Small Carbon Footprint: 1924 Auto Red Bug

UPDATE 11/12/18 – We featured this a couple weeks ago, but the seller has since dropped the price almost a grand. Thanks go to Levi A for the tip!

FROM 10/20/18 – In this day and age where people are becoming more concerned about their carbon footprint, maybe our feature car is something to consider. This is a 1924 Auto Red Bug, and it is listed for sale here on Craigslist. Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, it is offered for sale with a clean title. The seller has set a price of $5,800 for this unusual little car.

Usually, at this point, I’d discuss various features and issues with the body, but that’s one area that we can skip. Rust in the frame also isn’t an issue, although an attack of termites could prove to be terminal. Actually, the timber frame (referred to as a buckboard) looks to be solid and in good condition. These little cars were designed to be as light as was humanly possible, but still be capable of carrying two people. The timber solution to this is elegantly simple, and also very easy to maintain. A steel frame or any bodywork would have significantly added to the weight of the car, so neither were used.

When it comes to interior trim, this is it. The trim pieces and padding on the seats appear to be original. Once again, the seating design is minimalist to aid in reducing weight. This is something that is vitally important for a vehicle like this.

During its production life, there were essentially 3 different drive-train configurations for the Red Bug. Early vehicles used a 5th wheel system to power the car, while some used an early version of the Briggs & Stratton engine. A number were powered by an electric motor, as this example is. The engine is actually a 12v starter from a Dodge which offered 0.58hp. Top speed for the vehicle was around 8-10mph, and vehicle range was somewhere between 10 to 30 miles, but this varied depending on a number of factors which included terrain and load weight. Amazingly, the engine was robust enough that people were forsaking the 12-volt system and utilizing 15 volts, which extracted greater performance and range. Drive went from the motor to the right rear wheel, while the single drum brake operated on the left rear wheel.

When it was new, the Auto Red Bug was the cheapest production car on sale in the USA. It never sold in huge numbers because of its limited speed and range. People began to realize that they could buy a Red Bug for around $125, but they could buy a Ford Model T Runabout for $265, so the Red Bug was largely consigned to duty at holiday resorts and in large factories. Today there are very few that come onto the market. The last one that went up for public sale was sold for $8,800. That might make this one a good investment.

Like This? Get Our Daily Email


  1. Howard A Member

    Just shows in almost 100 years, we haven’t progressed much in the way of electric cars, which is kind of a joke. I’ve seen the gas jobs like this, but never an electric. Bit pricey for a toy.

    • canadainmarkseh Member

      Really nothing to add you’ve kind of said it, would not be worth anymore than $200.00 to me. I could build one of these in my garage in a mater of a week or so only with a gas engine and way more speed. I’d proble hurt myself with it.

      • Howard A Member

        Well, it is an antique. I’m not sure what the market was for this. By 1924, most cars were enclosed, and toys in 1924 weren’t this fancy, although, there are vintage pics of seemingly wealthy children riding these. Today, that’s almost $2,000 dollars. Maybe in an industrial setting, like Adam says. Probably a range of about 6 blocks. The gas jobs had the Brigg’s “Motor Wheel” attachment, and odd contraption, but I’m sure more than one person took their gas powered Red Bug to work, and was the envy of all their co-workers.

      • Balstic

        But yours wouldn’t be over 100 years old, among other things including collectable.

      • canadainmarkseh Member

        True about mine not being old. Mine won’t get built and I don’t want this one either, but whatever turns your crank.

      • Metoo

        Sometime back I saw a article about a reproduction one somebody had made. It certainly can’t be too difficult. So get busy, and use quality hardwood. But a bigger more powerful and faster motor? Considering the thing would be mostly wood you might be making your own personal deathmobile. And the police report would read “death was caused by hundreds of large wood splinters.”

    • xrotaryguy

      Wait a minute… An electric car can blow the doors off a hellcat, cruise for 300 miles, and we haven’t progressed? What on Earth are you talking about?!

      • Metoo

        Bet you can’t sell one for $125 though.

    • Metoo

      Back in the early 20 century electric cars, like the Baker, had a range of 30 to 40 miles. They were primarily city cars. I understand that in NYC there were charging stations and battery exchange facilities. Not bad. Look at the youtube video of Jay Leno’s Baker Electric. Very cool.


    Where is the guy who is still looking for a car for his sister in law??

  3. Peter

    If the starter motor was 12volt it would have been a North-East Electric motor. As far as I know all the later Chrysler/ Dodge vehicles used 6volt Delco.

    • STM

      Could be enclosed?

      • Metoo

        8 to 10 mph? Why bother?

  4. Darrun

    It may be an optical illusion, but the motor looks rather large to be a starter.

    I’ve seen these for sale several times over the years, and this is only the second electric one I saw. All were high priced, most higher than this one.. There was one that sold at one of the TV Auctions for an astronomical price, but just like all the other auction cars, that doesn’t reflect true market value.

