The Regal “Plugger”

The Regal Motor Car Company built automobiles from 1907 to 1918, and the Regal is probably best known for its record setting trip from New York to San Francisco in 1909. The trip was made by the first 1910 Regal “30” built, and this dependable mid-sized automobile was christened the “Plugger.” The Plugger left New York City at noon on July 5, 1909, and rolled into San Francisco exactly 30 days and 4031.8 miles later.

Once that run was finished, the Plugger racked up tens of thousands of miles more touring the country. These road trips are fairly well documented, but I did find one terrifying incident that occurred along the trip that isn’t much talked about. In June of 1910, the Plugger reached Missouri just as the area was experiencing torrential rains and flooding. Swollen streams had wreaked havoc on already questionable bridges, carrying some away and leaving others in a shaky condition. As the Plugger, piloted by R. W. Dean and Lee Cuson, approached the bridge at St. Charles, they discovered it to be in a dilapidated state. Some horse-drawn carriages had just made it across safely, however, so the men decided to attempt the crossing. This proved to be a terrible mistake as the planking gave way and the Plugger and its occupants were plunged into the Missouri River.

The car was completely submerged, but Cuson and Dean managed to swim to shore. A derrick was working on a nearby bridge, and the manager was convinced to bring his operation to where the Plugger went down. After two hours, the Plugger was finally resurrected from its watery grave, and the boys were able to dry it out and continue on.

When it rolled into the 1911 St. Louis auto show, it had been on the road continuously since first leaving the factory. Among the 150 or so shiny and show-ready automobiles, the Plugger pulled into its berth at the show covered in dried mud, road dust and stickers from “every crossroad and hamlet” it had visited, and it was the car that the crowds flocked around.

Motorists and onlookers posing with 1910 Regal “Plugger” automobile, 1909 New York to San Francisco tour | DPL DAMS (

The 1909 trip was quite a feat considering the lack of easily navigable roads. Years later, in 1929, Cuson visited Nebraska and reminisced about the 1909 trip and the state of the roads at that time:

“If there was a square inch of paving in the whole west in those days, we failed to find it. Iowa was a sea of mud . . . Soon after that the route across Nebraska became a winding cow trail and the Regal plunged along like a prairie schooner.”

1907 Regal at Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska