Pictured: Chase - 1908 Delivery Wagon - Photographed at the Louwman museum, The Netherlands - 2011
Chase Motor Truck Company (1907-1919), founded by Aurin M. Chase, was a manufacturer of trucks in Syracuse, New York. The vehicles were known for their air-cooled engines and simplicity of design.
The company also produced a utility wagon in the form of an automobile, which could be converted for use in business or pleasure. With a few minor changes the car could also be utilized as a commercial wagon.
|Genre||Delivery trucks, farm tractors|
|Founder||Aurin M. Chase|
|Headquarters||Syracuse, New York, United States|
|United States, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Great Britain|
Chase Motor Truck Company had its roots in the manufacture of farm implements. Company founder, Aurin M. Chase, former vice president of the Syracuse Chilled Plow Company, a company that had been in business since 1804, started production of a one-ton truck with an air-cooled, three-cylinder, two-cycle engine. Chase was backed by Paul Bellinger of the Solvay Process Company, Roy Grant of Grant's Hardware and other Syracuse business figures.
That same year, Aurin Chase negotiated sale of the Syracuse Chilled Plow Company to Deere & Company.
Chase had what seemed like a solid idea in the early days of automobile manufacturing, a gasoline-fueled "high wheeler" that could be transformed into either a truck or passenger car.
The company motto in 1912 advertisements was "The emblem of efficiency." According to the company, "Chase trucks are not pleasure cars. They are service vehicles. That increasing numbers of leading business houses everywhere are sending in repeat orders is due to the fact that after an intimate study of motor truck efficiency they are satisfied that the Chase truck is the simplest and most efficient light delivery truck on the market to-day."
In the beginning, the company manufactured all parts except the wheels. The local plant at 332 South West Street in Syracuse employed 200 men who were busy building and assembling frames, transmissions, bodies, engines and gears.
By 1909, the company was producing a two-cylinder, air-cooled engine with 129 cubic inches and 12-horsepower, which was built in-house. The truck had a Bosch magneto and retrofit Holley carburetor, linked to a two-speed planetary transmission. It also had a hand-crank starter.
Throughout the years, Chase built one-cylinder, three-cylinder and four-cylinder engines; all were two-strokes. Aurin Chase designed his trucks for a smooth conversion to a car and back to truck as needed; "being high wheelers, they looked perhaps a little strange when configured as cars, but when wearing truck bodies as “expresses” or “runabouts,” they looked much like early Brockways."
Chase was apparently involved with early Brockway production in 1910 and later supplied components to the Cortland, New York, firm.
Expansion and exports
Chase established a factory branch in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by June, 1905, and E. F. Howell was named manager.
During March 1910, the company was preparing to double the output of its factory and did so by expanding an old skating rink located at the corner of Wyoming Street and South West Street in Syracuse, which was owned by the company and adjoined their present shops. Offices were built on the South West Street side of the rink with show rooms in the rear. The entire rink area was remodeled and used for manufacturing purposes.
The company was shipping its product at the rate of two carloads a day to all parts of the United States. One carload a week was sent to San Francisco for distribution on the West coast and another two carloads to Boston and Newport, Rhode Island. Additionally, three carloads were sent to Kansas City, Indianapolis and Lynn, Massachusetts.
By 1912, they established "branches" in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Albany, New York, Springfield, Ohio, Fremont, Ohio, and Memphis, Tennessee. Company management had just returned from a "successful" trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where arrangements were completed for a new Chase agency under the supervision of J. A. Rogers. This agency chose "a particularly fine corner location" at Broad and Wallace streets on the main thoroughfare of automobile travel in Philadelphia and was "in the very heart of the motor truck district."
In addition to the agency, Rogers was also tasked with maintaining a service station in the immediate neighborhood. E. F. Howell, the Philadelphia district manager moved the headquarters of his agency to the same location.
In 1912, the company branched out and began exporting trucks to Great Britain.
By October 1912, the company had doubled their business in a little over a year. The various models "are all enjoying an active sale," in particular, the 1,000 pounds (450 kg) and the one-ton trucks. The increase in business came somewhat as a surprise to management, "considering, this is a presidential year when business conditions are not always considered the brightest."
