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SNAPSHOT 44: Stoewer 1912

From the very earliest days of motoring, manufacturers and their agents indulged in activities that brought their vehicles to public attention. The properly organised races and hill-climbs are obvious examples of where this happened, but there were plenty of publicity stunts as well. A particular favourite was the climbing of seemingly impossible gradients, whether these were streets, steps, or mountains.

The ascent of the 1 in 4 spiral ramp inside Copenhagen’s 100-foot-high Round Tower by a 6hp Beaufort in 1902 drew positive Press comment. Other examples are that of the 12hp Lanchester that climbed the Crystal Palace steps with their 1 in 3 gradient in February 1904, and then the ascent of Snowdon by a 5hp Oldsmobile in June. These events and others like them were driver-only-aboard occasions, but loading with passengers was already starting to happen and such stunts persisted for many years and resulted in attendant publicity.

Come the end of January 1912 and the head of Stoewer’s British agency, Mr Turner Smith, decided that Brooklands Test Hill would provide an adequate challenge, as can be seen in this snowy scene.The incline had the more or less obligatory 1 in 4 gradient, and with 7 passengers plus the driver making a load of around half a ton, a successful outcome, which duly happened, demonstrated the merits of the car. The maker’s called the model a 9/22hp, it was sold in Britain as a 15/22, but either way it possessed an engine of only 2¼ litres. That it was deliberately stopped and then restarted three times on the hill was considered to be even more impressive. The Brooklands club presented Turner Smith with an official certificate and the achievement received Press coverage not only in England but also in the car’s country of origin.

Stoewer cars and commercial vehicles were made in Stettin and were therefore German, although since 1945 the city has been Szczecin, in Poland. Never large-scale manufacturers, the Stoewer brothers did supply 200 of their chassis to the NAG automobile company of Berlin in 1908 and when bodied and fitted with a NAG radiator they were sold as the NAG Puck. Emil Mathis of Strasbourg also bought Stoewers in 1911 which came without hub-caps and radiators. When they were suitably completed, these became Mathis cars.

Such a process happened not only in the early motor industry but continues to this day. It goes by the quaint euphemism of ‘badge engineering’.


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