The Invincible Schacht: 1904 Schacht Auto-Runabout

Before the 1920s, there were over 1,000 car manufacturers in the United States. While all of those companies are now either defunct or absorbed into the Big Three, many vehicles produced by these companies still exist. Many horseless carriages were made under various small companies, and the pre-1920s is not an uncommon time period in which to find a car of which only one or two still exist. According to the ad, this 1904 Schacht runabout is one of “about four” known to exist and is in original condition. Yep, it’s a survivor! Find it here on the Significant Cars website with no price listed, located in Indiana. Many thanks to Dominic O. for this fantastic find. 

Though the picture quality could be better, it is plain to see that this is an opposed engine. It is a 10 horsepower 2-cylinder engine. The later models had closer to 20 and then 50 horsepower, but this is a first year model as the Schacht Manufacturing Company began in 1904. Originally carriage and buggy builders, it was only a matter of time before the Schacht brothers attached an engine to a buggy.

This vehicle is of a variety known as a “high-wheeler,” which is exactly what it looks and sounds like.As seen in this photo, this car operates on some kind of chain-drive system to transmit power to both rear wheels. Though over 2,500 Schacht vehicles were produced, there are less than 60 left and very few are early models. From here the resemblance to a carriage is very apparent, as the wheels and body components are drawn directly from carriage building. Most early cars had a tiller-type device for steering, and it was only around 1903/1904 steering wheels would start to be used. This Schacht is likely among the first few to install such a device.

We often coo over survivor Mustangs and Camaros, but this Schacht is almost 114 years old and hasn’t been restored! This seems unlikely, but it really happens more than you would think with cars of this era. Schacht was one of the more successful companies of the early 1900s, moving into trucks and fire-engines in the 1910s once automotive production became a challenge. The company remained until around 1940, which by comparison to other early manufacturers is nothing to sneeze at. There is a large amount of historical information in the listing for this car. This Auto-Runabout was owned by the same family since prior to WWII until Significant Cars acquired it. The only thing cooler than having a 100+ year old car nobody has ever heard of is having one in original condition.


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  1. Thomas

    Great write up!

  2. Salt Man

    My math says it’s almost 114 years old.

    • Andrew Tanner Member

      Indeed it is, slight mathematical error on my part. It’s fixed now, thanks!

  3. James HGF

    Tiller steering fell by the wayside rather quickly. The curved dash Olds was introduced in 1901 with tiller steering and is popular with London to Brighton participants because of its relatively low cost and the large number available.

    An example of an early car with a steering wheel – 1899 Panhard et Levassor:

  4. James HGF

    Photo of the first use of a steering wheel on the 1894 Panhard et Levassor (car #24) driven by Alfred Vacheron in the 1894 Paris-Rouen race 22 July 1894 – scroll down click on photo on right side of page:,_concurrant_n°24_de_Paris-Rouen_le_22_juillet_1894_-_Alfred_Vacheron_de_Monthermé_(08,_gazoline).).jpg

    Caption states: First auto steering wheel contestant #24….

    Admittedly the short man with a top hat is a distraction.

  5. geomechs geomechs Member

    The earliest steering wheel I saw was on the 1901 Pope Columbia Mark VIII Runabout. For all intents and purposes you would almost have to say that this was the granddaddy of modern cars: Front engine-rear wheel drive; steering wheel—on the left. And all in a time when many people were still experimenting with cars.

    • Anthony R from RI

      I recognized that card format ! I have the same set although with a different picture of the same car the American Heritage Picture and History Cards mine have a copyright date of 1961 by Milton Bradley….

      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Hi Anthony. That actual card image, I got off the Net many years ago. Since I was at work and unable to reduce the size of the actual image I have (so it could be uploaded on this site) I used this one. I’ve always been a fan of this little car and I managed to come across an operator’s manual for it. The car itself was in the collection of the (closed 37 years ago) Long Island Auto Museum.

  6. David Miraglia

    This car should be donated to one of the auto museums.

    • Metoo

      Yep. It really doesn’t belong on the road. And after visiting the website for the place that’s selling it, it won’t go cheap.

  7. James HGF

    @ Geomechs The recognized standard for automobiles for the majority of the 20th century was the 1891 Panhard et Levassor. Per Wikipedia:

    “In 1891, the company built its first all-Levassor design,[4] a “state of the art” model: the Système Panhard consisted of four wheels, a front-mounted engine with rear wheel drive, and a crude sliding-gear transmission, sold at 3500 francs.[4] This was to become the standard layout for automobiles for most of the next century.

    In 1895, 1,205 cc (74 cu in) Panhard et Levassor vehicles finished first and second in the Paris–Bordeaux–Paris race, one piloted solo by Levassor, for 48¾hr.[6] However, during the 1896 Paris–Marseille–Paris race, Levassor was fatally injured due to a crash while trying to avoid hitting a dog, and died in Paris the following year. Arthur Krebs succeeded Levassor as General Manager in 1897, and held the job until 1916. He turned the Panhard et Levassor Company into one of the largest and most profitable manufacturers of automobiles before World War I.”

    As you can read above with the exception of the steering wheel (volant de direction) Panhard is recognized without question as having developed the standard layout for at least the first half plus of the 20th century. In 1891. Sorry, but the Columbia was a late arrival, but it did use the 1891(&1894 steering wheel) Panhard layout.

    We’re less than a year out from the next London to Brighton Veteran Car Run – Sunday 4 Nov 2018 with the London to Brighton 100+ car display on Regent Street on Saturday 3 Nov.

    Anyone and everyone who is an auto enthusiast of whatever stripe should plan now to attend this event. No admission charge for Saturday or Sunday and truly educational for petrolheads or whatever one calls oneself.

