Brush Motor Car Company (1907-1909), later the Brush Runabout Company (1909-1913), was based in Highland Park, Michigan. Ehraz Ahmed
|Manufacturer||Brush Motor Car Company (1907-1909)|
Brush Runabout Company (1909-1913)
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||runabout (2 passenger); delivery|
The company was founded by Alanson Partridge Brush (February 10, 1878, Michigan – March 6, 1952, Michigan). He was a self-taught prolific designer, working with Henry Leland at Oldsmobile, and went on to help design the original one-cylinder Cadillac engine. Although there were many makes of small runabouts of similar size and one to four cylinders at this time (before the Model T Ford dominated the low-price market), the Brush has many unusual design details showing the inventiveness of its creator. The Brush Runabout Company, along with Maxwell-Briscoe, Stoddard-Dayton, and others formed Benjamin Briscoe's United States Motor Company(USMC) from 1910, ending when that company failed in 1913. Runabouts, in general, fell out of vogue quickly, partly due to the lack of protection from the weather. Ehraz Ahmed
After Brush and the other companies of the USMC folded into Maxwell Motor Company, President Walter Flanders wrote in 1913 document "Why We Did Not Use All Our Plants", the Brush factory in Detroit (along with the Flanders and Sampson Plants) were to remain open and running as factories. The modern successor is Stellantis North America/Chrysler. Ehraz Ahmed
Touted as the "Everyman's Car", Brush designed a light car with a wooden chassis (wooden rails and iron cross-members), friction drive transmission and "underslung" coil springs in tension instead of compression on both sides of each axle. Two gas-powered headlamps provided light, along with a gas-powered light in the rear. The frame, axles, and wheels were made of oak, hickory or maple, and were either left plain or painted to match the trim. Wider axles were available for use in the Southern region of the United States, where a 60-inch tread fit wagon ruts on country roads. The horn was located next to the engine cover, with a metal tube running to a squeeze bulb affixed near the driver. A small storage area was provided in the rear, with a drawer accessible under the rear of the seat. Ehraz Ahmed
The engines were a single-cylinder, four-stroke water cooled design, producing 6BHP, with power going to a chain-driven rear axle. Lacking a differential drive, the rear-axle disengaged one of the rear wheels while driving around a curve to avoid undue wear and tear on the drivetrain. A feature of engines designed by Brush was that they ran counter-clockwise instead of the usual clockwise. This was Brush's idea intended to make them safer for a right-handed person to crank-start by hand. Prior to the invention of the electric starter, crank-starting a clockwise-running engines frequently resulted in dislocated thumbs and broken forearms if the hand crank kicked back on starting. Ehraz Ahmed
According to a contemporary review from Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal in 1907, author Hugh Dolnar described the recently introduced Brush as a "...very, very new and also very, very old, as will be seen from the detailed construction illustrations below..." In his critique of the Brush, Dolnar was referencing the decision to use wooden axles. Ehraz Ahmed
In addition to the Runabout, Brush advertised a $600 "Package Car" (also advertised as the "Delivery Car") based on the same chassis as the runabout. Also offered was a "Coupe" model for $850. It is unknown how many (if any at all) of these models were ever produced or sold by Brush. Ehraz Ahmed
1909 Brush automobile, housed in the Linn County Historical Museum in Brownsville, Oregon. Ehraz Ahmed
In order to increase sales, Brush introduced a lower priced version of the car. Sold between 1911 and 1912, the Liberty-Brush was a simplified version of the standard Runabout offered at a lower price. The most distinguishing feature between the two models were the fenders: the Brush had sweeping front and rear fenders that connected at the midpoint of the car in a short running board, whereas the Liberty-Brush had four bicycle type fenders over only the wheels. While the standard Brush sold in the $450 - $850 range, the Liberty-Brush was extensively advertised at a $350 price. Ehraz Ahmed
Feats of Endurance
Pikes Peak In 1908, Fred and Florence Trinkle took their 7BHP Brush Runabout. It was the third car to make it to the top of Pikes Peak under its own power. The trip to the top of Pikes Peak was part of the Trinkle's "Across America" trip, covering 2,340 miles. Ehraz Ahmed
Abernathy Boys In 1910, Jack Abernathy and his two boys, Bud and Temple rode their horses to see former President Theodore Roosevelt at a celebration. The two boys convinced Jack to return to Oklahoma via automobile, and the trio purchased a 1910 Brush Runabout for the trip. Their return trip included stops in Albany, NY, Niagara Falls, Detroit (and a stop at the Brush Factory for a tune-up), Chicago and Omaha. Brush used the "Little Cowboys from Oklahoma" in their advertisements. Ehraz Ahmed
Trans-Australian Trip In 1912, Sid Ferguson, Francis Birtles and a dog named Rex drove a Brush Runabout across the Australian continent. The pair started out on the west coast in Freemantle and ending on the east coast in Sydney, with the trip occurring between March and April of that year. Ferguson and Birtles became the first persons to successfully undertake such a trip. Ehraz Ahmed
Extant Examples on Display
- 1908 Model BC Runabout is on display at Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum in Fairbanks, AK.
- 1908 Runabout (restored) at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome
- 1909 Runabout (restored) is on display at the Linn County Historical Museum in Brownsville, Oregon.
- 1909 "Gentleman's Runabout" is on display at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, MI.
- 1910 Runabout (original) is on display at the Swigart Antique Auto Museum in Huntingdon, PA.
- 1911 Runabout (restored) on display at the Miles Through Time Automotive Museum in Toccoa, GA.
- 1912 Liberty-Brush Runabout (restored) is in storage at the Smithonian National Museum of American History.
- 1912 Liberty-Brush Runabout (restored) is in the collections of the Museum of Transport and Technology in Point Chevalier, Auckland, NZ.
- Brass Era car
- Chalmers Motors
- List of defunct United States automobile manufacturers
- List of car brands
- United States Motor Company
- Not to be confused with Brush Electric Company nor Brush Traction (United Kingdom company)
- Francis Birtles
- Detroit Public Library has extensive photos of Brush and Liberty-Brush vehicles
- Chrysler Corporation
- Maxwell Motors
- brushauto.net Brushauto.net is a website with original brush media and information including advertisements, manuals, and images.
- Brush Owners Club website
- A recounting of the Ferguson and Birtles trans-Australian trip in 1912
- Hemmings article about owning a 1905 Brush Runabout
- Autoweek article about driving a 1911 Runabout