Searchmont Motor Company

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Searchmont Wagonette (1901), derived from the very similar Keystone Wagonette
1904 Searchmont Type VI Tonneau, Chassis No. 310, during the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run 2009

The Searchmont Motor Company was an American automobile manufacturer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

It evolved in 1900 from the Keystone Motor Company of Philadelphia (1899–1900) when this company had been bought out by Theodore C. Search (1841–1920), head of the Stetson Hat Company), Spencer Trask and other local businessmen. Keystone managing director and engineer Edward B. Gallaher accepted a position as the plant manager with the new company. The Keystone Wagonette, a Runabout for two passengers with a water-cooled single-cylinder engine in a compartment under the seat and chain drive stayed in production as the Searchmont Wagonette until 1902. In November, 1901, the car became also available with a new 10 bhp (7.5 kW) twin. This engine was derived from the single cylinder engine (which was still offered), using as many of its parts as possible. Initially, a Searchmont Wagonette cost $750.

Involved in the development of the Searchmont automobile was a young engineer named Lee Sherman Chadwick. In 1902, Trask tried to interest the well-known French Race car driver Henri Fournier, winner of the 1901 Paris–Bordeaux and Paris–Berlin races for Mors, in the Searchmont company. Although he finally failed — he even renamed the company as the 'Fournier-Searchmont Motor Company — there is some French influence evident in the Searchmont. This is shown in a certain resemblance with the contemporary Mors, and the use of a pressure feed lubrication system — the first in a U.S. production car. This is the reason that the cars of the company were sometimes also referred to as Fournier-Searchmonts.

Two new front-engined cars appeared for 1902 which again featured many parts from the Wagonette. Both were runabouts with improved engines. The smaller and sportier Type 3 got a wheelbase of 66 inches (1,700 mm) and a 12 bhp (8.9 kW), two-cylinder engine. The bigger Type IV had a wheelbase of 70 inches (1,800 mm) and 6 bhp (4.5 kW) from a single cylinder engine. Shortly later, a larger Twin, Type V appeared. It came with four-seater Tonneau coachwork, the Type III's twin engine, and had a wheelbase of 78 inches (2,000 mm). The problem with them was the price of $2,000 – $2,250.

Searchmont refined the Type V and offered it as the Type VI with 8 bhp (6.0 kW) in the following year. A new addition was the Type VII, a very attractive four-passenger Tonneau with a 10 bhp (7.5 kW) two-cylinder engine and a wheelbase of 81 in. They cost $2,000 and $2,500, respectively.

Chadwick developed a four-cylinder engine with 32 bhp (24 kW) for a new Type VIII which was scheduled for 1904. This did not occur because Trask had ill speculated with capital stock, and the other partners did not wish to continue. So, the company was liquidated. The John Wanamaker Department Stores bought the remaining stock of 100 two-cylinder cars for only $750 a piece, selling them easily at $1,200. One of them was bought by Charles Yale Knight, who put the first of his sleeve valve engines in it.

Chadwick was very disappointed that the new four-cylinder car was abandoned. He bought out all plans and already delivered parts, founded his own company, the Fairmount Engineering Works, which soon became the Chadwick Engineering Works and started production. He built the car as the Chadwick Type 9 seven-passenger touring car with a wheelbase of 107.5 inches (2,730 mm) at a price of $4.000. Its engine now delivered 32 bhp (24 kW) and the car became the ancestor of a well-respected luxury sports car.

Two survivors[edit]

The Type VI Tonneau chassis No. 310 pictured in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run is in the collection at the Seal Cove Auto Museum as of December 2014. A second Searchmont, 1903 model five-passenger Deluxe Type VII, is in the collection of the Forney Transportation Museum.

External links[edit]


  • Kimes, Beverly Rae (editor) and Clark, Henry Austin, jr., ; The Standard Catalogue of American Cars, 2nd Edition, Krause Publications, Iola WI 54990 (1985), ISBN 0-87341-111-0
  • Georgano, G.N. (editor): Complete Encyclopedia of Motorcars, 1885 to the Present; Dutton Press, New York, 2. Auflage (Hardcover) 1973, ISBN 0-525-08351-0