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B691 Automobile, full size, Holsman piano box buggy, Model 9K Runabout, two-seat, body No. 2491V, engine No. 1582, made by Holsman Automobile Co, Monadnock Block, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America, 1908. Click to enlarge.

1908 Holsman auto buggy model 9K Runabout

This 1908 Holsman auto buggy is a high wheel runabout built by the Holsman Automobile Co. of Chicago, Illinois. It is little more than a horsedrawn buggy powered by a small centrally-mounted petrol engine. High wheeler cars evolved in the mid-West of America in the first decade of the twentieth century and show the transition from the horsedrawn vehicle to motor vehicle.

Designs of early horseless carriage bodies bore close similarities to the smaller, four-wheel horsedrawn carriages of the late 19th century such as the buggy and phaeton. This was reflected in the common terminology in body styles, as well as materials, methods of production and the skilled tradesmen needed to build them including the body builder, blacksmith, wheelwright, trimmer and coach painter.

In the first years of motoring, high-wheel vehicles were more practical for country travel than the ordinary low-wheeled cars, especially over rough uneven roads and for climbing hills, lifting out of holes and negotiating sticky mud and clay which would clog up the small artillery wheels of standard early cars. The high wheel vehicles were more comfortable and the solid rubber tyres more reliable than the early pneumatic ones. The enclosed bodies were popular with doctors and the piano box types with prosperous farmers. Soon, others involved in country travel such as land agents and travelling salesmen were buying high wheelers. The vehicles were very basic but beautifully finished with buggy-style fine lining, though the speedometer, headlamps and tail lamps were optional extras. The main advantages of the high wheel motor buggy (or auto buggy) were cheapness, durability, simplicity and ease of repair and maintenance compared with the low wheel touring cars also available at the time. Contemporary advertising emphasised the simplicity of the vehicles" "Rides like a carriage - No freezing, No punctures, No odours!".

High-wheeler automobiles were as successful in America as their horsedrawn precursors. In Australia, where similar types of road transport satisfied similar conditions and demands, high wheelers were also readily accepted (at least as far as the tariff restrictions on imported goods would allow). While some auto buggies were made locally in Australia, the great majority were imported from America by manufacturers or their agents.

The firm, Larke, Hoskins and Co., were the New South Wales agents for the Holsman auto buggy while in Melbourne they were exhibitied at the 1909 and 1910 agricultural shows by the Tarrant Motor Company.

"The Australasian Coachbuilder and Wheelwright", March 15, 1907, p.292.
Grant, Andrew, "Development of the High Wheel Motor Buggy", unpublished paper, 1982.
Information provided by Diane L. Burghardt, Connecticut, USA,

Margaret Simpson
Assistant Curator, Science & Industry
January 2009


Object No.


Object Statement

Automobile, full size, Holsman piano box buggy, Model 9K Runabout, two-seat, body No. 2491V, engine No. 1582, made by Holsman Automobile Co, Monadnock Block, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America, 1908

Physical Description

The Holsman auto buggy features a simple 2-seat piano box type body set high off the ground on four, large diameter buggy wheels. The chassis is made of wood with flat steel bracing. The mono bloc engine is a twin-cylinder, air-cooled model with horizontally-opposed cylinders, located under the seat. There are full elliptic springs front and rear. Steering is by a vertical tiller, and the throttle is operated by twisting the tiller. Starting is by handle which projects from under the front seat. There is a tool and luggage box above the front axle, and a picnic basket holder at the rear. The transmission comprises a moveable power shaft suspended on hangers by roller bearings which revolve in a forward direction. The shaft has two, deep grooved pulleys at each end, the larger one for engaging a flexible, steel transmission chain of ¼ inch (0.635 cm) standard link taped with cloth friction tape or cotton webbing. Power was transmitted via a pulley attached to the spokes of both rear wheels. A smaller pulley engaged the wheels for reverse motion. The large timber wheels have slender spokes, small hubs, narrow felloes and solid rubber tyres. The brakes act directly on the tyres. The 6-inch (15.24 cm) wide mudguards are made of a standard buggy iron frame, flat oval in shape, and covered with patent leather. The body is finished in black with red pin striping and is now fitted with brass side lamps and a carriage step.

