1935 Chrysler Airflow C1

Chrysler’s revolutionary Airflow is arguably one of the most important cars of the pre-war era.  Designed by Carl Breer, Fred Zeder, and Owen Skelton, the talented young engineers enlisted the help of Orville Wright with their aerodynamic tests.  The Airflow had its debut at the New York Auto Show in 1934.  It featured radical, streamlined styling that was a dramatic departure from the norm, with its integral fenders and headlamps and art-deco inspired detailing. Beyond the styling, the Airflow featured unique beam and truss construction that was a precursor to the modern Unibody.  The Airflow was lighter and stronger than a traditional wooden-framed body atop a steel chassis, while the aerodynamic styling and robust 8-cylinder engine allowed for excellent performance.

Despite all of its benefits, the Airflow’s groundbreaking style was perhaps a decade ahead of its time and buyers did not warm to the unconventional looks.  Problems with the new style of construction also caused quality control issues, which didn’t help the Airflow’s reputation.  With the hindsight of over 80 years however, we now appreciate how important the Airflow was in advancing automotive styling, aerodynamics, and construction techniques.

1939 Ford Midget Racer

It seems that in motorsport, just like in life, having robust financial backing can be beneficial to success. Of course, money may not make you an automatic shoe in for success but it certainly doesn’t hurt your chances. In the mid-1930s, a certain 14 year old kid from Michigan named William Clay Ford didn’t have too much to worry about. After all, his grandfather Henry was one of the greatest industrialists in all of history and his father Edsel was a brilliant designer and talented marketer. When it came time for William’s 14th birthday, a suitable gift was needed… and what better gift is there for the grandson of the world’s biggest motoring mogul than a miniature racing car of his own. Of course, no off-the-shelf item would do, so the might of America’s most famous industrial powerhouse was utilized to build a young boy a very small racing car.

Ford employees set to work, starting with a custom fabricated chassis. To this chassis is affixed an I-beam front end, with running gear from what is believed to be a British Ford Model C. Of course, the engine was thoroughly warmed over by engineers to include a lightened flywheel and custom outside exhaust. Power went to the rear end via a three speed gearbox and the suspension featured friction dampers, with mechanical brakes on the rear axle only. The chassis was then clothed in a tiny, yet beautiful and expertly proportioned body that, particularly from the front, bore more than a passing resemblance to a Miller Indy car. The result surely must have thrilled the young William Clay Ford to no end. While little is known about actual competition history, we like to imagine the looks on other kid’s faces if young William Clay showed up at a race in a car that was custom built by the best and brightest at the Ford Motor Company!

1937 Ford Eifel

Since the earliest days of the Model T, Ford Motor Company has had a global presence. Over 15 million Model Ts were built at factories around the world from Canada to Argentina, across Europe, and as far away as Australia and Japan. The T was not only the first mass-produced automobile, it was the first “world car”. By the time the Model A had replaced the T, many overseas Ford operations began to take on their own identities. Customer needs varied depending on the market, and Ford’s branches in Dagenham, England and Cologne, Germany were among the most progressive,  demanding cars that suited the needs of their particular market, rather than simply offering locally made versions of American cars. Model A sales in Europe were lagging behind so a new, smaller car was designed to better suit smaller European roads. The Model Y was unveiled in 1932 and proved a huge success in England. From 1933 through 1936, it was sold in Germany as the Ford Koln. As the Model Y became less popular in England, the Koln was replaced by the stylish little Eifel in 1935. The Eifel was initially built alongside the Koln, but soon replaced it altogether thanks to its superior performance. Ford continued to refine the car, separating it from its British cousins and offering body styles that better suited German buyers. The Eifel was facelifted in 1937, with a new laid-back radiator shell that echoed that of the American Ford V8, and new stamped steel wheels replacing wires.  No fewer than fifteen different coachbuilders were contracted to supply a variety of bodies that ranged from a commercial van to stylish roadster. All told, over 61,000 Eifel’s were built, putting Ford back in serious competition with Opel for the entry level market.

This rare Ford Eifel roadster is one of the finest examples of its kind, believed to be one of just 10 like it and likely the only one in the US.  The story of this little Ford begins in 1937 when it was purchased by a Jewish doctor in Germany. As the Nazis tore through Europe, the doctor hid the car on his father’s farm under a haystack. Fearful of being caught with the car and imprisoned, he gave the car to a US serviceman, who subsequently sold it to fellow soldier Sgt. John Trimble. Sgt. Trimble then sold the car to a Sgt. DeVente who shipped the car to the USA in 1958. Trimble’s brother Bob owned the car for some time who then sold it to Mr. Feijoo, who performed the careful and well-researched restoration in the 1990s.

