The Way It Was


Published:

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL AUTOMOTIVE HISTORY COLLECTION, DETROIT PUBLIC LIBRARY

1911

The short life of the Abbott-Detroit automobile resembled a fiery nova: It shone bright but briefly, and is remembered only by gearheads and automotive history buffs. The Abbott-Detroit (1909-19) was renowned as a luxury drive, but its marketing department also touted its durability and speed. Publicity from the period reveals it was entered in several auto races, and it was featured prominently in cross-country endurance journeys. In 1911 advertising, the Abbott-Detroit was being touted as the “Up-to-the-Minute Car.” This fashionable quartet of women sitting in an Abbott-Detroit in front of the Belle Isle Casino reflects the “up-to-the-minute” claim — at least for 1911. The car, whose 4- and 6-cylinder engines were built by Continental (there were also some 8-cylinders built by Herschell-Spillman), were assembled at the company’s plant on Waterloo Street, on Detroit’s east side. But in 1916, the firm’s board decided to move to a bigger location in Cleveland, at which time the name “Detroit” was dropped, and the auto was known simply as the Abbott. It turned out to be a bad move. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1918, and the 1919 model was its last. The Abbott drove off into automotive oblivion, something these carefree women hardly thought possible only a few years before. 

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