The Cartercar is probably the most
well-known and best-built friction drive automobile. Named
for Byron J. Carter,
an early automobile pioneer, the Cartercar
was produced in small quantities in Jackson, MI, between 1903 and
1905 by Byron Carter, by the Motorcar Company of
Detroit from 1905 to 1908 and by the Motorcar Company renamed as
the Cartercar Company from 1908 to 1915 in Pontiac,
MI. The Cartercar Company was purchased by General
Motors in 1909, which owned the Cartercar Company through the end
of production in 1915.
The most novel feature of the Cartercar was the "gearless
transmission" which had "no gears to strip," "no clutch to slip,"
"unlimited speeds," "climbs a 50% grade," "no jerks or jars," and
more! Different gear ratios (including reverse) are obtained
by using a lever to move the friction wheel driving the rear axle
to different spots on the friction disk which is driven by the
motor. There were many exhibitions of Cartercars climbing
steep grades and city steps to demonstrate the performance of the
friction drive transmission. Some, such
as NASA, consider the Cartercar friction drive
transmission to be a forerunner of the Continuously Variable
This site is a work-in-progress to document Cartercar history and production. It will be improved as time and information permit.
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