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Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal, January 1, 1909
A $370 MAIL ORDER MOTOR BUGGY
Sears, Roebuck & Co., of one of the largest mail order houses in the country, have lately taken up the sale of automobiles and are offering a 10-12 H. P. motor buggy at $370, or $395 with top and tenders. The price in each case includes 3 lamps. From the cuts herewith it will be noted that the machine is a neat, trim looking rig and materials and con structive features are claimed to be thor oughly reliable and satisfactory. Sears, Roebuck & Co. claim to manufacture these machines and as they sell direct to users. all intermediate handlers’ commissions are eliminated and selling price is kept at a minimum. These cars are sold by mail, cash must ac company order, and customer pays the freight. The shipping weight including crate, etc., is 1,200 lbs.
The motor is a 2-cylinder, opposed, air-cooled gasoline engine of 4 1-16 inch bore and 4-inch stroke. The crank shaft is a nickel steel forging of 1%-inch diameter. A friction transmission is used and drive is by side chains from the ends of the countershaft, Diamond chains being used. An internal, expanding brake acts on each rear wheel and may be locked in position when the car is left unattended. The wheels are 36 inches in diameter and are shod with 1?-inch Diamond solid tires held in electrically welded channel rims. Timken roller bearing axles are used, 1½ inches square, drop forged steering knuckles being used in front. The frame is of angle steel 2×1½ x 3-16-inch. It is carried on 4 full elliptic springs 36 inches long.
The body is securely bolted to the angle steel frame but can be easily removed without disturbing any of the power plant parts. It is of the piano box type and measures 30 inches wide by 67 inches long. The rear portion is cover ed by a wood deck boot under which and under the seat there is a space 29×21 inches for carrying luggage. The fuel tank, ignition battery and spark coil are fastened to the body under the seat. The seat is 37 inches wide and is well upholstered all over including the ends in heavy “Morrocoline” imitation leather. The seat cushion is removable.
The top is a 3-bow skeleton job made of a heavy grade moroccoline with side and back curtains. When up it is held by two straps running from the front bow to the dash. The weight of the machine is 1,000 lbs. The road clearance is 13 inches; wheel base 72 inches: gauge 56 inches. The gasoline tank holds six gallons enough for 150 miles’ running.
Horseless Age. October 6, 1909
Sears, Roebuck & Co., Chicago, Ill., are employing about fifty men in assembling their motor buggy.
Evansville Press, October 12, 1908
The Hercules Buggy Company is closed down and will remain closed down for a week or ten days while the company takes its annual inventory.
“As soon as the inventory is completed,” said one of the officials today, “we will start out a full blast in order to catch up with accumulated orders. Every department will open with a full quota of employes.”1
Horseless Age. December 29, 1909
Sears, Roebuck & Co., Chicago, Ill., have leased from the Grand Central Market Company a large building at the corner of Loomis and Harrison streets, erected two years ago for market purposes. The Sears-Roebuck firm will use the building for manufacturing automobiles. The dimensions are 140×476 feet, and the lease runs for a number of years at an annual rental of $14,000.”
“Bird’s Eye view of our automobile factory in Chicago, the Sears Motor Car Works. In this modern plant we build our nine different models. Here the Sears car grows from the raw material to the splendid finished product listed on the following pages. Our factory manager, superintendent, inspectors, foremen, and workmen are a unit in one sharply defined policy—the production of a good, simple and reliable automobile.”—1911 Sears Automobile Catalog.
Inter Ocean, November 21, 1909
Efficient, fully equipped, standard in every detail, the Sears automobile, produced by Sears, Roebuck & Co. in one of their big factories in Indiana, has proved the most remarkable innovation in the list of 1910 motor cars that makers of automobiles have ever heard of. That the design was right and the materials and the processes of construction were without fault the company has demonstrated by the strenuous tasks set for the first motor car turned out. It already has run 20,000 miles, and engineers who have looked it over say it is good for many additional miles.
The Sears-Roebuck company guarantees each motor car to be perfect in material and workmanship and will replace at any time any broken parts owing to defective material or workmanship. All that is necessary for the owner of the car to avail himself on this offer is to return the broken parts to the factory for inspection. Although the price of this practical and durable motor car seems to be the last word in low priced construction the catalogue of the company provides and even lower price—$370 if the machine be purchased without all the equipment.
Sears, Roebuck and Co. 1909 Fall Catalogue
First appearance of the Sears Motor Buggy.
I. S. Rosenfels of the manufacturing company said:
“The Sears is the result of thought, economical manufacture and the wonderfully successful distributing forces that the company has at its command. All the expensive luxuries needed by the ordinary manufacturer for the distribution and sale of his product, such as selling force, live dealers, salesmen, etc., are dispensed with, and the Sears practically sells itself. The facilities for manufacture in our factory are unlimited. We will have an output of 10,000 cars of the 1910 design.
The great advantages of the big general catalogue of the Sears-Roebuck company come into instant attention in advertising the new car. Through it we reach over 5,000,000 people. The high salaried local or traveling salesmen are conspicuous by their absence. The reader of the catalogue sees in detail the kind of car that he can get for his money and the remainder of the transaction is as easy as buying a paper of pins. In addition to the general plan of exploitation, we have put into commission a corps of correspondents to answer all inquiries, no matter how trivial they may appear to the layman.
