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 Chalmers Six-30 photo

1917 Chalmers Six-30

Chalmers automobiles were initially produced under the Thomas Detroit name. It was a lower-priced car by E.R. Thomas and produced under the Thomas name. After this venture failed, the cars were sold as the Chalmers Detroit starting in 1908, and quickly gained market acceptance. They offered good features and performance for a price that ranged from $1,500 - $3,000. The company was run by Hugh Chalmers (CEO of the National Cash Register Company), Howard Coffin, and Roy Chapin. Chalmers had purchased E.R.'s controlling interest in automaker Thomas-Detroit. Coffin and Chapin were introduced in producing a less expensive car, while Chalmers preferred a higher-quality performance-oriented car. Chalmers would end up with the sole control of his company as Coffin and Chapin persuaded J.L. Hudson to fund a new car company under their investor's name. Chalmers flourished with their mid-priced cars in the burgeoning American automobile industry. Their claims of 'Quality First' were backed up by victories at the Glidden Tour, Vanderbilt Cup, and Pikes Peak Hill Climb. These accomplishments and reputation gave Chalmers an impressive list of owners including Vanderbilts, J. Herreschoff, Rockefellers, and soon to be Packard chief engineer, Jesse Vincent.

In 1910, the name of the company was officially changed to Chalmers Motor Car Company and it would soon be elevated to among the nation's most popular builders. By 1915, they were building 20,000 cars annually.

Howard Coffin and Roy D. Chapin co-founded Hudson, and in 1917 Chalmers set their sights on competing in their market segment. A year earlier, Hudson had introduced its Super Six model and boasted of setting AAA-sanctioned records at Sheepshead Bay Speedway in Brooklyn, New York. Hoping to outclass their rivals, Chalmers created a 'Special Speedster' based on the Model Six-30 and powered by a 224 cubic-inch L-head straight-six.

The Chalmers Special Speedster was designed to beat Hudson's 24-hour speed record. Modifications were made to the engine, including the fitting of lightweight Lynite pistons, a two-stage Stromberg carburetor, and a full-pressure oiling system. In this guise, the engine offered 55 horsepower. A special 3:1 final drive ratio and lightweight body helped increase the overall top speed.

To help claim the speed record, Chalmers hired the 1912 Indianapolis 500 winner, Joe Dawson, to drive the car. Engineer Joe Gardham was retained as a relief driver. On the afternoon of August 1, 1917, the Chalmers Speedster, finished in a black and white livery and stripped of any nonessential components, set off on its record attempt. Dawson drove the car for 19 continuous hours. At the end of 24 hours, the Speedster had covered 1,898 miles at an average speed of 81.09 mph. Under the observation of the AAA, the Speedster had set 15-speed records, 12 for mileage, and three for time. Chalmers had also shattered the record set by Hudson in May 1916.


by Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2019
Vehicle Profiles
1917 Chalmers Six-30 vehicle information

Record Speedster

Chassis Num: 111019
Engine Num: 15011

This Chalmers Record Speedster remained in Chalmers' ownership until 1923, when the company ceased production after a merger with Maxwell. Its next owner was E. Lee Center, a Chalmers engineer who had been involved with the Speedster project. Mr. Cen....[continue reading]

Record Speedster
Chassis #: 111019 

Recent Vehicle Additions

Performance and Specification Comparison

Industry Production

#1#2#3Chalmers
1922Ford (1,147,028)Chevrolet (243,479)Dodge (152,673)
1921Ford (1,275,618)Chevrolet (130,855)Buick (82,930)3,000
1920Ford (806,040)Chevrolet (146,243)Dodge (141,000)9,800
1919Ford (820,445)Chevrolet (129,118)Buick (119,310)10,000
1918Ford (435,898)Buick (126,222)Willys Knight (88,753)6,700
1917Ford (622,351)Willys Knight (130,988)Buick (115,267)12,000
1916Ford (734,811)Willys Knight (140,111)Buick (124,834)21,000
1915Ford (501,492)Willys Knight (91,904)Dodge (45,000)9,800
1914Ford (308,162)Overland (48,461)Studebaker (35,374)6,200
1913Ford (168,220)Overland (37,422)Studebaker (31,994)6,000
1912Ford (78,440)Overland (28,572)Buick (19,812)

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