If your old and craggly like me you remember the ole days before the internet and buying junk from a mail order catalog. Heavy hitters like JC Penny, JC Whitney, Radio Shack and perhaps the Grand Poobah of all of them was Sears and Roebuck Company.
Back in olden times you waited with anticipation for the mail man to deliver a gaggle of catalogs enabling you to do mail order shopping decades before the Internet, Amazon, eBay, Google and online shopping were even a glint in the eye of Early 20th Century Shoppers.
In 1896, the first Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalogue was published offering a wide variety of products to its mail order customers. The original concept for Sears was to offer a huge selection of products to rural populations but soon became just as popular in big city's
Through the years, the Sears-Roebuck catalogue was the source of products ranging from clothing to toys to household items (including the house itself!). The fall 1908 catalogue included, for the first time, an automobile: The Sears Motor Buggy.
After Richard Sears retired as company president in 1908, new Sears President Robert E. Wood was persuaded by associates to get into the automobile craze and take advantage of this new trend. The company approached Alvaro S. Krotz, who had built an electric car under his own name in Ohio from 1903 - 1904, to design and produce a car.
The initial run of Sears Motor Buggies were built in the Hercules Buggy plant in Evansville, Indiana. But by late 1908, the Sears Motor Car Works factory at the intersection of Harrison and Loomis streets in Chicago was ready, and operations commenced from there.
The October 6th, 1909 issue of The Horseless Age says "Sears, Roebuck & Co., Chicago, Ill., are employing about fifty men in assembling their motor buggy." I believe it is around this time that production was moved from the Hercules Buggy Works in Evansville, IN to the Chicago Plant and this announcement was about the hiring of men to produce them.
In the initial production year of 1908, the Sears was offered only as a $395.00, solid-tired, runabout. But starting in 1910, Sears offers 5 different models of the automobile. The truth of the matter is that they were all basically the same car with different amenities, like fenders, lights, tops, etc. Very Chic for the time.
Much like Henry's Model T you could have any color as long as it was black but rumor had it you could get a dark green.
Your Sears Motor Buggy or Runabout could be picked up in Chicago or delivered to your local railroad station. The 1400 pound crate would include a semi assembled car. With simple instructions for final assembly all you did was add oil and gasoline to be on the road in your Horseless Carriage.
Motivating your Sears Car was a Reeves produced horizontal opposed two cylinder engine with dual fans, a friction transmission with forward and reverse gears, dual chain drive.
Controls consisted of a tiller steering lever, throttle and ignition advance. Wheels were a 36x13/8 wood wagon type. Tires supplied were a kidney punching hard rubber type. Blazing speeds of 25mph could be coaxed if you went down hill and had enough Chutzpah.
Prices ranged from $370.00 for the no fender or top Motor Runabout and $395.00 for the posh Motor Buggy that came with fenders and a top. If you were feeling Richie Rich for an added $12.00 you could get Acetylene Lights. The seat was made from your fave cow in a rough to the touch black leather. "Unofficially" The Sears Motor Buggy and Runabout were sold by Sears from 1908 to 1912. Sales weren't bad it just cost more to produce than the low selling price.
Our feature 1908 Sears Model G Motor Runabout has a long history and paperwork from the current owners. Sadly due to an estate this piece of Automotive history is up for sale. It has an older but very still presentable restoration. It was restored with period correct materials and workmanship. Not over restored that seems to be the better than new trend.
The other thing that makes this horseless carriage special is it's a running and roadworthy vehicle. Just a turn of the crank and the little Sears Putters to a smooth steady idle.
The question as always is What's It Worth? At a recent Sotheby's Auction a 1909 Sears Model J Motor Buggy sold for $35,200. Keep in mind the Motor Buggy was considered a better model than the Motor Runabout because it had fenders and a top. Also consider the vehicle sold at Sotheby's was not in running condition but was in better cosmetic condition.