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Hey guys -- I'm hoping you all can help me figure this out.
I'm working on a novel set in the early 20th century in which one of the characters is a (novice and not very good) auto mechanic. He's working on a car in 1923, one that belongs to a traveling salesman and has an integrated trunk. So I'm trying to ID a model that was built a few years before that, maybe has a reputation for breakdowns, and has a trunk. Back in July (I think) Graham Man referenced a business coupe -- which sounds like the perfect fit -- but were they made prior to 1920? Appreciate your help! 

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24 minutes ago, debster said:

Hey guys -- I'm hoping you all can help me figure this out.
I'm working on a novel set in the early 20th century in which one of the characters is a (novice and not very good) auto mechanic. He's working on a car in 1923, one that belongs to a traveling salesman and has an integrated trunk. So I'm trying to ID a model that was built a few years before that, maybe has a reputation for breakdowns, and has a trunk. Back in July (I think) Graham Man referenced a business coupe -- which sounds like the perfect fit -- but were they made prior to 1920? Appreciate your help! 

 

You are off by 10-15 years on the businessman's coupe.   None were around in 1920 that I know of.

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The 1920 Maxwell might be a good candidate.  The Maxwell had a small four-cylinder engine that was claimed to have good fuel economy, thus good for a traveling salesman.  They offered a coupe and a roadster that year, both of which had small trunks.  A roadster would have been cheaper at $1055, but the enclosed coupe at $1695 might have been more comfortable for an all-weather salesman, if he could afford the difference.  Maxwells in 1920 in particular had a poor reliability reputation, especially because of some type of manufacturing/engineering defect in the rear axle.  The integrated trunk would have been small-ish (not big enough for a body, for example) and access limited by the rear-mounted spare.  Not many photos of these years around; attached is a photo of a 1919 roadster, and a 1923 coupe, which would give you an idea.  Good luck!  -Andrew

image.png.b101711462580476ec8bdf1161a10c2f.pngimage.png.cf61eaf3d967f4fb528656052e230449.png

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This is great, thanks. I'm liking the Maxwell. The trunk doesn't have to be big enough for a body (sorry, guys!) just big enough for a Victrola and a stash of records. I was thinking Model T, but if I have the opportunity to bring in a car that fewer people are familiar with, I think that's a plus. Although authenticity is the goal here ... and as I understand it, Model Ts were the most common at the time. True?

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Just to give you an idea of how ubiquitous the Fords were; in 1919, Ford produced more cars (Model T's) than the next 10 manufacturers combined.  Maxwell, in 7th place, made only one car for every 16 Fords produced that year.

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41 minutes ago, Akstraw said:

Just to give you an idea of how ubiquitous the Fords were; in 1919, Ford produced more cars (Model T's) than the next 10 manufacturers combined.  Maxwell, in 7th place, made only one car for every 16 Fords produced that year.

Ah, but here's my thought ... maybe my mechanic has gotten pretty good at fixing Fords because he's seen them before. But then he's got to get this Maxwell going and next thing you know, he's flinging wrenches out the window (he's got something of a temper). Credible?

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Entirely credible....

Just for starters - the Ford Model T’s (after the first x-thousands or hundreds - I forget) did NOT have water pumps. I have a ‘teens car with a water pump and can tell you - the manufacture made a water pump and then built an engine around it. They didn’t have gaskets as we know them today so they used graphite infused ‘packing wick’ which needs to be serviced at least once per year. Total utter PITA.

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Many had a detachable horn. BTW Victrola is a specific brand like Ford. Trivia: what is the dog sitting on ?

BTW not a legend, I saw the original painting in one of our plants - think was Cherry Hill - and was clear.

 

Victor%20Logo%20HQ2.png

Edited by padgett (see edit history)
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4 minutes ago, padgett said:

Many had a detachable horn. BTW Victrola is a specific brand like Ford. Trivia: what is the dog sitting on ?

Nipper is sitting on his butt. The small Victrola is next to him. I suppose the small version may fit in a Model T trunk.

nipper-the-dog.jpg

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11 minutes ago, debster said:

Ah, but here's my thought ... maybe my mechanic has gotten pretty good at fixing Fords because he's seen them before. But then he's got to get this Maxwell going and next thing you know, he's flinging wrenches out the window (he's got something of a temper). Credible?

