1907 Thomas-Detroit Model C Tourer

1907 Thomas-Detroit Model C Tourer

Like so many of his pioneering contemporaries, Erwin Ross (E. R.) Thomas was in the bicycle business prior to manufacturing automobiles. During the 1890s, E. R. was the managing director for H. A. Lozier & Co. who produced the famous Cleveland bicycle. However, he recognized the huge potential in the newly evolving automobile business and left Lozier to take over the Buffalo Automobile and Auto-Bi company, which was known for its production of bicycles and motorcycle engines. In 1900 E. R. changed the company name to Thomas Auto-Bi, and by 1901 Thomas claimed to build more air-cooled motors than anyone else.

E. R. had bigger things in mind however, and the first Thomas automobiles were introduced in 1903; small runabouts described in the catalog as the happy medium between the cheaper and more expensive cars. By 1905 the Thomas Company was building bigger four-cylinder cars dubbed 'Thomas Flyers'. Thomas Flyers soon gained notoriety among the faster and more flamboyant Touring cars of their day. E. R. had an eye for flair and his huge powerful cars showed it - they were often finished in bright colors and loaded with many ornate brass accessories. The 1907 sales catalogue boasted "You can't go by a Thomas Flyer, so go buy one!"

The Thomas name endures and is most readily remembered for its most astounding victory in one the greatest automotive competition events of the time, the 1908 Le Matin sponsored 'The Great Race'. The route went from New York (in the dead of winter) across the U.S. to San Francisco, then by ship to Alaska, and across the Bering Strait, either by ship or by ice to Siberia. To be certain that the Yukon and the Bering Strait would be covered in ice, the race purposely began in the winter. Many of the dirt-covered trails had never been traveled by a motorcar.

E. R. Thomas made a last-minute decision to enter a car and three days prior to the start, a stock 1907 model was selected from the factory lot. 13,341 miles and 171 days later, the victorious Thomas rolled into Paris and forever cemented its place in history.

The incredible performance of the Thomas boosted sales and in September of 1909, the light six Model M was introduced for the 1910 model year. The Model M was a much-improved development from the previous year's Model L, with a new T-head engine replacing the L-head. The massive engine required a bigger hood and radiator, giving the car much more presence. While sales literature called the Model M a 40-horsepower, factory charts showed these engines developed a maximum of 64 horsepower at 1,500rpm. To demonstrate the incredible flexibility and reliability of the newly designed six cylinder, a Model M was taken on a demonstration run after all of its gears except high and reverse were removed from the transmission. The car was driven from Buffalo over the Berkshires, the White Mountains, the Green Mountains and the Adirondacks and back to Buffalo - all in top gear!

Descriptions & pictures by bonhams

Production Start 1907
Country of origin USA