Historian's Notebook

Cohoes Automobiles

Few people may be aware that automobiles were once manufactured in our city. For a period of about a year near the turn of the 20th century, Wood-Loco vehicles were produced in Cohoes.

In Worcester, Massachusetts in 1900, Joseph C. Wood was in partnership with his brothers in the new and second-hand furniture business. He was also building motor vehicles during this time, and by October of 1900 his increasing involvement and interest in their construction and design led him to sell out his interest in the furniture business. The cars he built in Worcester were most likely experimental vehicles. Wood turned to manufacturing the next year, setting up his business in Cohoes, where he convinced local businessmen to invest in his factory. Two steamer models were built in the city by the Wood-Loco Vehicle Company: a delivery wagon and a runabout providing vis-a-vis seating for five passengers. The Wood-Loco's horizontal engine developed 8 horsepower. The vehicle's boiler and fuel tank were under the seat; it could be fueled by either gasoline or kerosene. Production of the autos continued in Cohoes through 1902.

In early 1903, Wood moved from Cohoes to Brooklyn, seeking more investment capital. There, with C.T. Sauer and E.S. Wood, he organized the Wood Vapor Vehicle Company. Their new factory at 811 Union Street produced a steam runabout more refined than the Wood-Loco had been. Its steam generator hung under the carriage, with all other machinery mounted up front under the hood. The car had 36-inch wood wheels with solid tires. The weight and price of the vehicle were the same: 450 pounds, 450 dollars. J.C. Wood produced this steam runabout only in 1903; in the years after he concentrated solely on the production of delivery wagons.

Cohoes only enjoyed a brief time as a site of automobile manufacture, but this history is a reminder of the wide range of products that were once made in Cohoes.

Information for this article was excerpted from the Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942 by Paul Perrault.

Winter 2002

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