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Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

1917 Woods Mobilette Roadster: A Brief Fad with a Bad Rap

January 4, 2021 Archive Insight
Boxy black car


Cyclecars – slim, cheap cars with motorcycle engines – took the United States by storm starting around 1912. But most were poorly built and rattled to pieces on America’s rough, unpaved roads.

Illustration of car next to horse and carriage with light red background and text
The cyclecar’s reputation was so bad by 1917 that Woods Mobilette carefully described this two-passenger Model 5A as a “light car” rather than a cyclecar. / THF84558

Page with images of cars and text
The Woods was, in fact, better built than its competitors. The 3-speed transmission surpassed the 2-speed units in most cyclecars, and the Inline-4 was bigger than the 2-cylinder motorcycle engines in competing vehicles. Woods promised that its gearbox caused “no clashing, no grating, no slipping or grabbing.” / THF84560

Drawing of man and woman in narrow car with no top
The company also offered a third seat – in reality, a folding chair – to turn the 5A into a 3-passenger car. But the base price for the little Woods was $20 more than a full-size Ford Model T. Small wonder that 1917 marked the final year for Mobilette production. / THF101167

This post was adapted from an exhibit label in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

20th century, 1910s, cars

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