Jump to content
Rebuilding Search Index - searches will be incomplete until sometime in the morning of 6/11/21. ×

Average pre-war mileage


Recommended Posts

Hi, My 35 Buick 40 series that I bought unrestored in 1974 had an odometer reading of about 15000 miles. It still only has 16500 on it. Dose that sound plausible for a car of that vintage? I don't think it rolled over.I just think it wasn't driven much being geared so low.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Depends upon location when new, and how far apart things were that the owner needed to get to. There was (still is?) a original 34 Buick 40 here on long island 30+ years ago that was a low miles car and I believe one family owned. The same went for a 1940 Buick Century conv coupe about 40 years ago a friend bought from the original owner. Used locally the cars did not see a lot of road time when the roads were two lane ( one each way) and narrow. People mostly worked and shopped within 35 miles radius of where they lived.

Edited by Walt G
clarify (see edit history)
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also prior to 1980 it was very easy to disconnect the speedo and "drive on the tach". During the time of 12/12, 3/36, or 5/50 warrenties often the miles would get close before the months. Anyone remember when rent cars were 10c/mile ? Finally speedo cables & plastic tranny gears often broke and repair was not a priority.

 

Just remember "If it seems too good to be true, it probably isn't."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your question addresses pre-war cars.

As you probably know, cars were rarely driven

longer distances in the earliest years.  My

1916 car has under 20,000 miles, and that is

not unusual.  Most roads were dirt, and "improved"

roads may have been gravel.  Pennsylvania's

speed limit on open highways was 24 m.p.h. in 1916.

 

Long-distance trips were taken by train.  Small 

railroad or trolly lines, unknown today by most people, 

existed between towns.

 

It's fair to say that as roads and cars improved,

especially by the late 1930's, people used their cars

for longer travel.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Agree. Back then "interurban" trolleys were common. Baltimore had an interurban system connecting towns like Towson, Ellicot City, Reisterstown, and even the eastern shore. Used to have special excursions to Gwynn Oak amusement park. Really did not need a car.

 

1913_Baltimore_2000px.jpg

 

1913 map is available here.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your car may have had most of the miles put on before WWII and not many during the war.

Car storage warehouses popped up in many large cities when rationing hit. The cars were  put on blocks, the fuel and cooling systems were drained.

My father told me that old cars were unfashionable when the new cars became available.

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What I find interesting  is this.  We restored a 1928 Autocar 5 Ton truck.  The spring shackle bolts were worn from their original 3/4" diameter to the size of a pencil. No odometer but how many miles must it have travelled to cause that much wear ?  Same with a 1908 Pullman we restored.  Originally the clutch and brake pedals had CLUTCH and BRAKE  deeply cast into the pedals.  They were worn to the point where CLUTCH could barely be read and BRAKE was even worse.  How many miles did this 4 cylinder car have to travel to show such wear? It was in a museum beginning in 1949 and had never been restored.  I sometimes think we underestimate how many miles some of these early cars were driven.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A lot depended on what gasoline ration sticker the owner had during WWII. Ranged from 4 gallons a week (A) to unlimited (X). For most prewar cars, 4 gallons did not go very far.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, padgett said:

A lot depended on what gasoline ration sticker the owner had during WWII. Ranged from 4 gallons a week (A) to unlimited (X). For most prewar cars, 4 gallons did not go very far.

I just bought five gallons of ethanol free gas for my car here in Florida for $12. It probably get me too far either.

  • Like 1
  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 hours ago, Buick35 said:

Hi, My 35 Buick 40 series that I bought unrestored in 1974 had an odometer reading of about 15000 miles. It still only has 16500 on it. Dose that sound plausible for a car of that vintage? I don't think it rolled over.I just think it wasn't driven much being geared so low.

