Scripps-Booth Index

 Number 9                                                       by Ken Kaufmann                                                          July 1997

It is with great sadness that I must report the death of our friend, Scripps. I had the pleasure of meeting with Scripps and Elizabeth a few years ago at their home in Macomb. We both could of talked all night long about one of our favorite subjects - Scripps-Booth. Scripps even gave me a ride in his Model C. I have also greatly enjoyed the letter correspondence with Scripps over the years and will much miss the friendship we developed. Elizabeth sent me all of his Scripps-Booth files and records, and I will try and carry on the tradition of putting together and maintaining the Register.

This Register Number 9 was mostly written by Scripps and features his favorite Model C. All I have done is type up his handwritten draft, wrote the Owners News, and updated and revised the car and owner addresses pages. The following obituary was printed in the MACOMB JOURNAL. 

MACOMB - Toliver Scripps Downing, 65, of 10 Bacon Woods, died at 1:13 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 29, 1996 at East 1200th St., at the Camp Creek Bridge.

He was born Feb. 23, 1931 at Macomb to Toliver McCandless and Margaret (Scripps) Downing. He first married Frances Gelvin on Dec. 27, 1953. She preceded him in death on July 17, 1976. he later married Elizabeth Roberts in 1977. She survives.

He is also survived by three daughters, Deborah Lea Downing of St. Petersburg, Fla., Kathryn Anne Anane of Springfield and Susan Ellen Brutlag of Petersburg; and five grandchildren. He was also preceded in death by his parents.

Mr. Downing attended Western Academy and graduated from Culver Military Academy in 1948. He received his BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1958. He served on the McDonough County Board of Supervisors, was a member of the Macomb Philosophy Club, Past President Sequanota Club in Charleviox, Michigan where he summered since the 1930ís. He was editor of the Scripps-Booth Registry, and also had his private pilotís license. His engineering honoraries included Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Tau, and Beta Kappa Nu. He was Project Engineer at McDonnell-Douglas in St. Louis from 1958 to 1973, where he designed training models for the Gemini Space Project. He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Macomb.

Mr. Downing has served as a 1st Lieutenant in the United States Air Force where he served as a Radar Observer during the Korean War.

Services are 2 p.m. Tuesday at the First Presbyterian Church of Macomb with the Rev. Ronald Rosenau officiating.

Memorials may be made to the Salvation Army and the University Illinois College of Engineering.


I [Scripps] got a nice note from George Geers, who reminisced about scrap metal drives for Japan in the late 1930ís. It seems that a Dr. French from his boyhood home of Northwood, N.H. sold a Stuz Bearcat and a Scripps-Booth roadster for scrap to a Mike Wilson at that time. When an auction of 145 antique one-cylinder engines was announced in October 1994, George had a hunch that there might be a Scripps-Booth engine among the "other unidentified engines." For $70, he acquired Dr. Frenchís Sterling S/N 11391 complete with transmission. In spite of a cracked head and valve cover, George writes, he "... was as happy as when I bought my last new Cadillac." This is his second spare Sterling engine. He also has S/N 10053.

George gears sent a copy of one of a set of motorcycle collector cards. Didnít know there were collector cards for motorcycles, but there seems to be cards for lots of things. This one was for a 1991 Merlin, in the Prototypes and Specials category. As is usual hyperbole with the genre, the card says the builder qualifies as the builder of the motorcycle with the worlds largest engine (4500 cc), but then goes on to mention the "6307 cc V8 Bi-Autogo," a "3200 lb mototitan." (3200 pounds might be a good guess, but even JSB never weighed the Biautogo.)

George Gears has a Model D frame and front axle that he would like to dispose of. Pete Kesling has Ferro V-8 engines, most of what he thinks is a D body, and what is probably a D radiator. Maybe someday, someone will put a whole one together.


Boothís autobiography records that the Biautogoís engine was taken to the marine engine shop and was installed on one of the overhead belt drives common in factories of the era. Disaster was narrowly avoided when this 1911 or 1912 V-8 finally fired and began to put power into the overhead belts.

Corporate espionage is not a new phenomena, so James Booth had taken appropriate precautions to have the various pieces of his V-8 machined in many different locations, being over paramount. At a time when few machine parts were interchangeable, it should be considered a real triumph that Booth was even able to assemble the pieces into a novel design that actually ran. Two years later, Cadillac would employ similar secrecy for its own V-8, which was based on the same French De Dion V-8 design.

However impractical the Biautoís design may appear, there is no question that it can stand on its own as a work of art. With todayís engineering techniques, the thing could likely be made practical, and its appearance would still be able to grace a science fiction movie (Harley-Davidson take note).


Edward Lett sent in copies of sections from the book, AUTOMOBILE IGNITION, STARTING, LIGHTING by HAYWARD; American Technical Society, 1918.

The 1915 Scripps-Booth with the chain driven Bijur Starter/Generator unit had a problem with a tiny 35 ampere-hour battery. Other cars with a similar starter/generator used 80 A-H (Apperson) to 120 A-H (Winton). Consequently, the driver had to correctly monitor his speed and the position of the ignition switch.

The problem was further complicated with early and late 1915 Scripps-Booth models. On the early 1915ís, the ignition switch had only two positions - OFF and ON. ON powered the Bijur in its starting mode, and it changed to its generator mode at 10 mph. For these very early Cís (below S/N 1101), below 10 mph, the switch should be OFF. The instructions warn against running the car downhill using the engine as a brake. This could cause damaged to the Bijur.

