The Locomobile Company of America began its life in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1899, but soon was moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut. It has initially produced steam cars. During this time, steam, electric, and gasoline cars were all being developed, with no one particular type leading the pack. Around 1901, gasoline cars began to gain traction, and the Locomobile Company of America brought in engineer Andrew L. Riker to assist in developing their cars further. In 1903, the company began producing gasoline powered cars exclusively. As the car developed, so did the brand, and Locomobile eschewed an assembly line focus for one that emphasized the handcrafted nature of each automobile. This developed into a boast that no more than four Locomobiles were produced each day, making Locomobile an early luxury brand. With lighting provided by Tiffany and Company’s, plush interiors, and careful attention to detail, this boast was used as a marketing and selling point. In addition, the small number of cars produced allowed the Locomobile Company of America to remain in touch with owners, which helped to ensure customer loyalty, as well as excellent service.
The Locomobile Company of America also participated in early automobile races. A key victory was won at the Vanderbilt Cup race on October 24, 1908, when the car now affectionately known as the Old 16 won the race. That victory made Locomobile the only American car company to win the race, as all previous winners had been manufacturers from outside of the United States.
For the 1905 Gordon Bennett race the car (pictured above) was comissioned by a local customer, Dr. Harold Thomas who provided the funding for its development. Without Thomas, it is doubtful Locomobile management would have been able to justify the expense of competing in auto races. Driver Joe Tracy, an accomplished engineer, was enlisted to pilot the machine in both the 1905 Gordon Bennett Cup and the Vanderbuilt Cup.
Here is a description from The Automobile:
“In its general exterior lines, when completed, as in its interior construction, the car will very dosely resemble the regular stock type of the builders. It is practically an enlarged edition of the standard Locomobile C:lr. with the exception that certain modifications of design have been made, with a view to weight reduction. This is indeed the most difficult feature of a most difficult engineering problem, and its difficulty can be appreciated when one considers a car with a motor that will develop about 140 horsepower, and which must be capable of resisting the enormous strains set up in road navel at mile-a-minute speed, and must weigh than 2,204 pounds (1 ton) to come under the classification. It is, therefore, a matter wonhy of immediate record that the Locomobile engineering staff has been able to produce a car which has a liberal margin below the maximum weight without any mutilation of the compoent parts or the sacrifice of strength where strength is essential.
Following the usual Locomobile model, the car has four vertical cylinders, each 7 inches [178 mm] by 7 inches [178 mm], the largest with possibly a single exception that have ever been put in an automobile. This is really the feature of the car, for while: the general overall dimensions are in no way exaggerated, the power plant is hnge. Indeed, when the motor is housed under the regular stock shaped bonnet, the visible portions of the mechanism will not reveal the sIze of the power plant.
The general layout comprises pressed steel frame, cellular cooler in front, bonnet with straight sides and arched top, 4-cylinder motor, cone clutch, long gear box, countershaft carrying side chain sprockets and fuel tank at the rear inside the frame.
The wheelbase is 109 inches [2760 mm] and the tread 54 inches [1317 mm]. with wheels 34 inches by 3 1/2 inches in front and 4 1/2 inches in the rear.
In the entirre car the only cast iron used is in the motor cylinders.
The magneto is a Remy low tension, and is connected to a bus bar on the right side of the motor, from which the current is conducted to the igniters of the regular Locomobile make-and-break type.
Truffault-Hartford shock absorbers are fitted on both front and back axles.”