1899 Karns Runabout news, pictures, specifications, and information
Horseless Carriage
Sold for $28,600 at 2008 RM Auctions.
Sold for $23,100 at 2009 RM Auctions.
The history of the Karns automobile started like so many of that era - with roots in the carriage building industry. Chester Karns of Everett, Pennsylvania was the son of a carriage builder. As the auto-industry began to take shape, Chester began experimenting with simple one-cylinder runabouts. He would eventually build several other examples, such as this circa 1899 Karns Runabout, while his father would remain steadfast in the carriage building business.

By 1900, Karns built a two-cylinder four-seater model that featured a 12-cylinder engine and steering by a steering-wheel. Karns had every intention of putting the vehicle into small scale production but lacked the capital needed to make it a reality.

The last Karns Runabout produced was believed to be the sole surviving example. It participated in the 1952 revival Glidden Tour. Chester Karns retained the car for many years before donating it to the town of Everett in 1971. He applied for a title that same year for the car. Shortly after giving the car to the town of Everett, the car went missing and its whereabouts are still unknown.

This Runabout sat in a shed since the 1950s and was only recently discovered. It has a water-cooled engine, atmospheric intake valve, and uses single chain drive to the rear axle. It is believed to have once had tiller steering, though it now has cable-actuated wheel steering. As the other Karns has been missing for many decades, this Karns Runabout is believed to be the sole surviving example.

In 2008 this car was brought to the 2nd Annual Vintage Motor Cars of Hershey presented by RM Auctions where it was estimated to sell for $25,000 - $35,000. It was offered without reserve. A high bid of $28,600, including buyer's premium, was enough to secure new ownership. The lot was sold.

At the 2009 Vintage Motor Cars of Hershey presented by RM Auctions, this car was again offered for sale. This time it was listed as a 1900 Everett, PA Horseless Carriage. One of the car's prior owners believes it was the work of Chester Karns, the son of a Pennsylvania carriage builder. Though the car has many clues that would have supported its Karns heritage - such as the unique radiator to the angle iron running gear, there are some historians that discount this claim. They state several printed sources as well as conversations with Karn's son, that this was not a Karns automobile. It is believed that Karns never built more than one car.

At the 2009 auction, the car was expected to sell for $35,000 - $45,000 and offered without reserve. The lot was sold for the sum of $23,100, including buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2009
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