A 1901 Locomobile steam car has recently gone on display after being kindly loaned to the National Motor Museum Trust.
The car, a Style No.2, has been rebuilt from the remains of a vehicle that is believed to have belonged to Albert Brooking, an Exeter Pawnbroker. The car has the registration number FJ2 which was one of the first issued in Exeter following the 1903 Motor Car Act.
The Locomobile was manufactured by the Locomobile Company of America, founded in 1899. Initially based in Watertown Massachusetts, the company moved to Bridgeport Connecticut in 1900 where it remained until its demise in 1929. They began by producing steam cars and by 1902 had sold 5,200 units, making Locomobile at that time, the largest car producers in America. Steam cars were a popular alternative to the internal combustion engine and for a few years around 1900 light steam cars were equal to, perhaps even better than, their petrol-engined rivals. However the need for constant replenishment of water, combined with rapid improvement in petrol engine technology soon made the steam car obsolete. In 1902 Locomobile began experimenting with petrol engines and production of steam cars was stopped three years later.
In May 1902 a prototype petrol Locomobile was built and by November the first production model, a Model C, was delivered to its first customer in New York City. The Locomobile was soon sold as ‘The Best Built Car in America’ and became known for its quality and luxury. Locomobile entered motor racing, contesting the 1905 Gordon Bennett Cup and winning the 1908 Vanderbilt cup which helped its reputation soar. In 1911 Locomobile launched perhaps its most famous model, the 6-cylinder Model M, also known as the 48 from its rated horsepower. It was produced in various series until 1925 and reflected the high quality and comfort which Locomobile had become associated with.
In 1922 Locomobile was acquired by Durant Motors after falling into financial difficulty. They continued using the Locomobile name and positioned the car as the most expensive in their range of models. Locomobile stopped producing cars in 1929 when its parent company Durant Motors failed.
This 1901 Locomobile was restored in 2000 and has completed several Steam Car Club of Great Britain tours. It can now be viewed in the National Motor Museum along with over 250 other vehicles.
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