When writing a chapter in the history of the automobile and the many innovations that have occurred, there was usually either a technical need or a personal drive behind an invention.
This unique automobile has both.
The man behind the machine was Colonel Edward "Ned" H.R. Green.
Born in 1870, Colonel Green was the son of Hetty Green, better known as the "Witch of Wall Street".
Mrs. Green had inherited her family's fortune in the late 1800s, and by the turn of the 20th century had become the world's wealthiest woman.
Unfortunately, she was also billed as the greatest miser ever, as titled by the Guinness Book of World Records.
She was a mean-spirited, penny-pinching loner who trusted no one except her son and daughter.
She always had a scheme to avoid paying taxes while at the same time continuing to add to her vast wealth.
Several books have been written detailing her life, which ended in 1916 with an estimated value of over $95 million.
Ned had been entrusted by Hetty to help manage her holdings while she was alive.
She kept a tight rein on him, making him promise never to marry.
When he was young, he had injured his leg in a sledding accident.
His mother's stinginess proved tragic, as she waited too long trying to get him free medical attention, causing the need for amputation of his leg.
Ned was everything his mother was not.
The Colonel, (an honorary title), loved life and had no problems spending his inheritance.
He lived like a king, surrounding himself with the finer things in life.
He was quite philanthropic, and never had an unkind word for any one.
It could be said that he was well loved universally.
The Colonel had a keen interest in electrical experiments, building an expansive laboratory at Round Hill, his Massachusetts coastal property.
It was here at Round Hill that he shared the research center with MIT, which among many things included a radio station with huge loudspeakers used to entertain the public invited to his beach.
The Colonel had a custom-made electric buggy that he used to travel around the compound.
The earlier loss of his leg meant that he was unable to drive the traditional, three-pedaled motorcar of that era.
Outside of Round Hill and his other properties across the country, he had to rely on chauffer-driven vehicles for his personal transportation.
In nearby Chicopee Falls, the firm of Rauch & Lang had set up shop in the old Stevens-Duryea factory.
Rauch & Lang was a well-established Cleveland, Ohio manufacturer of electric vehicles, with carriage building roots dating back to 1853.
In 1916 they merged with Baker Motor Vehicle Company, another Cleveland based electric vehicle manufacturer.
Unfortunately, electric-powered vehicles had fallen out of favor in the 1920s, and the once mighty Baker, Rauch & Lang had fallen on hard financial times.
Stevens-Duryea purchased the Rauch & Lang division in 1920, moving production to Chicopee Falls.
The firm produced electric taxicabs for a few years, but by 1928 Rauch & Lang was nearly finished.
The Stanley Company announced in August 1928 that R&L would be their New England representative, selling and servicing truck, bus, and van bodied vehicles.
Colonel Green then entered the picture in 1929.
He was a major stockholder in General Electric, and convinced GE to work on the conversion of a manual-transmission car to electric drive, while also keeping the gasoline engine.
He was so intent on finally being able to operate a gasoline-powered vehicle that he funded the project with over $1 million of his own money.
A new 1929 Stearns-Knight M 6-80 cabriolet was obtained and delivered to Rauch & Lang to carry out the conversion.
Upon delivery, the Colonel was so delighted with the car that he immediately ordered a second vehicle to be built.
This second car also used a Stearns-Knight chassis and mechanicals, but a high-topped brougham body reminiscent of the old Rauch & Lang coaches was installed.
A third, and final, vehicle was built in late 1929.
Another Stearns-Knight car was again selected for the basis of the conversion, this time a conventional 1929 model year M6-80 sedan, motor number M3133.
The sedan, badged as a Rauch & Lang like its two predecessors, was completed in 1930, and titled as such.
Whereas the first two cars were obviously similar to working prototypes, the sedan appeared to be built for the idea of production.
In fact, Mr. C.D. Wagoner of General Electric had announced in a press department memo in August 1929 that they were indeed ready to start producing such vehicles.