1928 Bentley 4 1/2-Litre

Immediately from its conception in 1927, the Bentley – with a 4.5 litre engine – was racing in a variety of events, winning the 1927 and 1928 Le Mans and various other prestigious races. O. W. Bentley was convinced a racing program was crucial to selling cars and he provide it to be right!  He sought out any event that would highlight the Marquis’ reputation for reliability and high speed, giving the Bentley an unbeatable sports pedigree appealing to customers looking for power and performance.

This is a numbers matching 1928 Bentley that didn’t leave England for 85 years. Car number PM3258 was first sold in 1928 to Edward Forsyth of Southampton Row in London. It was fitted with a four seat Tourer body by Harrison and “D” gear box – the most desirable for a 4.5 litre.  The gear box number is 7095 as per the build sheet making it a truly numbers matching car. In the early 1970’s, the Harrison body was in poor state and then owner asked James Pearce of Sussex, a very well-known Bentley restorer to build a new body to the specifications in the style of Vanden Plas. Before leaving the UK for its trip here, it was repainted and the upholstery replaced with new leather by Bentley’s specialist DBE Limited.

1926 REO Speedwagon Model F Bus

Ransom Eli Olds is one of the founding fathers of the American automobile industry. His Curved Dash Oldsmobile was America’s first mass-produced low-priced automobile and the first to be produced on an assembly line (not to be confused with Henry Ford’s moving assembly line). In 1904, following a falling out with management, Olds left the company that bore his name, and founded the R. E. Olds Motor Car Company, which he quickly changed to REO Motor Car Co. to avoid legal action.

The new REO company continued building relatively affordable small cars of high quality. Along with car production, the company expanded into building trucks which proved very profitable. Despite offering beautiful and advanced cars such as the Royale and Flying Cloud, the company quit car production after 1936 to concentrate on trucks and buses. Following a merger with Diamond T trucks, they would become Diamond-Reo in 1967, which survived until 1975.

This 1926 Model FB Speed Wagon wears a special, handcrafted trolley-style bus body. The body is built from wood and features beautiful brass and decorative glass trimmings. A powerful six-cylinder engine helps this beautiful bus live up to its name.

This example is one of 12 Model F REO Speedwagons made in 1926.


1919 “Fatty” Arbuckle Pierce-Arrow

In 1919, few cars could touch the Pierce-Arrow Model 66 for its sheer power and road presence. For years, Pierce-Arrow were fervent supporters of the inline six-cylinder engine. They felt the layout provided the best balance of power and refinement, even as competitors like Packard and Cadillac experimented with V12 and V8 engines, respectively. Choosing to stick with what they knew, Pierce developed increasingly larger and more potent versions of their T-Head six, culminating with the Model 66 of 1910. Initially named for its power output, the Model 66 was the flagship of the range, and one of the biggest and most powerful cars of the era. The ultimate version of the series was the 66 A-4.  Particularly in the era of the Model 66, very few Pierce-Arrows received coachwork from outside firms. The quality and style of the firm’s cast aluminum bodies were such that most buyers found it unnecessary to look elsewhere. However, in 1919, one notable Pierce-Arrow customer would go against convention to create one of the most memorable, spectacular motorcars of the early twentieth century.

Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle, best known by the moniker “Fatty”, was one of the most famous silent film stars of the period. He was a gifted physical comedian, actor, and singer, as well as a director, screenwriter, and mentor to the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Bob Hope. Arbuckle was a true superstar of his time, and in 1920, he signed a 3-year contract with Paramount Pictures for $1,000,000 per year, making him the highest paid actor in Hollywood in his day. As a man of exceptional means, Fatty Arbuckle indulged in a series of increasingly spectacular custom-bodied automobiles. Of course, no movie star would be content with an off-the-floor model, and Arbuckle developed a relationship with J.W. Earl Automobile Works in downtown Los Angeles, who supplied him with a series of tailored motorcars. In early 1919, Southern California Cadillac distributor Don Lee acquired J.W. Earl to create Don Lee Coachbuilders. Along with the coachbuilding shop came the firm’s greatest asset, a gifted young designer named Harley Earl. Harley Earl designed cars for the likes of Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Tom Mix, and other Hollywood elites. Within the next decade, he would go on to become the first head of General Motors’ Art and Color Department, and today he is considered to be America’s most influential automobile designer. Before GM, however, he was free to hone his craft.

