1905 Packard Model N Runabout (top; image by author); 1910 Elmore Model 36 Demi-tonneau (bottom; image by Terry Shea).
Editor’s note: This or That is not a comparison report between two vehicles, but rather a feature that enables us, in an idyllic world, to add a collectible vehicle into our dream garage on a regular basis, but with a catch: We can only pick one vehicle from this pairing, and it has to be for enjoyment purposes rather than as an investment.
Featured in this edition of This or That are a pair of rare brass-era beauties: a 1905 Packard Model N Runabout and a 1910 Elmore Model 36 Demi-tonneau. The first two decades of the fledgling auto industry were tumultuous. Thousands of companies were incorporated; hundreds failed to witness production; and even fewer survived beyond the early Thirties. All had humble beginnings, including both the Packard and Elmore, though they were aimed at different markets, as demonstrated by the Packard’s $3,400 sticker price versus Elmore’s $1,750. Here are a few more details concerning each (if you want to read more than we’ve provided, both cars were former subject material in our Hemmings Classic Car magazine–just click on the links provided).
Though their first cars emerged in 1899, Packard’s 1905 Model N was a newly designed replacement for both the 1904 Model L and M. Offered in five body styles, each Model N was constructed on a 106-inch wheelbase chassis featuring full elliptical front and rear springs that supported a straight axle up front and a bevel gear transaxle in the rear. Nestled into the framework was Packard’s also-new 265.7-cu.in. L-head four-cylinder, the cylinders of which were cast in iron in pairs, touting a bore and stroke that equated to 4.065 x 5.125 inches. Rated for 28 hp at 900 rpm, a three-speed sliding-gear manual transmission transferred power at the rear transaxle. According to owners, then and now, the Model N’s had enough power to achieve top speeds nearing 55 mph, made possible–in part–the extensive use of aluminum throughout, including the crankcase, aforementioned transaxle, transmission casing, and bodywork. The Runabout tipped the scales at just 2,100 pounds; a figure that could have been reduced had Packard not made their now-famous tombstone-style radiator (introduced in 1904) of brass. Whether it was Packard’s fine engineering, ample power, or model redesign in general, total model-year output jumped from 207 units (in 1905) to 401.
As to the little-known Elmore, the company had been founded in Elmore, Ohio, in 1892, as the Elmore Bicycle Company. The firm relocated to Clyde, Ohio, in 1897, began experimenting with two-stroke engines soon after, and ultimately launched automobile production in 1900. Their name was changed to the Elmore Manufacturing Company shortly thereafter. Despite the unconventional use of a two-stroke engine–more details of which were outlined in the original article–the Elmore was successful enough to draw the eyes of Billy Durant. As penned by Terry Shea, Hemmings associate editor,
Sales reached 209 cars in 1906, more than doubled to 467 cars in 1907, and grew nearly another 50 percent in 1908, to 648 units. All of this activity attracted Durant, and GM purchased Elmore in November of 1909, for somewhere between $500,000 to $600,000. What little has been written about Elmore’s history suggests that GM bought Elmore for its two-stroke patents, but all signs point to the most significant patents having expired by then. Whatever Durant’s motivation, GM’s financial backers soon soured on Elmore after Durant’s forced departure in 1910. At first, they moved production from Ohio to Detroit in 1911, but all Elmore production ceased in 1912. What was left of the once-pioneering automaker was sold off in 1916 for $50,000.
While under GM’s control in 1910, the base Elmore was the Model 36 Demi-tonneau. at its core was a two-stroke, four-cylinder powerplant, the key dimensions of which were a 4.50 x 4.00-inch bore and stroke that culminated with 254.4-cu.in. good for 36 horsepower. Elmore advertised the Model 36 to be good for 50 mph. That engine was secured to a 110-inch wheelbase chassis, along with a three-speed sliding-shift transmission connected to a driveshaft and, ultimately, a Buick-based differential.
Extant examples of both these vehicles is single-digit rare today. Given the opportunity, which of the two would you add to your stable and why?