If you have a unique selling point, you need a unique trick to promote it – as it is with this image of a 1912 Seabrook R.M.C – “The Car with the Underslung Frame.” So proud was this American maker of its design that it took two full pages in a British weekly to explain just how special it was. It is worth quoting the copy accompanying the remarkable picture of the tilted car: “An experiment was recently conducted in our Works in order to test the stability of the Underslung Frame. By means of a crane the car was tilted transversely until the angle was reached at which the car was on the verge of toppling over. Careful measurement of the angle showed this to be 60° 6”. This enormous reserve of lateral stability shows the utter impossibility of overturning an R.M.C. Underslung Car in use, in fact the stability is such that the car would slide bodily sideways before the wheels lifted. Although those who wish to drive to this extreme are very few, yet it is obvious that the car will hold the road better and thereby effect economy in tyre consumption.”
These cars were manufactured in Detroit by the Regal company from 1908 to 1918. The first products were conventional tourers with four cylinders and 30 or 35hp, but in late 1910 the company introduced their most famous machine, the Twenty roadster with an underslung frame: the chassis frame passed underneath front and rear axles.
Seabrook of Great Eastern Street London imported the Twenty under the name of R.M.C (Regal Motor Co.) or Seabrook-R.M.C. Production of Regal and R.M.C cars exceeded 8,000 in 1914 and 1915, but supply problems arose when America entered the First World War, and in 1918, the last year of production, only around 800 were made.
There is also something special about the body in our picture. Seabrook pointed out that “The illustration shows a four-seater chassis fitted with a special Flush Body to order.” This was indeed a stylish alternative to the standard model that had a straight-sided bonnet in front of a vertical firewall.
The underslung chassis was not unique to Regal. The most famous of the other American makes with this feature was the American Underslung, made in Indianapolis from 1905 to 1914. Created by Harry Stutz and designer Fred Tone, it had enormous 40-inch wheels and was marketed as a high-quality car at an elevated price. A few European makes used the same idea, most notably the Stabilia in France and the Adamson and Taunton light cars in Britain – but none of these appear to have flourished after World War 1.
And thank goodness Seabrook had the superb idea of promoting the car’s stability by tilting one at a ridiculous angle – thereby treating us to this delightful picture.