Oakland was founded in 1907 in Pontiac, Michigan by Edward Murphy and Alanson P. Brush, who, between the two of them had amassed a tremendous amount of experience in manufacturing. Murphy was eager to take his Pontiac Buggy Company into the age of the Automobile, while Brush was responsible for designing many of the earliest Cadillac models. The very first Oakland was a small two-cylinder car with a planetary transmission that was based mostly on one of Brush’s designs for Cadillac that had been rejected by that firm. But before sales could get underway, Brush left Oakland to form his own auto company (his cars notable for their unusual wooden front axles). By 1909 Murphy had partnered with the colorful Billy Durant who welcomed Oakland into the fold of his burgeoning General Motors Corporation. The move would prove to be in good time, as Mr. Murphy died later that year, and Oakland became entirely part of GM.
By 1910, Oakland had stabilized and was enjoying steady sales in the region of 3,000 to 5,000 cars per year. Their reputation for quality was buoyed by sporting success, mainly in hill-climb events and reliability runs. For the 1912 model year, the lineup consisted of three models, all powered by four-cylinder engines of varying output. The value leader was the Model 30 which rode on a 106” wheelbase and was offered as a 2-passenger runabout or 5-passenger touring car. The mid-sized Model 30 was popular with buyers and further solidified Oakland’s standing in the market. Sales continued to be strong until the 1920s when Oakland introduced their low-cost Pontiac sub-brand. The Pontiac proved to be such a runaway success that it completely overwhelmed sales of its parent and ultimately cost Oakland its slot in GM. By 1932, Oakland Motor Car Company was ousted and changed its name to Pontiac Motor Company.
This 1912 Oakland Model 30 Tourer is a handsome example from this seldom-seen marque. This charming car has enjoyed many years of care and regular enjoyment with enthusiast owners. It once belonged to Marty Roth, a well-known and active member of the AACA who enjoyed the car on numerous tours and events with both the AACA and the Horseless Carriage Club of America. In the hands of past owners, it is said to have competed in the famous Glidden Tour which is one of the most grueling tests for veteran cars. To further improve its touring ability, it has been sensibly upgraded by several respected brass-era experts. A particular highlight is the Gear Vendor overdrive unit, installed by the late “Mr. Overdrive” Lloyd Young of Winchester, Ohio. The transmission, in turn, was rebuilt by respected Oakland expert Bud Jonas of Belden, Michigan. Further work included a rebuilt brass radiator by Dick Runion, an upgraded magneto and discreet conversion of the gas lamps to electric. The most recent owner has added an electric starter and fitted new pistons, and an exhaust-powered locomotive horn keeps modern drivers on their best behavior.
The cosmetics of this Oakland are very strong, and it presents in fine condition throughout, with what appears to be a very well-maintained older restoration. The color scheme is quite attractive, with a dark green body and black fenders accented with off-white wheels, axles, and springs. The paint quality is attractive and in keeping with a Brass-era automobile. While a few minor chips and blemishes can be found, it is overall very sound and finely finished. The body remains in excellent condition, adorned with good quality brass headlamps, radiator, cowl lamps and a “dummy” acetylene tank. The 5-passenger interior is trimmed in high-quality period-appropriate black button-tufted leather with black door panels and good quality green carpets. The interior brass trim and woodwork are in good, sound order throughout. Further enhancing its long-distance touring ability is the inclusion of a full set of high-quality side curtains and front and rear tonneau covers for all-weather comfort.
The 30 hp, 201 cubic-inch four-cylinder engine presents in good condition, appearing tidy and well-kept. Thanks to the service work performed by the previous owner, it runs quite well and is enjoyable to drive. The three-speed sliding-gear transmission shifts well, and the overdrive adds a welcome extra ratio for cruising and lessens stress on the engine during longer drives.
Despite their popularity in their day, Oakland automobiles are seldom seen among today’s enthusiasts. This wonderful and proven example is ideally suited for touring and would make an excellent choice for either a veteran tour participant. Likewise, its well-designed upgrades and medium size make it an excellent car for the enthusiast eager to learn more about the joys of brass-era touring.