December 26, 2019


Finley Robertson Porter Co. (1914-1916)

Port Jefferson, New York

This is an ultra rare F.R.P. radiator emblem (1915)      mjs
Size: 57mm diameter    MM: Unknown

Finley Robertson Porter was a brilliant engineer and designed the famous T-head Mercer. He left Mercer in 1914 (see Mercer) and set up the Finley Robertson Porter Company on Long Island in New York.  Porter decided to improve his engine and make a much better version of the Mercer. This was to be the F.R.P. which was a powerful, high-class automobile with a single-overhead-camshaft four-cylinder engine producing up to 170 hp and good for at least 80 mph and 12 mpg. This was the most powerful auto engine in America in 1914 and for several years later.

The first F.R.P. cars were produced on a hand-made basis between the end of 1914 and the first few months of 1915. The only F.R.P. catalog shows one model, Model 45, offered in three different Series based on wheelbase size. The catalog shows the chassis and illustrations of a town-car, a victoria, a sport-touring and a racer, all with right-hand drive and vee-type radiator.

The first order for three cars came from Robert Allen of Kenosha, Wisconsin. They were all originally equipped with Brewster touring-type bodies and survived for many years. One of these cars, which was subsequently modified, still exists at the Seal Cove Auto Museum. Two other F.R.P. cars were built at about the same time. One car was for Finley Robertson Porter's personal use, the other was sold to a customer in Massachusetts. Finley Robertson Porter's personal car was later sold and used as a race car. It was then housed in a New York garage for some time before being sent to a car wreckers yard around 1940.

During the early stage of manufacture of the first F.R.P. cars, Finley Robertson Porter also built three race cars with Knight sleeve-valve engines to be raced at the 1915 Indianapolis 500. In the event, technical issues prevented these Porter-Knight cars from taking part at Indianapolis.

The exact number of F.R.P. cars actually built is not known. Some references say that Porter built from three to five cars and had parts for ten cars. However, the five cars referred to above were certainly built and delivered. Robert Allen originally planned to order ten cars and this may be the source of the reference to "parts for ten cars".

The first five F.R.P. cars were delivered in 1915. But this was not the end of the F.R.P.  In January 1916, advertisements and an article in MoToR magazine show an F.R.P. Model 45 Series B chassis and a Holbrook bodied town-car with an F.R.P. emblem on the vee-type radiator. This car was exhibited at the Salon of New York City's Motor Car Importers held at the Hotel Astor in January 1916. It is not know how many, if any, other than the car exhibited at the Hotel Astor, were built. It is doubtful that any more were sold, as they were the most expensive cars in America and there are no records of any orders arising from the Hotel Astor exhibition.

The US Government took over the F.R.P. plant at Port Jefferson later in 1916 as part of their efforts to provide facilities for the manufacture of military equipment in preparation for the First World War.

At the end of the First World War, a decision was made to resume manufacture of the F.R.P. but the name of the car would be changed to Porter. A much larger inventory of F.R.P. parts than enough for "ten cars" is known to have existed when the plant was closed, because these parts were itemized in detail when used to build the Porter car. 


The F.R.P. catalog shows a logo design of an emblem on the front cover but this was used as a trademark only for advertisements and on company letter heads. Research carried out by auto historian, Keith Marvin, revealed that the initial batch of five cars built in 1914/1915 did not carry a radiator emblem.

The surviving F.R.P. car from this batch is currently on display at the Seal Cove Auto Museum. It does not have a radiator emblem but does have a hub cap emblem, see below:

This is the Seal Cove F.R.P. hub emblem (date uncertain)     scam

However, this particular car underwent modifications after it left the F.R.P. plant, so it is not certain that the hub caps are original.

The following photo of an F.R.P. chassis built in 1915 shows the vee-shaped radiator and radiator emblem. This may have been the Series B chassis displayed at the Hotel Astor in January 1916 but I cannot confirm this.

This is an F.R.P. chassis showing the radiator emblem (c1915-16)  tbh

The advertisements of the Holbrook bodied F.R.P. town-car shown at the Hotel Astor in January 1916 do show an emblem attached to the nose of the vee-shaped radiator, see below:

This is an F.R.P. advertisement (January 1916)   ms 

This is a close up showing the radiator and hub emblems (Jan 1916)    

As noted earlier, apart from the Series B chassis and town-car displayed at the Hotel Astor in January 1916, there is no record of any other F.R.P. cars having been produced.

The F.R.P. emblem shown above at the top of this post is ultra rare. It is still attached to part of a sharply pointed brass radiator and is from one of the only one or two F.R.P. cars produced with an emblem. The photo below shows this emblem attached to part of the radiator:

This shows the F.R.P. emblem still attached to psrt of the nose of the radiator  mjs

The F.R.P. emblem shown below is a new-old stock F.R.P. hub emblem produced for the 1916 cars. Other examples of this F.R.P. hub emblem are known to exist and these are very rare.

This is an F.R.P. hub emblem (1916)     mjs
Size: 57mm diameter   MM: None

It is interesting to note that the right hand leg of the letter "R" is thicker than the left hand leg. This appears to be an error and suggests a possible reproduction. However, this difference in leg thickness on the letter "R" is identical on the original radiator emblem shown at the top of this post. It appears to be deliberate, possibly to take account of the fold in the bent radiator emblem. The same emblem die was used for both the radiator emblem and the hub emblem. Both are original emblems.

The unused radiator emblem shown below is of historical interest. It was given to Henry Austin Clark by Finley Robertson Porter, who had kept it as a momento of his F.R.P. car. 

This is a prototype F.R.P. radiator emblem (1915)    mjs
Size: 58mm diameter   MM: None

This ultra rare emblem is almost certainly a prototype emblem, probably rejected by Finley Robertson Porter because the typographical design makes the letter "F" look more like an "E", see comparison with the final design below:

Compare the letter "F" on the final design on right with the prototype design on left   mjs

There is also a prototype F.R.P. hub emblem with the "E" type design of the letter "F", see example below. This prototype hub emblem is also ultra rare.

This is a prototype F.R.P. hub emblem (1915)     chw
Size: 57mm diameter   MM: Unknown

There are reproduction F.R.P. emblems with shiny flat backs, see example below:

This is a reproduction F.R.P. emblem      ms

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