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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

The 1911 Reeves Octoauto was an 8-wheeled technological marvel | Hagerty Media

Eight is enough-exactly the right amount, as it turns out, when it comes to the number of wheels on a car. In 1911, Milton Reeves tested that theory with an eight-wheel vehicle he called the Octoauto. The odd-looking automobile wasn't his first creation or his last, but it was definitely Reeves' most significant, even though it wasn't a financial success.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/automotive-history/the-1911-reeves-octoauto-was-an-8-wheeled-technolog...
36 REPLIES 36
OldFordMan
Intermediate Driver

Thank goodness the 6 or 8 wheels didn't stay with us on conventional autos! Having to pay for that many in today's prices would blow your mind.
Nojodas67
New Driver

The whole idea of multiple axles at each end was to reduce the harsh ride due to poor unpaved roads with deep potholes and large rocks along the path. The New Deal and improved roads (paved) is what made this idea unnecessary; which is the reason why it never caught on. Commercial trucks, buses and military vehicles, which often have to travel on unpaved roads, still use this same principle even today.
FartinMartin
Pit Crew

Trucks have the extra axles for weight distribution, you don't want 80,000 lbs on a single axle truck.
Tommy1975791
Pit Crew

Regardless of whether or not this was unnecessary after the last one was produced in 1912 - 20+ years prior to the implementation of the "New Deal"...

"The problem was that it cost too much to build."

Punk
Detailer

Exactly. Given the poor roads at the time it was no doubt a significant improvement over other cars of its day. However when the consume balanced that degree of improvement against the high price, they chose more mundane products. Worth remembering that in Reeves' day, owning a car even in the less costly form was not something many people could manage.
Studenorton
Advanced Driver

New Deal? Dixie Highway completed 1928, Lincoln Highway 1924. The actual lobbying for the Good Roads movement was done by bicyclists!
sspader
Pit Crew

The Lincoln Highway was completed in 1913 but paving in it's entirety wasn’t completely until 1935. In 1915, to promote the Exposition in San Francisco and encourage transcontinental by car, Motor Magazine did a promotion that anyone who drove a car from a location East of the Mississippi River to CA would get a medallion (made by Tiffany). My grandfather, along with 3 other guys, managed to secure a 1915 Cadillac touring car and drove it from Chicago to CA. While the first part of the trip was on paved roads, the majority was dirt (West of the Mississippi).
sspader
Pit Crew

I was trying to attach a couple of pictures from my grandfather's trip but I'm technically challenged. The point I want to make is the Lincoln Hwy was quite rough in 1915. They had to repair quite a few tires along the way.
Studenorton
Advanced Driver

A tandem axle truck has ten tires. There are truck collectors here -- don't get us going!
67Firebird
Pit Crew

Would love to see pix of undersides, or even a schematic.....Anybody ?
RJMatt
Intermediate Driver

I think it was ELF that did four small diameter front wheels in a race car. This was late 60's, early 70's I think. Tire tech wasn't what we have today, and that was how they tried to get grip and low overall height for higher speeds on the track.
DMG
Pit Crew

Yes it was a team Tyrell formula 1car (Jackie Stewart’s team) sponsored by Elf gas.
Raced several times at Watkins Glen.
Roly
New Driver

Mosport 1976Mosport 1976Mosport 1976Mosport 1976osport 1976osport 1976I have several pictures of the 6-wheel ELF driven by Depailler in 1976 at Mosport.
Would like to post the photos if there is a way to do so? OK figured it out. Here they are.

MGWrench
Pit Crew

That's actually a Tyrrell P34 that was sponsored by ELF. They created a big splash during the '76 and '77 F1 seasons, but never really caught on.
gfviperman
Intermediate Driver

Sad none exist today ... he was impressive ...
Tinkerah
Instructor

I half expect Jay Leno to raise his hand and shout "No wait! I've got one right back here!"
acooper529
Intermediate Driver

Would imagine that there are many chain/ drive systems involved as that was such a common technology of the time. Was anyone else thinking that the 6 wheeler was an early version of the Military Duce-and-a-half?
artwisc
Pit Crew

The Reeves Drive using a belt with 2 adjustable diameter pulleys is the basis for today's CVTs.
JimH
New Driver

Fore runner of the Terrell P-34!
DMG
Pit Crew

March, Williams, and Ferrari also had experimental F 1
six wheeled cars, but theirs had the four wheels in the back. Also, they never raced competitively.
Studenorton
Advanced Driver

Pat Clancy, 12th at Indianapolis in 1948.

Albion trucks, in Britain, had four steerable wheels in front.
You see them in some 1950's period films. Pretty substantial lorries.
farna
Detailer

There are several Korean (and probably Japanese and Chinese) trucks with four steerable wheels on front. Again, these are for weight distribution. The four front wheel trucks I remember from my one year tour in Korea in 2005 (USAF) were cab-over models and 30-40' long. they use a lot of single unit trucks and few tractor-trailers for long haul. Long being relative -- you could go from the northernmost to the southernmost ends of South Korea in about 6-7 hours, and at least tow of those were due to traffic in and around Seoul. Without that 4-5 would have been easy on the freeway. They don't have a lot of overnight, multi-day hauls like we do in the US. No need to haul a trailer so far then transfer to another truck and driver then transfer freight from the trailer to smaller trucks for point delivery.
Thrillseeker
Pit Crew

Seems tire wear would reduce due to less friction per tire so you would probably break even on tires unless you ran through a box of roofing nails. I can see where it would ride smoother and glide over potholes. Innovative thinking on Reeves part to apply rail technology to the auto. It only looks weird because we are used to 4 tires.
Rich8
Pit Crew

Great article about an obviously genius of a man. All those patents at his young age, the creativity has been lost with that era of person! Today what do we have....Electronic bozo's!
OldCarMan
Advanced Driver

Don't insult Bozos!!
DAdams
Intermediate Driver

The eight-wheel design would reappear in WWII, without the complexity of the rear axle steering, in the army's armored cars, where the multi axle, rubber tire configuration combined the high speed travel on roads of a truck with much of the off-road capability of a tracked vehicle.
OldCarMan
Advanced Driver

How much beer was used to design these?
bobdog
New Driver

Pull into a full service Texaco station, buy a grape Nehi then say, check the tires please.

BritishCarNut
New Driver

My wife’s grandfather, Reeves Newsom, was a nephew and he always talked about his uncle’s cars. Great article!
BritishCarNut
New Driver

Come to think of it, I think Milton Reeves is credited with inventing the muffler too!
camaroc6
Pit Crew

Obviously the creator of the Reeves drive which appears in many power tools and every snowmobile ever built. And as someone pointed out earlier, the jump off point for the CVT transmission.
Duramaxriley
Pit Crew

Leno may not have it but I think the Peterson has the six wheel car from The Great Race.
97Cobra
Intermediate Driver

Pretty interesting article. Forward thinking indeed
Rider79
Instructor

Better Octoauto than Octomom.
Bruold
New Driver

Reeves was ahead of his time in automobile technology the extra wheels were a good idea for non paved roads, but no one could afford them, I think if he would have made both rear axels drive wheels he could have sold the car or concept to the military and made a financial success of it.
brb
Advanced Driver

Another great story about another cool car.