1917 Doble Detroit radiator emblem. (source: Apijunior)
Any of several makes of steam-powered automobile, including Doble Detroit, Doble Steam Car, and Doble Automobile, are referred to as a Doble because of their founding or association with Abner Doble.
Doble built his first steam car while still in high school. He left the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for Detroit with the aim of building the finest steam car in the world. By 1918 he had built 80 steam cars in Detroit. In 1924, Doble and his brothers, all engineers, moved their steam car business to Emeryville, California, where they built 42 additional cars before being forced out of business.
The 1924 model Doble steam car could run for 1,500 miles on a 24-gallon tank (62.5 mpg for a 4300 lbs. automobile), had a flash boiler the could produce a working head of steam in one minute, and reach speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, all in eerie silence. It was a luxury car that film stars and royalty were proud to own.
The layout of the chassis put the boiler in front and the four-cylinder compound engine over the rear wheels. The even weight distribution and low center of gravity contributed much to the car's ride and handling. The only defect sometimes noted was less than perfect braking, which was common in automobiles before World War II. Dobles achieved reliability by lacking most of the things that break: no clutch, no transmission, no distributor, no points, and no fan belts. The Doble steam engines were very simple and reliable, often achieving several hundred thousand miles of use before a major mechanical service was necessary.
Doble advertisements mentioned the lightness of the engine, which would lead customers to compare with that of much heavier gasoline engines - but "engine" in a steam car meant essentially the cylinder block and its pistons. The weight of the boiler and ancillary equipment was neglected.
At 70 mph in a Doble E-series, there is no vibration - the engine turns at around 900 rpm, and apart from considerable wind noise, the car is almost totally silent.
When his fourth steam-powered car company was forced out of business in April 1931, Doble traveled the world as a steam power consultant.
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