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1914 Detroit Electric Model 47


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Just received this neat 1914 Detroit Electric model 47.  Naturally...it is a mess.  Was hopeful that someone has references to a proper restoration sequence; and wiring and perhaps a bit of guidance.   Is there any drawings out there ?  Any wiring diagrams ?  Anything ?   Thank you for all input.  Ken

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Great find! You'll probably discover that electrics are quite a bit easier to get into operational condition than most old cars. I'm especially fascinated by the tires on your car--can you tell us more about those? These were opulent little cars that were still designed for a wealthy clientele and they tended to be very well built. It's probably still more closely linked to a horse-drawn carriage than an automobile in terms of construction.

 

I have a friend who is a professional restorer who owns a Detroit Electric of this vintage. If you PM me privately I'll get you his name and perhaps you can pick his brain a bit. He has owned his Detroit Electric for decades and it is in spectacular restored condition.

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Thank you for the nice comments....I fell in love with this little car the minute we met.

Tires...all I know is...that they were shown also in advertisements.   I also would appreciate knowing more.

All I know is...marketed more to the ladies...Clara Ford and Edison's wife had one.  See ad for interest.DetroitADemail.jpg.db3baab56084863b01f49f948f900710.jpg

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Very nice car, and a lucky find!   Here are a few thoughts off the top of my head.

 

I am currently restoring a 1917/32 Detroit Electric.  I have found some useful documents at electricvehiclemuseum dot org.   They have quite an archive of original Detroit material online, but a little cumbersome to sort through.  I will check in my own collection of documents to see whether I have anything as early as 1914.

 

As far as restoration sequence, it depends on what you want to achieve.  For a full restoration, I recommend removing the body from the frame, as it will give you full access to all the chassis components, as well as the motor, controller, and power cabling.  One of my Detroit owner's manuals actual outlines the procedure for removing body from the frame.  If you plan to re-do the interior, then the next step is to remove all of the old upholstery, as it will enable you to fully inspect all of the wood structure for rot, cracks, etc.   Be very careful with the curved glass panels, as they are very costly to replace.  From there, is straightforward paint and body work, then re-upholstery.

 

If body-off is further than you want to go, then you can get reasonably good access to all the drive components by leaving the body on the frame, but removing the seats, carpeting, floorboards, front and rear bonnets, and battery platforms.  There are dust bands on the DC motor that you can remove with the motor in-place to visually inspect the brushes and armature.  If the larger cables are intact, and the insulation is not cracked or separated, you may be able to use as-is (copper doesn't wear out, but the other parts of the cable do with age).  A good multimeter is your friend in testing for continuity, resistance, and shorts.  The wiring of the DC motor is fairly easy to understand, and once you do, the mechanical controller is easy to figure out as well.  There is a good set of videos on youtube of a body-on restoration done by a man named Bill Lillie in the northeast several years ago.  Let me know if you can't find them.


I will be glad to share more of my own Detroit Electric restoration experience with you.  I am enjoying this project very much.  BTW, where are you located?

 

Good luck!

 

Andrew

1877798806_DEChassis28Sept2020.thumb.jpg.db65b14ec8bbd50e9250293516005ab8.jpg

DE36.jpg

DE 2020 Nov 14.jpg

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Most interesting to see the tires and the period advertisement that shows them as well - that was a real learning experience. I have only ever see electric cars of that era with pneumatic tires.

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Andrew....thank you.  The reference you gave to me was un-known to me.   I will pursue it and I would look forward to a hint...guide...suggestions for removing the body from the frame.   Yes...I want to do a complete chassis repair/upgrade...but not the coach section.   I would like to just gently lift it off...( I have a forklift)..fix the chassis...then put it gently back on.

The Coach upholstery is a mite worn and a bit moth chewed...but so darn charming...I want to preserve it,  the way it is, for some time to come.   This charmer sat for 40 years gathering a mite of chassis rust..& ....sluggish...and frozen brakes and levers.   I really think it is time for the mechanicals and electricals to be examined/restored VERY thoroughly and carefully.

Your pixs are neat.  A lot of work there and I am sure it gives you a great deal of happiness to be at your stage of rehab.

We are still just mostly admiring ours.  We have only cleaned up the front and back battery compartments since the 40yrs also saw the 

batteries eat their way thru the holding boxes.  Almost nothing was left of the battery boxes except a few scraps of wood and the military style handles of those boxes.   We are located in Port Townsend, WA.  I have been to Hickory and tri-ad area a few times and have enjoyed my relationship there with great furniture makers...but must admit though..it was 30 yrs ago.

 

Thank you for the neat reply...Cheers.......Ken

 

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Ken, I have a photocopy of an Instruction Book for a 1916 Detroit.  It includes the body removal instruction as below.  If you would like a copy, send me your email address using the Private Message feature on this forum, and I will send you a scanned copy of the whole book.  It does contain wiring diagrams for the drive and lighting systems.

 

I had asked where you are located because I had a dolly custom built to hold the body for my car when it was off the frame, and now I don't need it anymore.  I suppose WA is perhaps a little too far away to come over and borrow it.

 

Andrew

DE Body Removal.jpg

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  • 3 weeks later...

The comment about the Detroit tires furthered my interest.  I did some research and found that there was a third type of tire which survived along with air and hard rubber....i.e...soft rubber.   The tires on the Detroit are ...or were supposed to be...soft rubber cushion tires made by a company called Motz.   Attached is one of their advertisements.MotzTires3.thumb.jpg.74877f35ce962179e26332207be2bcd8.jpg

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I was looking (and bidding) on that car. It is the same model as the Edison car at the Edison National Park. I was just going to leave that car as it was except maybe try and find the missing lights. That car is as original as original gets and I especially love those solid tires. I have a 1914 model 43, a 1917 that I forget the model right now and a 1922 model 90. The 22 and the 17 have had the interiors restored, the 14 is original but in no where near as good a shape as your car. I have had the motor on the 14 rebuilt and Rhode Island Wire rebuilt the wiring harness and I suspect your harness is the same. As previously listed the electric vehicle museum is a great source of original documents http://www.electricvehiclemuseum.org. The electric vehicle newsletter is good to see and if you haven't had contact with Galen PM me and I will get you his contact info. He had all of the documents that are on the museum site but he doesn't run that site. I have worked with VEVA Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association, they are working on their 1912 Detroit. They have a resistor pack for sale and they have remade the copper plates for the speed controller

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Very detailed and ornate interior!

 

So, if I understand what I'm seeing - the driver sits in the 'rear' seat, and then there can be passengers sitting in the 'front' seat (and the passengers are facing the driver, and between the driver and the windshield)?

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Paul...yes...you are exactly correct.  Sounds a mite awkward to us now...but in 1914...after all..they were marketing to LADIES...and think about those big fluffy dresses and trying to get to

A front seat driver position...not convenient for ladies with formal dresses.

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