1911 Selden Model 40R Varsity Roadster
On 5 November 1895, George B. Selden was granted a patent for an internal-combustion engine and its use in an automobile. Selden was aggressive in his pursuit of royalties, eventually gathering a 0.75 percent stake in all cars sold by the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers, as denoted by the presence of a “Selden Patent” plate on early American automobiles sold at the time. The royalty gravy train came to a halt in 1911, when a bruising eight-year trial instigated by Henry Ford ended with a judge’s ruling that the modern internal-combustion automobile engine was, in fact, not related to Selden’s design.
What is little remembered today is that Selden also built his own automobile, establishing the Selden Motor Company in Rochester, New York, in 1907. The firm produced its first car in 1909 and continued through 1912. The Selden automobile was a fine-quality, upper-mid-priced automobile of attractive design, including the 40R Varsity Roadster of 1911, a lovely, sporting job with a “mother-in-law” seat and 40-horsepower, 356 cu. in. four-cylinder engine on a 125-inch-wheelbase chassis.
This 40R Varsity Roadster is believed to be one of only six Selden automobiles and has a known history back to the original owner, a Rochester local by the name of Fred Todd. According to Mr. Todd’s daughter, Harriet Keutmann, in conversations with later owner Bob Mahoney, the car was acquired directly from Mr. Selden, a fellow Rochester businessman.