1904 Orient Buckboard
Serial No: -
Engine Size: -
Engine Cylinders: V2
Engine BHP: 4 BHP
- Built from 1903 to 1908 by Waltham Manufacturing Co., Mass.
- Total production: 2,500; 57 known to remain
- Top speed: 30 mph
- Price new: $337, least expensive car in the world until Ford Model T
4hp, single-cylinder engine, rear-wheel chain drive, front and rear leaf spring suspension. Wheelbase: 84"
Charles H. Metz founded his Waltham Manufacturing Company in 1893 in the well-known watchmaking city of Waltham, Massachusetts. He focused primarily on a popular line of 'safety bicycles' and built the terrifying ten-passenger Orient now on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
The first car to bear the Orient name was a small electric roadster featured at the inaugural New York Auto Show in 1899. Production never began, however, and Metz turned his attention to gasoline-powered cars instead, becoming an agent for De Dion-Bouton quadricycles and tricycles. He also imported the French Aster engine, which he fitted to his own line of vehicles for 1900.
By 1902, Waltham Manufacturing began building its own engines and the Orient car entered production with roughly 50 examples sold that year alone. The Buckboard debuted in 1903 and continued in production until 1908, expanding into a variety of body styles that included three-passenger, delivery, surrey, and tonneau variants. Advertised as 'The Cheapest Automobile in the World' the $375 Buckboard initially utilized the buckboard-type platform in place of a standard leaf spring suspension. The four horsepower engine could propel the little runabout at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, which was quite adequate for the unpaved dirt roads of its time.
The Buckboard offered here was purchased in the late 1990s by the Remember When Museum of Riverton, Wyoming. Two years later it was acquired by Florida collector Al Wiseman, who in turn sold it in 2007. While it is currently titled in Florida as a 1903, research indicates this Orient is in fact a 1906 and it is being sold as such. It is entirely original and its body is comprised predominantly of wood, which appears to have aged somewhat and exhibits minor damage to the fenders. The metal wheel rims, suspension, and steering components have been finished in red and show signs of aging as well. The single-cylinder engine is located at the rear and exhibits signs of road use, but appears to be in good overall condition.
Although the mechanicals and appointments of the Buckboard are primitive in virtually every regard, these very same qualities contribute to its delightful pioneering character. It is as much a pleasure to behold and drive as it was at the start of the twentieth century.