The Lozier Story [Lozier engines]
by Menno Duerksen

How does one tell the story of a shooting star? Of a flash of light which blazes so brightly for a moment that it casts the other stars into the shadows -- but then fades away almost at quickly as it has come?

How do you cast doubts upon one of the most firmly established "official" legends of American motoring history?

The answer is that you do it by telling the story of Lozier.

To mention that name today in a group of average car buffs, especially one of the "today generation," is likely to draw little more than a blank stare and the reply, "Lozier who?"

But mention that name to a group of real old time car fans who have done their homework and you'll see once more that star-like sparkle -- in their eyes.

For it has been nearly 70 years now since folks said the Lozier was a Cadillac that was better than a Cadillac. Or even, many said, a Mercedes better than a Mercedes. In the period around 1910-1911 the Lozier was even named the U.S. championship race car.

Since we suggested that the Lozier story was short, like the brief flight of a shooting star, the whole thing should be easy and short. But that easy it was not. For while that blaze at the peak did indeed last only a few short years, the beginnings of the story go back well into the 19th century and indeed dragged on for several years after that glorious ride at the top.

In the beginning it involved bicycle, motor tricycles, steam cars, motor boats and only after all this involved the gasoline powered motor cars. It also involved men -- Harry A. Lozier, John Perrin, Ralph Mulford, and others.

The Lozier story not stretch that far back but it was around 1880 when a man named Harry A. Lozier Sr., was operating one of the largest bicycle and sewing machine manufacturing combines in America. Lozier Sr. died in 1903, before the real Lozier motor car appeared on the market in 1905, but a brief mention must be made of this man because it was his enterprise and his money which set the stage.

There are several points of significance in the Lozier Sr. career. First, it covered a period between 1880 and 1900 which has been called the "golden age of the Bicycle," the boom period for the two-wheelers. Next, the Lozier enterprise was making one of the highest quality bicycles on the market, the Cleveland, at a time when most makes left a lot to be desired, qualitywise. The Cleveland two-wheeler was even selling well in England and Europe at a time when European industrialists were heaping scorn on the shoddy merchandise being turned out by the "upstart" Yankee industrialists across the big pond.

That top quality rating for Cleveland bicycles could, in a sense, be pointing a finger to the future of fine Lozier automobiles. There is, in fact, a direct link between those high quality bicycles and the high quality Lozier motor cars for a man named George R, Burwell had been superintendent and chief engineer of the Lozier enterprises, a man well known for his mania in the direction of precision machine work and high quality production. it was Burwell who, in 1893, hired and trained a young draftsman just graduated from a Toledo high school named John G. Perrin.

It would be the exacting Burwell who would remain in charge through the beginnings of the experimental work with motor cars and then it would be Perrin who would design and build them carrying on the tradition for making only the best.

Finally, before leaving Lozier Sr., it might be well to point out that he had the foresight to sell out his bicycle manufacturing plants just before the bicycle boom ended -- for $4,000,000 in cash. In 1897 money that was a goodly sized fortune, probably as much as $50,000,000 would be in today's slippery dollars. In fact Lozier Sr. did not quit business in selling his plants but became involved in other enterprises and when he died, in May of 1903, newspaper accounts said he had left an estate of $10,000,000.

Lozier had three sons but only one of them, Harry A. Lozier Jr., had shown any interest in the making of machinery, or motors. He was a man destined to be president of the Lozier Motor Co. during its period of glory. And even if the senior Lozier's fortune had to be split three ways, or more, it at least meant that if a motor manufacturing company were to be organized it would not be necessary to go begging to the bankers for loans, or selling stock, to get such an enterprise off the ground.

But we have jumped a bit ahead of our story for when the elder Lozier sold his plants to the American Bicycle Co. the sale arrangement was for the Lozier engineering crew to remain at least partly in charge for another three years as a transition period. And it was during this period that Burwell, Perrin and others of the Lozier crew began tinkering with the "new fangled" self propelled vehicles and motors just appearing on the industrial scene.

As for this man, John G, Perrin, he has never been given the publicity or accolades that have been spread around for men like Jesse Vincent, of Packard; Ransom E. Olds, of Oldsmobile and Reo; or Henry Leland, that grand old man of precision manufacture responsible for both Cadillac and Lincoln. But an examination of his career indicates there was something special about this man from the beginning. Scarcely a year after he went to work for Lozier the youngster had already been promoted to superintendent of one of the plants. And from that point his career pointed in only one direction -- up.

But, going back to that three-year transition-experimental period after the sale of the Lozier plants, a special section in the Toledo plant was set aside for the experimenting and, if one may believe the results, the experimental group truly earned their pay. For by the time the period ended they had copied a French model of a motor driven tricycle and it was even placed in limited production, with 100 of them made, by the new company.

The group also experimented with steamers, two and four cycle internal combustion engines and boats. It might be well to mention that it was during this period that Perrin was credited with designing a so-called flash boiler for the group's steam engines. This would be one of the earliest flash boiler designs, a feature that would eventually do more than any other feature to make the steam car practical by reducing start-up time.

But at this point a not of confusion did creep into the picture, largely due to the fact that members of the Lozier family, including the boss himself, had become more interested in boats, launches, rather than motor cars. If they were going to make internal combustion motors, why not put them in boats? Thus, in fact, when the experimental period came to an end at Toledo and the new Lozier Motor Co. was organized in 1900, it was making motors for boats.

