1901 Winton Runabout
Engine: 149ci Horizontal Single-Cylinder
Transmission: 2-Speed Constant Mesh, Individual Clutches
Lights: Gray & Davis Kerosene Lamps
A Winton Runabout is the iconic machine that an industry sprang from. In 1898, Alexander Winton set about series producing a batch of 50 identical motorcars. Prior to this point, the few American autos that had been built were done one at a time when ordered by customers. Winton changed all this by building in batches and in significant numbers. This hugely important fact should not overshadow the brilliant design of the motorcar he was producing.
Winton, who’s background was in steam engineering, devised a brilliant self-regulating intake system for his new automobile. Employing a small air pump in the crank case that created pressure with each crankshaft revolution, this pressure would then be fed to a chamber that limited the action of the intake valve. As engine speed increased the rising air pressure would restrict the valves causing the engine to throttle down. The driver could press an accelerator pedal that would bleed the air from the system allowing the motor to accelerate and make maximum power.
The Winton was more than just a brilliant engine design. The car was handsome and complete package. Well known for light and precise steering and easy handling. One of the best features was there gearbox. Instead of using the typical American planetary unit, Winton designed a constant-mesh two-speed unit. Each gear was activated by a buttery smooth bronze clutch. The combination of the self-regulated engine and the silky-smooth gearbox made the Winton exceptionally easy to drive for customers new to motoring.
Early 20th century motoring was a bit different than today. With few roads and inadequate road lighting, drivers rarely ventured into the night. For this reason, many horseless carriages of the time were not equipped with headlamps. Although he electric lightbulb was invented by Thomas Edison in 1879, the earliest forms of headlamps used kerosene or acetylene gas. The earliest electric headlamps were powered by a small dynamo driven by the engines flywheel. The result was a lighting source that was much more expensive and slightly more effective than gas powered lamps. Tanks of kerosene or acetylene are often seen on automobiles of this period.
The purpose of early headlamps was to ensure your automobile could be seen by other drivers. The kerosene lamps were by no means powerful enough to light the road ahead, creating just enough light to signal other drivers during darker hours.
Gray & Davis, from Amesbury, MA produced the lamps seen on this Winton, offered aftermarket options for owners who needed to be seen at night. Taglines such as, “We have always set the style” helped Gray & Davis to market the lamps to early auto enthusiasts, as the look of the lamps were just as important as how they performed. Along with hood ornaments, lamps were an early form of automobile customization. Owners wanted lamps that looked as well as they performed, making their cars both unique and effective at all hours of the day.