Car Collector Magazine – May 2009

The Car Collector Magazine has published its May 2009 issue. Featured are articles on a review of the past years Bugatti auctions, 1913 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Town Carriage, Pioneering Hardtop Convertible Coupes of General Motors 1949-1950, McFarlan Carriage Company, and part 3 of “Who put the muscle in the muscle cars?”

The Year of the Bugatti
The last 12 months have been a Bugatti Bonanza.
Dr. Peter and Susan Williamson’s Type 57SC Atalante for $7,920,000, Earl Howe’s Type 57S Atalante for $4,399,743, the ex-Bill Serri Type 55 for $3,240,033, Black Bess for $3,125,201 and even the 2009 Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport for $3,190,000 have led a parade of Bugattis, great and small, across various auction blocks in the past twelve months that made 2008-2009 a Bugatti Year at the auctions.

Even the Baby Bugattis, the two Type 52s, brought surprising prices, $54,990 for Richard C. Paine, Jr.’s aged but nearly completely original example last September and the Williamsons’ similarly original but much better maintained example for $110,000. Prices like these contributed to 27 Bugatti transactions in the past year which added up to $33,688,618, a total much enhanced by the sale of Earl Howe’s Atalante and “Black Bess” at Bonhams Rétromobile auction in early February. That is a lot of money, the kind of totals usually associated with Ferraris [which, it should be noted, accounted for 119 transactions in cars dated 1975 and earlier in the same period, a total of $102,968,000!]

The Bugatti total would have been even more except for the strength of the US dollar which cut deeply into the US$ values of transactions at the recent Bonhams auction at Rétromobile. The dollar’s value rose more than 12% between the 2008 and 2009 Rétromobile dates so although the dollar totals for the sales in the table are nearly the same the Euro total was up 14.2%. The effect of the dollar’s rise (or the Euro’s fall, depending upon your point of view) is so important that the Euro values for the sale total and average transaction are included in the table.

1913 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Town Carriage

In Great Britain there has only been one word for luxury when it comes to motorcars…well, actually two words, Rolls-Royce, created by the amalgamation of C. S. Rolls & Co. and Royce & Co. Ltd., in March of 1906. The following year Messrs. Frederick Henry Royce and Charles Stewart Rolls introduced the 40/50hp model at the Olympia Motor Show. The 40/50hp was to become known as the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, a name chosen by Claude Johnson, managing director of the newly organized Rolls-Royce Ltd., and a man whose role within the company, some say was so significant, that he is literally the hyphen in Rolls-Royce. The original Silver Ghost was the 13th car produced and featured a distinctive silver-gray color scheme and silver-plated fitments.

In Great Britain there has only been one word for luxury when it comes to motorcars…well, actually two words, Rolls-Royce, created by the amalgamation of C. S. Rolls & Co. and Royce & Co. Ltd., in March of 1906…. more

From the onset, Rolls-Royce automobiles established an international standard for quality, luxury, and meticulous engineering. By 1910 the Silver Ghost was the most desirable luxury automobile in the world, a car for sheiks, monarchs, heads of state, captains of industry, and not too infrequently military officers of note, such as Col. T.E. Lawrence. During WWI the famed “Lawrence of Arabia” made use of several armored Silver Ghosts.

Who Put The Muscle in the Muscle Car? Part III

Knowing that internal combustion engines are basically big air pumps, it only follows that one of these contraption’s chances of functioning in fast fashion is only as good as its ability to vent the bad stuff out with relative rapidity. Once mixed with fuel molecules, the good air can rush towards a combustion chamber all it wants but can’t get all the way in until spent gases—resulting each time a spark plug sets things off—finish evacuating the premises. Stuffing in a lumpier cam, increasing valve sizes, massaging cylinder head passages for better flow characteristics; tweaks like these represent sure-fire ways to speed the process along yet basically don’t mean spit unless all that bad air keeps zooming along after it leaves the heads.

Ah, but then comes the rub. When those sparks fly they make mucho racket, and local constabularies have long mandated that such ear-splitting noise be muffled down to socially acceptable degrees. These degrees have varied over the years and still do depending on the jurisdiction you’re passing through, not to mention the vehicle you’re operating. Trucks continue to rumble away seemingly everywhere today with little fear of inciting citations, and we won’t even mention all those window-rattling two-wheeled hogs and crotch-rockets. Well, maybe we will. Hey Easy Rider, could ya keep it down a little? We’re trying to enjoy a Metallica concert over here.

The Pioneering Hardtop Convertible Coupes of General Motors 1949-1950

Certainly not regarded as a classic mathematical formula, A-B+C=Hardtop was nonetheless a magical formula for success for nearly every automobile manufacturer during the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. The simple omission of the “B” pillar would create nothing short of a styling sensation that would become the latest “must have” fad for car hungry consumers following World War II. The idea was really nothing new as manufacturers flirted with the concept from the early days of the automobile. Chrysler is arguably given credit for the first modern hardtop when beginning in 1946 pillar-less coupe roofs were bolted onto Town & Country Convertible bodies. Known as the Custom Club Coupe, just seven were produced through 1950 due to the heavy handwork required on the already complicated metal and wood body construction.

During the early years of the body style, the hardtop convertible designation was commonly used. It was nothing more than a literal interpretation of the car’s construction, essentially a convertible body and frame with a steel top. In addition to the missing central “B” pillar, the notchback roofline used a large, three-section wraparound rear window with more glass area than the sedan model. The windshield was also subtly different with chrome coverings for the corner posts. This created an especially light and bright interior giving the illusion of added space.

McFarlan & Fatty
A larger than life car for a larger than life character
Fatty Arbuckle’s 1923 McFarlan Model 154 Knickerbocker Cabriolet

In 1909, in the quiet Indiana town of Connersville, where the McFarlan Carriage Company had been manufacturing wagons and carriages since 1856, it was rumored and then confirmed in the trade press that the wagon works was going to begin building motorcars. Later in 1909 that became a fact when the first McFarlan automobile rolled out of the Connersville factory.

Getting into the motor trade was the idea of Harry McFarlan, grandson of the company’s founder John B. McFarlan.  Harry chose to present his new cars to the public with some fanfare by testing them on the track at Indianapolis over the Labor Day weekend in 1910!  The McFarlans finished third and fifth, and fourth and fifth, in two races held the year before the first Indianapolis 500.  It was an impressive first outing and cars began to sell in small numbers, about 200 a year, which was all that Harry could build from the wagon works.

In 1913 the company was reorganized as the McFarlan Motor Car Company.  As a manufacturer of exclusively hand-built luxury cars, McFarlans were very pricey from the start, beginning at around $2,000 and rising to a lofty $9,000 in 1923 when the company built this almost larger-than-life Knickerbocker Cabriolet for film star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle.


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