the potential customer's choice. The heavy rope would be tied, pulled taught, engines running, drivers standing a few feet away from their truck. At the signal, both drivers would jump into their truck and begin to try to pull away. Seconds before the regular truck driver could get the clutch pressed down, the gears haven't even stopped spinning yet, the gas electric driver has thrown the lever and his truck leaps forward pulling the usually larger truck behind it! At this point, the regular truck's driver is so flustered, usually they never do get the thing into gear. Company after company bought fleets of the little delivery trucks.

After a couple years, another interesting fact was noticed. The gas electric delivery trucks got better gas mileage than any conventional truck of similar size. Turns out, that smaller gasoline engine always running at a preset speed, usually near its peak power rpm, was much more efficient than engines starting and stopping and pushing and idling, etc.

Sadly, those little trucks worked so well and so hard for so long, that very few survive to this day. I did see one for sale on eBad several years ago, nicely restored. I was very pleased to see it.

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the big auction that was posted here in the last 6 months or so, had one that was a carcass for sale.

 

anyone remember? brought a decent penny.

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There was a beautiful condition all original maroon touring car that was in a barn in Gallupville, NY where they would a host an annual steam show called "The Gas Up". I went back a few years ago and it was no longer there so I just assumed that they had moved it to more secure location given its value. I always planned on going back and making an inquiry about seeing it again but unfortunately some one passed away and I was shocked to see that they sold the whole contents of the farm last summer sans the Owen Magnetic. Anyone know where that touring car ended up? It was spectacularly complete and well preserved.

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9 hours ago, Frank DuVal said:

The two in Richmond have not run in probably over 70 years, so, no, I have not heard one run. They have been NFS since I learned about their existence almost 50 years ago. 

 

In the engineering library at UVa there was a book on automobile power systems, and it had a chapter on the Owen Magnetic system. Got my attention!😊

Frank, these were the two that were owned by the Sauer family correct?  It would be great to sees photos of these resting where the have for so long.  When was the last time you saw them?

Terry

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Yep, Connie's cars. They are still owned by the family. Actually I have only seen pictures. And the last pictures were taken within the last year. They were for years in the basement of the triangle shaped building at Hermitage and Broad. Then the building as torn down to improve the intersection and align it with Meadow street. They were moved to another building, not sold at that time. I do not know if they have moved with the sale of the business and the sale of the Owen Magenetics within the family, but I suspect they have moved to another undisclosed location.😄

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