October 31, 2023


Motorcar Co.
Jackson, Michigan (1905)
Detroit, Michigan (1906)
Cartercar Co. (1907-1915)
Pontiac, Michigan

This is a Cartercar radiator script (date unknown)   mjs
Size: 180mm wide 89mm high

Byron J. Carter had previously set up the Jackson Automobile Company (see Jackson) but left in 1903 to develop his idea of a friction drive. He organized his Motorcar Company in Jackson, Michigan late in 1905 but relocated to Detroit soon after. The first Cartercars built in 1905 were single-cylinder runabouts and a 10 hp two-cylinder runabout. In 1907 the company was renamed the Cartercar Company and moved to Pontiac. The Cartercar was well received by the motoring press and sales rose nicely from 101 in 1906 to 325 in 1908.

Byron Carter died in 1908 and in 1909 the Cartercar Company was bought by William Crapo Durant as part of his General Motors Corporation. The Cartercar became a four-cylinder automobile in 1910 and was available in a variety of body styles. The Cartercar was the most famous American friction-drive automobile but sales did not reach the levels expected by General Motors and the Cartercar plant was closed in 1915.

Cartercar also built light commercial cars, delivery vans and taxis from 1906 to 1912 using the same friction-drive transmission as used for their passenger cars.


The earliest Cartercars in 1905-1906 did not carry an emblem but no doubt displayed the "Cartercar" name on a small maker's nameplate/serial plate attached to the body of the car, see example shown below, which shows a developing Cartercar script logo. This Cartercar nameplate/serial plate is very rare.

This is a Cartercar nameplate/serial plate (1906)       mjs
Size: 97mm wide 55mm high

Early Cartercar advertisements did not always show the Cartercar logo, see example shown below:

This is a Cartercar advertisement (1906)    wiki

The Cartercar logo script was finalized by 1907, see Cartercar nameplate/serial plate shown below. This Cartercar nameplate/serial plate is rare.

This is a Cartercar nameplate/serial plate (1907)    mjs
Size: 90mm wide 52mm high

The "Cartercar" script was also displayed on the hubcaps, see example shown below:

This is a Cartercar hubcap (c1907)     dkc

From 1907 and possibly from late 1906, the "Cartercar" name was also displayed using a large brass Cartercar script mounted on the radiator core, see original photo shown below: 

Cartercar showing large radiator script (1907)     dpl

The Cartercar script logo appeared on advertisements from 1908 and the brass Cartercar radiator script was reduced to a smaller size, which remained in use, with few exceptions, throughout most, if not all of the remaining life of the Cartercar, see examples shown below:

Cartercar ad showing small radiator script (1909)   pinterest

Original photo showing small rad script (1910)    dpl

Suriving Cartercar showing small radiator script (1912) bonhams

This is the small brass Cartercar radiator script shown above at the top of this post and again below for convenience:

This is a Cartercar radiator script (c1908-1915)      mjs
Size: 180mm wide 89mm high

I have found no original photos or illustrations that show a Cartercar radiator emblem. However, the Smithsonian emblem collection includes the Cartercar emblem shown below, which may have been a hub emblem but I cannot confirm this:

This is a Cartercar emblem (date unknown)    sac
Size: Unknown   MM: Unknown

The following poor quality photo of a surviving 1915 Cartercar shows a mark on the top of the radiator but it is not clear if this is an emblem or some radiator damage. 

Surviving Cartercar (1915)     invisionicic

Other photos of surviving 1915 Cartercar models do not show a radiator emblem, see example shown below:

Surviving Cartercar (1915)     nick kloepping

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