The quality of the Sears cannot be judged by the price without making allowance for the dealers’ profits that are saved to the purchaser of the Sears car, by selling directly from the factory. Sold on the regular plan, the price of the Sears car would have to be about $700. It is being compared to cars costing from $650 to $850, and is equal in quality, construction, endurance and satisfaction with the popular runabouts at the greater price.
Tests have demonstrated the wide range of the Sears’ efficiency on all sorts of roads. For the rural mail man, the farmer, the townsman, it keeps going twenty-four hours a day, with no appreciable deterioration. One gallon of gasoline will run it from fifteen to thirty miles, depending upon road conditions. In the matter of lubricating oil the Sears is a little short of a marvel, and from 100 to 250 miles may be traversed in safety and comfort on one gallon of lubricant. Without the water cooling devices it is a safe and convenient machine for work during the coldest weather. Its ample air cooling plans make it admirable for the hottest days in summer. Tests have demonstrated this beyond a doubt.
The general design of the Sears is that of a large, roomy, two passenger piano box or top buggy model, with moroccoline leather deck boot covering the body back of the seat. There are four point full elliptic springs for suspension, and the body rests on a rigid pressed steel frame that carries the motor and mechanism. The easy riding qualities of the car absorb the shock without pneumatic tires. The axles are one and a quarter inch solid square steel, the steering knuckles are heavy and drop forced and the tires are sold rubber.
Some of the features that appeal to the engineer as well as the purchaser are the weight—1,000 pounds, or nearly one and one-half horse-power per 100 pounds, as the motor develops fourteen-horse-power. The correct proportion of power makes the Sears a marvel uphill climber or performer in sand or mud. Contact surfaces on friction transmission will wear 3,000 to 4,000 miles and the cost of renewal is only about $5.
The air cooled motor is the pride of the Sears designer. The exhaust valve is located in the valve chambers, where the cool intake charge is inhaled, the arrangement keeping the valve cooled and preventing burning out. The spark plug is located in the valve chamber, permitting liberal oiling of the motor without danger of smutting the plugs. The motor is a two-cylinder, direct opposed engine, with 3¼x4 dimensions. The crank shaft is forged of nickel steel and the cylinder heads are removable. The Sears patented timer is used and all crank shaft and connecting rod bearings readily accessible for adjustment.
The transmission is selective, of the friction type. There is no ratchet and the foot is all that is necessary to connect the power to the drive wheels. The differential is of the the friction clutch type and the braking plan is is controlled by United States patents. The drive is double chain for countershaft to each rear wheel. Endless, riveted roller chains, on-half inch wide and one inch pitch, are utilized. A mechanical force feed system of lubrication is used, delivering oil to crank case cover and dripping it on the crank shaft and connecting rod bearings. The ignition is by jump spark, double coil and six dry cells.
The internal expanding brake on each rear wheel will hold on any road. The steering is by side lever, on the left side, so that the operator steers with his right hand. The control of this wonderful little car is as flexible as that of a steam throttle, while two mufflers of the Sears-Roebuck design effectually silence the exhaust noise. The engine is accessible by lifting the floor boards. The carburetor is float feed and simple and has been proved reliable. The wheels are thirty-six inches in diameter, front and ea. The body and seat are painted black, while the wheels and chassis are in dark carmine, with a double line of black for striping. The road clearance is thirteen inches and the wheel base is seventy-two inches.
1909 Sears Model “H” Motor Buggy Four-Page Circular
Sears Roebuck and Company, 1910 Spring Catalog
Full Line of Sears Automobiles, Models “H”, “J”, “K” and “L”.
Sears Automobile Order Form
Catalogues and Counters, Boris Emmett and John E. Jeuck, 1950
Despite all the fanfare and advertising, Sears automobiles were dropped from the general catalogue after some three years.
Their unprofitability had been soundly demonstrated. Gross sales of automobiles were $74,331 in the spring of 1909; the gross profit was $3,916. But the net loss was $9,135. In the succeeding two seasons gross sales totaled more than $165,000, but the total net profit was only $7,465. In the fall of 1910, automobile sales brought a net loss of $6,897; in 1911, automobiles sales of nearly $400,000 resulted in a net loss of almost $42,000; 1912 sales of around $211,000, yielded a net loss of $21,000. The unprofitability of automobile sales was summed up in the story of “Jack” Westrich, a former buyer of the company, who purchased one of the Sears automobiles. He asked to be allowed to buy it at cost. Julius Rosenwald consented—and the cost proved to exceed the selling price at which the vehicle was listed.
The above chart reflects the sales numbers provided divided by an approximation of the average selling price of a car, which seemed to between $395 and $500.
Sears, Roebuck Fall 1914 Catalogue
The last appearance of the Sears Motorcycle till the 1950s.
1It is believed that the Hercules Buggy Co. was moved to the Sears buggy plant in Chicago at this time.