Model: 9K Runabout
Body No: 2491V
Engine No: 1582
Manufacturer's rating: 12 4/5 hp
Engine: twin cylinder
Bore: 4 inches (101 mm)
Stroke: 4 inches (101 mm)
Gears: 2 forward and 1 reverse
Ignition: double trembler coil (duplex coil)
Carburettor: side draught
Lubrication: mechanical force feed
Transmission: steel cable drive
Petrol tank: 5½ US gallons (20.8 litres)
Fuel supply: gravity fed
Front wheels: 44 inches (112 cm)
Rear wheels: 48 inches (122 cm)
Wheelbase: 75 inches (190 cm)
Weight without top: 940 lbs (426 kg)


Brass plaque screwed to front reads 'HOLSMAN AUTOMOBILE Co. / CHICAGO USA / No. 2491V / PATENTED APR. 15 '02 / OTHER PATENET PNDING'. Brass plaue on the wooden box that encloses part of the cars transmission reads 'THE / Duplex coil PAT. JUNE 27 1905'.
Eved text on the brass plaque on the outside of the luggage box reads 'LARKE HOSKINS & Co LTD / AGENTS / SYDNEY'.



1660 mm


1680 mm


3080 mm



The Holsman Automobile Co. established by Henry Holsman, a Chicago architect, went into production in 1903 with high-wheeler vehicles driven by horizontally-opposed engines of 5 hp. This was increased to 7 hp in 1904 and 10 hp from 1905 to 1909. In 1910 the Holsman had a twin-cylinder engine rated at 12 hp and a 26 hp 4-cylinder model.

The first Holsman had a final drive of 7/8 inch (2.22 cm) manila rope which slipped badly in the wet. This was replaced with a braided chain of manila and steel wire and later a standard chain. The front wheels remained 44 inches (112 cm) in diameter with solid rubber tyres throughout the entire production period from 1903 until 1910. A two-seat piano box style body was used though a 4-seat surrey was added in 1905, a closed gentleman's coupe in 1909 and by 1910 several delivery wagons. Each vehicle was fitted with dry batteries, a duplicate set of spark plugs, a tool set, one US gallon (3.8 litres) of cylinder oil, fenders, rubber foot mating, horn and two brass kerosene lamps. The cars were finished in black or Brewster green with red fine lining while the engine was painted with aluminium paint. Total production comprised 6348 vehicles and the most successful year was 1906 with 1473 cars. The firm went into receivership in 1910.

Georgano, N. "The Beaulieu Encyclopaedia of the Automobile", The Stationery Office, London, 2000.



Nothing is known about the early history of the vehicle. It was seen by Museum staff illustrated in "The Sydney Morning Herald" on 27 October 1936 participating in a National Road Safety Week procession through Sydney's streets which the reporter was erroneously described as a "steam buggy the forerunner of the motor car, which reached Sydney in 1896". The procession included 60 motor cars driven by men and women with "exemplary records" as safe drivers together with a Roman chariot, mail coach, horse bus, Hansom cab, bicycles, early fire appliances, horse-drawn brewery wagons and the latest Sydney double deck bus.

The Road Safety Week was organised by the Commissioner of Road Transport and Tramways and opened by the Minister for Transport to increase safety awareness amongst all road users at the time including drivers of cars, lorries, bicycles, trams, buses as well as pedestrians. In addition to the procession, special road safety certificates were presented, 250 Yellow Cabs of Australia taxi drivers pledged to drive safely, a competition was held for the Department of Road Transport and Tramways' ambulance corps, and a Road Safety Week ball was held in aid of the Central District Ambulance Service. Also being discussed at this time in State parliament was compulsory third party insurance of cars, increased police for patrol work and a speed limit on the roads, while optometrists were discussing the need for eye testing for licence applicants.

The Museum contacted the owner of the Holsman auto buggy, Mr W.B. Larke, of Larke, Neave & Carter Ltd, (later LNC Industries) an early New South Wales importing group which was established in 1924 to handle the importation of Chrysler automobiles. William and Fred Larke had begun by selling Red Star bicycles in 1901. They went on to import a number of motor vehicles including the Bean and were joined by Norton Neave. Their original offices were in Hunter Street, Sydney, but by 1936 they had a showroom at 177-185 William Street and were the metropolitan distributors for Chevrolet cars. Once approached, they agreed to donate the car to the Museum.

In 1984 the Museum decided to restore the Holman to as-new running condition without re-working the engine except to replace a broken valve. The wheels and king pins were rebuilt, the upholstery replaced, and the vehicle repainted and pin striped.

"The Sydney Morning Herald" 27 October 1936, 28 October 1936.


Credit Line

Gift of Larke, Neave & Carter, 1936

Acquisition Date

10 December 1936

Cite this Object


1908 Holsman auto buggy model 9K Runabout 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 2 March 2021, <https://ma.as/214603>


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