  5. Kenneth Carney

    Hi J.T.! That would be me, and no, I don’t
    think I could ever get her to drive one of
    these–not even for grins and giggles. I’ve
    almost got Sis into a 2000 Ford Taurus
    wagon I’ve found that’s dirt cheap. Only
    thing I have to do is convince her to drive
    it until she saves enough cash to get
    something she really wants. She thinks
    wagons aren’t cool and wouldn’t be caught dead in one. After that, I’d buy
    it back from her and either find a use for
    it or maybe list it here. As for this little
    Bug, it would get me to the smoke shop
    just fine. But since I can’t afford a real
    one, I could possibly build a clone for
    next to nothing. The wood framing is
    nice, but even properly treated, it won’t
    last anytime here in Florida before rot
    or termites would have it gone in no
    time. My solution would be to use a
    3-D printer to print the frame and then add what motor and mechanical parts
    I’d need to finish it up. Believe it or not,
    this little car is no faster than my MIL’s
    motorized wheelchair which classifies
    it as an LEV here in Florida. That’s great
    because you don’t need a driver’s license
    to use it. Being sight impaired myself, I
    could use something like this to get
    around town without having to get a ride
    from.someone all the time. And as for
    Howard’s comment on the range of
    electric cars, this problem is being tackled–be it ever so slowly though. In
    the case of my Bug clone here, a light
    weight canopy over the riders would
    carry a lightweight solar panel that
    could, in theory keep the car running
    all day without having to stop off to
    charge it up. This same layout would
    also be usable to charge the battery
    when parked. Gotta find some blueprints
    and get started. I’ll let you know how it
    all comes out.

  6. LAB3

    Take an old Flexible Flyer and rig up an old chainsaw to the rear axle! Done.

  7. Wes

    The Auto Red Bugs do have cycle fenders.

  8. Fernando

    Maybe $1K…with luck.

  9. Kenneth Carney

    Showed this to Sis, and her first response
    was a resounding “No-ahhh!” Then, she
    lightened up and said she’d drive it around the town during the monthly car
    shows we have here in Winter Haven.
    Also thought of building my clone of
    this car with Schedule 1 PVC plastic
    pipe. It doesn’t rot, is termite proof,
    and when made into a structure of
    some type, it’s stronger than steel.
    Still have to figure out how to install
    the suspension components without
    breaking the piping. Thinking of 4
    wheel coilover shocks from a motor-
    cycle as well as rims and tires too.
    2 12-volt bicycle generators will provide
    power for the lighting and the electric
    brakes as well. Floorpans could made
    of cardboard covered with fiberglass
    resin. Top speed is estimated between
    15 to 20 MPH. Gotta go! Company’s

  10. John p

    Wayne Carini recently sold one of these at auction in far worse shape IMO..

  11. Gaspumpchas

    Hmm not to burst your bubble, Kenneth, but make a new frame on a 3d printer??
    Good luck on your project.


    • Metoo

      Plus the fact that a 3d printer is pricey unless you already have one for other purposes. And although I am no expert on schedule one pvc pipe for a frame, not having a engineering degree, wouldn’t it be more flexible than good hardwood (maybe someone could enlighten me on this if I’m wrong).The result might be disappointing.

  12. Kenneth Carney

    Hi GPC! While I can’t print the entire frame with such a printer, I can, how-
    ever, reproduce it slat by slat using the
    original blueprints–if any of them still
    exist. If not, I’ll have to use PVC pipe
    to build the frame. And while I’d like
    to feed the wiring for the electrics
    through the frame rails to protect it,
    but I’m not too sure how practical that
    would be. Have to kick that one around
    some. However it turns out, I’ll have fun
    building it!

  13. Robert White

    I have never even seen a Red Bug in my entire life and I’m almost 60. Thanks for this, BF. Always great to see new stuff that I have never seen before.


    • Rex

      Are you the owner of Graffiti Alley in Eugene?

    • half cab

      Mr White…Wasn’t born in Oct of ’59 were ya?

  14. Classic Steel

    I am more of a pedal man in my small toys … I hope someone gets this to preserve ..
    Lil pricey and not an investment to my standards but a cool 2 cycle engine carbon maker ..

  15. Chris

    It’s a cool piece of automotive/motor transportation. And in my opinion a $1500-$2000 item. Still way over priced.

  16. canadainmarkseh Member

    If you really want to make this and have I fly along at about 40 mph put it on bicycle wheels for electric bikes. Use a 45 volt battarypack lithium ion and controller. Put bicycle disc brakes on all four wheel and two drive motors. Deck it out to look like a tin lizy and have a blast. In Canada with electric and gas powered bicycles as long as they are only capable of no more then 60 kph they are not considered a motor vehicle and do not require insurance a registration. I see them around my neighborhood all the time I even see a guy in a wheel chair with a bicycle front wheel forks and handle bars flying along with the front wheel pulling him with an electric motor. If I were to build this bicycle motors are the way to go. You could even make one that’s four wheel drive and a bigger battery pack what fun that would be.

  17. Chuck

    I have a Pride Mobility Wrangler PMV, that will do 10mph, and has a range of 25+ miles. I regularly drive it into town, about 3 mi, to the post office, gas station, (for lawnmower gas) and to the restaurant! While, basically for outside use, I have used it inside in several different stores. Just about the same specifications, but 90 years later.

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks. Don't post your car for sale in the comments. Click here to get it featured on the homepage instead.


Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.