1911 Cole Model 30 Torpedo Roadster displayed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

The 1911 Cole Model 30 Torpedo Roadster displayed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is an excellent example of the early Cole automobiles. Visit the Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit today.

1911 Cole Torpedo Roadster
1911 Cole Torpedo Roadster

In the early months of 1908, Joseph J. Cole began to give serious thought to building an automobile and secured the permission of the other board members of the The Cole Carriage Company to build an automobile that the company might manufacture. The first Cole Solid Tire Automobile was ready for the board’s inspection on October 9, 1908.

The first Cole’s carriage appearance was the result of its design to meet the road conditions of the day. It was a primitive high wheeler with solid tires, powered by a 14 hp air-cooled flat twin engine. In the next seven months, the Cole Carriage Company built 170 solid tire cars retailing from $725 to $775.

The Model 30 introduced in 1910, was successful in racing events around the country. They captured the Massapequa Trophy in the Vanderbilt Cup Race, in addition to numerous other contests on both East and West coasts, including a 24-hour marathon at Brighton Beach.

Plans for the new 1912 Cole Model 40 were reviewed by the board in November 1911. This model included a Leonard Electric lighting system, a Prest-O-Lite self-starter, a Bosh dual ignition, a Schebler carburetor, and Firestone pneumatic tires with demountable rims. Their second newcomer, the Speedster was built for “The man who wants to get there first.” Each and every Speedster was tested at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and guaranteed to go 70 miles per hour. Other major improvements for 1913 include shifting the driver’s seat from the right to the left side of the car and the adoption of the Delco “starting, lighting, and ignition system.”

The “Cole Eight” made its debut in January 1915. With this introduction, Cole became the second manufacturer after Cadillac to offer a V-8 engine. Cole headlined the “Berline Limousine,” a large model that seated six in the spacious body. The early part of 1916 marked the shift to total eight-cylinder engine production.

The year 1917 saw the introduction of the unique “Cole Toursedan,” designed to give the motorist a closed car in the winter and an open touring car in the summer. The Toursedan had a permanent top and could be transformed to a touring car by storing all of the windows and the upper sections of the door frames in provided compartments.

The Cole “Aero-Eight” was displayed at the New York Auto Show in January 1918. The V-8 engine, rated at 80 h.p., had a counterbalanced crankshaft and aluminum-alloy pistons. In 1919 marked a high point for the company and was very near the actual capacity of the plant. This ranked Cole as second only to Cadillac among America’s high-priced automakers.

The recession brought a decline in all business activity as well as a serious curtailment of automobile sales. The success of the low-price, mass-produced cars cut the volume of Cole class cars approximately 50 percent.

In 1922, Cole had all aluminum bodies on three of the five closed models. Cole added another “first” to its credit in September 1923 by introducing “balloon tires” as standard equipment on the Volante model. The Firestone Balloon Tire operated at 25 p.s.i. versus the 70 p.s.i. in a standard tire. The 1924 Master Models offered a newly designed multiple disc, self-adjusting clutch. Production of the Cole automobile ceased in October 1924. In January 1925, while his company was still solvent, J. J. Cole chose to liquidate rather than jeopardize the remaining assets of the corporation. The 1925 Cole Brouette on display at the Speedway Museum is one of the last Coles built.

A total of 40,717 automobiles bear the Cole name. Each and every automobile was a quality product, utilizing the best material and craftsmanship available, and designed in the latest manner. These characteristics were all a symbol of the J. J. Cole, who had built them, a man who truly possessed a touch of tomorrow is all he did.

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