Home » There Was A Real Car Company Called ‘American Chocolate’ And It Was More Influential Than I Ever Imagined

There Was A Real Car Company Called ‘American Chocolate’ And It Was More Influential Than I Ever Imagined

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I believe that as car geeks, we all have a certain responsibility when it comes to our interactions with normies. We need to be ready to have a set of fun, easily-appreciated car facts on hand to let the normies know that, really, we’re not all different from them, and that the world of car-geekery is a warm, welcoming, and above all, interesting place. It’s sort of like evangelizing, but with less talk about the Good News and more about how a Citroën DS can drive on three wheels and that saved the life of French President de Gaulle. That’s why I think it’s good for all of us car geeks to know that there was once a car company called American Chocolate.

That’s right, American Chocolate! I’ve talked about this company before in my career going on and on about carås to people I can’t see, but I’ve never devoted a whole post to them. That’s largely because there’s just not that much information about the company, but when has that ever stopped me before? It’s just too good of a name, and it’s too wonderful that a carmaker with this name ever existed. So let’s just go over what we know about this mysterious and long-dead car company.

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The reason American Chocolate is named something so weird for a car company is because the company didn’t start as a car company. Want to guess what kind of company they were? Ah, you’re almost right! They didn’t make chocolate specifically, but they made chocolate vending machines!
Amchoc 1903

The company started out as the American Chocolate Machinery Company, based out of Manhattan, and they built penny chocolate vending machines, part of a sort of wave of early vending machine popularity. I haven’t been able to find a picture online of one of American Chocolate’s machines, but I did find a contemporary machine that is likely quite similar:

Example Vend

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The company was run by William Walter, a Swiss engineer who built his first car way back in 1898. Walter seems to have gotten bored with just making chocolate vending machines, and in 1902 began assembling cars from largely imported components.

These early cars, which seem to have been built in 30, 40, and 50 horsepower varieties, were sold under the American Chocolate name, and we know this because the company was displaying cars under the American Chocolate name at the 1903 New York Automobile Exhibition:

Amchoc Exhibition

Information on American Chocolate, the carmaker, is pretty thin. Aside from the facts I’ve relayed so far, we know that the company built 2- and 4-cylinder cars, with some 12- and 24 hp versions, along with the 30, 40, and 50 hp variants. Honestly, I’m not sure how much I trust early 1900s hp ratings, but that’s what sources are telling me.

After 1906 it seems that Walter started to either realize that American Chocolate was a confusing name for a car company or he had a big burst of ego-driven energy, because the cars began to be sold as the Walter Gasoline Car, though it was still noted that the Walter was built by the American Chocolate Machinery Company, sort of like a more delicious Datsun by Nissan kind of situation.

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Information about the American Chocolate Company is so thin! But I did find a September-October 1973 issue of Horseless Carriage Gazette that featured a letter from a similarly curious fellow, Ron Hinds, who demanded to know something about the “automobile company known as American Chocolate.” Here was the response he got:

Hordelessletter2

 

Much of this is what we’ve already learned, but there are some interesting developments here: in 1908 the company was renamed Roebling-Planche, which is the parent company of what would become Mercer, the famous makers of early 20th-century sportscars like the Mercer Type 35J Raceabout.

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So, from what I can gather from other sources, about 50 cars were built under the American Chocolate/Walter and even Waltomobile, built by American Chocolate Machinery Company names. These were not cheap cars, selling for the modern equivalent of  about $170,000 today!

When Roebling (whose uncle did design work for the Brooklyn Bridge!) entered the picture around 1907, he commissioned Walter to build him a racing car. This project accomplished two things: it pretty much destroyed the company, but from those ashes was born Mercer, the seeds of which seem to be in that early Walter-designed race car.

Snofighter

Walter at this point had left the company, and went on, armed with a four-wheel-drive system he developed in 1909, to found the Walter Motor Truck Company, which made snow plows and fire trucks and all sorts of rugged, hard-working four-wheel drive trucks, all using the novel four-wheel drive system Walter developed, which used an interesting shaft-drive-to-wheel-hub-reduction system:

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Walter4wdsystem

Walter trucks became quite well-known in the sorts of circles where people pay a lot of attention to snow plows and fire trucks, and in 1997 was bought by fire truck maker KME.

So, this is all pretty amazing, when you think about it. An obscure, short-lived car company with one of the strangest names in all of automotive history was the source for one of the most famous early sports car companies, Mercer, and also a well-known maker of heavy-duty trucks, Walter Motor Trucks. Those are two niches that couldn’t possibly be any different from one another, and yet if you trace their lineages back, they both start in the sweetness of the American Chocolate company.

 

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Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
14 days ago

That MF invented portal axles! Look at the last picture!!!!

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
14 days ago

Mmmmmm..
Chocolate manual wagon.
(Drools a bit)

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
14 days ago

Employee: uh, sir, are you sure we shouldn’t come up with a different name for the car company?

Walter: and give up all that brand equity!? Are you mad??

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
14 days ago

This is so interesting! (& sweet!)
Also: Chocolate? Rocky Road? Baby Ruth? HEY YOU GUUUUUUUUUUYS!

James Colangelo
James Colangelo
14 days ago

Wasn’t this Eddie Murphy’s band? Oh wait, that was Sexual Chocolate.

Greg
Greg
14 days ago

And here I was half-expecting you to reveal that AMerican Chocolate was eventually abbreviated to AMC.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
14 days ago
Reply to  Greg

Whoa, I didn’t even think of that…that would be so awesome…
I’ll take an American Motor Chocolate Eagle !

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
14 days ago
Reply to  Freelivin1327

Is a Chocolate Eagle related to a shithawk?

