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Dick Hempel
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

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.

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