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Underslung Traveler
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  American Underslung Traveler

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Country of origin:United States
Produced from:1907 - 1914
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:June 30, 2008
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Click here to download printer friendly versionDuring the first half of the 20th century designers learned that a lower center of gravity greatly benefited a car's handling. A major step forward was adopting the 'underslung' chassis design, which had the axles run above the chassis rails, rather than under. One of the great pioneers of this layout was Reid Railton, who incorporated it most famously in the 'Low Chassis' Invicta of 1930. Invicta were by no means the first company to produce an underslung car in significant numbers. That honour goes to the American Motor Car Company, founded in Indianapolis in 1906.

Among the designers employed by 'American' was the legendary Harry C. Stutz and he has often been credited for creating the 'Underslung' introduced late in 1906. This was not the case; he was responsible for the conventionally sprung machines. The real father of the ground-breaking chassis was in fact Fred I. Tone, who was American's chief engineer. For American the marketing aspect of having the lowest car was much more important than the potential handling improvements although it seems that Tone and his men were aware of them.

The most conventional aspect of the American Underslung was its steel ladder frame chassis. To achieve the desired low 'stance', Tone mounted the semi-elliptic leaf springs upside down on top of the frame. On top of that the two live axles were bolted and the underslung frame was born. In order to protect the delicate mechanics from the rough roads, massive 40 inch wheels were fitted and the engine was mounted higher in the chassis using a separate subframe. Quite in contrast with the advanced chassis design, the four cylinder T-head engines used were very simple and relied on size rather than sophistication for power.

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  Article Image gallery (27) 2050 Specifications