In July 1909, the company was advertising a "Chase car designed for special business uses" which was also called a new "utility wagon for western roads." The vehicle was referred to as a surrey or business wagon and according to the company they were in "great demand" in the Western United States.
The design called for a combination of business and pleasure and the new Chase model was patterned along lines which permitted it to be used for both purposes. With a few small changes, the vehicle could be transformed into a commercial wagon. The construction of the utility wagon did not differ significantly from other Chase products.
The power was supplied by a three-cylinder vertical engine of the two-cycle type. The bore was 3.75-inch (95 mm) with a stroke of 4-inch (100 mm) and conservative rating of 15-horsepower. The engine was air-cooled and therefore had no pump, water to be renewed frequently, piping to leak, "nor any other sources of trouble."
Simplicity both in number of parts and their operation was "heightened by the use of a two-speed and reverse planetary transmission, running in a bath of oil." The oiling system reveals the effort that was made to reduce the number of parts to a minimum. For this reason, the makers introduced a self-oiling system in which the oil was introduced into the fuel tank when the fuel tank was filled. This method brought the lubricant into the cylinders with the fuel and thoroughly lubricated the interior of the engine. From the cylinder, the oil dropped to the bottom of the crankcase and from there was "splashed onto the sides of the case" where it flowed to the two bearings.
From the jackshaft, the final drive was controlled by means of double side chains to the rear wheels which were of 40-inch (1,000 mm) diameter and equipped with tires of solid rubber, 1.625-inch (41.3 mm) in diameter with spokes of 1.25-inch (32 mm).
Combined with the oversized wheels, the vehicle had a long wheelbase of 100-inch (2,500 mm) which made for a very "easy riding car" while providing an unusual amount of road clearance and the ability to surmount large obstacles if necessary. The car also came with a full set of elliptic springs for a smoother ride. The brakes were the band type and were located on the rear wheels, "the lining being such to allow easy renewal." Total weight of the vehicle was 1,500-pound (680 kg).
The car came standard with the surrey type body with a removable rear seat and could hold a total of four passengers. Once the rear seat was taken out, the car converted to a runabout and total seating was reduced to two. A top of canopy style could be purchased for an additional cost over and above the $900 price of the vehicle.
According to the manufacturer, the automobile was "designed to take care of the needs of the traveling salesmen and to enable them to cover a large number of towns each day." For this reason, the ability to remove the rear seat provided extra room for the salesmen's luggage or sample cases and the car had a low operating cost coupled with the inherent simplicity of mechanism and control. The advertising also noted that use of the vehicle would reduce the need to pay railroad fare. "Telephone and electric light companies will find this model of great value to their trouble men, while farmers will appreciate it for an errand wagon, and with the added rear seat, for pleasure trips."
Aurin M. Chase was the son of Austin C. Chase (b. 1835), who was vice-president of Syracuse Savings Bank and postmaster of city of Syracuse for 9 years.
In late 1904, before he formed his auto enterprise, Chase was hired by H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Company as assistant-superintendent of the factory. He had formerly been the second vice-president of the Syracuse Chilled Plow Company.
By 1912 in the New York City area and portions of the south, there had been a marked increase in sales of the heavier Chase models due to the heavier traffic demands of the city and the general poor road conditions of the southern roads. Some of the buyers that year were, Wm. J. Lemp Company who ordered a two-ton Model J, S & W Bauman department store and a third "repeat" order from the Dillman Baking Company as well as several "well-known" manufacturing concerns.
In New York City, repeat orders were received from Brunswick Laundry in Jersey City, New Jersey and in the south, the Coca-Cola Company of Georgia and the Pepsi-Cola Company of North Carolina had bought half a dozen one-ton and 1.5-ton Chase trucks. Six trucks were also sold to the United Gas & Improvement Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These were one-ton models equipped with the selective type sliding gear transmission.
Foreign orders included one for Melbourne, Australia, one for Varna, Bulgaria, and three for St. John's, Newfoundland, comprising a 3,000 pounds (1,400 kg) express, a standard one-ton truck and one covered one-ton express truck.
By June 1912, the company advertised that Chase was popular among the great New York department stores including; R. H. Macy & Company and James A. Hearn & Sons as well as Stern Brothers who were repeat customers. Abraham & Strauss was a new customer that month and bought a special Model K. The Chase dealers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, placed an order for 62 trucks, of which six were delivered to the Dakota Central Telephone Company of Aberdeen, South Dakota.
