The book (and subsequent movie) The Great Gatsby gave many car enthusiasts a reminder of the grand vision many in America shared during the 1920s. Cars were bold. Flashy. If you need to make a grand arrival in modern times, a true pre-war classic is a great way to go about it. We asked our readers what car from the 1920s they would choose, and here are the results.
Bentley Speed Six Blue Train
Captain Joel Woolf “Babe” Barnato, one of the original “Bentley Boys” of pre-war Europe, made a bet one night that he and his Bentley Speed Six could beat the Le Train Bleu that travelled between Cannes and London’s Victoria Station. The car driven was an unassuming black saloon, but the car that got all of the press following the stunt was a Gurney Nutting-bodied Speed Six, and looking at photos we can see why. Unique styling would be an understatement.
Understated looks might make a person unfamiliar with the Bearcat pass it by in favor of something more style-forward. That would be a mistake. The Bearcat represents a low-slung sporty car in a time where bigger was always better. The first Stutz motor car was built to race in the inaugural Indianapolis 500, and Stutz never forgot their roots as they marched into production cars. Later Bearcat models featured a 360-cubic-inch, 16-valve four-cylinder that produced an impressive 83 horsepower. Not only will you arrive, you’ll arrive quickly if you are behind the wheel of a Bearcat.
A car on the leading edge of technology, the Ruxton brand brought a front-wheel-drive drivetrain to market the same year as the more widely-known Cord (which beat Ruxton to market and also outsold it). Ruxton likely drew inspiration from Harry Miller’s front-wheel-drive Indianapolis race cars. The original prototype took form in the mid-to-late ’20s just to be turned down by a handful of larger manufacturers. The developers chose to build the car themselves under the company New Era Motors. Due to a multitude of factors, including the Great Depression, Ruxton shut its doors before real production took off, relegating these stylish front-drivers a footnote of automotive history.
Considered by many to be the pinnacle of pre-war American automobiles, the Duesenberg name is synonymous with power and style. The brothers Duesenberg, Frederick and August, created a car that was far ahead of its time technologically . A four-speed transmission behind a study straight-eight engine made production Duesenberg cars capable of better than 100 mph. The most famous of the Duesenberg models, the Model J, just sneaks in as a ’20s car, since it debuted at the New York Car Show in 1928. Famously expensive, it was historically poor timing for a luxury car as the stock market crashed and the country fell into the Great Depression the following year.
Auburn Boattail Speedster
Another member of the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg triumvirate, the Auburn Boattail Speedster is a car that rarely needs an introduction, and if you are arriving to a party in one, you likely don’t need an introduction either. The desirable models carried a Lycoming inline eight-cylinder engine between the frame rails, making the speedsters as fast as they were stylish. Unlike Duesenbergs, Auburns had just a three-speed manual, but they made up for it with a dual-range rear axle that could function as an overdrive in each gear, effectively giving the car a six-speed.