1912 Columbia Cavalier 4 Passenger Touring (only one extant)
The story of the 1912 Columbia Cavalier begins in Strongsville, Ohio. In 1965, my dad (Dr. William Donze), was contacted by a neighbor to see if he could help her dispose of several old cars and parts from her deceased husbands estate. During the tour of the property, a “T”-head engine was spotted on top of a pile of bricks out in the yard. At first, my Dad thought it might be a Peerless engine. Since we had a 1910 Peerless, he thought this might make a good spare engine for the car and he asked about it. Mrs. Kline said it was just part of the “old Columbia” and that her husband had dismantled the car for parts, but that most of the vehicle was still somewhere on the property.
The deal that he struck was that for $150, he could have any of the parts that he could find, but if the parts were still in use around the farm, he would have to replace them with whatever it took to maintain the usability of the homemade contraption. One example was a garden tractor that used the rear axle of the Columbia. We replaced it with much newer one (1955) from the junkyard.
Over the next several months, dad and I discovered parts for the car in some of the most unlikely places. The radiator was in an abandoned cistern under the barn, in perfect shape. The headlights, taillights and sidelights were in the attic of the house, wrapped in 1921 newspaper; also perfect. The rear axle shafts, which transferred power to the outside of wheels that were bearing-mounted to the axle body, were found in a scrap metal bin just below Mr. Kline’s lathe, in the basement of the house. Fortunately, he had never found an immediate use for them as scrap and they were still pristine.
The fan from the engine was attached to a pole in the garden with a tail fin attached. Each day, Mrs. Kline would take another baseball card out of the box that her husband had been filling since about 1900, and attach it to the frame of the fan so as to make a sort of “flapper”. This served as the “scarecrow” to protect the crops. There is no telling how many thousands of dollars worth of cards were sacrificed to keep the birds away!
The front and rear portions of the frame had been separated and used as suspension for two different yard-wagons. The center sections were never found and they were ultimately re-fabricated. We found the wheels, but I don’t remember where. They were re-spoked later.
The big missing item was the body. Dad did extensive research with the help of his best friend Henry Austin Clark. The best they could come up with were factory promotional photos of the 1912 Cavalier. From there he enlarged and scaled measurements from items in the picture that he had for comparison. It took about a year to fabricate the body out of wood frame and aluminum skin.
About the time that he finished building the body, dad found out that there was a 1911 Columbia Cavalier in Pennsylvania that was currently under restoration by a Larry Amsley. The two of them were thrilled to compare each other’s work because Mr. Amsley had fabricated his body in the same fashion. Upon comparison, no measurement varied between the two cars by more than one quarter of an inch!
Before completing the restoration dad sold the car to Mr. Jim Connant. By this point, the car was completely assembled with a new body and wheels and all the mechanical components of the chassis. Now it needed to be restored. Jim Connant, with the aid of Larry Amsley of Amsley Antique body Company finished the restoration.
The car made its debut at the AACA Spring National Meet during the early 1970s where it received a National First Prize. This award would be bestowed upon the vehicle multiple times. In 1971 it was awarded the AACA Cup for the best restoration of the year in the Eastern Division. It went on to win every award possible for its class on a national scale.
(Here is some of the write-up from the RM Auctions in 2007)
“This brilliant 1912 Columbia Cavalier Four-Passenger Touring car is powered by a four-cylinder, 410 cubic-inch, T-head engine that can propel the 120-inch wheelbase to comfortable touring speeds… The transmission had been used for a speed changer for a power saw. The rear axle was found hidden under a pile of clay drain tiles. The radiator was in an empty cistern. The list continues and so did the search, for many weeks.
It is believed that this is the only 1912 example of the Columbia Company in existence. It has a side mounted tire, beautiful brass lamps, black leather diamond-tufted upholstery, period correct wicker trunk, and finished in green livery.
It was estimated to fetch between $95,000-125,000 at auction where it was offered without reserve. It sold well above the estimated figure, netting $181,500.”
By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2007
The Ricciarelli family purchased this car at auction from the Conan estate, in August of 2006.