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RM Auctions To Offer Four Ways To Enter The Automotive Century Club At Its St. John's Sale

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On: Wed, Jul 6, 2011 at 3:06PM | By: Andrew W Davis

RM Auctions To Offer Four Ways To Enter The Automotive Century Club At Its St. John's Sale

RM Auctions—the firm that brought you the megamillion-dollar Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este sale in Como, Italy I covered in an earlier feature—is bringing its show stateside as part of the festivities surrounding the newly-renamed "Concours d’Elegance of America" being held at The Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth, MI, at the end of July.

The Concours—formerly known only as the “Concours d'Elegance” and held for years at the historic Meadowbrook Hall in Rochester, MI—expanded in both physical size and overall aspirations, leading to the switch in name and venue, though not necessarily in that order.

Now there’s not only a spacious former Catholic seminary within which the auction and certain show events can be held, but a neighboring 27-hole golf course upon which the “33rd Annual Concours d’Elegance of America” can sprawl on Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. [Admission is $25, including parking, shuttle and program book, in case you were wondering.]

But back to the auction.

The RM sale will be held in St. John’s Main Ballroom on Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with “preview dates”—exactly what the term implies—on Friday, the day before, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on the day-of, 9 to 11 a.m.

If my math’s right there are 70 cars slated to go under the hammer during the sale, from several massive 1930s Cadillac and Packard town cars to a tiny 1951 Crosley Hot Shot Roadster. The list of entrants includes makes, models and eras of almost every stripe, from the “expected” 1930s Duesenbergs to the odd 1976 Cadillac “Fleetwood Sixty Special Brougham” and 1939 Pontiac “Plexiglass Deluxe Six ‘Ghost Car’” thrown in for good measure.

But out of everything on offer, what caught my eye were four lots that featured vehicles manufactured over 100 years ago, with a pair each from 1907 and 1909. All four are from American automakers, three from brands that continue—or in the case of one, continued until recently—production today and are well-known to “modern” buyers, with the other bearing a name famous to those-who-know in automotive circles.

Lot 126: 1907 Locomobile Type E 5-Passenger Touring Car

A century is rarely kind to anything, though with luck—and a stingy farmer—in the equation, things just might work out. This Locomobile—from the brand which had the demure slogan of “Easily the Best Built Car in America”—spent the requisite time in a WWII-era junkyard (just about every WWI-era-and-earlier car was narrowly “saved from the scrap-iron drive” during “The Big One”), with time spent with a truck bed in place of its rear cabin for “farm duty” thrown in for added story-telling zest. [Luckily the proverbial farmer kept the back half and sold the whole thing to the collector that “saved” and restored it.] Though that restoration was completed in 1963, this car has apparently retained the condition that made it a national award winner post-restoration (though it’s been sitting in “important” collections most of the intervening years). Thanks to their “large” four-cylinder engines Type E Locomobiles are decent performers, even with this example’s (relatively) heavy five-passenger Touring bodywork. They are therefore almost as revered by collectors as they are rare. And while it won’t be cheap, the model’s simplicity and reliability mean it shouldn’t be hard to “re-commission,” meaning you can definitely get your money’s-worth out of this one.

Lot 151: 1907 Cadillac Model M Touring Car

One look at the Locomobile will tell you most of what you need to know about this car. Though they both use the term “Touring Car,” you can clearly see how much more pleasant “touring” might be in a car that has a roof. But what you can’t see is that the Loco sports a 20 horsepower, 198.8 cu.-in. four-cylinder engine while this Caddy makes do with half the power and one-fourth the number of cylinders (though by then you could get a four-banger in a Cadillac, too, and come 1908 it was the company’s ONLY engine). And don’t let the empty sculpted box stuck on this car’s nose fool you: the single-cylinder engine was—as was the way in the REALLY-olden days—actually under the seats. The good news is, though Cadillac wouldn’t earn the title “The Standard of the World” until a year AFTER this car was produced, they have nonetheless developed a reputation for being durable and—for the era—relatively inexpensive to operate and repair. Being coddled in two major collections most of its life didn’t hurt, either, though somewhere along the way this Model M wound up with what might be the engine from a 1904 model. Regardless, it’s a solid buy for those seeking the full popcorn-popper-just-poking-along automotive experience. And best of all? It’s a Cadillac.

Lot 153: 1909 Ford Model T Town Car

When you hear “Model T” you probably think of a spindly black anvil-simple buckboard that barely qualifies as a car. And on its way to selling 15 million units over 19 years, the Model T did appear most commonly in that configuration. But what you might not know is that in the beginning the Model T was available in many styles—and colors—ranging from that most-typical “Runabout” at $825 to a top-of-the-range $1,000 “Town Car” like this one. It seems odd to me that someone would outfit a “lower-rung” car like a Ford Model T with such lavish appointments, but they did. There are expensive-looking touches everywhere you look on this car, including its fine two-tone enamel paintwork, varnished wood, polished brass and richly-padded “lilac” satin and velvet upholstery. And even with all that “richness” to move around, its 20 hp four-cylinder engine should be up to the task. Oh, and before you balk at buying such a “pedestrian” model, know that only 236 1909 Town Cars—most not outfitted this nicely, by the way—were originally built, and they say this is one of only five or six that survives. Besides, there are FAR more Ford-branded automotive events you can get invited to than most any other make, so while those Locomobile nerds can sit around in their garages and sneer at your ownership of a Ford, you’ll always be out doing something fun in a car that won’t break your budget. Ever.

Lot 158: 1909 Oldsmobile Model X3 Touring

Oh, Oldsmobile; you are gone but not forgotten. In fact, you are sitting in my driveway right now. Granted, my 1989 Custom Cruiser is 20 feet long and weighs ten times as much, but I can see how if you wanted a car that could do the same job eighty years ago, the Model X3 would be on your short list. With a 40 hp four-cylinder engine and long 106-inch wheelbase, the X3 chassis could accept—and move about with a minimum of fuss—almost any body configuration, including one in this car’s multi-passenger “Touring” style. But almost better than the car itself is its history, starting with its being the only X3 still around. You can read the spiel in detail on the auction site itself, but the Cliffs Notes version is this: When new, this Olds was reportedly the first car to enter the town of Wartrace, Tenn., where it remained—mostly in storage—until 1989. It then received a top-shelf restoration in 1997, with its every molecule certified and verified by experts. Since then it has repeatedly won major national awards, though it’s been sitting as a museum-queen recently and requires the usual going-over to get her in top form again. The good news is that she actually has one of the tip-toppiest of top-forms to go to, so the work will be worth it. She's easily my choice for best-in-(auction) show, and the car I’d most like to bring home. Think about it: “Eighty-Years'-Worth of Oldsmobiles, Together.” It has a nice ring to it…

You may not have considered adding a car to your “fleet” that celebrated its SECOND Golden Anniversary a few years ago, but you’d be surprised at just how “modern”—and therefore (relatively) easy-to-operate—they are, IF you know how.

Just think: it’s one thing to own and operate a classic car that anyone can drive, but to own and operate a car your peers won’t even know HOW to drive is something else. And what price can you put on being a “steward of automotive history” versus just the owner of an older car?

It’s petty, perhaps, but satisfying nonetheless. Don’t believe me? RM is offering you four chances to prove me wrong…

Photo Gallery (click a thumbnail to enlarge)



mikehussey | 2:46AM (Thu, Jul 7, 2011)

nice old vintage collection.

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