Virtually all of family are/were mechanics all the way back to the model T (T-model). My Grandfather and his two brothers worked in a Garage, and they had a 15 year old kid that worked there too - my Dad. One of my Great Uncles - Grandfathers' brothers was completely blind. They worked on so many Model T's (T-models) and Model A's that the blind brother could work on them and do virtually anything with them.

 

Not many mechanics would throw a temper tantrum as they usually enjoyed their work and tend to be a bit more professional despite all the tattered clothing and grease up to the elbows - and dirty jokes. If one did, he's probably not a very good mechanic. i.e. would likely be selling shoes etc.

 

Ron

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9 minutes ago, keiser31 said:

Nipper is sitting on his butt. The small Victrola is next to him. I suppose the small version may fit in a Model T trunk.

nipper-the-dog.jpg

That's exactly what I was thinking. They weren't all big. Still doing research into exactly what kind of phonograph was in the car (and I may have misspoke in saying "Victrola") but I'd sort of like it to be a portable model ... and I believe those were just starting to come out in the 1920s (photo below). But unless any of you also collect old phonographs, that may be a question for another forum!!

 Image 1 - 1920s-Portable-Wind-Up-Record-Player

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1 hour ago, padgett said:

Jack Benny had a Maxwell.

My understanding is that Jack Benny did not own a Maxwell.  I remember reading an article several years ago that Bill Harrah had purchased and restored a Maxwell to give to Jack Benny.  Shortly before presenting it to him, Harrah found out that Benny had no interest in owning a Maxwell, so the car was never presented to him.  I believe this article was in an HCCA Gazette and was written by someone who was involved.

Edited by modela28 (see edit history)
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2 hours ago, debster said:

I'm working on a novel set in the early 20th century in which one of the characters is a (novice and not very good) auto mechanic.

 

32 minutes ago, debster said:

Ah, but here's my thought ... maybe my mechanic has gotten pretty good at fixing Fords because he's seen them before. But then he's got to get this Maxwell going and next thing you know, he's flinging wrenches out the window (he's got something of a temper). Credible?

 

Patience is the most important thing you can have as an auto mechanic, and also the toughest to acquire. Flinging wrenches is a sure sign he hasn't made it over that hump yet. It is not only credible, but you hit the nail on the head.

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5 minutes ago, Locomobile said:

Virtually all of family are/were mechanics all the way back to the model T (T-model). My Grandfather and his two brothers worked in a Garage, and they had a 15 year old kid that worked there too - my Dad. One of my Great Uncles - Grandfathers' brothers was completely blind. They worked on so many Model T's (T-models) and Model A's that the blind brother could work on them and do virtually anything with them.

 

Not many mechanics would throw a temper tantrum as they usually enjoyed their work and tend to be a bit more professional despite all the tattered clothing and grease up to the elbows - and dirty jokes. If one did, he's probably not a very good mechanic. i.e. would likely be selling shoes etc.

 

Ron

Great story, Ron. And agreed, mechanics are some of the smartest and kindest people in the universe. In defense of my character, the day that he's working on the car he's also dealing with a lot of other stuff and being unable to get it going (as I said, he's not really a good mechanic) is just one thing to many on a bad day.  

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Maxwell was still a reasonably ubiquitous car in the early 1920's, not on the scale of the Model T Ford but still popular: 1919: 47,408; 1920: 22,355; 1921:15,706; 1922: 48,850; 1923: 58,313; 1924: 49,857.  Because they were more expensive than a Model T, a Victrola salesman would rather be seen driving something better than the Model T just to imply he was solid and successful.  Better if he could have driven a Buick Six which also offered a four passenger coupe with an integrated trunk.  Where as Maxwell had a shaky reputation, Buick was a paragon of solid reliability. 

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'nother, 'nother' hobby. As mentioned I recall seeing the original painting in what had been the GE Cherry Hill plant and may have come from Camden.

 

And by the late-teens "Victrolas" (VV models) were mostly internal horn so would fit in near any trunk.

 

his_masters_voice.jpg

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As a former RCA employee it was Camden NJ.  GE only owned RCA long enough to dismantle it in the late 1980s.  The dog is Nipper and the company was the Victor Talking Machine Company later to become part of RCA.

