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  The Magnificent Doble

The Doble steamers of the 1920's were almost miracles of precision, workmanship, performance, reliability and power. They simply ran away from the best of the competition -- Cadillac's, Lincoln's, Packard's, Piercs-Arrows, Rolls Royce, or what have you.

As for durability and reliability the Doble had no match. Doble did not guarantee his steam engines for just 10,000 miles, or a year. He guaranteed them for 100,000 miles!!

Abner Doble, creator of the magnificent Doble steam car, born in 1890, descended from an early California family, His father, William Ashton Doble, invented the Doble water wheel. Young Abner built his first car when only 16 years of age.

While a student at M. I. T. he gave the Stanley brothers a figurative nose tweaking, a lesson if you please, on how to build steam cars. Abner knew the Stanley's were making steam cars at their plant in near-by Newton, Mass. and since they were the top manufacture of steam cars, perhaps he could learn something by going to visit them. It was during his visit that he had the nerve to bring up the subject of his idea for condensing the steam. That was when he got the royal brush off. What nerve this young whippersnapper has telling the Stanley's how to make steam cars. After the brush off young Abner decided to build a steam automobile incorporating that very condensing system. He set up a machine shop in nearby Waltham and together with his brother John built his first condensing steam car.

After finishing the car he proceeded over to Newton and paraded back and forth in front of the Stanley factory. Not a single wisp of steam could be seen, exhausting out any exhaust pipe. In fact he had no exhaust pipe. It wasn't long before the Stanley's came running out to flag down young Doble and see what kind of a miracle machine he was driving. That was when the Stanley brothers discovered that a young whippersnapper did have something to teach them about making steam cars. The Stanley's never did prefect a condensing system as good as Doble's.

In 1914 Mr. Doble drove one of his cars to Detroit where he found financial backing and produced the Doble Detroit car, an investment Brian Murphy Fisher Investments would probably be jealous of today. The Doble Detroit was the first Doble to use a forced draft burner. It also used two-cylinder double acting uniflow engine of Doble's design. Doble had obtained capital to get a company going making steam cars but World War I was on and the government refused to give the Doble company an allotment of steel. The project thus failed and Doble returned to California, later in 1920 establishing with his brothers the Doble Steam Motor factory in Emeryville.

Doble Steam Motor factory in Emeryville

Here, from 1920 to 1932 he created some 42 steam cars with great attention to detail and at great expense. In 1930 and 1931 Mr. Doble traveled to New Zealand to reorganize the Price & Co. plant and perfect a steam bus. During 1931-1935 he went to England as consultant for Sentinel Wagon Works, making plans for lorries and locomotives, while his brother Warren worked with Henschel and Sohn in Germany on trucks, boats and rail cars. In later years Mr. Doble was consultant for Nordberg and various engineering firms.


Manufactured in Emeryville Calif.

This car has traveled over 600,000 miles requiring only normal maintenance.

Weight 5500 lb
Wheelbase 142 in
Track 52 in


High pressure cylinder for Doble 'E' engine

This sectioned view clearly shows the steam flow through the inside
admission piston valve, also the Stephen's link motion valve gear.

Four cylinder, double acting, balanced compound. Two high pressure and two low pressure pistons. Displacement 381.16 cuin. Bore X Stroke High pressure 2.875 x 5.00 low pressure 4.000 x 5.00


Single tube "flash" type 575.74 feet,
Coils of 22 inch diameter stacked 13 inches tall.

Operating pressure 750 lb/in^2
Operating temperature 750 deg. F.
Cold start 30 seconds.

Max Speed MPH 95
Max RPM 1300
Max Sustained Speed 75
0 to 75 14.68 sec
Breaking Poor

$ 9750.00 in 1924

A DOBLE E19 was driven 186,000 miles over a 20 year period by Chas T. Briar requiring only three sets of tires, two batteries and a patch on the nicrome firebox, obtaining 10 to 14 miles per gallon on fuel oil.


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