1913 Pope-Hartford Model 31 Portola Roadster

1913 Pope-Hartford Model 31 Portola Roadster

The Roadster was one of the five body styles available on the 1913 Pope-Hartford model 31 (Touring Car, Phaeton, Roadster, Coupe and Limousine), all with the 40 hp 300 cubic inch long stroke motor and a four speed transmission. The model 31 had many features of the higher powered models at a price $1000 less than the model 33 and $2000 less than the model 29.

Colonel Albert A. Pope founded the Pope Manufacturing Company after seeing bicycles at the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition. He began by importing European Penny Farthings (high front wheel, small rear wheel bicycles) and taking out an American patent on the style.

He manufactured the Columbia bicycles and established a bicycle trust which bought up the patents for all bicycles he could find, eventually amassing a fortune by controlling these patents and charging royalties to every other manufacturer. During the bicycle craze of the early 1890s, Pope was the leading US manufacturer of bicycles. Foreseeing the end of the bicycle craze, Pope began manufacturing electric cars in 1897, and manufactured the first mopeds assembled in the US from 1902. The Pope model L motorcycle (1914-1920) was the world’s fastest motorcycle when it was introduced (70 mph). With overhead valves and a multi-speed transmission (chain drive from 1918) it was also technologically advanced for the time.

Hiram Percy Maxim (son of the inventor of the Maxim machine gun), had been tinkering at night with his own internal combustion engine since 1892. In 1895 he approached Col. Pope and was hired as chief engineer of the Motor Vehicle department. His car was not ready for the Times-Herald race in November 1895, but Maxim served as an umpire. In 1899, Maxim drove his Pope Columbia gasoline powered vehicle to win the first closed-course automobile race in the US, beginning the racing heritage of Pope automobiles. Pope’s output of 2,092 vehicles in 1899, some gasoline powered, accounted for nearly half of all vehicles produced in the US. Pope sold off his Electric Vehicle operation later that year.

Pope established a number of auto brands in the early 1900s, including Pope-Toledo (above) and Pope-Hartford, which was built in his original plant in Hartford, Connecticut. In the 1907 Bank Panic, banks realized that people were mortgaging their homes to buy automobiles and stopped giving loans due to fear of foreclosures. Colonel Pope lost all of his automobile companies except Pope-Hartford and had to sell all of his factories to other manufacturers. Colonel Pope died in 1909.

As an aside, Hiram Percy Maxim was the man responsible for changing American cars from right hand to left hand drive.

After experiments with silencing engines, H.P. Maxim patented the first firearms silencer and automotive muffler in 1908.

In 1913, Pope-Hartford made three models on the same chassis: the 31, 33 and 29 with progressively higher horsepower and longer wheelbases. The model 31 was the entry level car, with a four cylinder 300 cubic inch engine developing 40 hp on a 118 inch wheelbase chassis (the model 33 was a 50 hp 390 cu. in. four cylinder, and the 29 was a 60 hp 471 cu. in. six cylinder).

This body style was named for Don Gaspar de Portola after the Pope-Hartford won the 1909 San Francisco “free-for-all” race celebrating the 300th anniversary of Don Gaspar de Portola's discovery of the Bay Area. The Pope-Hartford model 31 roadster (stripped down for weight) competed in the grueling Indianapolis 500 race in 1913 and finished sixth out of 26 vehicles at the start, averaging 68 mph with top speeds of over 80 mph. Only ten vehicles completed the race.

This 1913 Pope-Hartford Model 31 Portola Roadster has won numerous awards at auto shows and Concours d’Elegance.

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Production Start 1913
Country of origin USA