The 8 biggest sales from Hershey 2019 span prewar greats to Brass Era beauties
If you like prewar greats, Brass Era beauties, steam cars, or just fascinating pieces of early automotive engineering, Hershey was the place to be on October 10–11. The annual Antique Automobile Club of America’s Eastern Division Fall Meet, more commonly referred to simply as “Hershey,” is a four-day automotive extravaganza that includes flea market, show cars, and a two-day auction.
This year RM brought more than 200 automobiles, many of them from large single-owner collections, along with dozens of pieces of automobilia. Car sales totaled over $15.5M and ranged from a $7000 1929 Nash to a $1.2M Cadillac V-16. Prewar royalty from the likes of Stutz, Marmon, Rolls-Royce, Duesenberg and Cadillac brought the most money. Here are the top 8 sales:
Sold for $330,000
Long before there was Mustang vs. Camaro, the big rivalry in American performance was between the Stutz Bearcat and Mercer Raceabout. The earlier performance contest that played out on America’s race tracks and public roads was similarly heated, but, unlike the mass-produced Chevy and Ford pony cars, both the Stutz and Mercer are exceedingly rare today.
The Bearcat, like many great sports cars, was born from racing. After one of Harry Stutz’s cars finished 11th in its hometown race, which happened to be the very first Indy 500, he added fenders and lights and put it on sale the following year—it cost about four times that of a Ford Model T. With its relatively low-slung chassis, tiny monocle-style windshield, and lack of doors, you don’t really sit inside of a Bearcat. You sit on top of it. And to make things even scarier for the wealthy thrill-seekers and playboys who bought a Bearcat, there was the 60-horsepower 390-cubic-inch T-head four combined with light weight and skinny tires.
This Stutz is a genuine 1915 Bearcat, but it was discovered in a shipping container in England in the 1980s with a different body and has since been restored with the correct coachwork. It sold at RM’s Meadow Brook sale in 2006 for $368,500 and again at Meadow Brook in 2010 for $330,000.
Sold for $341,000
The Auburn boattail speedster is one of the more recognizable and valuable sporty cars of the Jazz Age, and this one is built on the desirable 120 chassis. According to RM, it is one of just two dozen original first-gen Auburn Speedsters in existence, and it was one of the many cars offered out of the collection of Jack Dunning, who first bought the car way back in 1959. It has a replacement engine and transmission, but the now-older restoration has won awards and has been featured in books and magazines. Later, more-desirable Auburn 851 speedsters from the 1930s have sold for more, but this result is in line with the $330,000 that another 1929 Auburn 120 speedster brought a year ago at Auburn Fall.
Sold for $385,000
The Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP, aka the Silver Ghost, marked the first use of the phrase “best car in the world” to describe Rolls-Royce automobiles and wore dozens of bodies, including armored cars, over its 20-year production run. Most were not as sporty as this one. Bought new by Canadian politician and member of Parliament Joseph Martin, this Silver Ghost was originally shown at the 1911 Olympia Motor Show with landaulet bodywork.
In 1920, it passed on to its second owner and was fitted with the current drophead coupe coachwork by Barker, complete with an eye-catching polished hood. It was restored at some point many years ago, but it would be very difficult—if not straight-up impossible—to find another Silver Ghost like this at any price.
Sold for $423,500
If you think your 24-inch rims are big, try the 42-inchers on the Oldsmobile Limited, which the company claimed in 1911 was “the first large car with wheels and tires of adequate size.” Also massive was the Limited’s 505-cubic-inch (8.3-liter) T-head six; even the Limited’s overall size made it one of the most massive motorcars of the Brass Era.
Intended as a prestige model, the Limited was extremely expensive and not very many were sold. According to RM, there are only 13 examples left in existence and this is the sole surviving prototype. This one was recovered from California, where its original body had been separated and destroyed in a wildfire, and then restored.
At this price, it is among the most expensive Oldsmobiles ever sold, but it seems like a bargain compared to the sole-surviving 1912 707-cu-in (11.6-liter) Limited, which RM sold for $3.3M in 2012, nearly double its high estimate.
Sold for $451,000
The Duesenberg Model J hardly needs an introduction. In short, it was one of the fastest, most expensive, and most prestigious automobiles out there during the late 1920s and ’30s. Because Model Js with more sporting bodies are more desirable and valuable, many have been rebodied over the years, making this one relatively special, with its original Limousine body by Willoughby of Utica, New York.
According to RM, it is one of only four with this body style and remains highly original. It appeared at The Auction in Las Vegas way back in 1998 and sold for $310,000, then appeared at the Kruse Auburn Fall auction later that year (no-sale at $340,000), at RM’s Meadow Brook auction in 2001 (no-sale at $240,000), and at Hershey in 2003 (sold for $269,500). Gooding & Company brought it to Pebble Beach in 2012, and it sold for $330,000. It commanded much more in Hershey, but it still fell well under RM’s ambitious presale estimate of $650,000–$750,000.
Sold for $495,000
Like the old Studebaker Dictator from the 1930s, the Olds Autocrat doesn’t exactly sound like fun, and you certainly couldn’t sell a car with such a name today, but a drive in this roadster-bodied Autocrat looks like it would be… liberating. Built on a nickel-and-steel alloy frame with aluminum coachwork and powered by a 471-cu-in (7.7-liter) T-head four, the Autocrat was meant as a model built to the standards of the aforementioned top-shelf Olds Limited but on a smaller, cheaper scale.
This one is finished in Cardinal Red, one of three available colors, and according to RM it is one of just three examples like it known to exist. It has been body-off restored and won its class at the 2009 Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance. Another 1911 Autocrat sold for $605,000 in Monterey two years ago, but that was a more well-known car with a colorful period racing history.
Sold for $550,000
Cadillac beat Marmon to the punch in 1930 with the world’s first V-16 engine, but Howard Marmon began work on his own V-16 first, way back in 1927. Marmon’s car finally arrived in 1931 and was one of the world’s most advanced cars with its aluminum overhead valve powertrain, but it was a hard sell during the Great Depression. Less than 400 were built, and the Marmon Motor Car Company was only able to keep the lights on until 1933.
Marmon Sixteens are extremely rare, and according to RM this car is one of just six left with this LeBaron coupe coachwork. Boasting just four private owners from new, it retains its original body, engine, and chassis despite the fact that it was stolen in 1978 while it was in the shop. A tip to the Marmon Roster in 1983 led to its recovery and return to the owners, who were descendants of the car’s original buyer. Restored in the 1990s, it sold for less than its $650,000 low presale estimate, but this is still a realistic result. Sixteens with convertible coupe coachwork are more desirable, with some examples bringing over $1 million.
Sold for $1,221,000
The star of the Hershey auction and, predictably, the most expensive, was another 16-cylinder motorcar: a very rare Cadillac V-16 Sport Phaeton. Fleetwood offered no fewer than 54 different body styles on the V-16 chassis, but the Sport Phaeton is among the rarest and most desirable. Believed to have been bought new by Hollywood actor Richard Arlen, this one was customized with calfskin seat covers, six-gun door handles, and longhorns on top of the radiator for the 1964 film The Carpetbaggers. Concours-restored in 1990 and retaining its original engine and body, it then won its class at Pebble Beach and Meadow Brook. Fewer than 20 V-16 Sport Phaetons are thought to survive, and the last one to sell was a 1930 model that brought $940,000 in Arizona earlier this year.