John W. Lambert

From Ohio History Central

In 1890, John William Lambert, a resident of Ohio City, Ohio, built the first gasoline powered single cylinder vehicle. Lambert purchased a three cylinder gasoline engine for 3,300 dollars and converted it to a single cylinder engine. He also used a seven gallon radiator with steam vent and a carburetor in his engine. Lambert placed the engine in a buggy chassis, with two rear wheels and a single wheel off of a wheelbarrow in the front. His vehicle could reach speeds as high as five miles per hour. In 1891, John William Lambert was involved in the first gasoline powered, single cylinder vehicle accident in history. His vehicle, which was carrying Lambert and James Swoveland, hit a tree root causing the buggy to smash into a hitching post. Injuries from the accident were minor.

While Lambert's invention, the gasoline powered single cylinder vehicle, proved to be successful, the actual buggy design was hazardous. Two wheels in the back and one small wheel in front was not balanced. Lambert made several test runs and spent much time redesigning his vehicle making improvements. He began building another car. This time he used a horseless carriage with two back wheels and two front wheels. Lambert placed the gasoline powered single cylinder engine in his four wheel automobile. Unfortunately, even before his second invention was put to a road test, it was destroyed in a fire. Both of his inventions were destroyed. However, John W. Lambert is credited with inventing an automobile that was the first gasoline powered car in America.

As an inventor, Lambert worked in private in the basement of the elevator business he operated. He experimented in secret, and did not reveal his inventions until they were complete and ready to share with the public. Lambert proceeded to patent over six hundred inventions, mostly affiliated with the automobile industry.

John Lambert was born in Champaign County, Ohio, on January 29, 1860, and died in Anderson, Indiana, on May 20, 1952.

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