 

A diff ratio of 4.33:1 is not that low by the standards of the early 1930s. In fact from 1937-on the Buick Special used a 4.44:1 rear end. The 1934-35 Series 40 is geared such that at its quoted power peak of 3,200 rpm it is doing 60 mph.  It just means that your '35 Buick will cruise all day at 50 mph but will be doing a lot more revs than something modern with overdrive. And of course any old car doesn't have the sound proofing that a modern has and, especially a straight eight, will sound busy.

 

Can you be certain your '35 has not 'gone around the clock'? I owned a couple of them back in the '70s but don't recall the miles on them. They were well worn though. I know the family '35 which is still in the shed awaiting restoration (probably no longer a viable proposition) had over 100,000 miles on it when it was overhauled in 1952. 

 

My 1929 Studebaker. which has a 4.66:1 rear end, will cruise at 50 mph, which is about 2500 rpm (power peak is 2,800). It does let you know about everything that it happening. Once you have done a few miles you get used to the noise.

 

Cars of that era certainly didn't last as long, mechanically,  as modern ones. Many needed an overhaul before 100,000 miles. 

 

In the not too distant past that 100,000 miles was magic figure to watch for - of course odometers rolled over at that - and if a car was for sale it was important to know whether it had been overhauled. Here in NZ when we changed to metrics in 1970s there were those who were still concerned about the health of a vehicle with over 100,000 on it. Of course 100,000 km is only 60,000 miles.  Of course a well-maintained modern will do several times that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, in the 60s a car with 100k miles was a candidate for the recycling center. Of course I used to prefer 327 cranks with 100k on then - the forged ones were well polished.  (68s were the best, only year with 4 bolt mains).

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Clocking" was easy before the anti-tampering strips went in (1970 ?). Just accept that someone with the right skillset can "fix" even a computer car.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your Buick may be correct original low mileage. If you look at some of the cars being sold on bringatrailer.com there are many cars being sold with very low mileages, some are 10 plus years old and have barely been driven.

 With your Buick it is possible that the owner had more than one car and the Buick may have only been used to go to church on Sundays or for special outings.

 I restored a 1927 Chrysler 50 back in the early 80's. The family that owned it, bought it new, and kept a detailed log of every trip and each and every repair, or tire change that was done. The car had done a genuine 11000 miles, had been decoked twice, plus new rings once during that time, and many (50plus) tires had been replaced probably due to the rough dirt roads back in those days. The log book showed it was only used twice a month to go to church and once a month to go shopping, from the farm into town, a distance of approx 6 miles. It had done one long trip from Rusape Zimbabwe to Kruger national park in South Africa, a total return journey of about 500 miles. The car was converted into a truck during WW2  but saw limited use before breaking a wood wheel in 1953 and was then laid up on blocks.

 Despite its low mileage, I had to rebuild the motor completely due to extreme pitting of the bores and camshaft, not caused by water damage, but from the acidity of the old oil.

Viv

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

So many contributing factors. Poor or no air cleaners on the carb. brought in a lot of dirt, poor no-detergent oil, dusty and poor roads and of course looser tolerances contributed to cars not making it to 30, 50 or 100 grand. Also poor valve adjustment caused early valve jobs. And, if your talking about pre-war, most warranties were 30/30. 30 feet or 30 seconds which ever occurs first. Some people were very diligent in writing down everything on blank pages in their owners manual and that's a great tool for knowledge of some. I may be wrong but, I don't think that there was a lot of rolling back speedometers in the prewar years because it didn't matter as much as the obvious wear and tear. After the war roll back was common. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Going back even further, one old-timer wrote,

recalling a club's car tour in 1911, that most people

at the time didn't know the roads more than 5 miles

from home!  Cars were still novelties, and the tour

for car owners, to a town 12 miles away, resulted in

some getting lost on the way home.

 

So clearly, the average car owner wasn't putting

much mileage on the family car at that time.

