Motor Mouth Blog


After 100 years, J.D. Rockefeller’s 1917 Crane-Simplex takes a ‘Drive Home’


By William Hall

The 1917 Crane-Simplex Model 5 formerly owned by John D. Rockefeller Sr. returns after nearly a century to its city of birth as part of the LeMay-America’s Car Museum and the North American International Auto Show’s “The Drive Home: The Heritage Run.”

One of America’s earliest luxury automakers, the Simplex Automobile Company was founded in New York City in 1907. In 1915, it was absorbed by the Crane Motor Car Company.

Simplex cars were among the largest, most powerful and most expensive of the early 20th century, boasting 100 horsepower and a top-speed of nearly 90 mph in an era barely removed from horse drawn carriages.

Owned by only the wealthiest industrialists and entrepreneurs, the car was a favorite of the Vanderbilt and the Rockefeller families and prized for its exceptional build quality. Exceedingly rare “” only 121 produced “” few survive. They remain cherished among collectors such as Jay Leno, who has a skiff-bodied 1916 Model 5 in his collection.