- Written by webmin
As we mentioned last week, gasoline-electric hybrid cars are not a new invention, nor were they something that was only tried once at the outset of the automotive age before being revived again a century later. GM had its own hybrids in the 1960s, the XP512H and the XP833, and as Tim Martin from The Old Motor showed us recently, Colonel Edward Howland Robinson “Ned” Green had a series of three gasoline-electric hybrids built for him in 1929.
Green, despite what his name might imply, didn’t have his hybrids built out of any concern for the planet’s health, or for reducing oil dependency. In fact, he had them built specifically so he could, in his small way, increase the consumption of fossil fuels. Green – the son of the eccentric, but immensely wealthy Hetty Green – lost his leg as a boy, thus preventing him from ever experiencing a gasoline-powered car first-hand in those days prior to the widespread use of the automatic transmission. He got around thanks to a chauffeur and thanks to his electric Automatic Electric Pleasure Vehicle (another photo here), to which he occasionally mounted a radio array, yet he intended to drive a gasoline car himself, and he certainly had the means to do it.
The story of how Green’s cars came together doesn’t seem to be fully fleshed out. We know that he pledged $1 million toward the project and that he was a General Electric shareholder. We also know that in the mid-1910s, General Electric bought into the Entz electro-magnetic transmission patents and used them to manufacture the special transmissions that would be used in the Owen Magnetic and later in the Rauch and Lang taxicabs built in the late 1920s in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, under the ownership of Ray Deering. Furthermore, we also know that those Rauch and Lang taxicabs used Willys-Knight engines, and that John North Willys bought the F.B. Stearns Co. in 1925. It’s a long six degrees of separation, but it’s the most plausible explanation for the reason why the first of Green’s hybrid cars, a 1929 Stearns-Knight M 6-80 cabriolet with its Stearns-Knight sleeve-valve engine, was fitted with a GE-designed series hybrid system by Rauch and Lang in Massachusetts. GE, of course, took all the credit when Green took delivery of his cabriolet.
(Why they didn’t simply fit a GE electro-magnetic transmission to the Stearns-Knight is left for speculation. It would have resulted in the same net effect: a shiftless car.)
Pleased with the cabriolet, Green immediately ordered two more: a brougham and a sedan. According to the JRW Auto Museum’s account of the cars, the three were all badged and titled as Rauch and Lang cars, and GE and Rauch and Lang actually intended to enter production. That, of course never happened: Green had his three cars and saw little need to continue investing in the project. Meanwhile, Stearns-Knight ended production shortly after the crash of 1929. Without the project to keep it going, Rauch and Lang closed its doors.
After Green’s death in 1936, the three cars were split up. JRW Auto Museum notes that the cabriolet – the one in the above photo – was dismantled and scrapped. The second, the brougham, was left in a field to rot but is currently under restoration. The third, the sedan, made it back to Cleveland (the home of Stearns-Knight and the original home of Rauch and Lang and the Owen Magnetic), went into storage for many years, before passing through a few hands in the 1960s and 1970s. At one point, it was advertised in the March 1967 issue of Hemmings Motor News:
1930 Rausch-Lang (sic) gas-electric 4 door sedan. Very rare special made, unrestored. $895
It was then restored twice, sold a few more times (including once at RM’s Al Wiseman collection auction in 2007), then ended up in the JWR Auto Museum, where it rests today.