The Matheson Automobile

The 1911 Matheson car is on display at the Nethercutt Museum in Sylmar, California.

A luxury car, the Matheson automobile was only made for a few years by the Matheson Motor Car Co., Ltd. in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The ad reads: Four cylinder, 24-h.p., water cooled, vertical engine in front; 3 speeds and reverse; steel and ash frame; 36-inch artillery wheels; 4-inch tires; wheelbase, 97 inches; standard tread; gasoline capacity, 15 gallons; water, 3 gallons; weight, about 2,500 pounds; seats 6 persons; price $5000.

Beverly Dale provided us with this additional information: The first Matheson was a large chain-drive tourer powered by a 24hp 4-cylinder ohv engine. 1903: Matheson Motor Car Co., Grand Rapids, MI. 1903-1905 same company Holyoke, Mass. 1906-1910 same company in Wilkes-Barre, PA and stayed in Wilkes-Barre with name changed to Matheson Automobile Co, 1910-1912. First designed by Charles Greuter, the Holyoke factory was taken over by Matheson. Approximately 100 cars were sold in the first three years of production. In Wilkes-Barre larger cars of 40/45 and 60/65 hp were made, the latter costing up to $7,500. The 1908 model saw the first six, a 48 hp car still with overhead valves and a shaft drive, although some models still had chains on some fours until 1910. The improved “Silent Six” was made until the end of production in 1912. About 800 fours and 1,000 sixes were made. Credit for additional details to “The Complete Encyclopedia of Motorcars 1885-1968”, E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., New York 1968.

Jim Wilkins provided information on the founders. The Matheson Motor Car Company was founded by two Michigan brothers, Charles W. (1876-1940) and Frank F. (1871-1967) Matheson. The car was noted for its Overhead Cam engine design and in 1901 was documented as the first car with a hemispherical “Hemi” cylinder head, designed by the gifted Charles Greuter.

Clan Member Garrick Matheson writes that his grandfather was a brother to the two founding men. Their most distant known ancestor was Farquhar Matheson, b. c. 1805, Benbecula, Uist, Scotland and his wife Marion MacVicar. Their son Alexander was born in Benbecula in 1833 and emigrated to Canada where he married Janet Johnston. The couple had a daughter, Rosanna, in Canada, then came to Michigan where they had Garrick’s ancestor Robert Alexander (1869-1963), Frank F. (1871-1967), William B. S. (1873-1936), Charles W. (1876-1940) and Mary L. (1878-?). It is unknown if they had more children. If you are a Matheson whose descent is from this family or from Benbecula, Uist, e-mail: Alice Fairhurst.

Additional information can be found at Hagley Digital Archives.

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