Rex Bartlett, carmaker, 1917
Rex Bartlett's car was tested in public in 1913 in front of the Royal Alexandria Theatre in Toronto. The four-wheel brake system worked so well that when the car was brought to an abrupt stop in front of the theatre, 26 other cars behind it that were part of "the parade," ran into each other. American car manufacturers, concerned about competition from the Bartlett car, are said to have offered Rex a million dollars for his invention, but he turned them down.
In 1916, 200 more cars were built in the Stratford plant. As well, the output included a few Bartlett trucks, which were built on the automobile chassis. But it all came to an abrupt end in 1917. The world was at war, and many of the U. S. manufacturers that Mr. Bartlett relied upon for machined parts for his cars, had all their civilian contracts cancelled by the U. S. government so they they could manufacturing war materials.
The Brooks' Steamer, "the gentle giant of motion"
That reality didn’t deter the smooth-talking, personable Buffalo, N. Y., promoter Oland J. Brooks. He plunged into the steam-car business in 1923, though subsequent events suggest he was more interested in building his personal fortune that he was in building cars. Oland moved to Toronto in 1920 to set up a finance company.
By the early 1920s, gasoline-powered vehicles were much more common than those powered by steam. Regardless, Brooks bought a defunct threshing machine factory in Stratford, Ont., retro-fitted it, and in 1923 established Brooks Steam Motors Ltd. Brooks was a shrewd money man; Stratford assumed "a $50,000 mortgage on a $55,000 building."
The Brooks' Steamer, produced only as a sedan, had a standard wood frame. But its body was made of a leather-like fabric called Meritas, which consisted of wire, canvas and artificial leather. Meritas was produced in Walkerville, Ont., home of the Ford Motor Co.'s Model T factory. The Brooks' steam car, though easier to drive once it was moving, took a long time to get started and then could reach a maximum speed of only 56 km/h (35 mph). Compared to the similarly priced, gas-powered Cadillac, which could reach a speed of 80 km/h (50 mph) or more, the Brooks Steamer was a hard sell.
Rick Thistle Painting
Brooks Steamer at Stratford-Perth Museum
Dubbed the "Gentle Giant of Motion," the Brooks sold for the gigantically uncompetitive price of $3,885 or about the same as a Pierce-Arrow. That explains why, along with its lack of performance and operational complexity, there were few takers. To showcase his cars, Brooks established taxi companies in Stratford and Toronto using his steamers.