Project Description

1895 Armstrong Phaeton

1895 Armstrong Phaeton Restoration

AAfter its building in Bridgeport, Connecticut the 1895 Armstrong Phaeton was one of six entrants in a race hosted by Cosmopolitan magazine. The race ran from the New York City Manhattan Post Office to the Cosmopolitan offices in Irvington, New York.

Shortly after the race, the car was placed on the market by The American Carriage Motor Company, of New York, likely as a test for the principals of Armstrong determine the commercial viability of their prototype. A lukewarm response resulted in a return to Armstrong’s Bridgeport factory, where it remained until around 1950, when the firm was purchased by Capewell. The contents of the factory, including the penny-farthings and the Armstrong, were moved to Hartford.

The Armstrong would lay dormant for another 13 years, until discovered in 1963. From there, the car was moved into a Capewell employee’s garage in Harwinton, Connecticut, which would be its home until 1995. The existence of the Armstrong was then brought to the attention of the Magee brothers by Dennis David, a local automotive historian. The car spent several years in their collection before being exported to England by Robin Loder, an enthusiastic member of the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain. Loder entrusted the car to restorer Robert Steer, one of the foremost restorers of Veteran cars, who set about restoring the cosmetics of the car, as well as preserving a majority of the bodywork. Steer would also sort all of the intricate electromechanical workings that were devised by the estimated half-dozen Armstrong employees involved in its manufacture.

The Armstrong is a display of Yankee ingenuity throughout, and it bristles with features that would not be seen on other production vehicles for many years to come. These included a tubular chassis frame, electric lights, and electromagnetically controlled inlet valves. The car also features an early form of automatic spark control, which was managed by a flyweight governor mounted on the end of the crankshaft. In addition, the Armstrong features a silent electromagnetic starter within the flywheel; Armstrong called it a “commencer,” and it was also found much later on the Mercer Model 22-70 and the Owen Magnetic. The transmission is a three-speed unit with additional variable magnetic drive, which is yet another wonder that preceded the similarly engineered unit found on the Owen Magnetic some 20 years later.

Within the last several years, the car was imported back to the United States, where it was treated to a fresh round of sorting by well-known Brass- and Veteran-era specialist Stewart Laidlaw. This included work on the original electric starter, which is a critical element, as there is no means for hand-cranking, as well as an adjustment of the electrically controlled inlet valves. Most importantly, the Armstrong has been dated by the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain as being manufactured in 1896. This is typical of the conservatism of the VCC, given that contemporary sources indicate the date of completion to be 1895 or perhaps 1894. In any case, the dating certificate is extremely important for its eligibility for entry into Veteran car events around the world, including the revered London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.

1895 Armstrong Phaeton Gallery

About Laidlaw Antique Auto Restoration

Laidlaw Restoration has primarily specialized in Brass Era Vehicles, we have extensive experience with vehicles of any age. >Our portfolio spans three generations of fine auto restoration and some of the most elegant vehicles to win the Concours. Vehicles we’ve restored can be found in all corners of the globe, and we are well-known within the industry for providing services for the most discriminating attention to detail. We enjoy our work, and the vehicles we work on. We also personally own several brass era and steam cars.

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