First Generation (1902-1914) Rambler

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About the Rambler

In the 1880s, bicycles were a new "fad." This caught the eye of one businessman named Thomas B. Jeffery, of Chicago. Jeffery was originally fro the United Kingdom, but moved to the United States. Bicycle manufacturers popped up from all across the nation, but Thomas B. Jeffery and his "Gormully-Jeffery" bicycle company, and their Rambler, had features which set it apart from others and eventually set standards.

Clincher Tires- Before the 1880s, riding a bicycle wasn't a fun task. The rims were often steel, and if there was rubber, it was hard. This made for a harsh ride, and you could feel every bump in the road. However, one Irish man named John Dunlop created a pneumatic tire - the first pneumatic tire - for his son's bicycle. However, it was a simple garden hose which was inflated with air, and there was no good way to secure this tube into place. Thomas B. Jeffery, who before entering the bicycle business held several patents, invented the clincher rim system. The clincher rim has a tire casing to protect and secure the inner tube, which is thin and vulnerable to leaks and punctures if not protected. The tire casing would include a metal band, or "bead", which would "lock" against the rim, and secure the assembly. The Clincher Rim was used on bicycles after, and early automobiles made use of the Clincher rim. A modified approach at the Clincher rim, with wider and smaller tires, was used on automobiles from the 1920s up until the late 1950s, when tubeless tires increased in popularity.

From Bicycles to Autos

The first automobile was created by Karl Benz, a German inventor, in 1885. However, these early cars used simple engines, were steered using a "tiller bar", and traveled slowly. However, people all across the world wanted to capitalize on this big invention, and many companies whose primary product was bicycles added automobiles to their manufacturing plants.

The auto spread to the United States shortly afterwards, and inventors and mechanics sprang into action. People, such as Henry Ford, created their first autos with simple bicycle parts and made the parts from common household items. Thomas B. Jeffery waited until 1902 to leave his bicycle manufacturing business, Gormully-Jeffery, behind, and move to Kenosha, Wisconsin to start making cars.

In Kenosha, Jeffery started producing cars in 1902 with his new company, the Thomas B. Jeffery Company, under the moniker "Rambler". He was the second to "mass-produce" cars, after Olds in 1901 (aka "Curved-Dash Olds") and, a year later, Henry Ford in 1903 with his Ford Motor Company.

By the late 1900s, the Rambler introduced some standards, similar to the bike, which are now commonplace on all cars.

Steering Wheels- Could you imagine driving to work everyday with a tiller? Before steering wheels, tillers were the method for steering your car. Thankfully, the Rambler was one of the first cars to utilize the steering wheel as common practice, in 1904.

Spare Tires- In the early 1900s, car tires were relatively thin, and punctures were common. Unlike bicycles, a car would be traveled on streets which horses normally traveled upon, and sharp items litered these streets. Thankfully, the Thomas B. Jeffery Company was thinking ahead, and introduced a spare tire assembly. This spare tire assembly was different from competitor's spare tires in the fact that it included the rim and tube, and the whole assembly was inflated. All you had to do was swap the spare with the damaged tire. Previously, you had to switch the tire and/or tube on the side of the road, and carry a tire pump everywhere you went.

What Went Wrong?

In the early 1910s, these small automobile manufacturers faced stiff competition. The Ford Motor Company and Henry Ford revolutionized automobile manufacturing, as well as the industry as a whole. Henry Ford, with his promise of $5 per hour work days, and his mass-production techniques, introduced the Model T in 1908. In the 1900s, the car was seen as a luxury item, or a "toy which only the rich could afford." However, Henry brought the automobile to the less well-off individuals. By the late 1910s, almost every family had a car.

The Thomas B. Jeffery, however, had problems with this fact, much like other manufacturers of automobiles during the time period.

The 1910s did not get a good start. Thomas B. Jeffery, founder of the company, died while on vacation in Pompeii, Italy, of a heart attack in 1910. The company was handed over to his son, Charles Jeffery.

The 1911 Rambler (Model 65) is today one of the most rarest cars, with only one in existance, which is located in a museum. This car sold for $275,000 at auction, and was one of the most luxirious cars at the time. However, this was during the time where people realized that cheaper cars existed - such as the Model T.

In 1914, the Rambler moniker was retired, and the "Jeffery" name used instead. Charles Jeffery manufactured heavy-duty trucks with his father's company, and the company was a large supplier for the U.S. Army during World War 1.

In 1915, however, tragedy struck again. Charles was committed to growing his father's company, but one fateful event would change that. Charles was a passenger on the RMS Lusitania in 1915. The Lusitania fell victim to submarine warfare, and the friendly ship was sunk by a German submarine. It was one of the events which led to the United States becoming involved in World War 1. Jeffery soon lost interest in his company, and later sold the company to Charles Nash, along with his personal house.

The Nash Motor Company was born, and obtained ownership over other companies. In 1950, the Nash Motor Company reused the moniker "Rambler", which was also produced in Kenosha.

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