COBWEB CORNERS: The car show of 1903

By Mel McFarland

       In the fall of 1903, there was a grand demonstration of the prosperity of El Paso County. Local automobile owners assembled most of the 60 vehicles in the county for a show and demonstration. More than 200 people were given rides in the cars. Most had never seen, much less been in, one of these rigs. There were 30 operating cars and several that were still being assembled. Unfortunately, several had already been put away for the winter, and their owners were reluctant to bring them out.
       One of the machines at the event was a French touring car owned by Spencer Penrose, local millionaire. It reportedly cost more than $13,000, not including the expense to get it there. That car ended its days 20 years later, running on railroad wheels between the town of Penrose and the Rio Grande railroad, 10 miles to the south, on the Beaver, Penrose and Northern railroad.
       Most of the local machines were the type called runabouts, costing between $500 and $1,000 each. They were much like two passenger carriages. A few touring cars could carry four or more people, but they cost around $3,000 each.
       At the event, races were held, divided by size and type. It is not said what kind of races, but I do not think drag racing had been invented yet! There was some discussion about how horses would do against the rigs, and the general opinion was that most horses were better than the cars in a short race. One could not expect a horse to hold out against one in a long race, but given the type of trails used, it might still win.
       A Stanley Steamer, the only one in the county, was there. The little runabout had a 5 horsepower motor and could get up to 45 mph. Another familiar name was Cadillac, but this was no luxury car. It was a runabout with a 6 hp engine and could do 35 mph. Many of the machines were built locally, either from parts available from the East, or by their own manufacture. One of the locally known builder was Strang's. The company had sold bicycles and was using some of those parts to build automobiles. Later on, Strang's had a Buick dealership in Colorado Springs on the corner of Nevada and Kiowa. Another familiar name was A.B. Daniels, a Denver builder who converted big wagons into what we would call trucks.