1925 Doble Steam Car, Number E-20, Murphy body with disappearing top. 150'' wheelbase. Operates at 1500 psi and 750°F superheat. Owned by Dick Hempel. Courtesy of Dick Hempel, Route 1, Box 173, Platte City, Missouri 64079.
Route 1 Box 173, Platte City Missouri 64079.
Recently my friend, Ross Naylor, let me read a copy of your publication, The Iron-Men Album, which I enjoyed immensely.
Back in the letters to the Editor column, there was a letter from Mr. R. O. Cole of Plattsmouth, Nebraska asking, 'What Happened to the Doble?' Among other things, Mr. Cole suggests that the company was bought out by or otherwise suppressed by the oil companies. This simply is not so.
Similar stories were circulated about the demise of the Stanley Company and practically every other make of steam automobile. Like the story of Santa Claus, they are good stories and fun to tell. They have no basis in fact.
If ever there was a man who wanted to get into the production of steam cars in large quantities, it was Abner Doble. Almost every thought he had from the time he was an apple-cheeked youth, until his death at the age of seventy-three, was aimed toward that goal. He tried and tried again, not only in this country, but in England, New Zealand and Germany. Even as late as 1956 he was under contract to McCulloch Motors as an advisor and engineer on their modern steam car project. That project was eventually shut down due to the initial cost factor, something which Mr. William Lear is learning all about right now. Just winding up the steam generator coils alone costs $1400.00, or more than twice the total production cost of a Volkswagen!
The Doble Corporation struggled along for about six years during which 24 cars were built. These were actually pilot models for a production car that just never became a reality. Each Doble represented approximately $33,000.00 of the corporate funds and did not include the cost of advertising or the factory itself. That was in the 1923-28 era when a dollar was a lot of buying power. The cars were built at Emeryville, California and were numbered E-1 through E-24. Eight complete, original cars remain and there are four more in various stages of alteration or disrepair.
Mr. Doble and his brothers tried many times to get the necessary funding for a production line and failed. Finally, the factory was taken over by the bankers and was eventually shut down. Warren Doble is still very much alive and I had dinner with him in August.
There are no secrets about the Doble Corporation. All of the records are still available if one wishes to dig them out. There is no evidence of any pay-off. Abner Doble himself, was obviously (to all who knew him) a broken-hearted man as a result, which is why he took his patents to other countries in an effort to get them interested. Nor did he show any evidence of sudden wealth. As a result of all the litigation, he was at one point, nearly put in jail. He rounded out his later years by working, just as the rest of us must do.
I have owned two of the good, eight Dobles, still have one. It was purchased new by Mr. Howard Hughes of movie, oil, airline and electronics fame. It is a roadster with very few miles. I drive it to all the old car meets in the Midwest and keep it in Mr. Naylor's garage in the winter. I hope to drive it up to Mt. Pleasant next year.
If anyone is interested, there is a little book which gives the entire history of the Doble. It is called, 'Doble Steam Cars, Buses, Lorries and Railcars.' Mail a check for $7.70 to Light Steam Power, Kirk Michael, Isle of Man, Great Britain.