Lot 185

Hershey 2019

1912 Detroiter Type A Speedster

The Merrick Auto Museum Collection


$28,050 USD | Sold

United States | Hershey, Pennsylvania



Engine No.
  • Little-known and near-forgotten Detroit make
  • Unique one-off speedster body
  • The oldest known example

The Briggs-Detroiter Company was formed in October 1911 by Charles S. Briggs, formerly with Brush, and John A. Boyle. W.S. Lee was appointed chief engineer, while Zach Barber, a former E-M-F distributor, became sales manager. The first Detroiter, a four-cylinder Continental-engined assembled car, was introduced in January 1912 at the Detroit Automobile Show.

Initial sales were encouraging. The introductory five-passenger touring was joined by a roadster in 1913. Then, in 1914, six Type A variants were catalogued, in addition to a jaunty Kangaroo speedster with virtually no body. By 1915, however, the company was in receivership. Later that summer, Alfred O. Dunk, an inveterate investor/rescuer/disperser of bankrupt automobile companies, reorganized the firm as the Detroiter Motor Car Company and continued production until early 1917. Another reorganization did not help, and the whole operation was auctioned off that December.

The Kangaroo speedster notwithstanding, this Detroiter has been built up in the idiom of a Mercer Raceabout. Indeed, according to the history accompanying the car, it was ordered as a bare chassis by Ferd and Fred Dennis, brothers who had a Detroiter dealership in St. Marys, Indiana. Ferd lusted for a Mercer, so he took the opportunity to craft a facsimile on a Detroiter chassis. It was built in St. Marys during the winter of 1912–13 with two factory engineers in attendance, and one story says it served as a prototype for the Kangaroo speedster, itself reputedly aimed at the Australian market. Its engine is a Turmo (Turner & Moore) four, as used in other Detroiters that year.

Around 1930 Ferd Dennis sold the speedster to a farmer, who used it as a stationary powerplant for a corn chopper. In 1950 it was bought by Don Baumgart of Evansville, Indiana, who restored it. The dashboard reportedly came from the SS Queen Mary when it was being converted for troop transport at the Brooklyn Navy yard during World War II. The Detroiter was purchased by the Merrick Auto Museum in 2004.

Unquestionably unique, this Detroiter will fit right in with many an eclectic collection.