1936 C-1 Thorne
Gas – Electric
The 1936 Thorne C-1 as it is today. This is the only C-1 Thorne ever produced.
The rear of the generator that is mounted on the engine flywheel extending into the driver's compartment.
An Artist's rendering of a Model B Thorne.
Large electric motor that drives the truck's differential.
1936 Thorne C-1 Concept Truck
The Thorne Gas-Electric Company was founded in Chicago in 1928 by Bill Niblack and Ward Thorne. In 1927 two gasoline powered delivery vans were produced by truck companies, one by Divco and the other by Step-N-Drive. The operation of these two trucks gave the men an idea for a better “Stand-N-Drive truck”. The other trucks had an engine-clutch-transmission drive-train with a drive shaft that cut the vehicle in half and put the driver on a high seat above the hump. It was uncomfortable, tiresome, slow for the driver who had to climb on the seat, go through the gears to the next stop and jump off again. Furthermore, the equipment couldn’t take the frequent stop-start abuse.
The C-1 Thorne truck was designed to be more competitive in price with other “Stand & Drive” trucks. It was smaller and lighter than other B model Thorne trucks. It was powered by a 4-cylinder Hercules engine instead of a 6 cylinder. It had a payload capacity of 1500 lbs instead of 2250 lbs. The performance and cost was more modest compared to the Thorne B models and was in line with the cost of its competitors.
Orders for several hundred units were taken upon announcement of the new model and the demonstration of the C-1 Prototype by a Company Salesman to Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. This was during the Depression era and the end was not in sight at this time. Substantial monies and space would have been required to produce all of the orders. With no guarantee that there would an ensuing outpouring of other orders after the initial orders, the company decided not to proceed with the C-1 production. The decision seemed to be prudent, but this was the end of business for the Thorne Truck Company. Existing orders were honored with what could be built with the materials on hand and production of the Thorne Trucks ceased in 1937. The C-1 Protoype truck was sold to a customer that said they were interested in this truck. Lehman Crist of Rutters Dairy in York, Pa. bought the C-1 truck. Rutters also had a 1934 B-3 model Thorne which was the first truck that Rutter’s owned that the driver could stand to drive for city delivery.
Rutters operated the C-1 Thorne until 1952 when it was sold to Ruhr’s Bakery in Harrisburg, Pa. area. In late 1980’s Dale Crist, son of Lehman Crist, decided to search for the one and only C-1 Thorne truck. After about 4 years of searching, the truck was found behind a chicken house on a farm in Pennsylvania. The truck was then completely restored to new and operational condition for the 75th Anniversary of Rutter’s. It is the only C-1 ever made and the only Thorne known to be operational. There are about 7 Thorne Trucks known to be in existence at this time.