Written by Mike Brazeau
The Cartercar was produced from 1906 - 1916. Byron J. Carter built a gasoline-powered car as early as 1899. In 1901, he formed the Michigan Automobile Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan to produce a steam car that he also designed. In 1902, he improved the design and organized the Jackson Automobile Company to build the new model. He then left his job as manufacturing superintendent at Jackson in 1905 and formed the Motor Car Company. He soon found financial backing in Detroit and moved the company there and changed the name to Cartercar Company. Not long afterwards the company was again relocated in the Pontiac Spring & Wagon Works in Pontiac, Michigan.
Production reached 101 vehicles in 1901, 264 in 1907 and 325 by 1908. But then Byron Carter died suddenly on April 6, 1908. He is said to have died from complications after trying to hand crank start a car for a stranded woman motorist on the Belle Isle bridge and after hearing of this, Charles Kettering of the Dayton Engineering Laboratories (Delco) went to work on designing a safer way to start cars. The result was an electric self-starter that Kettering had built from a small high-torque cash register motor he designed while at the National Cash Register Company.
The Cartercar Company caught the eye of Billy Durant. He liked the friction drive that the car used. It was advertised as the car with "A thousand speeds---No clutch to slip---No gears to strip---No universal joints to break---No driveshaft to twist---No bevel gears to wind and howl---No noise to annoy" and after 4,000 miles, the friction drives paper fiber rims could be replaced for 3 or 4 dollars. Durant thought friction drive had a great future and General Motors bought the company on October 26, 1909. By 1910, Durant was out as head of GM. The Cartercar didn’t live up to the 1000-2000 yearly sales that Durant had predicted, but GM continued producing touring cars, roadsters, coupes, sedans and even trucks. In 1915, production was limited to only roadsters and touring cars and the Board of Directors decided to discontinue production after the 1916 model. By the time Durant returned to head GM, it was too late for the Cartercar. The factory was converted over to produce Oaklands and the Cartercar name was gone for good.