A 1908 ABC restoration: help needed!

Six years ago Osvaldo Faustini from Italy bought through our PreWarCar.com-site a 1908 ABC, a rare high-wheeler originating from St. Louis in the USA. Although the car looks very original, it was known that at some time a Ford model T planetary gearbox had replaced the original system. As Osvaldo is finally at the point of rebuilding the frame, he would like to reconstruct it to its original configuration. He wonders if anyone owns a replacement or otherwise owns a similar ABC to build a similar device to original specifications.

ABC, what do we know about the make? In 1909 in an article in the Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal Hugh Dolnar writes about the new ABC models, but not after an interesting overview of its history thusfar. The founder Amedee B. Cole had his first car on the road in St. Louis in 1905. It was “a light runabout, 40 ins. wheels with 1 ¼ dia., solid tires, 2 passengers, motor a single cylinder, 2-cycle vertical, water cooled 6 H.P., placed under the seat, friction speed change with one chain to divided rear axles and balance gear. Weight about 1000 lbs., price $450. The car ran well and could make about 18 or 20 miles. The A.B.C. offered this low priced runabout through 1906 and 1907 selling 200 or more to users, the car being regarded as satisfactory and the company making money.” From 1908 the company changed the engine to two opposed 4-cycle cylinders placed under the hood and different bodies became available. At the end of the same year Cole patented a new friction drive system, which was generally regarded as a great improvement.

Slowly the company moved to more conventional cars and end of 1909 the A.B.C. 'Gunboat', a car almost identical to a conventional light car, could even be delivered with a 4 cylinder engine, still however with friction drive. This system would be used until the end, which came soon after: ambition and investments didn't pay off and and at the end of 1910 the company was filed for bankruptcy.

The original friction drive on Mr. Faustini's car must have been the older system still, as the patent for the new system was filed on 23 November, 1908. The 1909 models were the first to receive this improvement. How the older system had looked like, we don't know at this stage as information on ABC before 1909 appears to be very scarce. Friction drive on highwheelers was common practice, but the systems often differed in appearance undoubtedly to avoid patent infringements. On the other hand, planetary transmissions were equally used and were of course more reliable than friction drive, which was susceptible to wear, weather and road conditions.

Anyway, anybody who can supply new information or could be of help in any other way is invited to share this with our Italian customer. Molte grazie!


Published: Tuesday July 11th, 2017


  • Is the answer as simple as A+B= C?
    The City is Saint Louis, a major area of FRENCH America, the contra engine(with direct drive) and wheels(16 SPOKE) appear most substantial in relation to the frame, a parts vehicle to cross the ocean?
    Osvaldo, try some enthusiasts in France.


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