Abner Doble

Abner Doble

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Abner Doble was an American mechanical engineer who built and sold
Doble steam car
Any of several makes of steam-powered automobile in the early 20th century, including Doble Detroit, Doble Steam Car, and Doble Automobile, are referred to as a Doble because of their founding or association with Abner DobleFox Stephen...

 steam-powered
Steam engine
A steam engine is a heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid.Steam engines are external combustion engines, where the working fluid is separate from the combustion products. Non-combustion heat sources such as solar power, nuclear power or geothermal energy may be...

 automobile
Automobile
An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

s. His father was William Ashton Doble, inventor of the Doble water wheel, and his grandfather and namesake was the founder of the Abner Doble Company.

Abner Doble began apprenticing at his family's factory at the age of eight. During the years between 1906 and 1909, while still attending high school, Abner Doble and his brothers John, Warren, and Bill built their first steam car in their parents' basement. It was composed of parts taken from a wrecked White steamer, but reconfigured to drive an engine of their own design. Though it did not run well, the Doble brothers went on to build a second and third prototype in the following years. Abner moved to Massachusetts in 1910 to attend MIT, but dropped out to work with his brothers on their steam cars.

In 1915 Abner drove his Model "B" (a revamped version of the Model "A" he had developed in 1912) from Massachusetts to Detroit in order to seek investors, and managed to acquire $200,000, which he used to open the General Engineering Company. In January 1917, Abner's new car the Doble Detroit, caused a sensation at the National Automobile Show in New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

. Over 5,000 deposits were received for the car, with deliveries scheduled to begin in early 1918. However, the Dobles had not entirely worked out various design and manufacturing issues, and although the car received good notices and over ten thousand orders, only thirty were actually built. Abner Doble blamed his company's production failure on the steel shortages caused by World War I, but the fact was that the Doble Detroit was mechanically unsatisfactory.

The Doble brothers were divided by Abner's insistence on taking credit for the company's technical achievements, and John Doble ended up suing Abner for patent infringement, whereupon Abner left Detroit for California and the General Engineering Company essentially went out of business.

John Doble died of lymphatic cancer at the age of 28 in 1921, and the surviving brothers reunited in Emeryville, California
Emeryville, California
Emeryville is a small city located in Alameda County, California, in the United States. It is located in a corridor between the cities of Berkeley and Oakland, extending to the shore of San Francisco Bay. Its proximity to San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, the University of California, Berkeley, and...

, setting up under the name of Doble Steam Motors.

In 1924 the State of California learned that Abner had helped to sell stock illegally in a desperate bid to raise money for the company, and though Abner was eventually acquitted on a technicality, the company folded during the ensuing legal struggle. Fewer than fifty of the amazing Model E steam cars were produced before the company went out of business in April 1931, the total being reported variously as 24, 42, and 43.

Abner went on to work as a consultant for other engineering companies all over the world. For the remainder of his life, he maintained that steam-powered automobiles were at least equal to gasoline cars, if not superior.

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