1903 E.R. Thomas Model 18 Rear Entrance Tonneau

1903 E.R. Thomas Model 18 Rear Entrance Tonneau

Erwin Ross (E. R.) Thomas was in the bicycle business prior to manufacturing automobiles. He was the managing director for H.A. Lozier & Co. during the early 1890s, where he realized the potential for the newly evolving automobile business. With this realization, he left Lozier to take over the Buffalo Automobile and Auto-Bi Company, which was known for its production of bicycles and motorcycle engines. E.R. changed the company name to Thomas Auto-Bi in 1900. A year later, Thomas claimed to build more air-cooled motors than anyone else. In 1903, the first Thomas automobiles were introduced. By 1905, the Thomas Company was building bigger 4-cylinder cars dubbed 'Thomas Flyers'. Their 1907 sales catalogue boasted 'You can't go by a Thomas Flyer, so go buy one!'

The greatest achievements for the Thomas Flyer was winning the 1908 Le Matin sponsored 'The Great Race.' The route traversed from New York across the United States to San Francisco, then shipped to Alaska, and across the Bering Strait, either by ship or by ice to Siberia.

Three days prior to the start of the race, E.R. Thomas made the decision to enter a car. Using a stock 1907 model from the factory, the car traveled 13,341 miles in 171 days. The victorious Thomas rolled into Paris and into the history books.

This 1903 Thomas Tonneau 18 was built in Buffalo, New York. It is powered by a 106 cubic-inch, one-cylinder engine developing 8 horsepower. The Thomas Model 18 was the first car produced by the Thomas Company after E.R. Thomas consolidated his manufacturing into one division. His cars followed the French pattern of design, with a look similar to a Renault or DeDion Bouton and shared a similar mechanical design.

The car belonged to a Buffalo collector for many years. He bought it from a museum in Buffalo in the 1990s when it closed its doors. The car was in very original condition when purchased and a restoration began.

His estate sold the Thomas to a collector in the state of Washington where it had a complete restoration that was finished in 2005.

It was shown at a few local concours shows and driven about 300 miles in Single Cylinder Tours.

This was the first year of production for the Thomas and is one of only two known to exist. It sold for $1,400 when new.

Descriptions & pictures by conceptcarz & bonhams

Production Start 1903
Country of origin USA