Later 1915 Model Cís having the combination starter/generator had a 3-position ignition switch - OFF, IDLE, ON. As with the earliest models, the Bijur automatically changes from starter to generator, but the IDLE position of the ignition switch opens the field circuit so the Bijur can not act as a generator. The IDLE position of the switch is to be used below 10 mph and while using the engine for downhill braking, supposedly prevent damage to the Bijur.

Donít ask me why, but Hayward says these are the rules.


I would have little data concerning corporate identities of Scripps-Booth without annual reports and contemporary news items furnished by Ken Kaufmann. I think the last Register cited his contributions - letís just consider him as a co-author for this portion.

Through the Scripps-Booth marque was the result of James Scripps Boothís artistic genius and self-taught engineering ability, the company would not have come into being without the aid of a wealthy family. JSBís father, George Gough Booth was recruited by the legendary E.W. Scripps to run a newspaper in Detroit which eventually evolved into the Evening News Corporation. It didnít hurt when George G. married one of E.W.ís sisters. JSBís Uncle, Will Scripps, had already demonstrated interest in things mechanical by founding the Scripps Motor Company [to manufacture marine enginres] before JSB appeared on the scene. Young James S. Booth then was able to find financial backing in an era when it appeared that almost any backyard mechanic could build an automobile.

JSBís imagination seemed to be unbounded, so he envisioned a giant three-passenger motorcycle (which he called a single-traction) powered by an equally giant engine. He had seen the revolutionary V-8 engine in Europe, and been able to understand its fundamental design. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that he would have been able to convert the concept to what may have been the first V-8 engine built in the United States without a bit of technical expertise from engineers from the marine engine company.

There seems to have been many facts and loose stock manipulations going on at this time, orchestrated by W.C. Durant, Bill Little of the Sterling Motor Co., George Wilson, and A.C. Mason who designed the Chevrolet 490 engine. The Scrippsís and Booths seem to have lost to Durant and his Chevrolet Motor Company. Even after the supposed buyout by General Motors [in July 1918], GM was never able to acquire much over 90% of the Scripps-Booth stock. (please additional questions to Ken Kaufmann - Heís tried to explain this to me.)


Perhaps, Scripps-Booth production ceased because GM was never able to acquire all the Scripps-Booth stock. That is almost certainly a reason that Scripps-Booth never became a full-fledge division of General Motors. In any event, sales were not all that bad before advertising seems to have ceased. 1920 Cadilacs sold only a little more than twice the numbers of S-Bís.


In Scripps notes, he received input or correspondence from three new owners that have been added to the Register. They are Larry Sybesma of Holland, Michigan with a unrestored 1914 Rocket Cyclecar, Dale Laing from Glen Mills, PA with a unrestored 1920 Model B-39 Touring, and Bill Scripps of Fredricksburg, Texas, who purchase the 1922 Model F-43 Touring from Florida. This is an older restoration that was advertised in Hemmings last March 1995.

George and Grace Pope sent in a notice in March 1995, that their 1916 Model C was for sale for $18,500. I also saw their ad in the HORSELESS CARRIAGE GAZETTE last year, but donít know if this California car is still available?

Elizabeth has forwarded the information on two more individuals this year who I have added to the Register. They are Jim Morton of Greensboro, NC, who is related to James S. Booth and still has a few of Boothís art works.

We want to give a big welcome to our first South American member, Gigio Isola O. from Talcahuano, Chile. Gigio sent a photo of his beautiful 1917 Model D Four Passenger Roadster. Gigio writes, "The car arrived to Talcahuano, Chile in 1918 imported by "Holmgren Hnos. & Company." Mr. Gregorio Villegas was the original owner and I bought the car after his death in 1980. This car is the only one Model D left in Chile."


The last letter in his file that Scripps received was from George Geers in January this year. George wrote that he needed for his Model C some bearings for the rear diff. "The bevel gear carrier assy. is mounted on a pair of (13 rollers) bearing with a split outer ring - number 4130. The pinion bearing by the pinion gear is an angular ball bearing - number N.D. 0406. Did you replace these bearings in your Model C, and if so, any numbers or sources? I also need 5 Houk brass hub caps, 3" diameter, threads - 12 threads per inch. Hex is 2 3/4" with 8 sided hex. I need 2 L.H. and 3 R.H. - Any suggestions?"

George goes on to add that the Rocket and Biautogo are displayed at the Owls Head Museum in Maine. "Iíve been up to see them three times. Itís a great exhibit!"


Tom Booth wrote this June that he saw "a very nicely restored Roadster on display at Cranbrook on May 5. It was loaned by an anonymous owner and not much information was available about it. It was a light cream color and had the initials "C.H.P." lettered on the door. Perhaps you already know of the car but I could not identify it from the Scripps-Booth Register."

Tom and his wife also visited the Owls Head Transportation Museum in Maine. "The BIAUTOGO was on display although looking pretty sad after years of neglect at the Detroit Historical Museum. The Owls Head Museum is very clean and has a well restored eclectic collection ranging from cars to planes to the "first" snow mobile. Everything is nicely displayed. The three Scripps-Booth cars were in the center of the museum and seemed to attract attention from visitors."

Thanks for the report, Tom. This 1918 Model G Roadster you saw at Cranbrook is owned by Barney Pollard II of Wixom, Michigan. Scripps took pictures of this Model G when he visited Barney in 1994, which are in his files.


This Masterpiece ad is from my collection and is one of the best that describes the Scripps-Booth as a Luxurious Light Car. I think our dear friend, Scripps, would have also agreed. Scripps Downing was a "Masterpiece" also - I know I will always remember him when I see this "Masterpiece" ad.

Scripps-Booth Index