Among other orders were those of the H. L. Keats Auto Company, of Portland, Oregon, for nine trucks, the Intermountain Auto Truck Company, of Butte, Montana, for six trucks and the City of Seattle who ordered five Model D and Model K expresses.
Chase began production of farm tractors in 1911.
Chase was credited as the first manufacturer to build commercial grade motor trucks. Early Chase trucks had "big, buggy-type wheels" and could attain a speed of 25 mph (40 km/h) on a "suitable grade." By 1912, the company ended its foray into passenger cars and focused on building motor trucks exclusively.
The company supplemented the use of self-built two-stroke engines by offering "a variety of Continental power for its rigs." The body size was increased in size to scale to 2.5, 3.5 and 5 tons.
The truck underwent a radical change in 1912 when a four-cylinder, water-cooled engine designed by J. E. Gramlich, a resident of Fayetteville, New York, replaced the original air-cooled engine. That same year, the company also began the practice of buying all parts except the body. This helped the company advance the design to a "conventional layout with a worm-gear final drive and four-cylinder power from Continental."
The "moneymaking" Chase truck in 1912 was one-ton with chain drive, wooden carriage wheels and solid tires. To meet the growing demand for a motor truck of 500 pounds (230 kg) capacity, the company offered the Model M Express at a price of $500. The company advertised that they were "Confident that it will satisfy the immediate needs of a great host of business houses everywhere, we offer it to an expectant market. Model M embodies all the great Chase features of efficiency, simplicity and economy."
In 1912, Chase advertised that "trucks are bought in group lots." They had five models that year with bed capacities from 1,000 pounds (450 kg) to the Model J Express at 4,000 pounds (1,800 kg).
By 1913, the company advertised it had "six efficient models in every style of body." Truck bed capacities were 500 pounds (230 kg) to 4,000 pounds (1,800 kg).
Aurin M. Chase founded the company in 1909. In 1912, Edward A. Kingsbury was secretary and treasurer of the Chase Motor Truck Company. By March 1922, Chase interests in the Chase Motor Truck Company had purchased the interests of "former" secretary and treasurer, Kingsbury, after he became connected with the Sanford Motor Truck Company. It had been reported in the local press that "rumors have been circulated locally, that the Chase Motor Truck Company was to be "taken over" by some concern outside the city. In each case, A. M. Chase, president of the company, discounted the rumors.
World War I
All the models had four-cylinders, Bosch ignitions with disc clutch and worm final drive.
Hal T. Boulden was general sales manager in February 1916. He noted that the "Never before has the truck outlook been bright as it is now. The only trouble is that there is a shortage of materials." According to Boulden, if not for the shortage in materials, the company would be "working night and day to fill orders." The Chase factory was running at full capacity that year and had a 200 percent increase in business in 1916. Boulden also touted that the company had "not accepted a single order from either of the warring nations and it is against our idea of Americanism to do so."
By 1918, Chase had five models in production:
- Model T - Cost $1,500 - Capacity 1,500 pounds (680 kg)
- Model A - Cost $1,650 - Capacity 2,000 pounds (910 kg)
- Model R - Cost $2,200 - Capacity 4,000 pounds (1,800 kg)
- Model B - Cost $2,475 - Capacity 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg)
- Model O - Cost $3,300 - Capacity 7,000 pounds (3,200 kg)
Financial problems arose as a result of losses incurred in providing replacement parts to customers. This led to the abandonment of truck production during the war period starting in 1917. Ironically, many other truck manufacturers found the war "a boom source," however, it was reported that Chase had turned down a sizable government contract.
During World War I, Chase was one out of 150 truck manufacturers vying for a government contract to build the Liberty Class B military truck. The majority of the order was cancelled, which put a significant number of the truck builders out of business.
For several months after World War I ended, the plant continued to produce three-wheeled farm tractors, which Chase began production of in 1911. At the end of the wartime "Grow more food" campaign in 1919, the demand for tractors leveled off and the company sold its rights and goodwill to a Canadian parts supplier.
It has been estimated that as many as 5,000 Chase vehicles were produced. Fewer than 30-40 Chase trucks are still in existence today.