Could I Build A Horseless Carriage?

Vernon Silver
January/February 1995
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This motor buggy was built by Vernon Silver.

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P.O. Box 65, Mountain Home, North Carolina 28758

I have always been fascinated with wagons, buggies and carriages. I have built several small wagons for my 'hit & miss' engines and some goat wagons which turned out pretty nice, but I al ways wondered if I could build a Horse less Carriage. You never know until you try, do you ?

Not being sure how it would turn out, (and it was a pastime project so I didn't want to put much money into it), I decided to use all the used parts I could muster up. I had a Tecumseh 5 HP motor that came off a garden tiller and several other parts. I visited my older brother who runs a small engine repair shop and he gave me a transmission and differential oft a lawn tractor.

By this time I had some idea how it would look. My wife and I participate in several engine and tractor shows, so I thought it would be nice if I calculated the measurements so that two people could ride in it and it could also be transported in the hack of my pick-up truck. The truck had a high door cover, so the top would have to be collapsible or removable, but I would worry about that later. I was anxious to get the rest of it working.

The chassis would have to be built first, so I bought angle iron, flat iron, iron rods and one inch square tubing; lots of bolts, nuts and washers; and some welding rods.

There were no written plans. I was winging it all the way, trial and error, working each step out as I came to it. No computer printouts on this project! Old time math, tape rule and yard stick, a square, pencil and paper were my de sign tools.

I don't have a power hack saw and my arm wouldn't hold out to do 'all the sawing that was necessary with a hand hack saw, so the little side grinder along with a metal cutting wheel mounted on my radial arm saw got a lot of use.

Most early cars did not have a live rear axle, so I decided to go with a final drive chain to each rear wheel. I went to the Northern Hydraulics store to pick up some chain, sprockets and wheels. I didn't know any place in this area where I could purchase wagon seat springs, so my wife and I took a trip to an Amish settlement in Pennsylvania where I knew I would be able to get a line on where I could find some wagon seat springs. I reasoned that buggy springs would be too big, so I would try the wagon seat springs, which turned out just right.

After countless hours of work and several sleepless nights when I would run into a problem that needed re thinking or re-working, everything finally clicked into place and worked out beautifully. The woodwork was no problem and I talked my wife into sewing a top for me.

As soon as it was finished I took some pictures of it. I showed them to a member of Hendersonville, North Carolina, Antique Car Club and he invited me to take it to their next meeting and give a little speech on it; which I did. It created a lot of interest and they insisted I give it a name. I couldn't come up with a name just then, but in a few days, when I drove it down Main Street in the Apple Festival Parade in Hendersonville, I had a tag with the name Silver Ghost (my last name is Silver and the car represented cars of the past so that is where the Ghost part came in). As I went down the street I got standing ovations and handclaps.

When I take it to engine shows it creates a lot of attention. People crawl under it and examine it from one end to another to see how the parts were put together. This inspired me to work up a set of plans with addresses where parts can be obtained that aren't usually carried by local hardware stores.

If any of you are interested in a fun project or something to keep you out of your wife's way this winter, this will do it!

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