30 November-1 December 2007
1930 Rauch & Lang Gasoline-Electric Sedan
To be auctioned on Saturday, December 1, 2007
Sold for $112,750
- Chassis no. M3133
70bhp, 255 cu. in. sleeve-valve inline six-cylinder engine, General Electric gearless electric transmission, solid front axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 126"
Edward Howland Robinson Green was the son of Henrietta “Hetty” Green, the world’s richest woman at her death in 1916. Her son, known as “Ned,” was a man of considerable acumen, but, unlike his mother, was a spendthrift and a fan of fancy automobiles. He had difficulty driving because of a primitive artificial leg, a consequence of her stinginess on medical care. An electric transmission, which required no shifting, seemed an ideal aid to his handicap.
Colonel Green (his title, an honorific bestowed by the Republican Party) commissioned the General Electric Company, in which he held a directorship, to build such a system for his automobile. Rauch & Lang, the Cleveland manufacturer of electric cars which had moved to Massachusetts, was chosen to adapt the GE system to a Stearns-Knight chassis. Three such cars were built, the first a roadster, the second was an enclosed brougham, but the third, this car, is externally a Stearns-Knight M6-80 sedan, its unconventional drive train hidden deep within. There were thoughts of series production, but failure of both Stearns and Rauch & Lang, at the time this car was built in 1929-30, squelched the idea. The first of Colonel Green’s cars was scrapped; the second survives as a basket case. This is the only one restored and running.
The condition of this car is as exceptional as its technical specification. Restored in the late 1980s by former owner Bobbie B. Crump, it has aged very little in the interim. The green-and-beige paint is outstanding, and the brightwork, all replated at time of restoration, looks new. The interior is done in gray cloth, also replaced at restoration, and matches the gray carpets and headliner. The door garnishes are woodgrained, and show some slight wear, whereas the wood dashboard appears original and not recently refinished.
The car runs and drives well, its sleeve valve engine exhibiting characteristic silence, the electric, gearless drive providing very smooth acceleration. The odometer shows 26,119 miles, scarcely more than reported at restoration. It was an invitational participant in the 2006 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, part of a display of alternative propulsion automobiles. The word “unique” has been devalued by overuse, often referring to things that are merely unusual. This car fully deserves the description, as there is not another like it in the world.
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