In 1904 The Drive Time From Los Angeles to Santa Barbara Was 6½ Hours

6 ½ Hours From L.A. to Santa Barbara (And That’s With No Traffic!)

What has four cylinders, 24 horsepower, weighs 2300 pounds and gets you from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara in just under 6 ½ hours?

A 1904 Peerless automobile. Future millionaire Norman W. Church took out this ad for Peerless in the Sunday, June 5, 1904 Los Angeles Times.

For a trip that today can take three hours with moderate traffic, 6 ½ hours in 1904 is a miracle. The “roads” in 1904 were in a primitive state to say the least. Rural roads were frequently  dirt paths filled with rocks and sand. Many times you’d have to drive through a field to get from place to place. Paved roads in California were a rarity, usually found in cities.

The interesting thing about the ad is that the Peerless will make the trip “without a single mechanical adjustment.”  That indeed was a rarity as automobiles were constantly being tinkered with. You had to be your own mechanic or bring one with you, as breakdowns were frequent.

You may be wondering if the Los Angeles to Santa Barbara trip took six and a half hours, how quickly in the early 1900s could you  drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco? In 1905 Fred A. Jacobs accompanied by three men in a two cylinder 18 horse power Rambler surrey accomplished a record time driving  between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Besides the four people, the car was carrying 250 pounds of baggage over the entire distance 503 miles. They set off at 4 am on June 30 from the office of the Los Angeles Times. The group reached the  San Francisco Chronicle Building at 11 35 am on July 1 for a  total time of 31 hours and 35 minutes. The previous record time from Los Angeles to San Francisco  was 37 hours and 53 minutes.

Motor World Peerless ad 1903

Getting back to the Peerless, although the advertisement does not say it, the price was $3,800. That was the equivalent of about four years pay for the average working man in 1904.

A comparable four cylinder car such as the Thomas Flyer cost $3,150.

If you wanted a really  fast car, the Pope-Toledo cost $3,650, well worth the money considering it established a world speed record of covering five miles in five minutes and nine seconds.

1 thought on “In 1904 The Drive Time From Los Angeles to Santa Barbara Was 6½ Hours

  1. Greg

    That is very interesting indeed, considering that modern automobiles have roughly 15x the hp and over a century of technological advancement. Yet we have still only managed to make the trip half as long.

    That is a dubious achievement at best.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.