1898 HERTEL 3½HP TWO SEATER RUNABOUT
Registration No. Not UK registered
Serial No 37
Green with green chassis and red wheels, with black leather upholstery
Engine: 2 cylinder (Benz patent) horizontal, water cooled, 3 5/8 x 4¾ins., 1607cc; Gearbox: two speed, with transmission by friction discs to rear wheels; Suspension: independent, front by coil springs, rear by quarter elliptic leaf spring; Brakes: hand operated spoon brakes on rear tyres. Right hand drive with tiller steering.
Max Hertel was born on 10 May 1865, and was of German extraction. He was working for the American Biscuit Co. when the first automobile race in the United States was announced, The Times-Herald 100 mile course from Chicago to Waukegan and back, and decided to enter it with a car of his own manufacture. His entry was the first attempt that he had made at making a motor car and was much along the lines of the car we offer for sale. The race took place on 28 November 1895, but unfortunately Hertel broke his steering gear en route to the starting line and could not take part.
Undeterred by this he refined his vehicle further. In 1897 in Chicago he met Richard N. Oakman who was principally a silverware manufacturer. Oakman was looking around for other business in the new automobile field and had already secured a contract to make under-seat tanks for Mr Duryea, and other parts for various bicycle manufacturers. Oakman's dream was to make his own car. With a similar vision, Oakman and Hertel got on well together and at Oakman's request Hertel moved to Greenfield, Massachusetts to lend his design and his considerable technical knowledge to the proposed Oakman Motor Vehicle Company.
Work began on the Oakman Motor Vehicle in January 1898. They produced their own chassis and engines, using the Benz patent, a natural choice for them to make, given Hertel's origins in Chemnitz, Germany, and the car had a price tag of $500.
Richard Oakman was convinced 'The horseless carriage business would rise to the biggest thing on earth' (a quote from one of his associates) and borrowed heavily from banks in Greenfield, Springfield, Northampton, East Hampton and Shelburne Falls in order to finance his operations.
Perhaps a dozen of Oakman's vehicles were sold, each taking on greater improvements. By 1899 however, Oakman had overextended himself and on 31 October 1899, Max Hertel signed papers releasing him from any agreements he had with Oakman. This signalled the demise of the Oakman Motor Vehicle Company and the bankers foreclosed on the loans. The Oakman story clearly illustrates the huge investment required by companies at the inception of the horseless carriage who wanted to succeed.
This particular car is serial number 37, but it is safe to assume that like some other manufacturers, car numbers were inflated somewhat so prospective owners did not think they were buying prototype machines. Of the cars made, perhaps this is number 7.
The Hertel comes fresh to sale following long term ownership in an American collection, having been bought from the widow of Henry Wing, a highly respected engineer and collector who acquired the unrestored car in the 1950's. As can be seen from contemporary photographs of the car, it had survived completely in tact. Henry Wing expertly restored the car and it became part of his collection until his death. A close inspection of the car would indicate the car has not seen a great deal of use in its life, and on a recent service/test the engine internals were shown to have very little wear at all.
Technically the vehicle is quite ingenious, with its four wheel independent suspension and tubular frame with all steel body. Designed for ease of use the centrally mounted lever performs four functions; the handgrip is the throttle; pulled back it operates the brakes; pulled forward engages gear and to start the car the handle on the lever is squeezed, then the lever, push forward to engage starting gear and pull back on a ratchet system. It is understood that the car has a top speed of some 20 mph, which was very respectable in 1898, and in comparison with other makes.
There are only an handful of surviving American cars that were built during the equivalent of the British Victorian period. The Hertel is one such car, which could provide the new owner with an early London-to-Brighton start, or indeed be usable for VCC Class 1 events.
The car has a recent MOT and is customs cleared in the UK with all duties paid. Should the car remain in the UK, registration will be a straightforward procedure.
Max Hertel was at the forefront of the embryonic US motor industry, alongside Duryea and Haynes Apperson and this is a unique opportunity to acquire one of the first petrol-engined cars built in the United States of America.
It is offered for sale with a detailed file of information pertaining to Oakman and Hertel, as well as comprehensive photographs taken prior to and during restoration.