 

This account was published in our own Antique Automobile

magazine, First Quarter 1947.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of the sources that can be useful for finding out some more of the obscure information like milage or construction is looking at the period ads (though milage i'm sure they took some liberty but should be good for a ballpark) 

 

Take this ad for a cole, they're claiming 12-15 MPG and there are other things in there that would help you restore one like mentioning that there is supposed to be thick cork between the body and the frame etc. 

 

image.png.fd2bfbcceef916fa9b9612d6dbdc1fe2.png

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 4/19/2021 at 11:57 AM, Restorer32 said:

What I find interesting  is this.  We restored a 1928 Autocar 5 Ton truck.  The spring shackle bolts were worn from their original 3/4" diameter to the size of a pencil. No odometer but how many miles must it have travelled to cause that much wear ?  Same with a 1908 Pullman we restored.  Originally the clutch and brake pedals had CLUTCH and BRAKE  deeply cast into the pedals.  They were worn to the point where CLUTCH could barely be read and BRAKE was even worse.  How many miles did this 4 cylinder car have to travel to show such wear? It was in a museum beginning in 1949 and had never been restored.  I sometimes think we underestimate how many miles some of these early cars were driven.


A friend has a 1929 Bentley Speed Six. In 1933 it had over 175,000 miles on it......documented by the factory records. About half the car had been replaced......including the frame from an accident and 2/3 of the engine. You can drive them. Many did. Also have seen a 1937 Pierce sedan, V-12 with 200,000 plus and it was parked in the mid 50’s. (Off the road for the war.) The car had an actual log in the glovebox with all the service records. 

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Page 146 of my facsimile copy of the 1931 Chilton Automotive Multi-Guide itemizes the 'Cost of Operation of an Imaginary ”Average” Automobile' with an annual mileage of 11,000. My assumption from that is the average automobile traveled 11,000 miles a year in that era.

 

That is not all that different from today’s average of about 11,500 miles.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For what it's worth, my '25 Dodge had 41,000 on the odometer (and it did/does work) when I got it.  The only history I have on the car was a PA inspection sticker on the windshield from 1947 and that it was pulled from a garage in Philly where it sat for ~ 50 years.  It must have been a leaky garage judging by the rust.  It's difficult to imagine a car being used for 20 years only accumulating that mileage but I suppose it's possible.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the northern climates as well there were two bodies, an enclosed one for winter and an open one for summer for some more wealthy customers. There was a late 1920s Packard discovered in Pa. about a decade ago that had the summer open body still on it, and the winter body was apparently still in existence. Brewster body Co. was well known for having the room to store bodies in its huge factory in Long Island City at the( long island ) eastern  side of the 59th street Bridge and would "restore" the bodies as they made the exchange for the customers to freshen up and make the car look new . I had a friend whose Dad worked for Brewster and he recalls his father telling him that that business was a viable part of their operation and apparently harked back to the carriage days as well. Most people associate Brewster & Co. with Rolls Royce and the Brewster car, but they  had a lot of room as mentioned for storage and you can't believe what was auctioned off in 1937 when Brewster officially closed up shop. I have an original auction catalog from that sale and it is amazing.  Another rarely thought about or subject discussed in articles in the past half century.

Edited by Walt G
trext addition (see edit history)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

To address the original question...yes, I think 15,000 miles is quite plausible - much more so than 115,000. You have to ask yourself "why wasn't this car junked". I don't think most people took better care of their cars in the past than they do now and, as a result, they wore out quicker. A 1935 Buick would have been quite acceptable up to 1940 - was likely off the road or very rarely used during the war and considered hopelessly dated after the war but, if it was in good condition, with low mileage, "too good to junk." I have one in my back yard right now - a '92 Subaru with about 30,000 miles on it. It was my dad's last car and he died in 2006. I really should get rid of it but I keep thinking I'll get it going again and keep it as a spare car...

