ALCO, short for American Locomotive Company, was a builder of railroad locomotives in the United States during the early 1900s. It was formed in 1901 through the merger of several smaller locomotive manufacturers that included at least eight companies, to form on large entity. Headquarters were located in Schenectady, New York. This monopoly continued to grow in size and eventually put many other competing companies out of business.
By 1906 they began experimenting in other areas such as the automobile. They purchased licenses to produce the Berliet design of automobiles. The French based Berliet was formed around 1894 by Marius Berliet who began experimenting with automobiles. He produced a single-cylinder automobile in 1895 followed by a twin-cylinder model in 1900. This led to a four-cylinder version and eventually into larger production quantities. By 1905 he was creating 300 cars annually and employed a staff of 250.
The Company of Marius Berliet of Lyons, France was the city's leading producer of automobiles, and France's second largest motor city behind Paris. In 1906 a plant was created at American Locomotive's Providence, Rhode Island facility. Alco imported parts from France and assembled the Berliets at their facilities. These were upmarket machines and carried a hefty price tag of $5,000 - $9,000. This was a sizeable fortune for the time.
Alco used the license for two years, after which they produced automobiles of their own design. The Alco automobile was ready for production in 1909. It was a 40 horsepower machine that utilized chain-drive. A 60 horsepower six-cylinder version was also available, selling for $6,000.
In the early years of automotive production, sales were fueled by racing accomplishments. It was said that a good finish on Sunday meant great sales on Monday. The Alco Company, initially, was reluctant to enter motor sports. The companies test driver, Harry Grant, pleaded with management to fund a racing endeavor. After being repeatable denied, he left in 1907 to work for Park Square Automobile Station, run by C. F. Whitney. Whitney provided a 4-horsepower American Berliet which Grant used at races such as Readville. He won the five and twenty mile heats but came in second in the 50-mile race due to a blown tire. The car was entered in various other local racing events and quickly made a name for themselves. Alco also took notice and granted Grant's request for a factory backed racing team. Grant and his riding mechanic Frank Lee, were given a stock six-cylinder Alco.
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