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Coming Unhinged: Our 1908 Rambler

by Nancy DeWitt

While Willy is away at the Scottsdale auctions, I thought I'd present a short profile on one of our Brass Era automobiles. This 1908 Rambler Model 31 five-passenger tourer is in amazing condition for a 104-year-old car. Its original owner had the misfortune of letting the block freeze before he had driven it a mere 1,000 miles. Rather than repair the car, he left it sitting on blocks in storage for the next 67 years.

The Rambler's next owner acquired it in 1975 and refreshed the car with a new paint job and rubber products. Otherwise, it remains in all-original condition to this day. The photo at right shows how well the seats and woodwork have been preserved.

Bicycle maker Thomas Jeffrey was among the first Americans to become interested in automobiles, building his first one in 1897 and moving into production of Ramblers in 1902. Jeffrey quickly gained a reputation for building high-quality, medium-priced automobiles and became the second manufacturer after Oldsmobile to build cars on an assembly line.

The Rambler Model 31 was advertised as “the car for country roads.” This touring car’s most notable feature is its hinged body, which can be swung upward with ease to expose the two-cylinder, 206-cubic-inch engine and two-speed transmission. The tonneau can also be removed completely. The Jeffrey Company claimed a person could convert this “utility car” from a five-passenger touring car to a two-passenger roadster or flatbed truck in three to five minutes. 

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