|Founder||Elliott C. Lee, Lucius J. Phelps|
|Successor||Shawmut Motor Company|
Lucius J. Phelps was an inventor and an electrical and mechanical engineer who first came to prominence in 1886 for his Induction Telegraph patent that was developed for trains to receive live telegraph messages while moving. In the late 1890's he became interested in steam powered vehicles and in 1901 marketed the Phelps Tractor. The steam tractor was designed to be controlled by horse rains so that a coachman could operate it. As Phelps Motor Company, Phelps then began developing a gasoline engine.
Phelps Motor Car
In 1903 Phelps Motor Company became Phelps Motor Vehicle Company with Elliott C. Lee as president and L. J. Phelps as general manager. The 1903 Phelps was a touring car model, equipped with a tonneau. It could seat 4 passengers and sold for $2,000, equivalent to $65,141 in 2022. L. J. Phelps designed the vertically mounted water-cooled straight-3 engine, situated at the front of the car, producing 15 hp (11 kW; 15 PS). A 3-speed transmission was fitted. The car was unusual in that it did not have a parameter frame but a backbone frame that enclosed the drive shaft, and this weight savings made for a 1,500 lb (680 kg) touring car. In 1904 the engine was enlarged to 20-hp and the price was $2,500, equivalent to $81,426 in 2022.
Phelps demonstrated his car in several endurance runs and hill climbs including a 1903 record 1 hour and 46 minute climb up Mount Washington. He returned in 1904 for the first Climb to the Clouds and cut his time to 42 minutes, placing second in his class. The Phelps motor car won a double victory in the1903 Eagle Rock, N.J. Hill Climb.
L. J. Phelps designed a 4-cylinder engine but in September 1905 decided to retire to his Forty Oaks Ranch in Paradise, California. The company and manufacturing plant were succeeded by the Shawmut Motor Company headed by E. C. Lee in 1906. Lucius Phelps continued to patent automotive and other devices until his death at the age of 75 in 1925.
1903 Phelps 15-hp Tonneau Touring car from The Automobile magazine
1904 Phelps 25-hp Touring Car from brochure
- Explore Stoneham - Car Industry in Stoneham
- Mt. Washington Road Auto Road history
- Phelps images at Detroit Public Library
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