(First Posted August 27, 2013) The early days of the automotive industry in the United States saw a multitude of different makes, many now forgotten or rarely mentioned. The Luverne could easily fall into the latter category.
The Luverne Automobile Company was founded by brothers Fenton (sometimes found as Al) and Ed Leicher. Based in the town of Luverne, Minnesota, the first Luverne was assembled by the St. Louis Motor Car Company and was powered by a one cylinder Buick engine. After seeing how manufacturing was performed, in about 1905 the brothers set out to assemble their cars themselves. Automobile production lasted until 1916; only two Luverne autos were manufactured for 1917.
image source: www.hemmings.com
One of their best known automobiles was the $3000 Montana Special powered by an engine manufactured by Rutenber Motor Company. For a measly $3000 in 1915 dollars, one could purchase an automobile built for the rugged terrain of Montana. The fifty horsepower was generated by an inline six engine.
Luverne began shifting its focus to truck production beginning in 1912 due to higher demand and less competition. As time went on, the focus was more on fire trucks and related equipment, eventually with the company building apparatus on frames produced by others.
Luverne is reported to have made fewer than 300 automobiles through 1917 with the majority of the bodies being wooden. Upon seeing this wooden body, your author was a bit perplexed by the seat doubling as a tool chest (or maybe it’s the other way). The initial assumption was the restorer used wood to avoid metal work – certainly an erroneous thought. Driver comfort did not seem to be a big consideration.
The company is also credited with building the first motorized funeral coach in 1915 as well as the first tilting dump box truck in the United States. The common trait of the Luverne Automobile Company was that quality was held in higher regard than was quantity.
This 1916 Luverne truck was found in a display by the American Truck Historical Society held at the 2013 Missouri State Fair. Sitting on a one-ton chassis, this particular truck is a wrecker and maintains the Luverne tradition of having a nearly all wooden body.
After the transition to fire apparatus production, Luverne would change its name to Luverne Fire Apparatus; the company was later known as Crimson Fire. Crimson Fire is now part of Spartan ERV.
Despite such an obscure beginning, the Luverne still has highly active descendants.