April 2015 Car of the Month
1919 Cole Aero Eight 885 Toursedan
The Cole Motor Car Company of Indianapolis was started by Joseph Jaret Cole (J. J. Cole) in 1909. Although the Cole is known as an assembled make, they built one of the finest quality automobiles of their time. Assembled car manufacturers, such as Cole, purchased much of the car’s content from outside sources, rather than building it in-house.
J. J. Cole was born near Waterloo, Indiana, in 1869. He attended a business college in Richmond, Indiana, and in 1888 went to Indianapolis to join the Parry Manufacturing Company, which at the time was the country’s largest carriage manufacturer. During Cole’s time at Parry, he gained valuable experience in management and manufacturing. He became the traveling sales representative for the entire east coast. In 1896, Cole joined the Joseph W. Moon Buggy Company of St. Louis, Missouri, to become sales manager for the state of Texas. By 1901, he was promoted to secretary of the company and became one of the company’s principle stockholders.
In 1904, Cole resigned from Moon and purchased the assets and production facilities of the Gates-Osborne Carriage Company of Indianapolis. In September 1905, Cole renamed it the Cole Carriage Company. With his new carriage works prospering, Cole sold nearly 3,000 units in 1908. Cole realized that the automobile was going to replace the horse. With Charles Crawford working as the engineer, Cole built his first prototype automobile in late 1908. The prototype was powered by a two-cylinder 14-horsepower engine. The body was buggy-like with high wheels and solid rubber tires. Cole sold 170 units by the summer of 1909. In mid-1909, Cole introduced a larger touring car with a 30-horsepower, four-cylinder engine. Cole quickly expanded to offer four body types priced from $1,400 to $1,500. Cole renamed the company the Cole Motor Car Company.
After building four and six-cylinder engines for several years, Cole introduced a V-8 engine in 1915. The new V-8 was designed by Charles Crawford and featured separate cast cylinder blocks and crank case. Crawford’s engine was powerful, smooth running, and constructed to allow for easy repair. This engine was manufactured by the Northway Company, a division of General Motors located in Detroit that also built engines for Cadillac.
This Cole Aero Eight 885 Toursedan is powered by the Crawford-designed V-8. It has the optional Westing-house air spring that was available on high-end automobiles beginning in 1919. The air springs are the two large vertical cylinders located at the very front and rear of the car. By filling the spring with air at the top of the chamber (located under the nickel valve cap) the spring raises the height of the car. This allows all leaf springs to have one end firmly attached to the frame and the other end supported by the air spring. The air spring was offered as a way to soften the ride on the rough roads of the day. To fill the air springs, the car has an on-board air compressor attached to the transmission. By removing the driver’s seat cushion, one has access to the air compressor engagement lever and air hose to recharge all four air springs and tires.
Cole’s highest year of production was 1919 at 6,255 units. In 1920, the number dropped to 5,838 units, however after that, sales plunged severely. By 1924, J. J. Cole was experiencing declining health and the company had few customers. Cole ceased production in the fall of 1924. J. J. Cole suffered a heart attack on August 5, 1925 and died two days later. The company was liquidated over the next five years and actually yielded a profit of $39.08 per share for its investors.
Donated through the courtesy of Anne and Keith Funk, in memory of Keith’s father, Perry Cleveland Funk.
Experience the passion as you step back through time to the golden era of automobiles. Walk the same hallways as the automotive giants of yesterday. Touring the museum will give you an impression of what a day at Auburn Automobile Company must have been like in the 1930s.