The Auburn Auction

Lot 73
1904 Carter Electric Motorette
OFFERED WITHOUT RESERVE


Selling on Saturday Evening

1904 Carter Electric Motorette
Offered from The Roaring Twenties Collection

CHASSIS NO: SH6335PA

• All original upholstery, including top
• Purchased new in London, England in 1904
• Imported to the U.S. and was driven until 1942
• 20-mile range at speeds from 15 to 18 MPH


6-12 volt battery-operated, three-wheel chassis, single-speed electric motor, rear-wheel drive, tiller steering, single headlight


By the end of the 19th century, interest in motorized vehicles had increased greatly. Electric taxi cabs were introduced to the streets of London in 1897 by Walter C. Bersey and, later that same year, Samuel's Electric Carriage and Wagon Company began running 12 cabs in New York City. Electric powered vehicles had several advantages over their competitors. Early gasoline cars produced heavy vibrations, smells, and were unpleasantly noisy. They also required a substantial amount of effort to manually start with a hand crank. On the other hand, steam powered vehicles suffered from startup times of up to 45 minutes depending on the temperature; electronic vehicles did not require a lengthy start up process and were noted for their ease of operation. Interestingly, electric vehicles soon became labeled as “women’s cars” which lead some companies to add on dummy radiators to disguise the car’s true propulsion system. As the turn of the century saw more and more homes becoming wired for electricity, the electric vehicle’s popularity surged even more. In the United States, most of these early electric vehicles came in the form of massive, ornate carriages specially designed for upper-class customers and were a spectacle to see.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, electric cars were developing much more in line with commonality and popular use. This affordability allowed for greater access by the middle class. Such was the case with this peculiarly interesting Carter Electric Motorette. Offered in either a vestibule or pullman type body, the Carter Motorette was very small and light. This vehicle’s original owner traveled to London, England in 1904, purchased the vehicle, and had it imported to the United States for use at her estate in Rutland, Vermont. From then on, the Motorette saw frequent use travelling to the local bank, post office, and general store all the way up until 1942. It is surmised that the owner was so fond of her car that she wore out at nearly half a dozen tires just through regular use. Aside from a few rips and tears, the cloth top is in remarkably good condition for being over a century old. The single bench seat and blue exterior paint show slight signs of wear. The Motorette, capable of attaining speeds of 18-20 MPH, has a range of around 20 miles. It is powered by an electric motor which can operate on either a six- or 12-volt battery.

With interest in electric vehicles once again on the rise, this Carter Motorette will only increase in value over time. A very uncommon car such as this one is bound to generate great interest. Having been well preserved in The Roaring Twenties Collection, this car represents a significant point in the evolution of the electric vehicle.

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