 

Here is my wife’s grandfather at his garage in PA.  Looks like a model T

098C8284-4080-49A3-8943-B48870FF7F73.jpeg

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48 minutes ago, debster said:

Great story, Ron. And agreed, mechanics are some of the smartest and kindest people in the universe. In defense of my character, the day that he's working on the car he's also dealing with a lot of other stuff and being unable to get it going (as I said, he's not really a good mechanic) is just one thing to many on a bad day.  

I've worked in garages and machine shops my whole life, never recall anyone throwing wrenches, if they had they would have been fired, it's highly unprofessional and dangerous, they could injure someone or damage property. No one wants to work with a loose cannon, and too, it's real easy to get a derogatory nickname, so people tend to behave themselves. If a man were that distraught he would most likely not be at work. It would make more sense if the guy owned the shop and he was ticked at an employee. I've seen that freakout a few times. (observer only)

 

Ron

 

After writing the above I was remembering some of the funny nicknames:

 

This one guy named Clyde used to come in late all the time - High tide Clyde

 

Another guy was lazy, they called him "Bunny".  In the south there is a bread company called bunny bread, their motto is "the eight hour loaf" meaning oven to store i guess?  "Bunny" stuck for him.

 

Another guy they called "Windy", you can use your imagination on that one.

 

Edited by Locomobile (see edit history)
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55 minutes ago, debster said:

That's exactly what I was thinking. They weren't all big. Still doing research into exactly what kind of phonograph was in the car (and I may have misspoke in saying "Victrola") but I'd sort of like it to be a portable model ... and I believe those were just starting to come out in the 1920s (photo below). But unless any of you also collect old phonographs, that may be a question for another forum!!

 Image 1 - 1920s-Portable-Wind-Up-Record-Player

Yes, I love hand cranked music machines, be they phonographs, music boxes etc. even some electric powered stuff like early radios, and I restored a Wurlitzer juke box from 1938 about 40 years ago. I think a good many of us reading this here on the AACA forums surround ourselves with items and artifacts from a different era - usually the same one we like the automobiles of. Not only gives us pleasure to look at , touch and hear ( like the cars) but also it is an escape to another world and era that we use to cope with the current times we are in.

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21 minutes ago, Locomobile said:

I've worked in garages and machine shops my whole life, never recall anyone throwing wrenches, if they had they would have been fired, it's highly unprofessional and dangerous, they could injure someone or damage property. No one wants to work with a loose cannon, and too, it's real easy to get a derogatory nickname, so people tend to behave themselves. If a man were that distraught he would most likely not be at work. It would make more sense if the guy owned the shop and he was ticked at an employee. I've seen that freakout a few times. (observer only)

 

Ron

Yeah, he does own the shop, and he's alone at the time. So the only victim (and witness) is the window :)

 

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We had a garage owner mechanic here in my small town when I was a kid in the early 1960's that had an explosive temper.   Although a skilled and talented fellow who could fix anything, do mechanical and body work, when he went off, duck!   If we happened to be with our dad when he was at a garage across the street from the fellow in question in the summertime, one would hear a stream of invective that would make a sailor blush, see a hammer fly and hit the wall across the garage bays.  Those dents were still there when they tore the building down a few years ago...

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1 hour ago, debster said:

Ah, but here's my thought ... maybe my mechanic has gotten pretty good at fixing Fords because he's seen them before. But then he's got to get this Maxwell going and next thing you know, he's flinging wrenches out the window (he's got something of a temper). Credible?

Sounds credible to me.  There are short-tempered folk in every line of work, although it is a desirable trait in none.

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47 minutes ago, TerryB said:

As a former RCA employee it was Camden NJ.  GE only owned RCA long enough to dismantle it in the late 1980s.  The dog is Nipper and the company was the Victor Talking Machine Company later to become part of RCA.

 

Here is my wife’s grandfather at his garage in PA.  Looks like a model T

098C8284-4080-49A3-8943-B48870FF7F73.jpeg

Awesome photo. This is exactly the type of shop I'm envisioning. Do you know what year the photo was taken? Also, anyone know whey they started adding pits to garages? My grandfather had a garage on LI in the 1940s, and my mother tells me that's how they used to work on the cars. 

