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Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society caters for veteran cars, vintage cars & classic cars, as well as commercials and motorcycles.

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Fascinating set of photos received from Ken Kelly, Port Townsend, near Seattle (USA) saying he has purchased a car that ....after OVER 100 hours of searching the web....I cannot name. I even tried all of your pages of searches. At first glance......Renault.....but...--  Definitely not Renault for many reasons. We have contacted some of our veteran experts and all agree it does not seem of European origin; probably American. Regret no identification;  so help from readers appreciated.

Enquiry detais :     I have purchased a car that ....after OVER 100 hours of searching the web....I cannot name. I even tried all of your pages of searches. At first glance......Renault.....but...the hood is different and it is a double chain drive. And...considering it o be an 1899 car...the fenders are wrong shaped and the running board is totally different.......and the wheel bases do not match. Did Renault make a double chain drive......I cannot find a reference that says that they did. I also looked at Panhard.....the grill drives me away from them.

What I know is: 1) Original owner "thought" around 1900. 2) A lot of the wood was eaten away and was re-done years ago...some plywood is there. 3) Engine has been replaced...so no help there 4) The lights might be original but have been modernized 5) The back might have been a turtle back or even a rear seat......... 6) There are 3 pedals that look original and one that does not...think it is for the changed-out engine 7) I have put notes on the pictures with a few measurements "I hope" will help 8) I believe that the windscreen and top might have been "after-market" 9) I know that the bracket to hold the spare tire...on the driver's side...interferes with the gear lever on that side...might have been put in the wrong place. All in all.......it is a total mystery to us. Attached pictures. Thank you.  Ken Kelly, Art Deco Lighting Museum 

Please Click on the photo, and enlarge if required, to see full size high definition picture 

Brief observation of the details of the photo suggests this may have been a home made special, and that the car may have been assembled from later parts. It was quite common practice in early days to update original vehicles with more modern elements to disguise its old origins. Here there is not much evidence of anything very ancient as a starting point. This may have been an attempt to create an older looking vehicle by using an amalgam of period bits, or possibly more likely perhaps an exercise of making something usable from what bits may have been laying around the yard. 

It has a Maxwell badge and Maxwell did have a twin opposed engine in 1905 but this was water cooled with a radiator at the front. The bonnet of the vehicle is half round and has a mesh front reminiscent of some early steamers, -  but more likely air-cooled cars like Franklin and Chase. The bonnet however seems far too short to have housed anything substantive. This probably suggests the engine may have been amidships under/behind the floor/seat. It seems however to have a 'tunnel' in the middle of the cab suggesting something was there under it? The steering wheel is on the right suggesting a pre Model T period.  The wheels are demountable suggesting a later period. The convertible roof seems period and is similar to many cars including a very close match to a REO of 1906.

This is a very interesting enigma which will be great fun unraveling and probably more fun making operative. Good luck !

One of our veteran Experts commented as follows:: The suspected veteran is a strange vehicle. Definitely not European and Renault is of course impossible if only because of the chains. No clue to the location of engine (front or center?), strange chain wheels with holes and a frame with front and rear elliptical springs, which is also unusual. It looks most like a self-made thing: I couldn't find anything that even looked a bit similar. But well, maybe I'm totally wrong and something turns up after all.

Another of our
veteran Experts commented as follows: Ken is on the right lines with his thoughts that this in all probability it is a heavily modified lash-up, most likely done long ago. Some parts do appear to belong together - frame and axles and chain drive arrangements. Absence of the engine a major disadvantage, and he is likely correct that this too wasn't the original. Windscreen looks like Model 'T' Ford to me. Body much reconstructed and who can say whether it is a close copy of what might have been original, or otherwise. Double chain drive of such substantial proportions is most unusual for what seems to be a vehicle that appears to be little above the 'light car' class'. Renault always had live axle drive, even the very early models. I'm sure the vehicle is of US origin.

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