Home Feature Cars & Events  

The Lake Erie Region of the
Antique Automobile Club of America

Saving "Old Porcupine"
by Charles Wolski, February 2018


This is the story of a 1903 Model C, Waterless Knox Runabout, affectionately nicknamed “Old Porcupine” which came about from the use of 2 inch pins stuck in the cylinder barrel instead of fins. The company used the following slogan in marketing “THE CAR THAT NEVER DRINKS”. The 1903 factory price for the vehicle was $1,200 with a 1 cylinder, 8 horse power and a 72-inch wheelbase. It also had a fold-up front passenger seat, a scary place to ride.

Production of Knox vehicles began in 1900 when 15 three wheeled runabouts were produced followed by 100 in 1901. Introduction of a four-wheel runabout in 1902 resulted in an increase of production to 250. Old Porcupine was born sometime in 1903 as part of the 500 Knox vehicles produced that year at the old Waltham Watch Company in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Little is known about her early life, except that she ended up in Connecticut sometime between 1903 and 1940. She remained in Connecticut where she was sent to an auto salvage firm in 1942/1943 to help the war effort. The salvage company wasn’t really interested in a vehicle with a wooden carriage body, a wooden, steel frame and a single cylinder engine but without the convertible top frame. My dad was good friends with the owners of the firm and he offered $15 for the Knox, far more than they would get for scrap. She then was welcomed as a part of our family. My dad and uncle tried to get her running without any luck. They then tore the engine apart, a one-cylinder air cooled engine and discovered the valves were broken, alas the reason it wouldn’t start. My dad machined new valves using the old broken ones as a guide. They reassembled the engine and attempted getting it to run. They were successful.

They then proceeded to assess the condition of the drive consisting of the single cylinder engine coupled to a 2- speed planetary transmission similar to what Ford Model T used, chain drive, longitudinal springs, and the wooden carriage body as well as the tiller steering. They had the fenders which were originally a wrought iron frame that would be covered in leather but not restored. All appeared in good condition but in need of paint, which was done by my uncle, and they covered the original seating to the main passenger area with mohair. They drove it to local parades in southwestern Connecticut during the late 1940’s but stopped because of increasing traffic. She had a top speed of 12 MPH coupled with being perched around 4 plus feet off the ground to drive with little or no protection to the driver or passenger(s). She spent the rest of her life covered in a garage. But the Knox would be taken out periodically to be checked over by my dad and uncle, and displayed outside my family’s service station for people to view.

Then in 1960/1961 we were approached by a gentleman from New Jersey that heard about the Knox. He made contact with dad, came to see the vehicle and was very interested in acquiring the car to restore it. After some negotiations, my dad and the gentleman agreed on a price of $3000. He returned a couple of weeks later with a trailer and the car was whisked off to New Jersey. Unfortunately, we lost contact with the buyer sometime in the mid 1960’s and do not know what happened to “Old Porcupine”. Hopefully, she lives in a museum somewhere to be enjoyed by many people as I did growing up with her. The Knox brand ceased production in 1914, a victim of poor sales and mounting manufacturing loses. I have also attached some pictures of “Old Porcupine” with my family and hope you enjoy my story.