Tesla Speedometer

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    Has anyone familiar with Series 80 encountered a Tesla speedometer for that car?


    Did the speedo have ‘Tesla’ on the face of the instrument?

    The only speedometers I’ve seen, owned or currently own are Waltham.

    I’ll look through my pile and see if I see any different names.

    Greg L


    Is that the one that reads up to the speed of light?


    I believe that’s the speedometer that doesn’t have to be hooked up to anything to work…….

    Seriously, there is a story of Tesla using a Pierce as a test mule for his electrical theories, seems I read he converted a Pierce to electric drive, and of a box with a rod he’d insert and the car would run on that…

    Maybe he had custom instruments and one found it’s way into another car?


    This is not a joke. The Tesla speedometer to which I refer is installed in George Burnside’s 1926 Series 80 Runabout. It has a “Tesla” logo on the face, operates with a cable drive in the same manner as a Waltham or Stewart does and fits the instrument panel speedometer unit just like a Waltham. This speedometer has been in the car since at least the mid 1950’s when Victor Snyder (Geroge’s late father-in-law) restored the car.


    Hi Paul,

    Can you post a close-up photo?

    Somebody with a Series 80 Parts Catalog might check to see if it is listed as a separate part number. I have noticed, however, that the parts catalogs aren’t very good at listing running changes.


    From early 1925 through early 1926 Series 80 cars were factory-equipped with Elgin (and perhaps other makes) speedometers and clocks while the Waltham workers were on a long strike. I can’t speak for the Series 33–was that the same experience?


    I realize it wasn’t a joke, but it was hard to pass up a little humor at Tesla’s expense…..didn’t mean to offend….dc



    I think I found your answer.

    I understand that Pierce-Arrow and Tesla strike a bad cord among some enthusiast due to the publication of Tesla claiming to have driving a Pierce with only a AC motor – wirelessly. I personally neither believe nor discount this activity. Tesla was an electronic genius who was able to provide the world with items that we now use in our everyday lives.

    After a little research the Tesla name started appearing on all types of automotive products. The most common are Tesla light bulbs which are still being manufactured in Germany.

    The “first” (cable driven friction) speedometer for cars was patented by Tesla in 1916. Speedometers were made by companies like Stewart and Elgin but used gears and springs similar to a clock. Speedometers were available before 1916. Enclosed is a advertisement from Waltham which mentions Nikola Tesla as the inventor of “Air-Friction”. Waltham would have been an obvious manufacturer for this time period being known for their high quality. As you read further, this “Air-Friction instrument” was offered on Pierce-Arrow’s along with other high quality automobiles.

    My conclusion would be the Tesla name was printed on the face as advertisement or part of the patent for the speedometer on your friends Series 80.

    The enclosed link is the actual patent drawings for the speedometer dated 1918. This is from the PBS website.



    Here is the Waltham advertisement


    Ben is exactly right. Tesla and Waltham collaborated on what became the Waltham speedometer. Tesla was issued U.S. Patent number 1209359 on December 19, 1916 for a speedometer. The Waltham speedometer and the Tesla speedometer I have seen appear to be the same. I guess the only question remaining is why the one has the Tesla name on the face rather than Waltham.

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