This composite picture of an R-C-H car with the premises of its main dealer in the background came as a surprise to us: we had never heard of such a car.
Somewhat confusingly, prospective purchasers were invited to see and try these cars at the Bridgwater Motor Company at Eastover, a district of the large market town of Bridgwater in Somerset – or 150 miles to the east at Byrom & Co. of Great Portland Street in West London.
The R-C-H was introduced in August 1911 in the USA. It was a small car powered by a 4-cylinder, 22-hp engine, priced under $1,000. The acronym R-C-H stood for a man much better known in the motoring world: Robert C Hupp, the founder in 1908 of the Hupp Motor Car Company, the manufacturer of the Hupmobile.
Robert Craig Hupp was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1877 and moved with his parents to Detroit in 1884. He began in the chemical trade but found too little to challenge him there and turned to the fast-growing automobile industry. Starting in 1902 with the Olds company and moving to Ford in 1906, he moved again a year later to be the purchasing agent for the newly-formed Regal Motor Car Company.
By 1908 Hupp was convinced that he had enough knowledge to found his own car company – but he needed capital. This was provided by Walter and Joseph Drake and John Baker. Hupp recruited Charles Hastings from Olds and Emil Nelson from Packard, and the Hupp Motor Car Company was founded in November 1908. The so-called Hupmobile was a sporty and durable small car, and enjoyed instant success.
But Hupp was rather too ambitious to stay with the original Hupp Company. In short order he became associated with a raft of companies, some making components for the Hupp Motor Car Company. By 1911 he had founded another company, the Hupp Corporation, and had set about developing another car to compete directly against the Hupmobile. Legally forbidden to use his name in connection with this new car, he changed the name of the company to the R-C-H Corporation.
The company started well, with 7,000 cars produced in the first year and 15,000 in the next – but it could not manage this rapid expansion, and quality suffered accordingly. Hupp began to lose interest, and move on to other ventures. Our picture dates from January 1913, just after Hupp had handed over the presidency of the company to J F Hartz. We know nothing about this mysterious gentleman, but in 1960 the Toronto-based J. F. Hartz Company Limited, specialising in hospital and physicians’ equipment and supplies, was celebrating its 60th anniversary – so it is possible that this was the man who took over from Hupp.
Problems with the quality of the R-C-H car continued to mount, sales plummeted and another mystery man, Charles Seider, assumed the presidency. We know even less of him, but in the “History of Michigan – Volume 2” by Charles Moore, there is a reference:
“In I895 Mr. Cotter became the owner of the racing yacht, St. Elmo, designed by Small Brothers, of Boston, and built by Lon Arnold of Bay City. After owning and racing this boat for five years, and winning many events, Mr. Cotter sold it to Charles P. Seider of Detroit, who won every race in which the St. Elmo was an entrant during the summer of I913.”
A wealthy and enthusiastic yacht-racing man could be the person who took over at the helm of R-C-H. But not for long. The company fell into receivership on July 25th 1913.
Picture courtesy of the Richard Roberts Archive