The Doble Steam Car
Past to Present
The Doble steam car was produced between 1920 and 1931 in Emeryville, California. There were forty-two manufactured during this period of time. Dobles were very large and expensive vehicles in the price category of the Rolls-Royce. It is claimed that the Doble was one of the greatest near misses ever. Abner Doble was considered a mechanical and engineering genius, however, the Doble Company had at least one fatal flaw. It was under funded and was struggling to survive when the market crashed in 1929. Doble production was halted in 1931 but Mr. Doble did not give up his steam dream. He traveled around the world with his dreams and designs. He took his expertise to Germany, New Zealand and England. There he worked designing busses, cars, trucks and railcars. He continued to realize his dreams through others rather than utilizing his own capital. Past and present critics feel that the Doble steamer was the most refined and stylish of its era.
This 1925 Doble is owned by Mrs. Fey Orr, a resident of Momence, Illinois and a long. time member of the Momence Antique Car Club. The steamer was given to her and her husband, Fey, in 1966 by a friend, Mr. E.O. Herman. Mr. Herman was a member and co-founder of the car club. He came across the Doble in a Chicago junkyard. It is believed that he paid $60.00 and a shotgun for the vehicle. How this magnificent work of art ended up in a Chicago junkyard is still a mystery.
It is unclear as to the condition of the Doble when E.O. Herman acquired it from the junkyard. He was able to get it running with minimal time and effort. Mr. Herman was well acquainted with the steam process and the complexities of the steam engine. Originally, the Doble was purchased from the Doble Steam company by a Dr. Green for approximately $20,000.00. Compare that to a Model A which sold for $385.00 at the time.
At the 1925 Series E. Doble sat untouched from 1966 to 1996. In the Fall of 1996, the restoration process began. The Doble was transported from Momence to Lemont, Illinois. Mr. Howard Johnson, aided by Craig Westberg and Jim Locicero, began the lengthy process. The interior and exterior restoration have been completed. The steam unit itself is in functioning order and ready to roll. The electrical system is in the process of being completed and when done, the 1925 Doble will be ready to, once again, rule the road. Mrs. Orr's Doble was on display at the Momence Gladiolus Festival in August of 2000. Next year, (August, 2001), the steamer will be driven to the festival. It is estimated that there are six to nine Dobles in existence with two or three being fully functional.
This Doble has a water capacity of 60 gallons and a fuel capacity of 30 gallons, (low grade). It weighs about 5000 pounds, has knock on hubs, German silver lights and uses batteries for the purpose of igniting the burner. The tire size is 650x20 and can be easily purchased from a supplier in California. The Doble can reach speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. The boiler system, which is under the hood, contains 475 feet of tubular steel coiled around which carries the water. As the Doble runs down the road, there is absolute silence except the sound of the tires against the pavement. Back up lights were an additional feature of the 1925 Doble steamer. The body of the Doble is all aluminum which is why this steamer has survived the many years of storage.
Mrs. Orr's Doble is unique to other steamers in that it can travel further than other steamers due to its ability to recycle the water through a condenser system. The Doble has a range of 250 to 300 miles while other steam vehicles could only go 30 - 40 miles on their water because they lacked a condenser which circulated the water. Mrs. Orr has been approached by numerous entities in an attempt to take the Doble off her hands. She is, however, planning to retain ownership of this precious classic automobile.
Ron Pastori & Eldon Fraser
Illinois Region AACA
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