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I was given a tour of a well known Mercer collector who had a very nice touring car in one of his barns, it had several hammer head shaped dents plus a couple holes from Either an ill tempered mechanic or a child... sad to see on such an impressive car.

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I worked in garages and factories for years, only knew one guy who had a habit of losing his temper and throwing tools around. He was an upholsterer, and not bad at his job, but after a few years he quit and went to driving a truck.

Your story is not implausible in other words.

All cars in those days required a lot more maintenance and servicing than today's cars, and were more prone to breakdowns. A salesman or anyone who used a car a lot and piled on the miles could expect to have problems.

Another possibility would be a 1922 Essex coach. This was the first closed car that sold for a reasonable price. At $1345 it was only $300 more than a touring car, very cheap for the time, and they had quite a vogue, starting a trend toward closed cars. They were a 4 cylinder car rather more 'up market' than a Maxwell,  Ford or Chevrolet but still affordable. I can see a traveling salesman being attracted by the comfort of a closed car in bad weather and the Essex was made by Hudson who had a good reputation for quality. And, they had a trunk.

 

Image result for 1922 essex coach

 

Showing the trunk compartment on a body under construction

 

Image result for 1922 essex coach

 

 

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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1 minute ago, Mark Wetherbee said:

I was given a tour of a well known Mercer collector who had a very nice touring car in one of his barns, it had several hammer head shaped dents plus a couple holes from Either an ill tempered mechanic or a child... sad to see on such an impressive car.

 

I have one car with imprints of my knuckles on its fender...

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3 hours ago, debster said:

Hey guys -- I'm hoping you all can help me figure this out.
I'm working on a novel set in the early 20th century in which one of the characters is a (novice and not very good) auto mechanic. He's working on a car in 1923, one that belongs to a traveling salesman and has an integrated trunk. So I'm trying to ID a model that was built a few years before that, maybe has a reputation for breakdowns, and has a trunk. Back in July (I think) Graham Man referenced a business coupe -- which sounds like the perfect fit -- but were they made prior to 1920? Appreciate your help! 

 

Not trying to get you to reveal your plot, but will the trunk have to be big enough for a dead body to fit in it? 😄

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12 minutes ago, JamesR said:

 

 

Not trying to get you to reveal your plot, but will the trunk have to be big enough for a dead body to fit in it? 😄

Sorry. No dead body. Yet. This is a love story. 😉 

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1 hour ago, debster said:

Awesome photo. This is exactly the type of shop I'm envisioning. Do you know what year the photo was taken? Also, anyone know whey they started adding pits to garages? My grandfather had a garage on LI in the 1940s, and my mother tells me that's how they used to work on the cars. 

We believe it was mid to late 1920s

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5 hours ago, Akstraw said:

The 1920 Maxwell might be a good candidate.... A roadster would have been cheaper at $1055, but the enclosed coupe at $1695 might have been more comfortable for an all-weather salesman, if he could afford the difference. 

 

3 hours ago, 58L-Y8 said:

Maxwell... 1919: 47,408;  1920: 22,355;  1921:15,706;  1922: 48,850;  1923: 58,313;  1924: 49,857.  

 

2 hours ago, Rusty_OToole said:

Another possibility would be a 1922 Essex coach. This was the first closed car that sold for a reasonable price.

At $1345 it was only $300 more than a touring car... 

 

Debster, here are a few historical tidbits which

you might already know, or which might be helpful:

 

---People might think of the 1920's as a "roaring"

decade, but there was a severe depression in 1920-1921.

You can see that, perhaps, from Maxwell's production 

quoted above.  By 1923, I believe the country had recovered.

 

---In 1923, open cars--roadsters and touring cars--were

very much the norm.  They had folding cloth tops and

snap-in side curtains (similar to today's boats) to make

them relatively weather-tight.  An elderly man once

told me that, by the time you got the side curtains

snapped in in the rain, you were already wet!

 

---Closed cars (with fixed roofs and  roll-up windows)

were much more expensive. Essex, as one poster noted, was

a pioneer of affordable closed cars.  By 1925 or 1926,

closed cars were becoming more prevalent, occupying

perhaps 50% of the market.

 

---The reason that storage space was small was

because most people didn't do a lot of long-distance

traveling by car.  If they needed capacity, they often

had a detachable trunk on the rear, then placed items

by their feet in the back seat of a touring car, then

strapped items to the running boards.

