The Richard automobile

One of the pleasant aspects of editing Motor Sport is the unending flow of interesting letters and material which enthusiastic readers very kindly go to the trouble of sending me. Although it isn’t possible to publish more than a small proportion of this correspondence, it is all assimilated with interest and enjoyment. Among the more intriguing documents to appear on my desk recently was a catalogue donated by Spencer Quinn, a reader of 23 years’ standing, concerning the Richard car, described by its Cleveland, Ohio, sponsors as “the automobile sensation of 1915”.

This was particularly interesting because the Georgano Encyclopaedia devotes but four-and-a-bit lines to this make, stating, incidentally, that its abnormally long-stroke engine “necessitated a bonnet considerably higher than the rest of the body”. The Richard certainly had this exceptionally long stroke, its T-head four-cylinder engine being of 4 in. x 8 15/16 in., to give a capacity of 7.3-litres. An illustration does not show an unduly lofty bonnet but as no windscreen is depicted it is presumably a drawing, causing one to wonder if the car had been made by 1915.

The Richard was described to prospective agents as belonging to the 3,500-dollar class, so the easiest car to sell at 1,850 dollars! They were told that it was the work of the French designer Francois Richard, of whom “probably no man is better known in the automobile world of America and France—he stands among the foremost in the great army of men who have devoted their entire lives to the furthering of the greatest industry in the World, the Automobile”. The achievements of this presumably elderly engineer were then enumerated. In 1900, it was claimed, he built the first French two-stroke engine, which won him a gold medal. In 1904, in St. Louis, he won another, for his gasoline/kerosene carburetter. This Richard carburetter, described as “practically three carburetters in one”, yet with “complications eliminated”, was used on the Richard car, the only one able, it was claimed, to run on either petrol or paraffin, thanks to three jets and seven air-intakes. After building a 250-h.p eight-cylinder car in two months 26 days, which was the “fastest in the world” (sic!), M. Richard turned to a 5 1/8 in. x 10 in. single-cylinder car said to do 82 m.p.h. and 42 m.p.g. and then built a 90-h.p. four-cylinder model guaranteed to do 75 m.p.h. and 30 m.p.g. which, three days after completion, we are told, was doing 98 m.p.h. and 26 m.p.g.—on gasolene.

M. Richard seems to have been a quick worker, although alleged to make all his own drawings and supervise all pattern work, casting and machinery, because he apparently took only three weeks to design and build a 12-h.p. Only car, which beat every runner at the 1910 Port Jefferson hill-climb, except a 200-h.p. Fiat, which clocked 20.48 sec. to the Only’s 40.29sec., this 800-dollar car vanquishing a field which included Lancia, Maison, Velie, Cutting, P S Six, Oakland, Thomas, Everitt, Buick, Ford, Jackson, Hupmobile, Corbin and Knox cars.

Reverting to the 1915 Richard, which was claimed to do 80 m.p.h. and 26 m.p.g., it was rated at 25 h.p., developed 96 h.p. and had a three-speed transmission stressed for 120 h.p. The 114-lb. crankshaft ran in two babbit and one ball-bearing, the pistons were cast-iron, two magnetos were possible, the valve heads measured 2 3/4 in., thermosyphon cooling sufficed, with a 1,800 sq. in. radiator, there was a cone clutch, final drive was 3.5 to 1, the wheelbase measured 10 ft. 6 1/2 in., RIV supplied the bearings, the fuel tank held 29 gallons, and there was a pre-engaged electric starter. The standard colour was grey with blue stripes. The catalogue lists weights of components, from 850 lb. for the engine and 175 lb. for the gearbox to 305 lb. for the back axle and 112 lb. for the “shoes”. A touring car with a piston stroke of almost 230 mm. deserves to be remembered. Does anyone?—W. B.