5 Pre-war renegades with simply amazing details

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Prewar details Cameron Neveu

These five pre-war cars break the stereotype that old cars are either lumbering beasts or delicate contraptions. From speed record-holders to across-the-States tourers, these five cars we saw up close and in personal at Monterey Car Week 2019 were—and still are—tough, fierce, and fascinating down to the tiniest details. Strap on your goggles and enjoy some true vintage cool.

1918 Stutz Series S Bearcat

1918 Stutz Series S Bearcat
Cameron Neveu

This Stutz has seen some things. By the time the previous two cars gleamed brand-new on showroom floors, this Bearcat had traversed the United States, regularly chauffeured a pet monkey, and was taking a well-deserved break from its eccentric and awesome life in the hands of the Fosters. (Mrs. Foster was the proud owner of the monkey, whose origins are uncertain.) This neat triplet of gas tanks surely fell nicely to hand as the Foster couple toured the States; why have one tank when you can have three… and in different colors? 

1917 Chalmers Record Speedster

1917 Chalmers Record Speedster
Cameron Neveu

The open-wheel speedsters of the early 1900s don’t give our modern eyes the same rush of adrenaline as Hamilton’s Mercedes would, but the tucked tail, dropped nose, and slim silhouette of this 1917 Chalmers once did, to its contemporary audience. And, though he probably wouldn’t mind, Hamilton doesn’t have a sight on his car. Aggressive—and we like it.

In 1917, this speedster splashed itself on front pages around the world with a 24-hour run covering 1898 miles at an average 81.09 mph. The winner of the 1912 Indy 500, Joe Dawson, lasted a straight 19 hours in the run, proving that staggering automotive feats didn’t wait for the first World War to end. 

1932 Auburn 12-160A Boattail Speedster

1932 Auburn 12-160A Boattail Speedster
Cameron Neveu

It’s not too much of a stretch to call this one-of-12 Auburn Speedster apostolic—the 391-cubic-inch V-12 beast is a messenger from a brief couplet of production years (1932 and 1933) and has a rather sacred aura. This particular speedster has taken home a Best in Show at Pebble Beach and accumulated points, awards, and honors almost everywhere it goes. According to Dr. Fred Simone, an Auburn Speedster pinned the needle at 115 mph to set a speed record at Indianapolis in the early ’30s, so the juxtaposition of the finely-detailed interior—complete with this perforated-look dash—with full-throated performance makes this Auburn Twelve a true thoroughbred.

1937 Delahaye 135M Competition Court Roadster

1937 Delahaye 135M Competition Court Roadster
Cameron Neveu
1937 Delahaye 135M Competition Court Roadster
Cameron Neveu

Delahaye didn’t have an in-house design department when this 135M Competition Court Roadster was commissioned as one of two gentleman’s sportsters on Delahaye’s shorter, 2.65-meter wheelbase. The bodywork draped over the 3557-cc straight-six came courtesy of Guilloré, who punctuated this roadster’s curves with a profusion of louvers. Warm day in the countryside? No fear. This degree of ventilation is both functional and highly fabulous.

1925 Renault 40 CV Torpédo Skiff

1925 Renault 40 CV Torpédo Skiff
Cameron Neveu

Some car designers rely on cues from airplanes to produce and convey speed. This particular Renault, however, went the aquatic route thanks to designer Henri Labourdette and this skiff-styled body. So if the wooden-slatted rear half of this car looks like a boat—well, that’s the intention. Think sea breezes tossing your hair about while touring the Spanish coast. Sweet.

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