 

Wear on the earliest cars, as mentioned by Restorer32, is often spotty. My1910 Mitchell shows extreme wear on some parts - like the throw out bearing, and none at all on the differential gears (we can presume the original owner rode the clutch). Spring shackle bolts are notorious for being badly worn - lubrication was usually poor or non existent and they are often soft to begin with. As far as high mileage is concerned... The Speed Six Bentley Ed mentions had a cult-like following from the day it was made and the Pierce 12 was much the same. That an example would have huge mileage is still unusual but both were special cars to begin with. While a Buick is certainly a nice car, I doubt it was thought of as extremely special from the beginning. This is really a statistical question. I'd posit that most of the pre-war cars that have survived intact did so because they were in reasonably good shape to begin with. Some, my own car included, probably survived because they got pushed into a shed and forgotten about.

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Our Pierce Arrow shows over 75k miles on the odometer and the motor has never been apart.

So even with the car being a Limousine it got driven quite a bit from the original owner since my grandfather didn't drive it that often.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Plausible ? Hypothetically ? Or should we see if there is some evidence. Do you have a lot of pictures in its “as purchased” condition way back then ? Plausible ? Well, I suppose. Should we dismantle it to some telltale level ? Plausible ? Or what are the odds ? You have had the car for a long time . Does it seem like a 15,000 mile car to you ? I bought a 1927  Cadillac with 12 and change. It is an unusually well preserved original. Odometer works perfectly. Put another 3,000 on it with odometer working perfectly every mile. Do I believe it ? Not for a minute. Seems more like 30s, 40s maybe. Do I have any explanation ? Not any more accurate or insightful than anything you or anyone else can come up with. Anyone’s guess is as good as anyone else, I suppose. What are the odds ? Now THAT might be a very interesting topic. “How can I estimate the actual mileage on a 1935 Buick ?”

 

Here are pictures of the odometer leaving Portland, OR, and a month and a half later out of Vegas. Let’s see if they come out in order:

 

 

336C2688-4313-4E31-B805-660172766761.jpeg

0A7E6EC8-BF00-46EC-B997-AD78FF3613E6.jpeg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

10 hours ago, Walt G said:

In the northern climates as well there were two bodies, an enclosed one for winter and an open one for summer for some more wealthy customers. There was a late 1920s Packard discovered in Pa. about a decade ago that had the summer open body still on it, and the winter body was apparently still in existence. Brewster body Co. was well known for having the room to store bodies in its huge factory in Long Island City at the( long island ) eastern  side of the 59th street Bridge and would "restore" the bodies as they made the exchange for the customers to freshen up and make the car look new . I had a friend whose Dad worked for Brewster and he recalls his father telling him that that business was a viable part of their operation and apparently harked back to the carriage days as well. Most people associate Brewster & Co. with Rolls Royce and the Brewster car, but they  had a lot of room as mentioned for storage and you can't believe what was auctioned off in 1937 when Brewster officially closed up shop. I have an original auction catalog from that sale and it is amazing.  Another rarely thought about or subject discussed in articles in the past half century.

Those 'wealthy customers' were maybe 5-10% of the market at the time. 

 

My great-grandfather owned a very low mileage 1935 Nash he bought new which he would put up on blocks each winter, and as my uncle repeatedly said, someone 'stole' it for $125 in 1961 when he sold it.  I never saw the car personally, but it was supposedly in excellent, original condition at the time of the sale, and should have been worth more than that, even in 1961.

 

Craig

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Craig

The chassis that had two bodies - one for winter and one for summer were mostly in the North East section of the USA , New England , down into Pa. and N.J. . They would have been luxury car chassis as the owner had to be one who could afford to have the bodies exchanged each year as well as maintained /repainted etc while in storage. I have no way to know what percentage that may have been for any given year or even time period.

