Pilot (automobile)

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There were at least three different cars called Pilot. There was a British car built 1909–1914 in London; an American car built 1909–1924 in Richmond, Indiana; and a German car built 1923–1925 in Werdau.

British car[edit]

The company who created this car started out as a driving and maintenance school. In 1909, they displayed a car with a 4-cylinder White and Poppe engine of 16 hp. The following year they displayed another 4-cylinder car, this one with a Hillman engine and belt and cone-pulley drive.[1] Both of these were probably the only cars produced with these specifications. In 1911, the parent company was reformed as Pilot Works and Friction Cars, Ltd to produce a smaller car. This one had a Coventry-Simplex single-cylinder engine of only 7 hp, in addition to friction drive. In 1912-1914, yet another engine was employed in their cars—a Chapuis-Dornier 4-cylinder of 10 hp. This car also used friction drive. This appears to be the last car produced.

American car[edit]

This car 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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4]

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."[4] 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.[4]

German car[edit]

This light car used a 6/30PS 4-cylinder engine. Soon after the car debuted, the firm was bought by a rail carriage-maker, Sächsische Waggonfabrik.[2] Production was thereafter carried out in the new firm's factory in Werdau. In addition to both open and closed cars, a delivery van was also produced for the short time the marque was in existence. Due to the poor economic conditions in Germany at the time, the firm soon dropped automobiles altogether to concentrate on rail production.


  1. ^ G.N. Georgano, Nick. The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile (Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2000), p.1233.
  2. ^ a b G.N. Georgano, p.1233.
  3. ^ Kimes, Beverly Rae. Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942 (Iola, WI: Krause, 1996), p.1192.
  4. ^ a b c Kimes, p.1192.


  • Georgano, Nick (Editor). The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2000. ISBN 1-57958-293-1
  • Kimes, Beverly Rae and Clark Jr, Henry Austin. Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942 (Third Edition). Iola, WI: Krause. 1996. ISBN 0-87341-428-4