The Big Car Database

Pilot

The Pilot was built by the Pilot Motor Car Company of Richmond, Indiana.

For its entire lifespan, the firm was headed by George Seidel, who was also head of the local Seidel Buggy Company. Initially, the cars were built in the Seidel Buggy factory while a stand-alone factory was constructed across town. It has been said that the cars were named Pilot because Seidel had wanted to become a river boat pilot. Pilots were assembled cars that were not particularly noteworthy. Nonetheless, their advertising slogan was "The Car Ahead", doubtless because of the name of the car. The new factory had a capacity of 500 cars per year, though in some later years, production approached 1000. The firm was one of the first in the automotive field to hire women, though mainly for upholstery and curtain work.

At first, 4-cylinder Teetor-Hartley engines were the motive force of the cars. In 1913, a 6-cylinder engine was added to the line-up. From 1915 to 1924, only sixes were offered, except for 1916, when a V8 made a one-year appearance as an engine choice. In 1913, the six-cylinder car cost $2500, as opposed to the $1500–$1800 for the four-cylinder cars. In 1920, a larger Herschell-Spillman six was added. A Sportster model was introduced in the summer of 1922 and was the most dashing car from the firm, with barrel headlights and no running boards.

The firm took over the local Lorraine, but that could not help it survive long beyond the early 1920s recession. A few Lorraine hearses were produced before that marque was discontinued. The Pilot Motor Car Company was forced into receivership in 1923 by what George Seidel described as "cut-throat tactics of Eastern money interests." The last Pilots were produced in early 1924, and the factory was then sold to a local businessman for $28,500.

Pilots were durable cars, as evidenced by the fact that George Seidel received a letter in the 1940s from a car dealer in South America, where a number of Pilots had been exported. The dealer inquired if any Pilots were still available, and their price. As an aside, George Seidel was proud of his hometown, as evidenced by the cars he drove: first, a Richmond; then a Pilot (obviously); and finally, a Davis.

 

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