Sunday, July 30, 2017

Concours d'Elegance of America, Plymouth, Michigan, July 30, 2017: Part Four--Boattails!!

Special class of boat-tailed cars

A particularly interesting class was BT, devoted to boat-tailed speedsters,  These extravagant cars, with their coachwork meant to evoke classic racing speedboats of the era, were rare enough but the concours offered some very unusual examples of marques that were not particularly noted for boat-tailed cars, such as MG.  Of course, Auburn was well-represented but there was even a majestic Duesenberg as well.
1928 Graham Paige  835 Boattail Speedster
The Graham Brothers produced trucks for Dodge but went into the car business in 1927 when they bought Paige Motors.  Although Graham Paige would be noted primarily for mid-priced cars, the 835 model (eight cylinder Continental engine, 135" wheelbase) was a premium product selling for $2,750 and up, around the same price as a small Packard.  The sporty boattail Speedster body was designed and produced by the Hayes-Hunt Body Company of Elizabeth, NJ and this car is one of the earliest Graham Paiges known to survive.  The Paige name was dropped by Graham in 1930 for its car models and automobile production ceased in 1947, although Graham-Paige continued to exist as a corporate entity, investing in real estate, until 1962. 

1929 DuPont Model G Speedster
Introduced at the New York Auto Show in 1929 as the latest car from DuPont, a manufacturer that had been established to compete with the top luxury brands of the day, the Model G was the company's most successful car, with  273 being built before production ended in 1931.  The two-seater boattail Speedster, with body by Merrimac, a Massachusetts coachbuilder, is exceptionally rare and only two are known to exist, along with three four-seat Speedsters and three two-seaters with a rounded tail.  Note the inefficient but striking Woodlight headlights fitted as standard equipment.  Badly timed to coincide with the start of what was to become the Great Depression, it is no surprise that so few DuPont Speedster were sold considering their heroic $5,300 list price.

1929 Stutz M Speedster
The Model M formed the core of the Stutz line in 1929, featuring an OHV inline eight cylinder engine producing 113 hp and 226 ft-lbs of torque.  Stutz was among the first manufacturers to offer hydraulic brakes when it did so in 1929.  The four-place Speedster sold for nearly $4,000 when introduced.

1932 Alvis 12/60 Beetleback Roadster
 This charming little British car came from the Alvis Car and Engineering Company, and was a companion model to their lower-powered 12/50 model.  The 12/60, with 56 hp and capable of nearly 80 mph, was introduced in 1931 and was available as a sedan, a four seat sports car or a two seat sports model, the last being clothed with the "beetleback" body that tapered to a point for a more sporty appearance.  This was a design from Alvis' preferred coachbuilder, Carbodies, and was an updated version of that firm's 1923 "duck's body" design.  In all, 229 12/60s were built in 1931 and 1932, of which an estimated 120 are thought to survive.  In spite of Alvis' reputation for quality, 12/60s that come up for auction today are not terribly expensive, to my surprise.  Oddly, the car was described as an "Avis" in the show guide and on the accompanying sign!

1935 Auburn 851 Speedster
An iconic Gordon Buehrig design, the Auburn 851 was powered by a supercharged 4.6 litre 150 hp inline eight cylinder engine. Noted company driver Ab Jenkins set 70 speed records with a Speedster on the Bonneville Salt Flats and each car came with a dash plaque certifying that the car has been driven by Jenkins at 100 mph.  The model continued into 1936 as the 852 and in all around 500 Speedsters are estimated to have been built before Auburn ceased operations in 1937.

1931 Duesenberg Model J Speedster
Designed by Gordon Buehrig, this magnificent car was one of two designs provided by Buehrig to the Weymann American Body Company in Indianapolis.  Known as the "Tapertail" due to its shorter wheelbase (the other car on a longer wheelbase was called "Fishtail"), it was built for Walter Varney of San Francisco.  The car (chassis no. 2450/engine no. J437) has no side windows or running boards and had hidden door hinges.

1934 Auburn 1250 Salon Speedster
Produced only in 1934 and 1935, the Al Leamy-designed Speedster is considered the sportiest of Auburn's offerings, with its elegant bodywork and its 160hp V12 engine.  Only nine of the cars are thought to have been built, with only four genuine survivors remaining today.

1929 Auburn 8-90 Boattail Speedster

The stylish Speedster was derived from a Duesenberg show car bodied by McFarlan and designed by 27 year old Alan H. Leamy.  It became a performance and styling icon.  This version sold for a reasonable $1,400 and might be considered the only real sportscar available in America at the time.  It featured a 96 hp Lycoming straight eight engine; the more expensive 8-120 sold for $1,800 and offered 125 hp.  1929 was the most successful year in Auburn's history, with some 32,000 cars sold.

1930 MG M-Type Midget Boattail Speedster

27 examples of the M-Type Midget Speedster remain in the United States.  Powered with a 27 hp four cylinder overhead cam engine, the M-Type had a successful career in racing.  They were commonly bodied in sporty clothes by the Carbodies company, which used an ash frame and fabric-covered plywood panels.  The boattail was hinged to cover the spare tire and luggage.

1916 Simplex Crane Model 5 Speedster
 This interesting example of the high-quality Simplex car was purchased in 1916 by H.X. Baxter, a wealthy San Francisco industrialist who kept the car until 1936.  As was often the case with older cars in that period, it was updated to a more modern appearance, including smaller wheels and a reshaped rear body section.  Simplex, based in New York and later New Jersey, built some of the most notable cars of the pre-World War I period.  They acquired the design talents of Henry Crane by purchasing his company and the Crane Model 5 was the result, using Crane's smooth and powerful six cylinder engine.  Simplex cars were always expensive--the Rockefellers favoured them--and the 1916 car would have sold for more than $6,000 at the time.

Continue to Part Five here

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