Robert W. Stanley corroborated this by stating in a newspaper article that R&L would be producing the cars in limited numbers.
Using the Stearns-Knight six-cylinder sleeve-valve engine, a GE dynamo was bolted to the bellhousing where the clutch and transmission would normally reside.
Mounted on the front of the rear axle, a GE electric motor replaced the now-removed driveshaft.
The system of propulsion was rather simple; the 255 cubic-inch, 70 horsepower engine would power the dynamo, which through a series of GE controllers sent electricity to spin the rear-mounted electric motor.
There was no clutch pedal, and the shift lever had been removed when the transmission was discarded.
The only operator control needed was an instrument panel mounted push-pull knob that enabled the operator to select neutral, reverse, or two forward speeds.
GE's system of electrical control units under the hood was able to process the dynamo inputs, giving the car an infinite range of speeds.
Operating the vehicle was merely a matter of starting the gas engine, selecting the desired position with the control knob, and pressing down on the throttle to maintain speed.
During the conversion process, the vehicle had gained about 1,300 lbs, making acceleration sluggish.
The final gearing was dramatically reduced to quicken the vehicle, while limiting the top speed to approximately 50 mph.
Unfortunately for all involved parties, the stock market crash and the Great Depression that followed meant the end for future production of the cars.
Stearns-Knight production ended December 20th, 1929, which meant no more chassis could be supplied to R&L.
Colonel Green had his three cars, and evidently had no need for more.
Without his financial backing, R&L finally had to throw in the towel as well.
Thus ended another "what if" chapter of automobile history.
All three cars were kept at Round Hill under the Colonel's ownership.
When he passed away in 1936 at the age of 66, a lengthy court battle ensued (far too complicated to describe here; this was the subject of more than one book).
The cars had been split up and each suffered it own fate.
The first car, the roadster, was scrapped.
The second vehicle, the high-topped brougham, passed through a few owners before being set outside in a Massachusetts field to rot away.
Mr. John R. Rich of upstate N.Y is currently bringing it back from the dead.
Mamie Yoder of Cleveland, Ohio purchased the third and last car, this sedan, from Colonel Green.
Mrs. Yoder, of the machinery manufacturer Yoder Corporation, drove the very little, and then stored it away.
There it stayed for years on the Yoder estate until being sold off.
Mr. Andrew Dudek of Macedonia, Ohio was the fourth owner of the car.
It is believed that during his possession, a welder had been mounted on the rear luggage rack, effectively making the car a portable electric arc welder.
After years of service, the car was advertised for sale in the March 1967 issue of Hemmings Motor News.
William Mastics of Avon Lake, Ohio, saw the ad, and purchased the car on March 13th, 1967 for a sum of $50.
After some research on the car's history, the welder was the first thing to go, and Mastics began the restoration, painting the car blue.
In a letter written by Mastics he noted that when he purchased the car, it was still wearing the original "Green" color, painted at the factory at the request of the Colonel.
Bobbie Crump of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, acquired the car from Mastics in May of 1976.
In the late 1980s he performed another restoration on the car, which had only accumulated 26,000 miles since new.
The green and cream color scheme Mr. Crump used was inspired by a Stearns-Knight towncar owned by Harrah's.
The car was accepted by the CCCA in 1988, and awarded a First Place at the 1990 Grand Classic.
It was kept on permanent display in Mr. Crump's "Cars of Yesterday Museum" in Baton Rouge.
Crump donated the car to the International Automobile Hall of Fame in Muskogee, Oklahoma, owned by auctioneer James Leake.
When the museum closed years later, Leake offered the car at one of his auctions in the late 1990s, selling it to Al Wiseman of Tarpon Springs, Florida.
The car was displayed in Mr. Wiseman's public museum.
In December 2007, the car, and many of Mr. Wiseman's other vehicles, was auctioned off through RM auctioneers.
John W. Rich Sr. of Pottsville, Pa. purchased it, adding it to his assemblage of alternative energy vehicles.