WG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My 38 Studebaker had 73000 on it when I got it. It had spent 42 years in a barn stored. That means it averaged 1780 miles per year it was on the road. 
I’ve put 7000 + miles on it in the three years I’ve had it. 
dave s 

200 of which is since Ed fixed the problem I couldn’t find. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

23 hours ago, Walt G said:

Craig

The chassis that had two bodies - one for winter and one for summer were mostly in the North East section of the USA , New England , down into Pa. and N.J. . They would have been luxury car chassis as the owner had to be one who could afford to have the bodies exchanged each year as well as maintained /repainted etc while in storage. I have no way to know what percentage that may have been for any given year or even time period.

WG

We saw the photos of a couple of examples of that in your long-running and most educational Period Images thread.  

 

No question there were cars on the prairies that were driven in winter, and touring cars did have 'winter toppers' available for them including this 1922 Franklin I posted here:  https://forum.studebakerdriversclub.com/forum/your-studebaker-forum/stove-huggers-the-non-studebaker-forum/56599-orphan-of-the-day-10-09-1922-franklin

 

However, there were many in the 'teens and 1920's who could not be bothered with having to fill and drain the radiator with water before and after each trip, and then trying to start it in sub-zero weather.  (One still sees a LOT of those metal box footrests that hold hot coals from the stove at swap meets.)  By the 1930's, when permanent antifreeze became available and recirculating hot water heaters were becoming more common, driving on the prairies was not as much of a burden, or as uncomfortable as before. 

 

Craig

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Franklin you refer to in the photo was a factory body called a "demi-sedan"  a regular catalog body first offered after WWI on the new series 9.  Franklin was trying to get both areas of the sales market with one body. There was a huge network of Franklin dealerships in Ca. owned by Ralph Hamilin who was active in the Southern California ( mostly Los Angeles) area. The demi sedan had a hard shell fixed roof that indeed looked very much like a touring car but used hard framed windows with real glass rather then the isenglass windows of a side curtain. These windows would slide back and forth in the frame to open/close . The entire frame for the window ( one for each door ) could be removed entirely and were usually stored in the garage as there was no room in the car to do so. With all the windows out during nice weather you could still get the same affect mostly - of a touring car as well as the appearance. These were fairly popular in California as well as other western states. There was even a roadster version of this for a 2 door car but only briefly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 hours ago, Walt G said:

The Franklin you refer to in the photo was a factory body called a "demi-sedan"  a regular catalog body first offered after WWI on the new series 9.  Franklin was trying to get both areas of the sales market with one body. There was a huge network of Franklin dealerships in Ca. owned by Ralph Hamilin who was active in the Southern California ( mostly Los Angeles) area. The demi sedan had a hard shell fixed roof that indeed looked very much like a touring car but used hard framed windows with real glass rather then the isenglass windows of a side curtain. These windows would slide back and forth in the frame to open/close . The entire frame for the window ( one for each door ) could be removed entirely and were usually stored in the garage as there was no room in the car to do so. With all the windows out during nice weather you could still get the same affect mostly - of a touring car as well as the appearance. These were fairly popular in California as well as other western states. There was even a roadster version of this for a 2 door car but only briefly.

The shape of those rear quarter windows led me to believe it was a removable top.

 

It is in contrast to the Studebaker Duplex-Phaeton, where the rear quarter window and front of the C-pillar vertical profile make it actually look like a fixed top: https://forum.studebakerdriversclub.com/forum/your-studebaker-forum/general-studebaker-specific-discussion/31589-1925-duplex-phaeton .  I will also say the same about the Packard at the top of page 321 in the Period Images thread.

 

Craig

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree about the car on page 321 , that California top is what Franklin was inspired to then have its "demi sedan" style be for its line of body styles. Enclosed cars were becoming popular in the post WWI era but car manufacturers were trying to make the transition to a more expensive boy type easy on its customers so sales would remain vibrant. So a Calif. top or the semi sedan still looked like a touring car and had weather protection that was much better then side curtains ( that dated from horse drawn carriages ) , and if the effort was made the side windows could be entirely removed for that "touring car" look. These cars in a sense were the first "hardtop" body styles.

This is a great discussion!

Walt

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...