The Big Car Database


The Chadwick Engineering Works, founded and run by the brilliant engineer Lee Chadwick, were located in Pottstown, PA.

The Chadwick Engineering Works produced high end luxury cars. A 1910 Chadwick was the first commercially manufactured automobile with a top speed of more than 100 mph. 

Chadwick had started manufacturing automobile components in 1904 / 1905 under the name Fairmont Engineering Works (His patent for a gear lever was recorded in 1904). The Horseless Age of May 31, 1905 notes the company's leaflet for a gasoline filter - the company's address is listed as 2652 Callowhill Street in Philadelphia.

The Horseless Age of December 27, 1905 features the first Chadwick car, a four cylinder (40hp) Touring, manufactured under the name Fairmont Engineering Works - their address is listed as 3207 Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia. By 1907 they had introduced the "Great Six", and a need for more space necessitated a move, 32 miles northwest to Pottstown (on the Schuylkill River), where a new factory was built in 1907.

The Automobile of September 19, 1907 reported that work on the new plant in Pottstown was being rushed and the company expected it to be in operation by November (South Keim Street). Apparently, the company was looking to clear some back stock prior to the move, as the The Automobile of July 4, 1907 shows an advertisement stating: "Chadwick 1907 cars are all sold. We want to clean up for 1908 business, and offer the following at prices which should sell them at once: 1906 Chadwick 50-hp, brand new; 1906 Chadwick 50-hp, refinished like new; both cars guaranteed one year; one Panhard 20-passenger wagonette; one 24-hp Locomobile."

By Doug Marin:  In 1904 Lee Chadwick bought the remaining parts from the bankrupt Searchmont Automobile Co. and started building a car using his last name. Within three years the company was manufacturing a luxury car with a 707 c.i. six-cylinder engine. The Chadwick six was produced from 1907 through 1915, and there were three versions: The “Model 15”, “16,” and “19”. Each new offering involved numerous upgrades and design changes. Lee Chadwick was always focused on the efficiency of his motors and, in turn, the amount of power produced. Each model had an upgraded set of valves (first sized at 2.125-inch diameter and ending up at 3.0-inch), intake manifold, and carburetor.

The old adage “race on Sunday and sell on Monday” was common in the 1908-’12 period, and many manufacturers including Chadwick had a “factory racer”. The Company produced a short-wheelbase runabout for $6500.00 in 1908 and praised the 100 m.p.h. speed it was capable of. An owner could drive one to the races, lighten up the car by removing the fenders and lamps, go racing, put the equipment back on the car afterwards and drive it home.

The factory racer was the test bed for the innovations. In an effort to gain more power, Lee Chadwick tried using multiple carburetors that improved performance, but decided that something more productive was needed. He had spent a great deal of time with steel producers, focusing on the heat treatment of steel, while trying make the parts of his automobiles stronger. This experience provided a firsthand vision of how a forge blower intensifies a a coal fire. In addition, across the street from his factory was a company that produced both centrifugal and roots style blowers for farm use – undoubtedly, a visit there gave Mr. Chadwick a pretty good idea of how to make a blower. Within this environment he and his crew put two and two together and the idea was born: Install a blower on the car.

Chadwick tried, at least, two different superchargers. The first one in 1907, a large single-impeller centrifugal blower was used (it may have come off of one of the forges Lee Chadwick had worked with in the steel mills). This unit was mounted above the flywheel and protruded into the cockpit. It was used on the “Black Bess Racer,” the factory race car which ran at numerous hill climbs, Indianapolis opening day in 1909, Fairmont Park Races in 1908 and 1909, Vanderbilt Cup in 1908, Savannah Cup races in 1908, and many other events. It had a very large bulge in the hood which extended back beyond the firewall. In addition, there is a vertical pipe mounted to the dash – this plumbing is most likely to take care of the occasional backfire explosion!

Since the beginning of antique car collecting, enthusiasts have been seeking for a supercharged Chadwick car or blower unit. Lee Chadwick was still alive in the early 1950s and response to numerous requests; he drew up the three-stage supercharger. At that time, he stated his memory was not what it used to be, and the drawing was as close to the original as he could remember. The late Bill Pollock, who owned two Chadwick’s in the early 1950s, undertook an intensive search, but, in the end was not able to track down any photographs or any other data about the superchargers. As of 2016, no known photo exists.

When I bought my 1909 “Model 16” Chadwick engine and associated parts in 1979, I was able to talk to Joe Parkin Jr. He had driven a Chadwick race car in the 1908 and ’09 races at Fairmont Park, in Philadelphia. He also did not have any photos, but he remembered clearly as to how the unit was mounted on his racing car. He said it produced more power than they could use, and if they hadn’t had so many flat tires, they would have won the races.

Joe Parkin’s car ran in 1908 and ’09 at Fairmont Park, and probably at other racing events. His car used a later three- stage blower, with smaller impellers that compounded the pressure from one chamber to the next. The blower was mounted under the hood at the right front of the engine. The Parkin car had a smaller bulge in the hood compared to the Black Bess Racer. These two cars, and perhaps a few others Chadwick racers were eventually turned into road cars and later sold.

In 1910, the Chadwick “Model 19” engine was revised again, and a new intake manifold was employed along with three-inch diameter valves and a larger version of a carburetor. Photos of 1910 and later race cars do not display the drive belt or hood bulges, pointing to the probability that they were not supercharged.

In laying out this supercharger for my own car, and the front-mounted under hood location where it will be, Chadwick’s 1953 drawings were the main source of information for this recreation. All of the drive parts were copied and the blower size adjusted so that it would fit under the hood in the correct location. The drawings were then made, and then the necessary wooden patterns, followed by a trip to the foundry for the castings; afterward, the machining operations were conducted. The supercharger is now assembled and has been run on a test bench and puts out quite a bit of pressurized airflow.

Numerous changes will have to be made so that the supercharger can be positioned correctly on the car. The magneto needs to be setup to drive from the back of the exhaust camshaft. The blower pulley and belt drive system will also have to be fitted to the car, and the intake manifold needs some modifications so that the drive shaft clears. Finally, there is the plumbing between the blower and the carburetor that needs to be fabricated and installed. Once running, I expect a number of adjustments will be required, but I am looking forward to the out come.