The 2022 Monterey Car Week culminated with the seventy-first edition of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Buried in among all of the cars vying for Best of Show was a one-off that proved that what’s old is new again!
The 1907 Columbia Mark XIX Surrey was restored in 1990 and is the only one known to exist. It showcases the luxury of early electric cars — at the time one-third of the cars being driven in major US urban centres were electric. This beautiful example is functional and, according to a catalogue from the day, it was powered by two GE series-wound electric motors producing three to five horsepower each. It also had three forward and three reverse gears.
The 40-cell Exide battery delivered a driving range of 64 kilometres, which was enough for a night out at the opera or a Sunday jaunt for a picnic in the park. The driver monitored things through a gauge that showed electric usage. The four-seat cabin rode on a 1,740-mm wheelbase and an elliptical spring suspension.
According to the promotional materials, the Columbia differentiated itself from its steam and gas-powered rivals of the time by delivering a cabin free from “all noise, odor and vibration.” In an ironic twist, the Columbia Mark XIX Surrey sold for around US$1,900 at the time, which was just over twice the price of a gas-powered alternative. Sound familiar?