Automobile, full size, International Auto Buggy, and loose parts, 20 hp, serial No. 1074D, Model D, engine No. 54, made by International Harvester Company of America Incorp., Akron, Ohio, USA, 1910
Motoring was still in its infancy when this International Auto Buggy was manufactured in 1910 by the US farm machinery manufacturer International Harvester Company (I.H.C.) of America Incorp., at Akron, Ohio. The most striking thing about this car is its tall wheels fitted with solid rubber tyres, which gave this type of vehicle the name "high wheeler". Essentially, the car is a standard horse-drawn buggy modified and equipped with a simple motor and transmission. At the time, eighteen manufacturers in America were making similar high wheeler auto buggies including Schacht, Holsman, Fuller, McIntyre, Haines & Grut, and Galloway, although the International Harvester Co. models appear to have been the most popular in Australia.
Before the First World War few people in Australia knew how to drive cars before they bought them, and the International Harvester Company sent out an "expert" for a week with every auto buggy purchased to teach them. Farmers were apparently the worst pupils as they expected a car to behave like a horse: to stay on course when directed and to steer around obstacles in its path.
In Australia in the first decade of the twentieth century, while other cars were described as toys for the rich, "used for pleasure and not for profit", the International Auto Buggy was promoted as being a useful vehicle for station owners, farmers, doctors, and town and country salesmen. It was said to be the cheapest automobile in Australia, one third the cost of a conventional car. It required much less maintenance, had durable solid rubber tyres rather than troublesome pneumatic ones, and did not need a chauffeur.
Apparently, the Auto Buggy's practical no-nonsense design appealed to Australian farmers as they were easy to repair and could negotiate rough, muddy and rutted country roads which would clog the small wheels of ordinary cars. The high wheels provided good ground clearance of 14½ inches (36.8 cm) to easily cross paddocks and a more comfortable ride compared to the shaking and discomfort experienced driving at 15 to 20 mph (24.1 kph to 32.2 kph) on bad roads in the expensive conventional cars of the period. At 1 penny per mile for fuel, it was claimed that the International Auto Buggy was much cheaper to run than horses, could cover twice the distance, and that the rear seat could be removed to allow it to carry up to 800 pounds (362.9 kg) of supplies and equipment.
In 1909 car ownership in Australia is thought to have been one in every one thousand people, yet with such persuasive advertising it is not surprising that in the months of March and April 1910, a total of 144 International Auto Buggies were sold in Australia. This model cost 179 pounds ($358) if paid in cash. A considerable number of the vehicles were sold in South Australia, where they were especially popular north of Port Augusta. However, the car was outdated in design even before it had arrived here in 1909.
Production of the high wheeler auto buggies at I.H.C. finished in 1911, and its conventional touring and roadster cars, introduced in 1910, did not sell well and were not manufactured after that year. From then on the firm concentrated on making auto wagons, called motor trucks from 1912, which continued in conventional and high wheeler styles until 1916. It wasn't long before Australian farmers, doctors, tradesmen and clergymen were wooed by the famous Model T Ford, of which 250,000 were sold in this country from 1909. According to a 1991 register of International Auto Buggies, it is thought that about 25 survive.
"Antique Automobile", Vol. 27, No. 2.
"The High Wheeler Register", Warrnambool, Victoria, August, 1991.
"The 'I.H.C.' Auto Buggy", in "The Australian Hub", 15 September, 1909, p.11.
Simpson, Margaret. "On the Move: a history of transport in Australia", Powerhouse Publishing, Sydney, 2005.
Curator, Science & Industry
The International Harvester Co. was established in the USA in 1902 after the amalgamation of five agricultural machinery manufacturing companies including the McCormick Harvesting Co. and the Deering Harvester Co. In 1906 the first tractor was produced and in that year E.A Johnston, an employee of the company, designed a high wheeler auto buggy by adding one of the firm's engines to a buggy-style vehicle. The prototype first ran in October 1906 and production began in February the following year at McCormick's Chicago, Illinois, factory. This model had a 14/16 hp flat two-cylinder engine with a 2-speed friction transmission and block chain drive. Only 100 vehicles (serial numbers 101 to 200) were made before production was moved in October 1907 to Akron, Ohio, in the former factory of the Buckeye Mower & Reaper Co. Body styles included 2 and 4 passenger auto buggies and a delivery truck (called an auto wagon). The rear seat of the 4-passenger buggy could be removed to allow it to be used as a delivery wagon which made it popular with farmers and peddlers. From October 1907 to 1 March 1910 the serial numbers ranged from 201 to 2972. Two models were then produced: the Model C in standard track of 56 inches (142.2 cm) and the Model D in a wide track of 60 inches (152.4 cm). The Model C auto buggy had the serial numbers 2973C to 3341C in 1910 and 3342C to 3428C in 1911. The Model D models had the numbers 101D to 978D from 1908 to 1 March 1910, 979D to 1194D in 1910, and 1195D to 1288D in 1911.
The 1908 model auto buggy reverted to a roller chain and the crankcase was higher with the lid well above the cam follower. In 1909 a brake was fitted to the differential on the jack shaft. By 1910 the vehicle began to look heavier with 5 inch (12.7 cm) wooden chassis rails while a bonnet was introduced which housed the fuel tank and batteries. In that year the firm added conventional touring and roadster cars with standard wheels. In 1911 the ignition was changed to a magneto and timer mounted on top of the crankcase. Production of auto buggies finished in 1911 after 4,510 had been manufactured.
Contemporary advertisements run by the International Harvester Co. of America in Australia in 1910 advised that "More than 7,000 I.H.C.s are already in successful use", and that the vehicle was "cheaper, quicker, and more comfortable than horse vehicles; the simplest, handsomest and most reliable Auto Vehicle ever offered at anywhere near the price".
Georgano, N. "The Beaulieu Encyclopaedia of the Automobile", The Stationery Office, London, 2000.
"The High Wheeler Register", Warrnambool, Victoria, August 1991
Historical Facts About Early International Harvester Automotive Vehicles, International Harvester Company, Chicago, Illinois, USA, n.d.
"The Weekly Times", [Victoria], 26 February 1910.
This International Auto Buggy was made in the United States at the Akron, (Ohio) works of the International Harvester Company of America. Nothing is known regarding the arrival of the car in Australia or its use throughout the first half of the twentieth century. The Auto Buggy was presented to the Museum in 1950 by Mr Claude Kellion of the Motor Wreckers Department, Kellion Bros. Pty Ltd, 195 Victoria Road, Marrickville, NSW, in honour and in memory of Mr Reginald Clarence Kellion.
The car was restored to its present condition by staff of the Powerhouse Museum in 1982. The engine, gearbox and differential were completely overhauled. A new coil box was made, and the car was fitted with Model T Ford coils. A new petrol tank, wiring and clutch lining were also added so that the car was in roadworthy condition and road registered to be available to participate in car rallies and parades. In 1983 the car was driven in the Festival of Sydney Parade by Keith Potter on Saturday 29 January with the number plate "MUSEUM". In 1987 the car was filmed in operation at Vision Valley by the Children's & Education Service of the ABC in a film series called "Motor Life" together with two of the Museum's other cars, the 1929 Bugatti and the Model T Ford.