1906 Thomas Flyer

The E.R. Thomas Motor Company, originally bicycle manufacturers, started building motor cars in 1899 in Buffalo, New York. By 1906, a division of this company was operating in Detroit, building Thomas-Detroit cars.

Each Thomas Flyer was test-driven at 60 miles per hour prior to delivery. The 1906 Thomas Flyers were powered by a four-cylinder engine that delivered 50 horsepower. The wheelbase size measured 118-inches and were priced from $3,000 - $4,500. Body styles included a seven-passenger tourer, limousine, semi-limousine, and a landaulet.

The Erwin Ross (E.R.) Thomas Motor Company produced automobiles from 1902 through 1919. Production transpired in Buffalo, New York. The first cars produced by the company appeared in 1903 and were mostly small runabouts with seating for two. The company had begun like so many other auto-manufacturing firms at the time - through a bicycle business. Thomas had been building bicycles for several companies before making the switch to automotive production.

The first E.R. Thomas Motor cars were powered by a vertically-mounted water-cooled straight-three cylinder engine that produced just over 20 horsepower. The engine was mated to a two-speed planetary gearbox.

As times progressed, so did the E.R. Thomas Motor Cars. The Company did much to promote their vehicles and to attract customers, such as painting the cars in bright and attractive colors. The cars became more powerful and elegant and became renowned for their reliability and endurance.

In 1908, an E.R. Thomas Car was entered into 'The Great Race' which ran from New York to Paris. The decision was made at the last minute and there was little time to properly adapt the car for the race. Instead, the company pulled one from the production line and entered it into the race. The race began at New York during the winter and proceeded for San Francisco. The entrants then loaded onto a boat and traveled to Alaska and then Siberia. Once they arrived at Siberia, the race continued.

The race lasted 171 days and covered 13,300 miles. At the conclusion of the race, ending in Paris, it was an E.R. Thomas in first place, claiming the overall victory.

Demand for the E.R. Thomas Motor cars increased after the heroic victory. In 1911, the company only produced six-cylinder cars. Within a year, the car had entered into receivership and purchased by C.A. Finnegan of the Empire Smelting Company. The company continued to produce cars through 1916, after which, the cars were able to be special ordered. It is believed that the company continued until 1918 or 1919.


By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2011

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