The Big Car Database


The Corbin was an American automobile manufactured from 1904 to 1912 in New Britain, Connecticut. Early cars were air-cooled, but the company later added water-cooling.


Philip Corbin, an “automobilist,” encouraged his family, owners of the American Hardware Corporation in New Britain, to enter the automobile business. The first Corbin automobiles were built in 1903. They were air-cooled, employing an ingenious system with a horizontal fan blowing air over 56 rows of sheet steel fins around individual cylinder castings.

Corbin may have been an enthusiast but he was also a conservative New Englander. He hedged his bets on air cooling by designing a parallel set of cylinder castings with water jackets so the air-cooled Corbins could also be built with a radiator and water cooling. Liquid proved to be the more successful coolant and, by 1910, the air-cooled Corbins were no more. The 1909 Seal Cove Auto Museum’s Model O is water cooled.

The Corbin Motor Vehicle Company of New Britain, Connecticut appears to have introduced their first cars around 1903. The Horseless Age of November 25, 1904 states

"The Corbin Motor Vehicle Co, of New Britain, Conn., will soon move into the old plant of the New Britain Knitting Co.  The company expect to make a small car of medium price as well as their touring car, during 1905."

According to the Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal of the time, the Corbin Motor Vehicle Company was controlled by the American Hardware Corporation. The founder and president of the American Hardware Corporation, Philip Corbin, giving the brand it's name. It turns out that New Britain was know as the "Hardware Capital of the World" or "Hardware City" at the time, with companies such as The Stanley Works (Stanley Tools) located there. It's import not to confuse this enterprise with the Jones-Corbin Company of Philadelphia - later re-organized at the Corbin Automobile Company. Early Corbins were air-cooled, similar to the Knox engine of the same vintage. In fact, Corbin had acquired the patent rights to J.H. Jones' air-cooled engine design. Jones would leave Corbin in 1904 and go to Knox as chief engineer. Corbin would eventually adopt a water-cooled engine design and promote it's cars through racing. The company placed second in the 1908 Dead Horse Hill Climb (Worcester, MA) and entered the 1910 Vanderbilt Cup Race (Long Island, NY). However, Corbin was unable to expand it's manufacturing capabilities and would end production in 1912.

During 1912, the Model 30 for $2,000 and Model 40 for $3,000 were on display in Madison Square Garden.