563ci L-Head Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
110hp at 2,900bhp
Single Newcomb Updraft Carburetor
4-Speed Manual Transmission
Semi-Elliptic Leaf Springs With Tubular Dampers
Double Acting Hand and Foot Brakes on Rear Wheels
*One of America's premier makes
*Formerly part of the Powers Antique Automotive Museum
*Restored by Neve Engineering
*Little used during this ownership
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
Producer of one of the finest and most exclusive luxury cars built in the USA before World War I, the Simplex Automobile Company was founded when wealthy textile importer Herman Broesel purchased the Manhattan-based S & M Simplex company in 1907. The latter had come into being in 1904 when A D Proctor Smith and Carlton R Mabley set up as automobile manufacturers in order to avoid the punitive customs duties levied on the foreign makes they imported. These included some of Europe's finest: FIAT, Panhard, Renault and the Daimler-built Mercedes, whose advanced Simplex range inspired a host of imitators, Messrs Proctor Smith and Mabley included. Designed by Edward Franquist, the four-cylinder S & M Simplex was a very expensive car ($6,750 in 1904) and although the price dropped to $5,750 under Broesel's ownership, it remained within the reach of only a privileged few.
Broesel's first Simplex was another Franquist design: a 50hp 'T-head' four featuring four-speed sliding gear transmission and twin chain drive. These 50hp Simplexes were formidable competition cars – an example finished 6th in the first Indianapolis 500 – but more often were seen in luxury car guise boasting extravagant coachwork by the likes of Brewster, Demarest, Healey, Holbrook and Quinby. Following Herman Broesel Senior's death in 1912, his sons sold out to a New York-based consortium. The new management identified the need for a six-cylinder model to maintain Simplex's place in the front rank of luxury car manufacturers and took the short cut of purchasing the Crane Motor Car Company which was already building an exclusive and expensive ($8,000 for the chassis alone) 'six' at Bayonne, New Jersey. Simplex also retained the services of Henry M Crane, whose reputation as a car designer was reinforced by his previous work in marine engineering, engines of his design and construction having powered Dixie speedboats which won the coveted Harmsworth International Trophy on four occasions.
The new model that Crane created for Simplex was very similar to the Crane Model 4 that his company had been building but on a longer (144) wheelbase. Of 4.375x6.25 bore/stroke, the six-cylinder engine displaced 563ci (9.2 litres) and was almost identical to that of the Crane model. Cast in two blocks of three cylinders, with all valves on one side, it was claimed to develop 100-110bhp at 1,800-2,000rpm. The crankshaft ran in three main bearings of 2.75 diameter and the connecting rods were machined all over. The carburettor was a Newcomb design, modified by Crane, and there was magneto ignition. Drive was via a single-plate clutch and three-speed transmission to a 3.0:1 ratio rear axle. These attributes endowed this massive car with outstanding acceleration as well as a high top speed. Officially titled 'Simplex Crane Model 5', the new car became the 'Crane-Simplex' in popular parlance. When introduced, the chassis price was $5,000, which was raised to $6,000 a year later and to $7,000 the year after that.
It is evident from the serial numbers that Crane wanted his previously built cars taken into account when Simplex assigned serial numbers to its new model. Four-cylinder Simplex numbers had reached the 1500 region and allowance was made for the continued production of those cars by starting the numbers of the six-cylinder cars at 2000. However, since previously built Crane cars had been numbered from 1 to 38, allowance was also made for these, so Simplex Crane Model 5 numbers began at 2039.
In 1916, Simplex was acquired by the Wright-Martin Aircraft Corporation and its New Brunswick factory turned over to Hispano-Suiza aero engine production following the USA's entry into WWI. Automobile production was suspended for the duration of the war but never resumed, although a few cars were constructed from existing parts. By this time fewer than 500 'Crane-Simplexes' had been built. Rights to the Simplex name were acquired in 1920 by former Packard vice-president Emlen S Hare and shortly thereafter by Henry Crane himself, but no further cars were made. It was a sad end to a marque that, in its day, had ranked within the highest echelons of the world's luxury automobiles.
The present owner acquired the car in 2014 and has since spent some time researching its history, most importantly he was able to access the information from the Brewster and Company Records, held in the New York Public Library and through this we now know much of the car's original delivery and build details.
Dated January 6th, 1916, the order for its Double Enclosed Drive coachwork was made to Simplex Auto Co. by G. W. Canterbury Inc. for their client Francis L. Swift at a cost of $2,150 for the bodywork alone. Canterbury were one of the most esteemed agents in Boston, retaining agencies for high quality automobiles including Stevens-Duryea and Winton at various times. Detailed notes describe the body to have been a sedan format, with no formal division, simply a front bench seat, supplemented with a pair of occasional 'jump' seats behind. Interestingly, one line on the order book states 'The front seat is to be pushed back in the body as far as possible, practically to the rear door jams because Mr. & Mrs. S are very long legged and want all the room they can get there.' The process of construction continues from the initial order at the start of the year, through to November 1916, with additions and amendments to the specification along the way. Mr. Swift appears to have been an attorney in Boston.
The car may well have remained in the NorthEast for most of its life, as it is known to have been the property of Ralph H. Powers, who for a number of years in the 1950s and 1960s ran the Powers Antique Automotive Museum in Southington, Connecticut, which would have been one of the pioneering publicly displayed collections of this era.
By the turn of the millennium, the car had left this continent for a near 2-decade sojourn in the UK, from which it now returns for sale. Over the course of this latter period, the Brewster car received some cosmetic refurbishment, and after a period of storage some mechanical refreshing. It has been used occasionally for events of the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain.
The 'Crane-Simplex' truly deserves its reputation as one of the finest American automobiles of the industry's heroic, pioneering age, and this wonderful example should reward a future owner with many enjoyable miles and years of use.