1912 Simplex 50HP 5-Passenger
Sold January 27, 2023
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Hagerty expert commentary
Our staff has reviewed this vehicle. Here are our notes.
597 cid, 50 ALAM horsepower T-Head 4-cylinder, 4-Speed transaxle with 1.97:1 final drive by dual chains, inboard transaxle-mounted brakes.
Restored in the mid-2000s with new paint, upholstery and wheel spokes plus refurbished mechanicals. According to Bonhams it is arguably the greatest surviving Simplex, and it’s reasonable to believe them. They sell more good Brass Era metal than anybody.
Like any great old car, this Simplex has a combination of performance, design, and history. This Torpedo Tourer’s original owner was one Eleonora Randolph Sears. No, not that Sears, but she was born into major money as the daughter of a real estate and shipping tycoon, and the car was an engagement present from her sweetheart Harold Stirling Vanderbilt. Yes, that Vanderbilt. Sears was, simply put, a badass. A four-time national tennis champion, she was “probably the most versatile performer that sports has ever produced,” according to her 1968 obituary in The Boston Globe. “Not just the most versatile female performer, but the most versatile, period.” She was the first women’s squash champion and the first woman to ride a horse in a major polo match. She competed in yacht racing, rifle shooting, boxing, and football, too, and won a squash title at age 47. She was also among the first women to race a car, fight a speeding ticket, and fly an airplane. Once, she was arrested for smoking in an area where men were allowed to light up but women weren’t, and her tendency to wear pants to the polo field and roll up her sleeves on the tennis court shocked the other New England blue bloods. Remember, this was the early 1900s. Sadly, Sears’ engagement to Harold Vanderbilt didn’t last. He did at least know her well enough to buy her the right car, though. She even kept it for another quarter-century after they broke things off. He ordered this car for her in 1911 with unique coachwork from JM Quinby & Co. in New Jersey. Nifty features include built-in wooden toolboxes on the runners and electric side lamps that also act as cockpit ventilators, while its tall 1.97:1 final drive ratio allowed for 85-mph motoring at a lumpy 1200 rpm. She kept it until around 1939 , when she sold it to a VMCCA member, who then sold it to collector and Buick chief engineer Charles Chayne. He had access to talented wrenches at GM and had the Simplex sorted, the engine blue printed and a handy electric starter installed. On the block, it blew past its $2.5M – $3.5M estimate in just a few rounds of bidding. A new bidder arrived at $4.2M and then a back-and-forth volley pushed the 9.8-liter beauty to a price that not even super Saturday at Barrett-Jackson could top. It was some of the most active bidding we saw all week. It’s one of the most expensive prewar (World War I, that is) cars ever sold.
Hagerty Condition Rating#3 GoodRuns and drives well. Flaws not noticeable to passersby. Most common condition.
About Hagerty’s condition ratings
Event dateJan 27, 2023
LocationScottsdale, AZ; USA
See auction listing