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Brooks Steamer

Model Year: 1926

Location of Manufacture: Stratford, Ontario

Developed by an American financier and based largely on an American model, the Brooks Steamer was built in Stratford, Ontario from 1923 to 1929.

Oland Brooks from Buffalo, in western New York State, moved to Toronto in 1920 to set up a finance company. By the early 1920s, gasoline-powered vehicles were much more common than were steam-powered cars. Despite this, Brooks purchased a defunct threshing machine factory in Stratford, Ontario, retro-fitted it and, in 1923, established Brooks Steam Motors Ltd.

The Brooks Steamer, which would be produced only as a sedan, had a standard wood frame. However, the body of the car was made of a leather-like fabric called Meritas, which consisted of wire, canvas and artificial leather. Meritas was produced in Walkerville, Ontario - home of the Ford Motors' Model T factory.

The Brooks steam car, though easier to drive once it was actually 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 itself could reach a speed of 80 km/h (50 mph) or more, the Brooks Steamer was a hard sell. As the business began to fail, Brooks mislead his investors by reporting inflated production figures – in reality, the company built only 18 cars in 1926. When it went into receivership in 1929, Brooks Steam Motors Ltd. had assembled only 180 vehicles and its investors had lost close to $4,000,000.