A Step Back in time 

Submitted by Bill Granlund

The Rise and Fall of the
Gaylord Motor Car Company

The Otsego County Herald and Times of May 20, 1910 ran the following brief article announcing the coming of a new automobile plant to Gaylord:

"Even the superb brilliancy and the magnificent spectacle which Halley's Comet has been presenting in the heavens as it is traveling about among the celestial constellations at an almost incredible speed on its 75-year orbit has not been a marker to the grandeur of the enthusiasm which has been manifested over this new phase of the industrial development of Gaylord.  It is not alone a matter which is especially pleasing to the citizens of this village, but is also very gratifying to the people throughout the entire county who make no hesitation in declaring the establishment of an automobile factory in Gaylord which now seems to be an assured fact, will not only be of benefit to Gaylord but will also aid in the development and advertisement of the entire county."

A copy of the organization contract, which this writer has in his possession, lists the following trustees for the new company:  A.B. Comstock, O.W. Farrar, F. Kramer, E. Sanfer, M. Demeres, William McCoy, John Pelton, F. Shipp and Guy Hamilton.  Guy Hamilton was also signed to a contract to supervise the business as its general manager.

The first Gaylord car was built in Detroit and driven to Gaylord in August of 1910 while the plant was still under construction.  Named the Gaylord 30, the car traveled from Detroit to Lansing and on to Grand Rapids during its route to Gaylord.  The car also passed through Saginaw and Bay City as well as Cadillac and Alba before its arrival to Gaylord.  The car traveled at a 25-to-47 mph clip which made Secretary Pelton, a member of the driving crew, nervous and he took a train home from Grand Rapids.  Pelton declared there was a hole in the side of the car which he held on to while Manger Hamilton was breaking a few speed records. (1)

The only accident during the trip took place between Grand Rapids and Saginaw when the crew hit a hole in the road traveling at 25 mph.  It threw the car into a ditch and bent the front axle.  They were only a short distance from Cedar Springs where they took the axle to be straightened and in five hours were once again on their way.

The car was well received and there were many requests to purchase the new vehicle.  In 1911 two cars were offered, the D.S. Touring Car and the Roadster, and a Model R-20 Utility Roadster.  The cars ranged in price from $1000 to $1500.

In 1912, the company reorganized due to financial difficulties.  In 1913 a new model D Runabout and Tourism car were introduced.  It proved to be the last model built.  The lack of stockholder investment to improve capital assets forced the plant to close in 1913.  The assembly plant was located in the building near the cemetery (Wisconsin Street west of Old 27 South).

Mr. Ivan Polus, who resides in Whitefish, Montana restored the only known Gaylord 30 automobile in existence.  He sold it to the Gaylord 30 Car Committee which raised over $20,000 to purchase the car.  The Gaylord Car  is on display at the Gaylord/Otsego County Chamber of Commerce welcome center.  (2)



(1)  Otsego Herald Times.  August 12, 1910

(2)  A brief history of the car written by Ivan Polus in the March and April 1968 issues of the Horseless Carriage Gazette.

Much of the information for this article was supplied by Herb Hutchins, an early historian of the county.


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