    London to Brighton VCR finish line in Brighton 2017 after 64 mile drive beginning in Hyde Park at Sunrise:

    ps: It was not possible to have US races similar to the early French city to city contests as there were few, very few roads in the US. Wealthy Americans (the 1%?) shipped their cars to Europe or purchased in Europe to tour France and surrounding areas in the early 20th century.

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Hi James. So Panhard is the true inventor of the modern chassis layout. I stand corrected. Thanks for pointing that out. The London to Brighton car run has always fascinated me. I would love to go see it. But it would take a major shot in the arm to be able to swing it. Not very easy for the remains of a burnt out mechanic. But I’ll be watching it on YouTube.

  8. James HGF

    Thanks to for posting a really great short (3:30min) video showing how wonderful the London to Brighton VCR is:–033691.html

    This Veteran Car Run video is professionally produced and much better than the 28 minute video I posted above of the cars arriving at Maderia Drive in Brighton. Having attended the event numerous times I can assure you it is one of the “the” motoring events.

    @ David Miraglia – Cars were built to be used. Admittedly the Schacht High Wheeler is truly primitive by 1904 standards, but if it can be documented as to having actually being completed in 1904 its value (as a potential London to Brighton Run competitor) goes up substantially (multiple times) vs any later post 1904 Schacht car. The Significant Cars dot Com website has a varity of early cars (1910+) consigned so hopefully due diligence on date of manufacture is complete and accurate.

  9. Ken Nelson Member

    James HGF – It’s sad that Panhard is such a forgotten brand. I doubt most hotrodders realize where their Panhard rod came from! And having driven the breakdown car for a good friend, Tim Payne of the UK, as he drove a borrowed 1904 Lagonda “Nere-a-car” in the 2013 London-Brighton run, I agree with you that the L-B run ought to be on the bucket list for any real classic car enthusiast – what a hoot it is! The breakdowns are half the fun! The V-twin splash-lubed engine in the Lagonda overheated and seized up at least 8 times, so we were way behind everyone else, and finally gave up about 12 miles from Brighton and very late, so prevailed on a helpful family along the way to let us park the car in their driveway while we carried on to the celebration in Tim’s works car, the Citroen Xantia I was in.
    Having been involved with Citroens and Panhards for many yrs, I can tell you Panhard engineers were way beyond most other brands most of the time. My ’61 Panhard PL17 cabrio is good for 90 mph on 850 cc’s of all-rollerbearing engine sporting only two cylinders. Puts out 50 hp and is good for 7000 rpm. I routinely cruise it at 80 on the 880 freeway around San Francisco bay. It loves to rev, and the most interesting thing about it is that the engine’s conrod rollerbearing has provenance out the wazoo – it was designed by none other than Leonardo – around 1480. If you don’t believe me, visit Leonardo’s last home, next to the Amboise Chateau in the Loire valley of France. The basement archives have reproductions of many of his drawings, and one of them describes the Panhard bearing, which is very unusual in that smaller rollers separate the loadbearing larger ones, by counter-rotating between the big ones, & so produce no sliding friction. The only friction whatsoever in the bearing is between the small rollers and a thin aluminum cage which keeps the small rollers from flying out from between the large ones. I nearly fell over in 2005 when I visited the estate. To date I have never seen this design used in any other engine. In addition, these engines had roller lifters years before others were using them, lightweight aluminum tube pushrods with hardened steel ends, and zero rocker clearance due to a hydraulically-floated rocker arm instead of hydraulic lifters. When this flat twin was designed in 1946, it revved so well that coil valvesprings repeatedly failed due to poor fatigue life. Torsionbar springs were substituted and to this day they handle 7000 rpm without failing. The last Panhard twins made in 1967 were good for 60 hp out of the same 850 cc’s with minor cam and intake mods.
    Deutsch-Bonnet fiberglass racing coupes and roadsters running Panhard drivetrains won their class at Lemans in the late ’50s.

  10. Andrew Tanner Member

    All this excellent Panhard et Levassor talk! This is certainly one of the most influential early car brands, being that they did indeed pioneer many mechanisms that are popular today. Though Karl Benz is attributed with the first “car” with his Benz Patent Motorwagen, Panhard et Levassor were right on his tail!


    Sorry to be a bubble-buster, but this Schacht is a 1909 Auto Runabout Model K with an 18-20 hp motor. I am the secretary/registrar for the Schacht Register which is affiliated with the Horseless Carriage Club of America. Our membership includes 40+ owners around the world. We have documented over 60 surviving cars and trucks that were manufactured by Schacht and are excited when another one pops up each year. If someone would be kind enough to put me in touch with the owner we could verify the month when this Schacht was built and would welcome the owner into our group. No dues; just a wealth of knowledge! The side-spring autos were only produced from Jan. ’07 to Feb. ’10 by Schacht. They built more conventional cars prior to and after that period. Thank you.

    • Matthew

      I’m so excited to read about someone with knowledge of these vechiles. My father is about to buy the original prototype of the schacht. The owner of the vehicle purchased the vehicle from a Attourney that was in charge of the estate of schacht family. If not mistaken the car is dated 1903 the first production was schacht vehicle was 1904. I would like to speak with you about more information on these vehicle.
      Matt Garrett

    • Cindy

      My family owns what we thought was a 1902 Schacht. If I send you a photo would you be able to tell the age. It does have a metal plate on the side that says “THE SCHACHT MFG CO, Schacht, CINCINNATI, O. U.S.A.” This one is a beauty, it runs but hasn’t been driven, does have a radiator leak, and the gas valve needs replaced.

  12. Cindy

    Can anyone tell me the age of this antique Schacht? We were always told it was a 1902 but I’m thinking it’s a 1903 or 1904.

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