Mass Mobility: America Gets Behind the Wheel

1906 Cadillac Model H Coupe
Henry Leland created the Cadillac Automobile Company from the remains of the initial Henry Ford Company in 1902. As a result of an agreement that prohibited the use of the Ford name – the new car was named after the French explorer who discovered Detroit. Cadillac’s early innovation resulted in the first car to have fully closed coachwork and set the foundation for Cadillac as a luxury automobile.

1912 Ford Model T Speedster
Adventurous drivers quickly began to modify Henry Ford’s cars to increase speed and created the “Speedster” from the Runabout. By simply replacing the windshield with a monocle, adding wire wheels, changing the gas tank, and removing the panel between the running boards and body, the modified vehicle was 25% lighter and one of the fastest cars of the time. Some, like the one presented here were given engine upgrades such as a Rajo head and dual carburetors in the pursuit of even more speed.

1913 Pierce-Arrow Model 38C Brougham
The Pierce Company originated as a manufacturer of high-quality household goods, including iceboxes and birdcages, and ventured into automobiles with the single cylinder Motorette in 1901. The car’s quality and craftsmanship were exemplary and by 1913, the Pierce Arrow had become the choice for ultra luxury automobiles. The company supplied cars to the White House and several foreign heads of state, along with industry leaders and Hollywood stars. And it was priced accordingly; the Ford Model T Town Car was priced at $850, and you could purchase several for the $5,200 price tag of this 1913 Pierce-Arrow Model 38C Brougham.

1914 Ford Model T – Runabout
The Model T was perhaps the quintessential revolutionary car and a sturdy and inexpensive workhorse powered by a 22 horsepower engine mated with a two-speed planetary transmission. This Runabout was an early example of separate ‘models’ that were based upon the same platform. Subtle differences such as doors with rounded bottoms and a body strengthened by extending the sheet metal across the rear door spills marked changes in the Runabout. The Model T remained in production until 1927 with over 15 million manufactured. It is the car that is credited with putting the world behind the wheel.

1929 LaSalle Series 328
This 1929 LaSalle Series 328 is one of the first cars to be designed by Harley Earl for GM. It has convertible coupe coachwork by Fisher on a 134″ wheelbase chassis. As a companion brand to Cadillac, LaSalle was positioned as a price gap filler between Buick and Cadillac for GM, offering luxurious styling, but fewer appointments and with smaller engines than Cadillac. To the buying public, LaSalle was seen as a similar car to Cadillac at a lower price, and Earl’s designs offered sleek motoring to the second tier GM buyer.