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
13 days ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

Yeah, sounds about right…

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
14 days ago

I believe American Pickers had one of those chocolate dispensers and mentioned the car history.

HumboldtEF
HumboldtEF
14 days ago

Their 4WD sysytem looks a bit like portals albeit with a large planetary gear instead a normal set of gears and no gain to extra ground clearance. Still interesting though.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
14 days ago
Reply to  HumboldtEF

Planetary axles are common for heavy duty applications where the desired features are strength via gear reduction. Heavy haul tractors, wheel loaders and rock trucks are good examples.

HumboldtEF
HumboldtEF
14 days ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

Thanks for the extra info. I didnt realize this was used in heavy equipment.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
14 days ago
Reply to  HumboldtEF

Strictly speaking this is not planetary gears since there is no sun or planets.

HumboldtEF
HumboldtEF
14 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Ah I wasnt sure what to call them. I guess they’re just ring gears?

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
14 days ago
Reply to  HumboldtEF

Yeah, I guess just an internal ring gear reduction. I don’t think its incorrect to call this whole mechanism a portal hub, though.

A. Barth
A. Barth
14 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Duh – the sun would melt the chocolate

Space
Space
14 days ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Just use it at night.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
14 days ago
Reply to  Space

Brilliant.

Beer-light Guidance
Beer-light Guidance
14 days ago

I don’t care what you say, in my mind the founder was Mr. Randy Watson

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
14 days ago

Oh the Roebling part of the story is pretty interesting, he drove the car he commissioned to second place in the Vanderbilt Cup, was doing amazing things but died on the Titanic two years later and of course his uncle designed the Brooklyn Bridge and is the namesake for the Roebling Road.

http://historicracing.com/driverDetail.cfm?driverID=3101&otd=on

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
14 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

The uncle died of infection from a crushed foot. His son became the head engineer, but got the bends, so his wife, Emily Warren Roebling, took over and bossed the project to completion. A true badass, she hardly ever gets any credit, so I point it out whenever possible

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
13 days ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Very true. My father in law lived near her house in Brooklyn heights where 100 years earlier she would watch the construction of the bridge with a telescope. Truly a hero of the time. I liked to point it out on walks in the neighborhood.

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
14 days ago

These trucks ran some kind of de dion and also portal axle design? I’ve never looked at a de dion design in person, only some reading online about them. That is really fascinating design. Cool article.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
14 days ago
Reply to  Lockleaf

The only De Dion suspension I have ever looked at in person was on the rear of an AWD dodge caravan. The AWD ones used the same dead beam axle as the fwd ones, but with a differential mounted to the body and half shafts.

Martin Dollinger
Martin Dollinger
14 days ago
Reply to  Lockleaf

You have seen the rear of a Smart car, haven‘t you? De Dion axle right there 🙂

Scott Ross
Scott Ross
14 days ago

I find it ironic that the Antique Automobile Club of America museum is in Hershey PA

A. Barth
A. Barth
14 days ago

$4000 for the Walter Gasoline Car?? Wow

The description mentions “mechanical inlet valves” but curiously does not mention the exhaust valves. I wonder if they used a design like the Ducati Desmodromic (Desmo) engines where valves are positively opened and closed by the same mechanism, rather than being pushed open by the cam/lifter/rocker and then relying on the force of a spring to close the valve.

That may explain some of the expense. Or the vehicle’s top was actually made by (from?) the King of Belgium.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
14 days ago
Reply to  A. Barth

They were specifying “mechanical” inlet valves in order to call attention to the fact that theirs weren’t of the simpler, cruder “automatic” variety in which the poppet is opened by the vacuum above the descending piston during the intake stroke and otherwise is held shut by a relatively weak spring, with no other mechanical actuation whatsoever. There was no need to mention the exhaust valves because these would have been mechanically-driven of necessity anyway.

Last edited 14 days ago by Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
14 days ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

I should have added that, as for the ad’s reference to the King of Belgium:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roi-des-Belges

which was the style at the time.

Last edited 14 days ago by Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
14 days ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

Here’s an example of an automatic inlet valve, a.k.a. an automatically operating (A.O.) valve, a.k.a. an atmospheric inlet valve. The engine is from an FN Four motorcycle and the inlet valve is item H:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/60/FN_Four_engine_end_section.gif

My understanding is that they are more or less adequate as long as one doesn’t much care about optimizing the valve timing and as long as the engine speed is low.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
15 days ago

This used to be a thing. Surely you remember the Reese’s Peanut Butter Coupe, the York Peppermint Caddy, the Rolo Royce, and the Chrysler 5th Avenue?

Jack Beckman
Jack Beckman
15 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Not to mention the Mercedes $100,000 car.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
14 days ago
Reply to  Jack Beckman

You’re gonna need a big Payday to afford one of those. Probably King Size.

Last edited 14 days ago by Rad Barchetta
Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
14 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I prefer the Wilbur Buggy

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
14 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

COTD. Nicely done, sir.

I’d like to add:

Ferrari Caramello
Mazda3Musketeers
BMW M&M3
Mustang 5.Oh Henry

Last edited 14 days ago by Rad Barchetta
David Escargot
David Escargot
14 days ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

Ferrari Caramello is the winner here

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
14 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

A Nissan Cherry washed down with a Suzuki Cappuccino?

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
14 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Wasn’t there a Whatchamacallit, um, a motorcycle that our Mercedes was riding called a Zero?

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
14 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Enjoying this while taking an Almond Joy Ride in my Mars Car.
Because sometimes you feel like a nut…

Last edited 14 days ago by Urban Runabout
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