The Lozier family, including Lozier Sr., were now living mostly in the New York area and had been happily boating on Lake Champlain. They now decided that the new Lozier enterprise would be set up on the banks of the lake, at Plattsburgh, N.Y. There was no mystery to this logic. if the company was going into the marine power business they needed access to a large, widely used body of water.

It is interesting to note that when the decision was made to move from Toledo to Plattsburgh, engineers Burwell and Perrin, together with their top mechanics, made the move by traveling by water in one of their newly built 45 foot cabin launches.

It meant navigating their way through Lake Erie, the Erie Canal, the Champlain Canal and then to Plattsburgh. it was a distance of some 600 miles and no mean feat for the new experimental Lozier marine engine. it clearly proved that these men already knew how to make good gasoline engines.

Additional proof came soon after the new motor company was established and the Lozier boats turned out to be not only good, but fast.

Harry Lozier took great pride in challenging some of the fastest boats in the New York area, and beating them. it all helped launch the ne motor making company as one of the leading marine motor manufacturers of its time. Motor launches were also something comparatively new on the American scene, expensive and considered a "toy" of the rich, just like the expensive new motor cars being imported from Europe. The comparative success of the Lozier Motor Co., could bee seen in press reports in that during its first year it sold more than 200 motors. Marine motors, of course.

The only fly in all this success porridge was the fact that the men making those highly successful two and four cycle marine engines, especially Burwell and Perrin, had little interest in boats. Their ambitions had already been fired by the new motor cars chugging around the countryside. It is at least known that of the two, Perrin, and probably also Burwell, had little respect for the quality of most of these machines, especially the American makes. They felt, with some justification, that they could do better.

Pointing to the success they had made of the motor boat engine business the two of them managed to persuade the Lozier bosses to allow them to :take a look" into the motor car business.

By this time the clock had ticked forward to 1903. The elder Lozier died in May of that year and it already been established that Harry Jr. had far more interest in motor cars than his father had. It would be easier to keep up his enthusiasm for the new enterprise and even if the other brothers and heirs had little interest in the project, Harry Jr.'s share of the family fortune would be enough to get it started.

So, as time would prove, it would not only be Perrin's mania for perfection in manufacture that would make the Lozier motors very nearly indestructible, but an equal mania for quality materials. Even if it meant he ahd to search into the furthest corners of the land for shops that could meet his standards.

In place of friction bearings, depending on generous lubrication, Perrin insisted on using ball bearings at every point possible and eventually even used ball bearing on his crankshafts.

At one point Perrin found that the only shop capable of producing the nickel-steel forgings, with proper heat treatment, for his gear and shaft forgings was the Cape Ann Tool Co., located on the tip of Cape Ann, Mass. "A very inaccessible point in wither," Perrin noted. Perhaps there was a bit of satisfaction in that note. If this shop was so inaccessible, it would mean his competitors would have a hard time finding it.

Unlike the small one cylinder Cadillacs and Packards, as we have already noted, the new Lozier was a hefty four cylinder machine. It was an open secret around the Lozier shop that Perrin had closely copied the four cylinder Mercedes engine. So closely, in fact, it was said that some of the parts would interchange. Some of the workmen at the plant openly said that Perrin had indeed built a Mercedes, only better.

The engine had a bore of 4 1/2 and stroke of 5 1/2, it had a hefty displacement of 350 inches. The new Lozier engine was a T-head rated at 35 horsepower but company men said it really developed 37 horsepower. The cam lifters were roller type to reduce wear. The cylinders were cast in pairs but the intake manifolds were part of the engine castings and "siamezed," meaning one intake port for each of the two cylinder pairs.

To make absolutely certain that no Lozier engine burned up for lack of lubrication, Perrin had built three separate oiling systems, a forced feed by mechanical oiler, then a splash system plus an auxiliary oiler that would take over if the first two failed or the oil ran low, oiling both main and connecting rod bearings. Those main bearings were a unique combination of bronze and babbit, with the babbit cast into helical grooves cut in the brass, virtually at the same level. Which meant, in case a bearing should ever overheat to the point of failure for the babbit, that the bronze strips would keep the crankshaft centered and the engine running so long as the least lubrication was present at all.

In the days long before the fuel pump, Perrin had designed a unique method of using the pressure from the exhaust pipe to feed pressure into the fuel tank and keep the fuel flowing without the hand pumping required on most pressure systems of that day. To avoid any chance of the exhaust blasts setting fore to the gasoline a specially designed spark arrester was built into the system.

By 1907 it was clear that the company was gearing for increased production, but the financial panic of 1907 was holding it down. it was in December, 1907, that Harry Lozier, now operating out of New York, wrote a letter to his plant superintendent, telling him that the company would have to lay men off from the work force.

"Business in New York and elsewhere in horrible," Wrote Lozier. "Price cutting is fierce and the lower prices are made the more scared purchasers are and the longer they hold off. We haven't sold anything to speak of in five to six weeks."

Then Lozier revealed that he himself, a reputed millionaire on paper, had been forced to borrow $10,000 and in a last bitter sentence said, "-- we may be fighting for our own existence in a few weeks."

(Excerpts transcribed from Cars & Parts, August, 1980, pp. 16-27. )

[A combination of the trend toward more and more automobile manufacturing and the economic panic of 1907, ended the power boat racing career of Harry Lozier, Jr. Here is a Lozier post-script. Harry Lozier Sr. and E. R. Thomas were brothers-in-law, and each were to successfully pursue championships in boat and automobile racing. – GWC]

(Note: see also the page Where Lozier Engines Are Made [1900]).

[Thanks to Greg Calkins for help in preparing this page. –LF]


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This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010.
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Leslie Field, 1999