The First American Automobile Company

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The Duryea Motor Wagon Company gets credit for being the first American gasoline powered vehicle company. Formed in 1895 in Springfield , Massachusetts by brothers Charles & Frank Duryea, the company hand built 13 identical units by the end of 1896. The brothers had a falling out and the company was dissolved in 1898.

Earlier gasoline power vehicles had been built by Duryea and others, but all were considered one of a kind and the 1896 Duryea's were the first vehicles that had been built in a series model.

1896 Duryea Drawings & Images

Of the 13 original automobiles manufactured only one survives, (#3 of the series) which is on display at the Henry Ford Museum.

1896 Duryea Runabout

Patent Drawing of 1896 Duryea Automobile

Duryea Runabout Details

Internal combustion engine located under seat.

Steering tiller operates clutch and gears.

Weight of vehicle: 700 lbs.

Gasoline tank: 8 gallons.

Transmission: 3-speed belt drive transmission.

Top speed 20 m.p.h., 3 m.p.h. in reverse. (According to product literature of the time.)

Wheelbase: 60" - Diameter of wheels: 34" front and 38" rear. - 2 1/2" pneumatic tires. - Tread: 52"

Height: 59" Length: 94"

Original Price: $1000 - $2000

The museum's Duryea model sold for $1500 in 1896, which would be equivalent to $40,734.18 in 2012 dollars.

In-line 2 cylinder engine (mounted horizontally), water-cooled. No radiator.

Bore: 4"

Stroke: 5 1/2"

Displacement: 138 cu. in.

Horsepower: 6

Used regular stove gasoline.

The price of gasoline in 1896 was 5 to 6 cents a gallon, which would be $1.36 - $1.63 in 2012 standards.

The Duryea Company

Charles Duryea was a successful bicycle manufacturer living in the United States. In 1892 he commissioned his brother, J. Frank Dureya to design and build a motor vehicle. The result was successful, becoming the first motor car in the United States. In 1895 a version of the vehicle was entered in the first race held in the United States. The race was sponsored by the Chicago Times. The Duryea built motor vehicle captured first place. In 1896 the series production began for the Duryea Company, located in Springfield Massachusetts. The president of the company was Frank Dureya, having terminated the business relationship with his brother a year prior. Production continued slowly but steady. Additional capital was raised to expand business development and production. In 1901 Duryea teamed with the Stevens Arms and Tool Company to help expand the evolving business. The union resulted in the production of Stevens-Duryea automobiles, the first vehicle being show in November of 1901 and on sale in March of 1902. The vehicles were powered by 2 cylinder engines capable of producing 5 horsepower. During the 1902 model year, 50 examples were produced. In 1903, the company increased the horsepower to 7 and dubbed the vehicle the Model L. This series continued until 1905 when it was replaced by the Model R. In its introductory year, 300 examples were sold. The Model R was produced from 1905 through 1908. It featured a 20 horsepower engine and sat atop a 90 inch wheelbase.

In 1927, production of the Stevens-Duryea automobiles ceased.

With claims of being the first automobile produced in the United States and winning the first automobile race ever transpiring in the United States, the Stevens-Duryea's place in history is forever certain. The company was innovative and its history progressive. It focused its resources on building reliable, beautiful, and economical automobiles. Today, their legacy can be seen at many car shows, Concourse's, and museums. By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2008