 

---Most roads (outside of town) were still dirt or gravel

in 1923.  There was no national route-numbering system

until a few years later.  Some roads may have had state

numbers in 1923, but roads had names, such

as the "Lakes to Sea Highway" and the "Susquehanna Trail."

By the late 1920's, the national highway numbering system 

had started, and highways were being paved, usually with

two 9-foot-wide lanes.  Referring to any routes by their

old-style names would lend credence to your story.

 

---In the time of your story, tires were very expensive.

I have an ad showing tire prices, and adjusted for inflation,

it's a situation far different from what we think today.

 

By the way, Walt G., one of the posters on this thread,

is a well respected automotive historian and author.

What he says is very helpful.  If you choose, perhaps he

could review the "car" portions of your manuscript for

accuracy.

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)
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5 hours ago, debster said:

"an integrated trunk."

 

You need to clarify this. Does the trunk need to be accessible (even if with difficulty?) from the passenger area? A lot of cars of that era had trunks, that looked somewhat integrated, but were actually a separate part of the body attached behind the main body. A lot of coupes and roadsters before 1920 had very small trunks, some with openings so small a modern woman's purse is about as big as can be put inside! (a good friend has a 1918 Pierce Arrow coupe (a very high end automobile!) with a trunk opening only about five inches by a bit over a foot and a half.

 

You say the car should be a few years old? It is important to remember that roads and times were tough back then. Between the dust and potholes, cars wore out fast if they were heavily used. A salesman's car probably only needs to be about two to three years old to be needing considerable work and repairs.

 

I am one of those hobbyists that enjoys many aspects of that era. I have collected and restored several phonographs as well as automobiles over my years. Phonographs with large or even small external horns became old-fashion quickly. The first common and popular internal horn phonographs were coming out around 1906 to 1908. By 1915, virtually all new phonographs had internal horns. Portable suitcase-type phonographs were starting to appear before the US involvement in the Great War, but did not become common until after the war around 1920. So you should be good on that detail.

 

As for throwing wrenches? The fact is, although denied by many, that anyone if pressured by enough self-absorbed jack@&&es can be provoked to throwing something. (I have been accused of being the most patient and stable person ever known by people, but have been pushed to the point of throwing things, always a controlled not real damage to anything throw!) Throwing something is better than hitting someone no matter how much they really deserve it.

 

Really integrated trunks were showing up on cars about 1920. The model T Ford couplet had a somewhat integrated trunk with a very small door in 1915. The 'door' evolved into a decent size trunk lid by the end of 1915. That somewhat integrated trunk did not become a truly integrated trunk until 1924.

Maxwell had a very interesting and important history, including a lot of financial dirty dealings which eventually lead to serious mismanagement and poor quality about 1920. Shortly after that, Walter P Chrysler took over the company, cleaned house in management, and used Maxwell as the launching base for the new Chrysler automobile which quickly became an industry leader in medium priced quality and up-to-date advanced designs.

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There was a man who worked at Dixie Sales Co. in Greensboro, NC  that had a dent about the size of a ball-peen hammer in his forehead. I asked about it and they told me he had been in outside auto parts sales for them until one day a shop owner slid out from under a car and hit him with a hammer.

 

Had a change in career.

 

Dave

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9 hours ago, keiser31 said:

You would be hard pressed to fit a standard size Victrola into a Model T Ford trunk.

And Edison Amberola 30 will fit inside the trunk with its horn inside the cabinet.  

 

Keep in mind, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were hunting & fishing buds.  Henry's idea of 'putting a car in every driveway' with low-priced Model T gave Thomas Alva the inspiration to produce the low cost Amberola 30, to provide 'music in every parlor'. 

 

Craig

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1916 Buick Model D46 3 Passenger Coupe 6 Cylinder

 

image.thumb.png.d8f9764507915f7641091317b4773fba.png

 

1916 Willys Coupe

 

image.thumb.png.31b0018e75563e591088b94a39f3f250.png

 

Have to put a plug in for the 1916 Paige Coupe (the Graham Brothers purchased Paige in 1927, in 1928 it was Graham-Paige)

 

image.thumb.png.648dafd789715d7dff1f571e8d4bada5.png

 

 

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