In 1919, after owning custom-bodied Renaults and Cadillacs, Fatty Arbuckle ordered the largest, most powerful automobile he could buy: The massive Pierce-Arrow Model 66-A-4. As with his other cars, Arbuckle handed the chassis over to Harley Earl to design the flamboyant coachwork, and the resulting “Arbuckle Pierce” is perhaps Earl’s most significant early work. The spectacular Pierce-Arrow was completed early in 1920, and on May 2 of that year, the Los Angeles Times reported that upwards of 10,000 people filed through Don Lee’s L.A. showroom to get a glimpse of the car that cost $30,000 – more than ten times what an average American made in a year. Arbuckle clearly enjoyed his Pierce-Arrow, as seen in numerous period photos of him posing with his pride and joy.

Unfortunately, a scandal and ensuing tabloid frenzy derailed his career, and soon Fatty was charged with manslaughter and tried three times. Despite an acquittal and a public apology by the jury, the damage had been done, and Arbuckle was forced to sell the Pierce 66 to cover legal bills. It was purchased by his friend and movie mogul Joseph Schenck, then chairman of 20th Century Fox studios. Years later, it became a part of Jim Brucker’s Movie World Collection, the Rick Carroll Collection, as well as the Blackhawk Collection.

1914 Woods Mobilette

In the early years of the 20th century, automobiles were predominantly large, luxurious vehicles built and equipped for wealthy, adventurous early-adopters. A few imaginative souls, however, conceived of the automobile as mobility for the masses. The best known is Henry Ford, but he was challenged for a few years by inventors like Francis A. Woods who appreciated mobility in a more urban setting where roads were better and size was subordinated to efficiency. Woods’ Mobilette was one of the more imaginative creations. Powered by a diminutive 4-cylinder inline engine rated 12 horsepower with advanced features like a 2-speed transaxle, the Woods Mobilette was built in series from 1913 until 1916. In addition to its advanced drive train, the Woods Mobilette featured a narrow track, modest ground clearance and compact two-seat bodywork, ideal for a couple in congested urban environments. Woods at one time claimed monthly production of 1,000 vehicles, but survival rates fail to substantiate the claim.

1912 Hudson Model 33 Doctor’s Coupe

Coachbuilders James Young & Co LTD was best remembered for their exceptionally elegant work on Rolls Royce and Bentley chassis.  James Young outfitted six Model 33 chassis with this body known as the Doctor’s Coupe.  One of the six examples was delivered to the Duke of Westminster.  The earliest known ownership of this Hudson was in Dingwall, south of London near Croydon, where an owner dubbed it the “Dingwall Dandy.”

1925 Renault Model 45

French automaker Renault, formed in 1898, was always a few steps ahead of its competitors. It was one of the first marques to begin racing, and its early prestige enabled it to build a fine reputation both in Europe and abroad. The cars were instantly recognized for their “coal scuttle” hoods, which was a design necessitated by the radiator being mounted behind the engine, rather than in front of it. The first three decades at Renault were filled with new models and new innovations. Most of the cars that the company produced were small, low-horsepower automobiles that were ideal for thrifty buyers and narrow European streets. Yet, for the customer who sought something different, and had the vast bank account to back up their wishes, they also had the Model 45, which the factory almost charmingly referred to as, simply, the “Big Six.”

The Model 45 was the largest production automobile built until the introduction of Ettore Bugatti’s fabled Type 41 La Royale. Its nine-liter, six-cylinder engine churned out 140 horsepower, on a chassis that measured nearly 150 inches between axles. With relatively lightweight open bodywork fitted, a Model 45 could achieve nearly 100 mph. With their typical attention to engineering, Renault put extensive attention into making the massive automobile not only swift but also easy to drive. Four-wheel servo-assisted brakes were added to bring the big machine easily to a stop.

This car carries its original, open, four-passenger tourer coachwork. Its design bears a strong similarity to other bodies produced for Model 45 chassis by Parisian coachbuilder Manessius, but the builder’s identity has never been conclusively confirmed. The big Renault was acquired by the renowned Nethercutt Collection in January 1984, and the car immediately became the subject of a comprehensive, cost-no-object restoration by the Nethercutt family’s famed shops. It remained part of the Nethercutt Collection until 2010.

It is believed to be one of fewer than six survivors known.

1911 American Eagle

In 1908, Martin Burzynski started inquiring about parts from different manufacturers to build an automobile to test his Pneumatic Mechanical Vehicle Tires that he had patented in 1910. Burzynski’s patented tires had sidewalls made of aluminum and the tread consisted of canvas and rubber. Between the two aluminum sidewalls was a pneumatic inner tube and metal supports. It took Burzynski nearly four years to build the Eagle Touring Car. Eagle Motor Car Company was located at 427 Gratiot Ave. in Detroit, and this 1911 Eagle 7 Passenger Touring Car is the only automobile they had built.