Jay Leno thinks this 1916 Crane-Simplex is simply outrageous
In 1916, $10,000 was a huge sum. This was a time when the hard-working Model T Ford commanded around $600 new, while top-tier coachbuilt cars could easily be 10 times that figure. The Crane-Simplex Model 5, however, cost as much as sixteen Model Ts—and the pricetag wasn’t even the craziest part of the car. Jay Leno takes a look at his blue-and-white Crane-Simplex to give us a glimpse into this wildly cool vehicle and its history.
The Crane-Simplex name is hyphenated for a reason. Simplex was an engine manufacturer that was best known for producing robust motors that could be placed into various chassis built by small car companies. Crane was one such company, notable for luxury cars that bordered on uninspiring. Put the two products together, however, and the result was quite spectacular.
Leno’s car is one of the best-kept and most thoroughly-documented cars he’s ever seen. Its 105-year ownership history can be traced to new, and the vehicle has undergone two top-notch restorations. Under the hood sits a massive 563.7-cubic-inch inline-six that was cast as two three-cylinder blocks and then combined during assembly. Leno suspects that this casting method helped save material; in the event of a casting flaw, only half of the engine would need to be melted back down.
It’s a big engine that doesn’t turn crazy rpm, but thanks to the transmission’s gearing, this inline-six really doesn’t need high revs. The Crane-Simplex doesn’t need much speed, either, when you consider that it has rear brakes only. One set of brakes was common in the 1910s, but we should all be happy that technology has marched past that point.
This car is a beautiful piece of rolling art that, as Leno motors it down the streets of L.A., is almost as absurd of a proposition today as it was over a century ago.